How to provide exceptional customer service


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How good are you at anticipating your customers’ needs? Is this even possible? More often than not, there are stories of how this opportunity is missed, rather than accomplished.

Derek Stockley, (, a trainer and performance consultant, relates a story along these lines from an experience during a hotel stay:

I recently stayed four nights in the same interstate hotel. Eventually, I needed to do some laundry. I checked the hotel guide. I decided to use the ‘do-it-yourself’ facilities in the basement. The guide informed me I could obtain washing powder from the reception desk on the ground floor.

I went to reception and paid $1.10 for the powder sachet with some coins. I then proceeded to the basement where I encounted the traditional Maytag washer with the coin insert slots – three one dollar coins were required. I checked my pocket full of coins. Lots of $2 coins, 50 cents, 20 cents etc, but no one dollar coins. Annoyed, I went back up to reception, obtained the coins, then returned to the basement.

My point? The hotel had two opportunities to advise me of the $1 coins requirement. Firstly, the hotel guide could have told me. More importantly, the receptionist could have told me when I bought the powder. All she had to say was: “Do you have three $1 coins for the machine? If not, I can change some money for you now.”

Exceptional customer service is easy if you think about it. What happened to me must have happened before to other hotel guests. Someone needed to take note and introduce it as a rule:
“When a customer buys washing powder or enquires about the washing/drying facilities, advise them about the coins required.” I would have appreciated this minor attention to detail.

In my own experience, my family also recently experienced this same issue, but from the opposite (positive) perspective when we visited the local Ikea furniture and home decorating store.

Ikea is absolutely crammed with thoughtful ways of anticipating customer needs, from providing reusable shopping bags you can borrow while you shop, to providing child care while you’re in the store. My favorite is the pre-shopping station just as you enter their showroom area that has paper measuring tapes, blank shopping lists for you to write down all of the cool stuff you want to buy, and the little perfectly-sharpened “golf” style pencils to keep track of it all. Hungry? grab a meal in the cafeteria. Not that hungry? Grab an inexpensive snack in the snack bar. How many other ways can they entice shoppers to stay in the store as long as possible? It all adds to Ikea’s bottom line.

By anticipating your customer needs, you provide them the reassurance that you (as a business) know what you’re doing, and that your primary objective is to make their experience as pleasant as possible. By doing those two things, you set yourself in a place of distinction, and provide yourself the opportunity to generate further sales. As Derek says: “Exceptional customer service is easy if you think about it.”

Just for fun…

“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” – Winston Churchill

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve Martorano
Steve has been on the front lines with customers for over 25 years. He is currently Director of Customer Services for Polygon Northwest, a real estate developer in both the Seattle and Portland markets. Steve is also the creator of, an online resource designed to provide insights and training to customer professionals across many industries.


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