Customer Service Lessons from the Pump


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This post was originally published on the FCR blog on October 20, 2016. Click here for the original.

Prior to moving to Oregon a little more than a year ago, I had a solid 21 years of pumping my own gas under my belt. On a side note, using some serious math skills you can probably figure out my age. While I never had a problem pumping my own gas, aside from losing a gas cap or two, it’s been interesting observing the process of having someone else pump my gas for me.

The typical process looks something like this:

  1. Greet the attendant
  2. Hand them credit card
  3. Say “Regular fill up, please”
  4. They pump gas
  5. They bring card back and say, “Here’s your card back”
  6. I respond with, “Thank you so much”
  7. Gas finishes pumping
  8. They tighten gas cap and hand me receipt and say, “Here you go”
  9. I say “Thank you. Have a great day”
  10. They say, “You too”

On average I probably stop for gas 1.5 times per week. If I’ve lived in Oregon for approximately 60 weeks, I’ve been through this process about 90 times. The above process has been my experience 96.7% of the time. Now, allow me to tell you about the other 3.3% (3 times) that were different from all of the rest — and I’ll warn you that the differences are very subtle.

Washing the Windshield

Out of the 90 times someone has pumped my gas, I’ve tipped an attendant 2 times (2.2%) and it’s because they washed my windshield. In both cases, the gas station wasn’t terribly busy and so they asked, “Do you mind if I wash your windshield?” I then would awkwardly ask if they accepted tips after they finished. Washing my windshield was a gesture that didn’t take a lot of extra time but definitely left an imprint in my mind.

Calling me by Name

Just recently, when the attendant brought my credit card back to me she said, “Here’s your card back,Jeremy.” That’s the only time someone has said my name, but most of them can easily find it on the credit card I handed them. I was pleased and a little surprised by her effort to personalize the experience.

Amazing Customer Service

Customer service and experience expert, Shep Hyken defines amazing customer service as being consistently above average. When you apply this concept to my experiences with gas attendants, I’m getting an average experience 96.7% of the time. Only 3.3% of my experiences have been above average. I’d be hardpressed to recall a genuinely bad experience in the bunch.

Over the past several years, the conversation on customer service has often centered around delighting or WOWing customers. I’m talking about those encounters that go viral for good reasons (Here are some tear jerkers from HelpScout). In reality, home runs in customer service are few and far between because they depend on a number of factors, many of which are out of the control of the agent. Expecting this on every customer interaction isn’t a sustainable approach and will lead to disappointment and burnout.

The reality is that it doesn’t take a lot to be above average. If I’ve learned anything from my experiences having my gas pumped for me, I’ve learned the difference between average and above average service— and it’s very subtle. It doesn’t take a whole lot of extra effort to offer to clean someone’s windshield and even less to call someone by name when you hand their credit card back to them.

Regardless of the kind of customer service you’re involved in, take some time to observe what the average experience looks like. Then set your aim on consistently adding a little bit more to be above average. While you won’t always hit home runs with this approach, you will most certainly stand out in the minds of your customers.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jeremy Watkin
Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Support and CX at NumberBarn. He has more than 20 years of experience as a contact center professional leading highly engaged customer service teams. Jeremy is frequently recognized as a thought leader for his writing and speaking on a variety of topics including quality management, outsourcing, customer experience, contact center technology, and more. When not working he's spending quality time with his wife Alicia and their three boys, running with his dog, or dreaming of native trout rising for a size 16 elk hair caddis.


  1. Jeremy, I largely agree but have one concern. Doesn’t this approach lead into a vicious circle? Another thing to observe would be getting the basics right before trying to WOW someone.


  2. That’s a great point, Thomas and thanks for reading my article! I really assumed in this post that based on my experience, most gas attendants are getting the basics right to illustrate that it really doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to cut through the noise and make your service memorable.


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