Monday, February 1, 2010

Little things make all the difference

Some businesses do unremarkable things remarkably well. Specialty's Cafe & Bakery is one. Specialtys makes great sandwiches, on their own great bread. They also make other stuff, like salads, cookies, pastries and coffee drinks. But I only get sandwiches. My personal favorite is the Peanut Butter and Stuff -- how do they make a peanut butter sandwich so satisfying? -- but every sandwich I've ever had, at any of their numerous locations, has been great.

Today, I ordered and paid for my sandwich on their web site for fast pick-up. (Specialtys has a great on-line ordering system. Very easy to use. You should check it out.) Only problem is, I ordered it for pick-up at the wrong store. I used to go to the Sansome store, so that's where I placed my order. But now I work much closer to the Pine store, so that's where I went. When I got there, my sandwich wasn't ready. Duh.

I asked for assistance, and the guy at the counter took down my name and disappeared into the back. A few minutes later a young woman appeared and said that my sandwich had been ordered at the Sansome store, which is a few blocks away. There wasn't even a hint of "You didn't order your sandwich from us, dumb-ass" snarkiness in her voice. She could not have been more polite about my stupid mistake. Then she said, "We can make you one here if you like."

That's it. That simple gesture embodies good customer service. She offered to erase my mistake (my mistake) in a way that would eliminate their profit margin on this one order but would ensure a loyal customer for the future.

Moral of the story: It's so much cheaper and easier to keep the customers you have than it is to market to and win new customers. I simply don't understand why more companies don't get that. (Are you listening, every single airline except Southwest?)