The #1 Secret to Great Customer Service

Every now and then you hear a story that immediately brings a tear to your eye and renews your faith in mankind.  This is one of those stories.

I was in the airport in Calgary, Alberta, waiting for a flight home and started talking to an elderly man who was waiting for the same flight.  We had to walk quite a distance to actually board the plane, so I took my time walking with him, mostly because I thought he might need some help carrying his baggage at some point.

We were making the usual small talk, he asking me why I was in Canada and me asking him where he was going.  I found out that his wife of 50+ years had passed away not too long ago and he was going to visit one of his daughters.  When he heard that I conduct workshops and speak on topics such as customer service, he said he wanted to share a story with me that he thought I might like.

He told me that when his wife died, he went to visit his other daughter that lives a few hours away from him to get out of the house and be around family for a month or so.  When he finally decided it was time that he faced reality and go back to his home, he started his drive back home.  About halfway through the drive, he said he was so overcome with such sadness and the reality that he would be going back to his home without his wife, that he had to pull off of the road.  He stopped at the first place he saw which was a McDonald’s.

He walked up to the counter and a young girl asked if she may take his order.  He said he stood there, for what seemed like forever, just staring at the menu on the wall.  When she asked again, he apologized, saying that he really wasn’t hungry, and he proceeded to tell her that he just had to get off the road because he couldn’t bear the thought of going home alone yet.  He shared that his wife had passed away, and this would be his first time being in the house without her.

At that moment, without any hesitation, the young girl walked around the counter and gave the elderly man a big hug.  He was so taken aback by her compassion, he said that he thanked her because that one act of kindness gave him the strength to go home.

When the man finished telling me the story, his final comment to me was, “Who would have guessed that a young girl at a McDonald’s could leave such an impression on me?”

I love that this young woman had such a kind heart to notice, in that moment, that her customer really just needed a listening ear and somebody showing that they cared.  I also love that this young woman felt empowered to step out of her usual role in a way that was appropriate.

I know that young woman created a customer for life from that man just by showing him she cared.  Can you say the same about your employees?

About the author:

Kathy Cuff is one of the principal authors—together  with Vicki Halsey—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Legendary Service training program.  Their customer service focused posts appear on the first and third Thursday of each month.

12 thoughts on “The #1 Secret to Great Customer Service

  1. With so many doing so much online the perception that customer’s do not value service as much as price has led to the demise of service. It is good to read that some still go above the expectation. Those that do win customers.

  2. What a beautiful story. I Chair my community’s Random Act of Kindness Day and throughout the year we hear about how small gestures making big differences in the lives of people. When companies loosen up and let their staff be people with feelings of kindness and compassion, not only to the customers benefit but the employees are more able to bring their whole selves to work. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Great and sweet story. I would rather say it’s not really about customer service but about values that are being forgotten about more and more in this very technological world, kindness, caring and empathy.

  4. Fantastic story!
    So true what the quote I have heard before say’s –
    “People forget what you say, they never forget how you made them feel”
    Truly great service is about feelings.

  5. Unfortunately, for every story like this – there seems to be another that dispels the value of customer service – period. For instance, it’s only been a couple weeks since we learned about a lifeguide working for a private service company providing services to a public beach. Next to the public beach was a private beach – not serviced by the company. As the story goes, a lifeguard is approached from someone in the private beach area that a person needed their immediate help. The lifeguard crossed over the line – from public to private beach – and ended up saving that person’s life. The service company realized their employee crossed the line and was immediately “fired.”

    This was a potential great customer service story that ended up being a – well – a terrible company service story.

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