How to Knock Customer Service out of the Park

We’ve all experienced it. Mediocre Service. Poor Service. Stellar Service. Small business owners need every possible advantage. A poor review can be crippling. In contrast, you can reap tremendous rewards from a customer  whom you’ve really impressed (especially after a screw up). Keep on reading for a strategy to train your staff to be pinch hitters, consistently knocking it out of the park.

Far and away the best book I’ve read on customer service is Hug Your Customers by Jack Mitchell. We would read this book together as a staff about once a year. Not only did it inspire us as a team to up our game, it also motivated me at the end of the busy season when I was exhausted, dragging butt, and (honest moment here), people were getting on my last nerve. This book teaches:

Do not simply meet customer expectations – EXCEED them

This is where service gets fun!!

When running our boutique hotel my greatest nightmare was that we would double book a room. You see, we were in a town of 650 people; our hotel had 18 rooms. I could not simply send people across the street to the Hilton. We were the destination. The inevitable happened on a Friday night when we were booked full up. Staff discovered the error about 2:30 Friday afternoon just after checking couple #1 into room #15 for the night. Couple #2 was supposed to have the room for two nights.

What would you do for couple #2?

  • An easy solution would be to move them to another room, preferably an upgrade. We had none. Shit.
  • Call them to see if they were on their way. I knew they were coming from Portland which meant an hour forty-five-minute drive. They were. Crap.

To make matters worse I found out that their beloved dog had just died that week! They were needing the emotional respite weekend. (It would be pretty dark humor at this moment if it had not been 100% true. What else? Did someone loose a job too?)

We needed a solution and fast. I got on the phone and called a boutique hotel, explained the situation, prayed they were not full. Jackpot! They had a room.

Meeting Expectations:

  • They are coming. They need a place to stay. Get them a room at another hotel. Our dime.

Here’s where we began to separate our business from our competitive partners.

Exceeding Expectations:

  1. We pay for their room (of course) and make sure it was an upgraded room to the one they would have had at our place.
  2. Rounding First Base:
    We pay for some snacks to be delivered to their room at our competitor’s hotel.
  3. Now a Double:
    When they return to our place Saturday night, their room was on the house.
  4. It’s a Triple Folks:
    Complimentary dessert, wine, and customized mugs at our hotel.
  5. Knocking it Out of the Park:
    Gave them a gift certificate for a two-night stay at our place. They were welcome to use it themselves or give it to someone as a gift.

If you were that guest, what would you have expected (1-5)?

How would you feel if you had hat if you received 1 clear through 5?

We HAD to change this customers experience. How easy would it have been for a poor review to surface if we’d double booked, they had arrived, and we said ‘sorry, here’s a place that has an open room for you, we’ll see you tomorrow night’?

We HAD to change the trajectory of their experience. We had to give them something positive to talk about!

  • Admit the Mistake
  • Find a Solution
  • Surprise by Exceeding Expectations

Exceeding customer expectations can be SO MUCH FUN for your staff. Would love to hear your story either being on the receiving end or giving end of a stellar experience!


Do you want to:
join the movement to create excellent customer experiences?
connect people to people and break down walls?
help small businesses thrive?


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