No Success Without Plenty of A.O.K!


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It’s so simple it can’t be true. Every time I receive a great customer experience it amazes me at just how simple it can be to achieve. The WOW factor so elusive in most every day experiences is so easy to achieve if you have three key ingredients…what I call AOK. You’ll find these features within any great customer experience and I’ll explain what these are in a minute but first let me share the story that’s prompted today’s post.

I remember an occasion when I joined some friends and relatives for a family celebration at a local Indian restaurant. A colleague had recommended this particular restaurant to us so we were looking forward to trying somewhere new.

On this occasion I was taking my 13-year-old son along with the adults as a special treat, his first exposure to Indian food. Within a few minutes of being seated we were handed our menus and shortly choices were made. Soon my son was beginning to show his disappointment that there was nothing he liked the sound of as he read the descriptions on the menu. Despite offering him some safe bets around a mild, creamy Korma dish he showed his disapproval. I tried my best to encourage him and shared my advice on what I thought he would like including some starters.

Whilst everyone was having their orders taken my son and I continued our discussions, as I became more insistent that he tried my recommendations, he became more insistent he wouldn’t like them. One of the waiters serving our party came across and asked me if everything was OK. I explained the situation and what I had recommended. He agreed that this was the best choice, but then focussing on my son asked him if there was anything in particular he could get him. My son responded, “Can’t I have something like a burger and fries?” to which the waiter said they couldn’t do the burger but he could do the fries if my son were to try a small portion of a mild and creamy dish. An agreement was made.

Now thinking about my expectations and the course of action the waiter could have taken there really was no need for him to do anything. As I wasn’t expecting burger and chips to be on the menu I wouldn’t have been disappointed had the waiter offered nothing, in fact I would have understood completely.

So his effort to deliver something extra was a clear sign that he had an attitude of wanting to go that little bit further in order to please a young customer and his father. Not only did he have the right attitude (A of the AOK) but he was also observant (the O of AOK). He saw what was going on between two customers, namely my son and I, and observed the fact that we couldn’t seem to settle on anything on the menu And finally he applied his knowledge (the K of AOK) on how to go about fixing the problem.

The starters arrived and later the main dishes. My son’s meal placed in front of him included a freshly prepared plate of thick fries, steaming hot and glistening. This was no ordinary bowl of fries, these were hand prepared. What did my son then ask for?…you guessed it…some ketchup! Now I don’t know about you but I have never been to an Indian restaurant and found ketchup on any table. But not a problem for this waiter who once again demonstrated just how much AOK he had, “Give me a few minutes and I’ll see what I can do as we don’t have ketchup in our restaurant.”

A short while later the waiter returns with a small bottle of ketchup in hand. He shakes the bottle, remove the protective seal and pours a little of the sauce next to the fries handing the bottle to my son saying he can take it home after the meal. Now my expectations didn’t account for there ever being ketchup on hand in an Indian restaurant so he could have simply said I’m sorry but we don’t have any ketchup. But application of AOK meant that some would be found. Now on that occasion it was a cold and wet November evening and when the waiter came back with the bottle of sauce he had clearly been outside as his white shirt was covered in wet marks from the rain drops. It turned out he had ran across the road to a late night store and bought the ketchup just for my son. Isn’t that just a great example of AOK in action?

And do you know that unless you have all three elements in place it never works. If the waiter hadn’t observed what was going on around his customers, had he not paid attention then it wouldn’t have mattered how much Attitude or Knowledge he had, he would never have seen what was going on. Had he plenty of O and K but the wrong Attitude then the chances are once again that no sauce or fries would have appeared. And what about his Knowledge level? Had he plenty of A and O but didn’t know how to solve the problem then once again fries and sauce might not ever have appeared.

So what’s the key message here? Well in order to achieve great customer experiences you need plenty of AOK, all in equal measure. Have your staff?

Mark Gregory
Mark is Customer Experience & Service Culture Expert and Programme Innovator for The Customer's Shoes Ltd, a specialist consulting and training company that helps organisations pave the way to great customer experiences that drive profitable growth. - "We Work So You Can WOW"


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