My Pleasure: How Two Little Words Can Improve the Customer Experience
If you’ve ever purchased something at Chick-fil-A restaurant and thanked the cashier, you heard, “My pleasure,” as his or her reply.
“Quick: We just need to teach all employees to say, ‘my pleasure’ instead of, ‘you’re welcome!’”
If only it were that easy. (Creating a CX culture can be ridiculously simple; though just not that ridiculously simple.)
Words are powerful, and the words your team uses matter. However, words alone do not make you a CX juggernaut. Behind every “my pleasure” from a Chick-fil-A employee is a sincere desire to serve the customer. And while it’s company policy to reply with “my pleasure” over the more-often heard and sometimes cringe-inducing “no problem” (something you hear at most other fast food restaurants), the employees at Chick-fil-A mean it.
It truly is their pleasure.
Words matter, though actions matter more. When you hear “my pleasure” from a Chick-fil-A employee, you believe it. You believe it because the service they just provided meets or exceeds your expectations.
Hearing something enough times can change how you feel about almost anything. However, hearing something and then experiencing it enough times makes you a believer. In Chick-fil-A’s case, it makes you a raving fan.
While we’re sure there are better examples of insincerity in business, we haven’t personally experienced any company telling you how much they care – and then showing you how much they really don’t care – more than Delta Airlines.
The crude adage for this behavior is that they are peeing on you and telling you it’s raining.
As a Delta Million Miler, Steve has enjoyed plenty of good customer experiences. He’s also enjoyed more than his share of bad customer experiences. For Delta – and likely for your company, as well – it all comes down to the frontline employee.
Good, bad, right, or wrong, Delta is just another airline.
Nevertheless, the customer experience issue for Delta is not that they are just another airline, it’s that they spend so much time and money telling you how much they value you, their employees, and the entire world, that they set their own bar too high.
If you’ve been on a Delta flight in the last few years, you encountered multiple points where Delta was telling you how much they care. From jetway signage to onboard commercials, Delta seems to fill every void with these messages. Sometimes, two Delta commercials touting their love for you and the rest of humanity play before the preflight safety briefing. This will be followed by similar “we’re the best company on Planet Earth” commercials before every inflight movie.
If you’re a SkyMiles member who still hasn’t unsubscribed from their barrage of marketing emails, you’ll be told in every message how much they care. They care so much that they felt the need to spam you again… and… oh by the way… did you know you’re preapproved for the Delta SkyMiles American Express Card?
If Delta spent less time telling customers how much they value them and more time showing customers how much they’re valued, they could become the CX juggernaut they keep claiming to be.
This is just our perception. Of course, as the customer, our perception (or rather, the collective perception of our fellow travelers) is all that matters.
Words matter, though actions matter more.
How You Say It Matters More Than What You Say
Not everything your frontline team shares with customers is going to be good news. Even customer-first companies occasionally cannot meet a customer’s expectations or need to share something unpleasant with a customer.
The difference between the CX juggernauts and every other company is not in what they say, but instead, how they say it. For example, the typical frontline employee response to customers requesting something outside the norm often creates a bad experience:
Customer: “I’m looking for Blue Widgets.”
Typical Employee: “I’m sorry, Blue Widgets are reserved for VIP Customers only.”
Ouch. Your frontline employee just told a potential customer why they cannot help them instead of offering a way they might be able to help. They’ve taken someone wanting to spend money with you – someone who had a specific need they felt you could solve – and your employee turned them into a potential enemy of your company and your alleged “VIP” program.
Certainly, this is not how a frontline employee of a customer-first company would respond. Instead of telling the customer why they cannot have something, they tell them how they can. Let’s look at this same customer request when it’s made to a frontline employee of a CX juggernaut:
Customer: “I’m looking for Blue Widgets.”
Customer-First Employee: “Excellent. All I need is a little bit of information from you and you’ll become you a VIP Customer eligible to purchase Blue Widgets.”
Both employees essentially said the same thing, right? You must be a VIP Customer to purchase Blue Widgets. However, the employee working for the customer-first company detailed how he or she could help the customer, not how they could not.
While both employees could argue they presented the correct solution to the customer (you must be a VIP), only one attempted to put the customer on the path toward meeting their needs. This is a subtle difference for most employees, but a huge difference to the customer and your bottom line.
Before diving into what are often referred to as common courtesies, we felt it was appropriate to address the most common non-courtesies. These are the responses customers tend to hear much too often today when they tell a frontline employee, “thank you.”
“No big deal.”
“Don’t mention it.”
People utter these responses out of habit – and like all habits, these can be changed.
While the employees in these cases may genuinely mean, “you are very welcome” or “it was my pleasure,” some customers perceive negative connotations from these responses. As in, “it wasn’t my pleasure, it’s just something I was forced to do, and I don’t really care if you thank me or not.”
Before you dismiss this as nitpicking, remember that the customer is not always right, but they are always the customer. Training your employees – as Chick-fil-A does – to respond positively and in a uniform manner will help you avoid customer misinterpretations (regardless of how infrequently they may occur or what your frontline employee intended).
As an aside, it’s not enough to ban the use of “no problem,” you’ll need to provide an approved alternative that becomes company policy. Without a uniform response, you cannot change the habit.
Of course, every business is unique. Therefore, your approved alternative to “no problem” should fit the style and tempo of your company. For example, if your business is relaxed and casual, you may choose a more relaxed and casual reply, such as “of course” instead of the more formal, “you are very welcome.”
And while we believe “no problem” and similar replies with negative connotations should be banned in nearly all instances, if you were running a repair shop specializing in fixing problems and your company name was The Problem Fixers, you might wish to employ a fun variation. For example:
Customer: “Thank you.”
Your frontline employee: “It’s never a problem!”
Beyond just deciding on the approved words you want your frontline team to use when responding to customers, you’ll also want to instill a desire for proactively showing common courtesies at every opportunity. This includes encouraging the use of sincere greetings like “good morning” or “good afternoon;” and genuine goodbyes like “have a great day” or “enjoy your weekend.”
When your employees regularly utter these with a smile, they often begin to believe what they are saying. That is, most become happier to see customers, and they begin to genuinely want your customers to enjoy their weekends.
Please and Thank You
It’s likely your mother has already taught you the importance of please and thank you.
“What’s the magic word?” (Begrudgingly, “please.”)
“And what do we say to the nice man?” (Sheepishly, “thank you.”)
Please and thank you should be automatic for most of your team; though, if they’re not, it’s time for some remedial lessons.
The big one for most frontline teams – and the one Chick-fil-A has nailed down – is “you’re welcome.” As we wrote earlier, this one too often comes out as “no problem” for most frontline workers.
The seemingly minor improvement of changing your frontline team’s bad habit of using “no problem” (when they really mean “you’re welcome”) to a company-wide response (as Chick-fil-A has done with “my pleasure”) can go a long way toward solidifying your goal of becoming a CX juggernaut.
Chick-fil-A’s version of “you’re welcome” is great, though if you’re worried that your customers will see you as insincerely copying Chick-fil-A, feel free to choose your own alternative. (And no, you can’t just stick with “you’re welcome,” as it doesn’t have the same ability as “my pleasure” to stand out in the customer’s mind.) Variations of “you’re welcome” that could come off as sincerely as “my pleasure” include simply, “it was my pleasure” or “you’re quite welcome” – so long as everyone on the frontlines uses these all the time.
Don’t overthink this. Don’t convene a series of meetings and focus groups to determine the best possible alternative to “you’re welcome.” Whether you go with one of those two ridiculously simple variations we wrote above, or you come up with your own, just formalize it so your team will begin to stand out as people wanting to sincerely provide great service to your customers. (Just as Chick-fil-A has done with “my pleasure.”)
A Final Word on Words
Words are powerful, and repetition matters. That’s why you’ll want standardized greetings, goodbyes, and responses across your organization.
Imagine the new Chick-fil-A employee. It’s their first real week on the job, and they’ve successfully completed three days of onboarding and training. They’ve learned to say, “my pleasure” and (more importantly) why to say it.
Even if they began their new job with some trepidation or perhaps a little disdain for some customers, repeating “my pleasure” with a smile hundreds of times over that first week is enough to make anyone feel like it truly is their pleasure to serve the customer.
This post is part of a series of excerpts from Ridiculously Simple Customer Experience, a book written for everyone in any organization that has customers. That is, it was written for those in both the public and private sector; and for everyone in these organizations. From the frontline, customer-facing employees to the CEO and board of directors.
Each chapter in Ridiculously Simple Customer Experience concludes with Key Learnings and Chapter Exercises to make certain you and your team take the efficient path to becoming Customer-First. As you’ll learn in this ridiculously short book, building and maintaining a CX juggernaut isn’t hard… in fact, it’s ridiculously simple. Buy it now on Amazon!