Beginning, Middle and End
Just as a compelling story has a beginning, middle, and end, so does the customer service experience. You have walked through the process many times, but you may not have dissected your expertise into parts.
In a story, the beginning tells a reader who the story is about and why the story is there. For example, the WHO and WHY could be.
Patty McGuire who is 10-years old looks in the mirror and is reminded once again of that which she hates. She hates her red hair. Friends tease her and strangers comment. She does not want attention because of her red hair.
At the beginning of a compelling customer service experience, the customer has immediately given them the sense that they are the main character of the moment. They are the WHO of each customer service story. Service people learn their names on orders, payment cards or from their account information.
They could ask,
- “May I have your name to check on your order?” They may also say,
- “ I’m pleased to serve you today. My name is _____. May I ask your name so I can better assist you?”
Customers are invited to answer the WHY by being asked the reason for their visit.
- “How may I help you today?” or
- “Thank you for coming in. How can I make sure you have a good experience with us?”
The middle of a story relays the characters’ attempts to move from the current state to the desired outcome. Usually, obstacles and conflicts get in the way, and the characters seek alternate routes to gain a resolution. The middle is what keeps readers turning pages of the book as sometimes, there may be many attempts to overcome hurdle after hurdle.
Patty McGuire notices that her mother’s hair was a different color when Mom returned from the beauty salon. She begs to have her hair color changed too. No luck. Next, she closes the door to her room and cuts her red locks. She does enough damage to assure that she will be required to wear a hat until her hair grows out. The consequences of not having any computer time and no time with friends are almost worth the lack of hair; but alas, her red hair grows out again, and she still has the original problem. While she is waiting, she comes up with another idea. She will ask for money for her birthday and Christmas gifts. Along with the funds from these gifts and her allowance, she will be able to buy a better-colored wig.
Customers and service givers have similar experiences. Customers ask for actions that are:
- against the store’s policy,
- unreasonable, or
- downright impossible.
Service givers’ challenge is to listen, respond and offer any possible alternatives. However, customers will leave the premises forming an opinion about the service giver, the organization and even the industry it will represent.
A story’s end will answer the question, “How did the characters answer the original WHY question at the beginning of the story?” Sometimes main characters will achieve what they have set out to do. Sometimes, they do fail.
After several months, Patty is ready for a trip to the wig shop. While there, she notices literature about hair colors and ethnicity. Scandinavians are known to have blond hair. Dark brown often belongs to Germanic descendants; while, coal black is associated with Asians. As Patty reads on, she discovers cutting of multiple shades of red hair. Lovely ladies and gentlemen from Ireland proudly model colors such as carrot red, dark red, and strawberry red. Ireland is the land where you can find Patty’s ancestors. She is stunned by the beauty of the collective red-heads and ultimately decides that her red hair distinguishes her among classmates, friends, and family.
Patty’s theme was her red hair.
To finish the customer experience, service providers will use discussions about alternatives to gain information, and they will form new options and solve the customers’ problems. The ideal outcome is when customers get more than they wanted or hoped. A growing effective organizational goal is to exceed the customers’ expectations and have them saying, “Your service was excellent. Why would an I shop elsewhere?”
In the story, the beginning-middle-end will form a pattern the resembles a spine. A spine holds a body together just as the parts of a tale will gather around a central theme which will keep the story along.
In an organization, valuable customer service gathers around a spine or central theme also. The central theme might reflect a slogan or motto.
- “We will do what it takes to be your favorite,”
- “We will not be out-priced,” or
- “Trust us with your toughest stains, yard problems, gift choice, etc.”
An expectation has been created for the service experience and will distinguish you from your competition. Just as an ending of a good story will be satisfying to the reader, delivering what you say you will and exceeding your customers’ expectations endears them to you for their future business.