“We can’t do the half-sandwich special with a croissant sandwich,” the server said.
The server replied: “What would we do with the other half of the croissant?”
True, you can make a smaller sandwich by taking one slice of bread and cutting it in half. With a croissant, there’s no way to halve it without having the other part left over.
What would they do with the other half of the croissant? Maybe another patron that day would also want a croissant half-sandwich special. Worst case scenario: they could throw the other half of the croissant away and have a satisfied customer.
Instead, the restaurant chose not to give my colleague what she wanted and in effect told her that her business was worth less to them than the cost of half a croissant. They were so focused on their own process that they didn’t see the message their decision would send to her.
It’s a common error in customer service situations, and I’ve probably made similar missteps myself from time to time in my work in public relations. What’s important for anyone in business is the ability to step outside ourselves and our own priorities to understand other points of view.
Earlier this year I was at a meeting with one of our bank’s regional presidents, and he said that he considers himself a businessperson who happens to be a banker. What he meant was that in order to provide the right financial products and services for customers, you need to do more than understand their business. You need to share their drive to turn concepts into reality, lose sleep when a key supplier falls through, and celebrate as they open a larger warehouse to meet growing sales orders.
It seems obvious that we need to identify with others to work effectively for them, and we may assume that it comes easily. But there are trends that are making our world more fractured, and we need to be intentional in our efforts to counteract this tendency.
I thought this would be a good topic to cover when The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry asked us to write an article for their column “What’s Important Now.” To read more about why connecting with your community is important to providing good customer service, please check out the article in the September issue of the Chamber’s online magazine.