January 31, 2013
I’ve always wanted to go someplace where, in the immortal words of that classic sitcom, everybody knows my name. I hoped it would be a bar, a restaurant, or a running shoe store. Turns out, it was a dry cleaner.
My wife and I have lived in the same house for close to eight years, and being creatures of habit, we stick with places we know. After a while it became apparent to us that we had become “regulars” at our local dry cleaners. The couple who own the shop speak broken English, but that has never stopped them from seeing us pull up in the parking lot, and have our suits and pants ready for us even before we walk in the door. Whenever one of us was picking up or dropping off alone, they always asked where the other person was. Even our dog got personal attention from the owners, after a conversation about the new addition to our family. I also noticed this was not unique to our experience. Everyone who walked in their door was a familiar face, if not by name, certainly by what uniforms, skirts, or jackets were being picked up.
But we gave it all up, for convenience. Our local grocery store opened a dry cleaning service at the front desk, and a little research showed comparable pricing to the local shop. What Giant Eagle offered, though, was the convenience of seven-days-a-week drop-off and pick-up, later pick-up hours (it was race against time to get to our old place before 7 p.m. sometimes!), a location directly on our path to/from work, and all of our purchases went towards precious “fuelperks” that help discount our gas. It was too good to pass up.
Still, sometimes we regret the move. We don’t get asked about our day or our dog when we stop by the grocery store, and the personal attention we once had has given way to the occasional misstep in how to properly crease a pair of herringbone dress pants (Jen’s, not mine). Giant Eagle isn’t in the dry cleaning business, but they know that for the most part their customers will keep coming back because: a) it’s convenient; or b) there isn’t much in the way of choice nearby.
The experience has made me look at the services we provide in our union and whether we forgo personalized attention because we’re the only game in town. There are certainly some services we offer in our facilities that students cannot get anywhere else, and some that, even if they’re available elsewhere, might not be along their path of travel. We might offer some secondary perks that make it easier for guests to overlook flaws in our service standard, which eventually cause us to overlook those same flaws.
I’d argue that just because we’re convenient or a sole source provider, doesn’t mean we can’t provide personalized service to visitors. Seth Godin touched on a similar idea in a recent blog post—the main point being that it’s easy to let your customer service game drop when you’re the only game in town.
What services do you see in your facilities that could create a more personal experience for guests? What personalized attention do you already provide that produces raving fans? Are you using the Management core competency to develop skills in your front line staff?
is the Associate Director, Ohio Union Events at The Ohio State University.