Do you want to give good, great, or world-class customer service?

To be “good” is easy, relatively inexpensive, and won’t make your company unique – but it is a legitimate choice. All that’s required is a good attitude.* To become great or world-class though requires an additional building block – service aptitude.

Service aptitude means the summation of personal service experience or knowledge to draw upon in order to give someone else a comparable level of service. The math formula looks like this: Your Customer Service Level ≤ Your Service Aptitude. Why is this? Let me tell you a short fable.

Tim is 26 and has never earned more than $8 an hour as a budget hotel bellhop. He’s also never received a tip over $10, but he has a wonderful attitude and always does his best to please his customers. Imagine one day that Tim’s boss walks up and tells him that because of all of his hard work that he recommended him to the local Ritz-Carlton and he starts tomorrow. Tim is so excited he can hardly sleep! He shows up 45 minutes early for his first day on the job, continuously shines his shiny new name tag, and eagerly awaits his first customer.

And then for the next 8 hours nothing seems to go right. His new customers don’t seem as impressed with his old jokes about “rednecks.” They always seem impatient. They seem to think his recommendation for Olive Garden as a high end dining experience IS a joke. Tim leaves confused, and his new boss isn’t sure that Tim is the right fit.

I know what you’re thinking. There is NO WAY Tim would ever be allowed to interact on the front lines at a Ritz-Carlton on his first day (I said it was a fable). You are right of course – he would first have to go through some pretty intense training. Is it because they need time to improve his attitude? No, if that were the case he probably wouldn’t have been hired. Do they need to have him focus on how the new computer system works, or to learn the layout of the hotel? Maybe, but that’s not their main goal. What the Ritz needs time to do for Tim is to raise his service aptitude. He’s never been to, stayed in one, or worked in a five star hotel before (most front line workers haven’t). His current idea of excellent service is probably the inclusion of a mint on the pillow and free HBO. It’s not Tim’s fault… It’s all he’s known. He’s done well in the past by being himself and having a good attitude, but now that alone isn’t enough.

This of course could become a perfect excuse to start indulging in all of the finer things in life in order to increase your own service aptitude. Your other less expensive (and admittedly less fun) option is to read books about how to offer world-class service. I recommend the following:

 You should never stop increasing your service aptitude, because your customers are never going to stop increasing the expectations. If you feel they have, then look again because you may have lost touch with your customers.

*Of course as well all know, good attitudes also seem to be in short supply

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