Going the Extra Mile — The Difference Between Just Doing a Job and Genuinely Engaging with the Customer

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On occasion it feels as though certain phrases in the language of business are overused. Take ‘walking in the customers shoes’ for example. What about ‘moments of truth’? Another common one is ‘walking the talk’. Whilst the meaning behind the phrases is perfectly well intended, all too often the words and their meaning are dismissed by those looking for any excuse to resist a focus on ‘the customer’.

Customer Experience Professionals all over the world often describe how their businesses talk about them dealing with the ‘soft and fluffy’ – quite frankly, we do not need to give the doubters any more ammunition than is absolutely necessary! I am not advocating the elimination of these phrases from our vocabulary – if that were to happen, then the doubters would have won! Instead, I encourage anyone with an interest in helping their organisation become more customer centric, to constantly and continuously bring these phrases to life through the effective relating of stories.



Last week I, along with thousands of other Customer Experience Professionals, proudly celebrated the third global CX Day. I was fortunate to do so by delivering a keynote presentation at the UK event held at Legoland. My presentation focused on the art of storytelling – I believe that it is an essential skill in the CX Professionals armoury to influence and inspire change.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I like telling a story….. or two….. or three!! Often, when telling stories, I am reminded how the positive ones I enjoy telling the most are the ones where amazing people have ‘gone the extra mile’ – another one of those clichéd phrases!! Whether a cliché or not, there is no doubt that the difference between just doing your job and GENUINELY engaging with customers above and beyond the norm can make an enormous difference in the way a Customer Experience is perceived. To bring this to life, allow me to share two stories with you:

The Etihad Cabin Crew and the Night Owl

A few weeks ago, I travelled back from a business trip in Singapore with Etihad Airways. As is quite common for me, after a long two days working, I could not look forward to a relaxing flight – I had a lot of work still to do. My flight from Singapore to Abu Dhabi was around 7 hours. For around 5 of those hours I had to complete a presentation for a client.

I really do not look forward to working on an overnight flight in economy – I can just about get my elbows into a suitable position to type on the keyboard! As I worked away, everyone else on the flight settled in for a good night’s sleep. As I approached the 5 hour mark, a member of the cabin crew quietly appeared next to me.

‘We have been having a conversation about you in the galley’, she said. I was not quite sure where she was going with this statement!! ‘We think you deserve this’, she continued. The lady produced a glass of champagne and some chocolates. It was so unexpected, I was literally speechless! I was really rather touched. Not only had they noticed me working, they had decided that it might be nice to do something to make me feel ‘special’ – and special I certainly felt. I have boarded more than 80 aircraft this year alone – the only flight I will remember – almost certainly for the rest of my life, is that Etihad flight from Singapore to Abu Dhabi.

The Etihad cabin crew demonstrated brilliantly the effect of ‘going the extra mile’. No one asked them to do what they did – the cost of their actions was minimal. Yet the effect ‘going the extra mile’ had on me – the customer – is huge.



A Flat Tyre at the Zoo

A family trip to the Zoo is likely to be an enjoyable and memorable experience. It is difficult not to be amazed by creatures of all different shapes and sizes. However, sometimes things can happen that appear completely unrelated to the core experience itself that can affect what you remember about the experience.

Take losing your wallet or purse for example. If this has ever happened to you, it is difficult to lay any blame on the organisations whose premises you happen to be on when it went missing. However it happened, you are likely to associate a negative experience with that organisation.

What if took your children for a family day out to the zoo, only to return to your car at the end of a long, enjoyable day, to discover you had a flat tyre? That would certainly put a damper on the experience for me. Well for one family, this became a reality…… although what they will remember has nothing to do with disappointment – have a read of this:

In perhaps one of the greatest examples of ‘going the extra mile’ I have ever seen, the actions of motivated, engaged employees meant that not only was a customer’s core experience untainted, they created a viral internet storm!!

A friend of mine sent me this picture yesterday. I was so taken by it; I tweeted it, posted it on Facebook and also put it on LinkedIn. So far, the picture has been view over 30,000 times on my social networks alone. I can only imagine how much further their actions have reached.

The employees of Chester Zoo who ‘went the extra mile’ no doubt did not do it to become ‘social media sensations’. They did what they did because they thought it was the right thing to do. That is what makes the phrase ‘going the extra mile’ all the more special. They did not just do their job – like the Etihad cabin crew, they did their job whilst genuinely thinking and caring about their customers – a radical difference.



I will not stop using phrases like ‘going the extra mile’ – in fact, writing this has inspired to use them even more…… by continuing to share stories that demonstrate their true meaning and their power. I hope you will consider doing the same as well!

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you, Ian, for your gifted storytelling! Your flat tire story with note was powerful and a strong example of the worth of going the extra mile in how we connect with our customers. We forget that customers rarely boost about good service; they trumpet unique, compelling service–the kind you received on the airlines an at the zoo. Wouldn’t it be great if “acts of kindness” were more than random! Thanks for sharing! Chip

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