I just came back from a month in Fuengirola, Spain, a fishing village-turned-tourist-destination in Costa del Sol. Fuengirola features seven kilometers of beautiful golden beaches along the Mediterranean, and an endless procession of restaurants, cafés, hotels and shops.
A reminder of how important customer service is
In the peak season, between June and September, these beaches and businesses are bursting at the seams. I was there in the low-season, a time when the streets and beaches are relatively empty and customers in very short supply. It was here that I witnessed a powerful reminder of the critical importance of customer service.
One would think that, at a time when customers are a precious commodity, businesses would be falling all over themselves to ensure they provide an outstanding experience. But here, the exact opposite seemed true.
Where was the customer service?
I was fascinated by how few businesses appeared to care very much about the experience they provided. Even taking into account cultural differences and the more laid-back environment, the average customer service level was poor.
I watched customers walk into near-empty restaurants only to walk out five minutes later because none of the staff, who were too busy talking to each other, bothered to say hello, much less offer a menu.
I watched others sit down in a quiet bar for a relaxing drink, look around for a server when it came time for a refill, then eventually give up, find someone to pay and leave.
It would be one thing if these were all just isolated incidents, but they seemed to be more the norms than the exceptions – in more than just the restaurants.
The difference was obvious
What I’m describing, however, is just the backdrop for the real story. The real story is about those businesses for which customer experience was clearly a focus. They stood out like a brilliant firework display against a grey sky.
I could stand anywhere along the Paseo Maritimo – Fuengirola’s beautiful 7 km beach boardwalk – and see at least 25 open cafés and restaurants. Wherever you went, twenty of them would be nearly empty. The other five would be packed. And all you had to do was stand outside one of the busy restaurants for two minutes to why.
Potential Revenue Growth of 200% – 300%
Their servers were smiling and attentive. The signs and menus were clear. They were efficient but not rushed. They took the time to explain things and to check back to make sure things were okay.
It was obvious to me that most of the other restaurants had the potential to increase their revenue by 200% to 300% – almost immediately. They could do it without changing their menus, their locations or their decor. All they would have to do is improve their customer experience.
How much opportunity are we missing?
That’s a very big opportunity, and I stand by my estimate. It was just that obvious. The whole experience was a reminder to me of the very tangible, very significant payoff to delivering outstanding customer service.
It also reminded me that most of us have no idea of how much opportunity we might be missing in our own businesses.