Customer Service Math: 2+2=5

PaneraI spend a great deal of time in coffee shops and I must admit Panera has become one of my favorites.  Free and convenient wifi, spacious seating and a great food menu in addition to numerous beverage options.

Recently, I met a colleague at the Smyrna, TN location and before our meeting began, I approached the counter to order my regular (small hazelnut blend).  That’s when I met Aleyah and Chelsea.  While Chelsea rang me up Aleyah handed me a medium cup.  When I questioned it, her simple reply was “It’s something small I can do.  You are a regular with us.”

Well of course I had to talk with these ladies a bit more and learned that Aleyah has been employed with Panera for 2 months and Chelsea for only 3 weeks.  After I thanked Aleyah she replied, “Many little things add up to great service.”

That was my “wow moment” and of course I had to share the experience with my colleague.  I walked away learning three customer service truths from these two ladies:

A service mindset becomes a natural part of the job
Aleyah and Chelsea have been empowered to serve.  And that is the leader’s role.  Products must be great.  Prices must be competitive.  But service must be consistent and for each employee, become a natural part of the daily job.  Those attributes are not accidental. They must be intentional which means they are talked about frequently, encouraged, coached and rewarded.  And that is the leader’s role.

Excellent customer service is in the details
Aleyah was right when she explained that little things add up to great service.  A small coffee costs $1.79 and a medium is sold for $1.99.  That larger cup would have only cost me 20 cents but I can assure you that her gesture was worth far more.   Think about it.  How much does it really cost Panera for a cup of coffee?  For a few cents it reaped the benefit of a very costly marketing initiative and it occurred with one employee in a matter of moments.

When service is modeled, it multiplies
My interaction involved a 2-month employee mentoring a 3-weeker.  What a great example Chelsea got to witness through Aleyah’s actions.  Chelsea is probably still learning the menu and systems, but she is surrounded by peers who are demonstrating how to do the job.  And that example is one she will likely repeat and over time, teach someone else.  That’s how a customer-focused culture grows.

I don’t expect to receive a “super size” every time I visit Panera.  But what I do look for is a service experience that makes me want to tell someone else.  What about your organization? What are your customers talking about after they interact with your team?  Share your stories with us.  Customer service is one of those things it’s okay to brag about!

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