Customer Service Add-On
Back when I was in college I worked at a self-service gas station. I’m probably dating myself, but this was at a time when gas stations were just converting over from full-service to self-service. Our stations went from pumping the gas for the customer, checking their oil, and washing their windows to just collecting their money and saying, “Thank you.”
Now, when I say, “collecting their money,” that’s exactly what I mean. Our stations hadn't yet caught up with the technology of the new self-service gas stations, where the employee sat in a kiosk and customers came up to pay at the window.
No, we collected the money on the drive. This meant I had a metal coin changer hanging on my belt, carried enough bills in my pocket to make the right amount of change, and we manually reset the pumps so the next customer could pump their gas.
Now that I've painted the picture for you, here is the story. It was an unbelievably cold day where the chill factor put the temperature at double digits below zero. A frail-looking elderly woman, who I had seen in our station before, drove up and stepped out of the car to pump her gas. I immediately went over to her and asked her to sit in her car while I pumped her gas. She was very appreciative.
A few minutes later I went inside the building to warm up. The manager of the station looked agitated. I remember the conversation going something like this:
He asked, “Did I just see you pump that woman’s gas for her? We’re self-service, you know.”
I defensively responded, “She is a very old woman. I've seen her in here before. I was just being nice.”
The manager snapped back, “Well, what do you think she will expect the next time?”
I was shocked at his attitude, and said, “Well maybe she’ll come back and buy our gas instead of at the station across the street.” I then ran out to help the next customer.
Helping the woman seemed to be common sense to me.
Just today I was at the airport and had difficulty checking in at the self-service kiosk. For some reason, the machine wasn't reading my credit card. Within a matter of seconds, there was an airline employee there to help me. I didn't have to ask for help. The person was there, looking for opportunities to help customers.
Self-service should be something that enhances the typical customer service experience. It should be about making it easier, faster, more efficient, and in some cases, even less expensive for the customer. A self-service solution doesn't mean you don’t offer customer service. On the contrary, self-service is a way to enhance customer service.
This post is written by Shep Hyken
Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, professional speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact (314)692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to http://www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken