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Olympic Opportunity!: How to Provide World-Class Customer Service

The Summer Olympics reinforced my respect for world-class athletes of all nationalities.

At a recent gathering of international franchisees, I had a similar sense of admiration, this time for remarkable customer experiences being created around the world by companies outside the U.S. The occasion was the annual convention of Crestcom International. While many franchise organizations today have global reach, Crestcom was founded 25 years ago by Hal Krause with the explicit mission to bring state-of-art management to the world.

Crestcom's video-based management skills workshops are conducted by franchisees in more than 50 countries and 25 languages. Their recent information-sharing regarding customer service around the world was full of nuggets I want to share with you.

Above and beyond service

For example, international franchisee Joerg Hasenclever was participating in a management training program at a premium called the Vila Vita Rosenpark in Marburg, Germany.

On checking into his room, Hasenclever noticed an MP3 player with a headset on his pillow. When he put on the headset, he was surprised and delighted to discover that his favorite was on the player. It turns out that before the training started, the hotel contacted each attendee's family to find out the participant's favorite music.

Also, when Hasenclever checked in, the hotel asked for his car keys on the pretext that they may need to move the car to another parking spot. But at the end of the seminar, his car had been washed and cleaned inside and out. This level of service is so unexpectedly amazing, people will want to talk about it and recommend the hotel to their friends and colleagues.

Joachim Schulz is another international franchisee who shared an example of extraordinary customer service that one of his friends experienced when he picked up his new Lexus RX. As the Lexus sales person was explaining all the wonderful features of the new car, he opened the boot (or trunk, as we say in the U.S.) and there was a small ladder in it. The sales person said he could not help but notice that the customer had an elderly dog that was not strong enough to jump up into the owner's car any more. The Lexus dealer provided a dog ladder to aid the dog getting in the car!

Another Crestcom franchisee, Gunter Lonnemann, described a remarkable company that remodels kitchens. The company is well-regarded and, as expected, it did a good job installing the new kitchen equipment.

But the family having their kitchen remodeled was very surprised toward the end of the day when two ladies arrived carrying huge baskets of dishes, glasses, cutlery, pots, and pans. They explained that they were there to cook dinner for the whole family. Now the family understood why, when ordering the new equipment, the sales person had asked them what kind of foods the family really liked.

After the engineers finished their work, the ladies started working and cooked a wonderful meal for the whole family. They served it and cleaned the kitchen, taking all the dirty dishes away with them. As it turns out, the kitchen retailer spoils his clients this way and always sends this professional cooking staff for the initiation of a new kitchen. In other words, the normal operating procedure is deliberately designed to include more than the customer expected!

Finally, in conversations with my international friends, I also learned about AirAsia, headquartered in Kuala Lumpur. AirAsia was named the World's Best Low-Cost Airline for Product and Service Quality at the 2012 World Airline Awards. Voted on by more than 18.8 million airline passengers from 100 different nationalities, this was the third AirAsia win in a row.

AirAsia creates a superior customer experience in a number of ways. Besides low fares and on-time departures, the company operates state-of-the-art aircraft with the latest in-flight systems, and they have the best web-based information system.

When you need to book a flight or ask questions, AirAsia's web-based customer service approach is very user-friendly. You can chat live online with an avatar--her English name is Little Red--and you can talk to her in half a dozen languages. She gives the AskAirAsia web page a personality in the customer's native tongue. This multilingual live chat service exceeds customer expectations of budget airlines because flyers often associate cheap fares with minimal service.

I loved watching the Olympics and cheering for our American athletes. But worldwide competition makes it clear that the United States does not have a lock on excellence. Likewise, there is much to be admired, and learned, from customer-focused companies outside the U.S. If you would like to receive a copy of SMG's White Paper, Cultural Differences in Customer Satisfaction Ratings, email me.


SMG Vice President Jack Mackey helps operators improve customer loyalty and drive growth. Contact him at 816-448-4556 or jmackey@smg.com.

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