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Big Ideas In The Empathy Economy #2: Service Reigns!


A friend of mine, Peter Shankman, wrote a book a few years back called, Nice Companies Finish First

The premise of Peter’s book is that in today’s economy, most companies suck at customer service and that you have to be just slightly better than crap to win.

The idea of improved service floated around in the ether for awhile, catching hold and being offered up a lot for a period.

Then, we moved on.

We started talking about distribution, customer journey, and other buzzwords of the day.

As we move into a period where something such as “The Empathy Economy” takes hold and catches favor, it is important to revisit Peter’s idea and the idea that service is at the heart of business success.

In today’s world, we have taken it for granted that everyone we encounter can be a critic or a champion of our service. We have also taken it for granted that people are looking for more connection. That means that customer service can’t just be an afterthought, but most be at the top of mind…at least if you don’t want to have to take a constant hit of negative press that might not short circuit your business, but which can have a demoralizing effect on your employees, your customers, and have your business perform at a lower level than you hoped.

In “The Empathy Economy,” you are going to see that great service rules and that service might be the difference between someone buying from you or not.

I’m not talking about the kind of service that means you are a doormat for bad behavior, abusive customers, or anything of the like.

I mean that your service is a surprise in an otherwise disengaged marketplace.

Think about the service you get when you take your car in for servicing. In looking for new cars to buy, one of the key differentiators in the decision for our new car has been the customer service at the service department. For our family, giving up the service provided by our local Mercedes dealer makes switching to another brand a real leap.

Again, our local Mercedes dealer, it isn’t about anything more than making the service process simpler and less painful for us as customers.

Or, think about the way you want to spend your time on vacation.

For many people, they may have only passing interactions with their hotels and the staff at the hotel, but in visiting Paris last year, the Hotel Lancaster wouldn’t have been a hotel that I might have normally booked, but working through the American Express travel department, American Express notified me of the Lancaster as one of their preferred partners.

The service at the Lancaster made the hotel a preferred destination for my next trip to Paris.

It was a quaint hotel where you had the chance to really relax. But the staff really put the hotel over the top because of the attentiveness that they showed to my son.

Ask anyone, you can win anyone over by being nice to their kids.

Final example that isn’t hard for anyone to do.

Philz Coffee in Adams Morgan is my favorite place in DC to get coffee, bar none.

If you have a chance to go to Philz, be warned, it is almost always busy.

But its totally worth it.

Because they make each cup individually for you.

It reminds me a little bit of NYC bodegas, where you could ask for your coffee “light” or “dark” with however many sweeteners you wanted, but with better service.

At Philz, it is the short interactions and bits of conversation that always add up to a nice coffee experience.

I’ve exchanged book recommendations with the staff, they always talk to my son, and they make my coffee to order, even when it is a little special.

Again, not the most earth shaking stuff…but the little extra effort makes the difference.

My question becomes, what can you do to make your service worthy in “The Empathy Economy?”