I had the pleasure of hearing Gareth Williams, CEO of Sofa.com, give a presentation at an eCommerce conference recently. He was asked about how he ensures the service culture he imbues in his sales and service departments extends throughout the business. He answered by suggesting that maybe the top-down ethics of the business have something to do with the two founders of the business coming from the catering and hospitality industry. He earlier made the point that everyone except the cheapest in any industry is actually in the hospitality business.
It really made me think about what great customer service is all about. Unless you are the cheapest you have no choice but to compete on service in one of its many guises.
Today I was flying from Birmingham airport to France on an early morning flight. The main concourse after Duty Free was very busy so I made my way along towards the gate with a heavy heart. Eating at airports used to be exciting. I used to look forward to it but, more recently, it has become expensive with poor quality. It’s almost as if they are going against the mantra I outlined above but, of course, they have a captive market.
I decided on a visit to Costa Coffee close to Gate 54 and bumped into the server there – Mo. I immediately noticed him because he was engaged in a friendly conversation with the lady in front of me in the queue who was clearly taken by his manner. He greeted me with a friendly smile and took my order. I decided on a black Americano as usual and an All Day Breakfast panini. There was no fuss but I noticed he really cared about his customers. He gave me a second cup to insulate against the heat, he told
me that it would be two minutes before the panini was ready and made sure he interrupted his next customer courteously to get it while it was hot (he was on his own throughout). He asked me if I wanted a receipt and I declined but when I asked for his name he suggested he print out the receipt so that he could point it out – I assume many people struggle to understand. He was charming and efficient.
I sat down and watched what he did subsequently and he never stopped. When there was no customer there he came around to the front of the counter and assessed what needed replenishing and he cleaned the area constantly. I assume it is a franchise and his employers have found a gem.
It looked like a lonely job, stuck out away from the central area of the terminal and manning an outlet on his own but he found his motivation in doing the job well and interacting with his customers. Most good retail staff will be people-orientated – they love talking and listening. Following the Thomas International profiling model I know that their greatest fear is rejection and their greatest motivator is public recognition and praise. By giving feedback either way we don’t just affect the person we are dealing with – we also influence those around them. People generally want to be successful in what they do and so they copy the behaviours of successful people even though this may be in a subconscious way. Don’t expect service to improve anytime soon if we aren’t prepared to participate.
So, Mo at Costa Coffee in Birmingham Airport close to Gate 54, you are great and you’ve restored a little of my faith in airport service. The all day breakfast panini was as terrible as I expected but you prepared it well and I really don’t care.