It is the end of the year, the month of December 2014, and some auto manufacturers are pushing sales through their respective dealerships like there is no tomorrow. With one week left in the month, you may want to consider obtaining the car you’ve wanted for some time. It’s a buyer’s market to the max: negotiate to your price or know you can choose to walk away; it’s your leverage.

The following was recently shared during their experience: A car dealership (specific manufacturer remains nameless to protect the guilty) was offering to buy back cars of a certain model and year, and in exchange, will provide the same model car for 2015.

The customer had restrictions as to the ability of making this transaction: 1) the payments of new car had to be less than the current monthly payment by at least 35 percent 2) the length of term of the deal had to be shorter than the current deal. The offering by the dealership was generous; the “deal” was a no-brainer scenario for this buyer.

The actual transaction was made on a Tuesday and the buyer was told that the car was in the area (or in car-speak: on the ground). Due to the timing of the transaction, the car would not be delivered and prepped until the next day, Wednesday. The buyer shares that he cannot obtain the car on Wednesday due to family activities during the day. The sales rep states that the buyer can come in on Friday at 10 a.m. The buyer says Friday would work; and due to continued family activities, he requests coming in at 9 a.m. when the dealership first opens.

The buyer just made a major purchase for something more than the cost of the biggest bread basket. He also helped the dealership get another car sold before the end of the year. However, instead of being customer focused, the sales representative responds, “I can’t meet you at 9 a.m. I have a sales meeting I must attend, it’s a requirement. I can meet at 10 a.m.”

Let me get this straight: the sales person cannot meet with the buyer who just made a major purchase worth thousands of dollars at year end and is instead attending a sales meeting (which will probably include something about serving customers)?

This story lit a fire under my arse about customer service and my thoughts about it over the years. Customer service in this country could be at an all-time low. I realize this is a generalization, but it begs the question: Have we really forgotten empathy in the world of customer service? Have we forgotten to put ourselves in the shoes of the client and customer? Whatever happened to the “wow-factor”? Whatever happened to the “under promise – over deliver” premise of customer service?

Luckily, I was able to see that in some places it does exist. I was recently conducting a team-alignment-to-strategy session with a client at a major convention destination. We were staying at one of the 5-star hotels in the city. The accommodations were in the stratosphere and the amenities were unlike any I have seen before. Yet it wasn’t these items that gave me the “wow-factor” and the “under promise over deliver” feeling of service. Absolutely not!

What blew me away and made an indelible mark were two individuals assigned to our group for support. These two individuals went above and beyond and surpassed the threshold of customer service. What did they do to deserve this acknowledgement? They were accommodating!

When I asked for changes to the menu or time schedule of specific activities to satisfy my wants/needs (and the wants/needs of my client), which were clearly changes to their status quo, they didn’t say, “I’m sorry we can’t…” “I’m sorry that’s not my job…”, or “I’m sorry the person in charge of that is out…”, etc. Their reply during the entire event was, “Let me see what is possible,” “Let me see what I can do,” or “Let me see who can help me with this request.” Simply, they delivered on all accounts and they didn’t make themselves the only hero in their efforts. They always referred to their efforts with their teammates. They didn’t take individual credit. They didn’t make me feel as though they were “put-out” by these requests.

Throughout the event, these individuals always had a smile and were quick to ask, “Is there anything else the hotel can do for you during your stay?” There is a great selection of big name, 5-star hotels in this popular convention-destination city. This was not simply about being a 5-star hotel.

You can be assured, when I am asked about venues where businesses can hold a company-wide meeting, executive off-site, etc., in this city, this respective hotel gets recommended at the top of the list. Hands down, it’s a no-brainer!

Businesses that want the competitive advantage understand that providing “Accommodating Service” is imperative, not just giving good customer service. What do I mean by “Accommodating Service?” Very successful companies, like Zappos, for example, share that the number one point on their list of core values is: “Deliver Wow Through Service.” Just like the hotel, it’s necessary to do something a little unconventional, innovative and something that delivers beyond the expectations of the customer.

So how would I define accommodating service? Show you really care and want to make a positive difference in another human being’s life. Good customer service is expected. “Accommodating service,” on the other hand, goes well beyond. It lets the customer know he or she is not just another customer. The company has recognized the individual’s needs (The Relevance Factor™) and is willing to do what they can to fulfill them. Will they always fulfill them? Probably not. However, they will have tried.

The concept of “accommodating service” is now a part of my presentations, workshops and coaching efforts. Thus, I convey to others: You want to make a sizeable and incremental difference in your business?

  • Be clear about your values and what your “wow factor” should be.
  • Observe your employees’ interaction with your clients/customers.
  • Ensure they are delivering the customer service you require and claim to provide.
  • Train and develop employees to ensure you are providing “accommodating service.”

I am not suggesting you do things for clients/customers that are unreasonable or put the business at risk. I am only suggesting that:

  • Your culture is your competitive advantage; start hiring people that fit your culture.
  • Ensure your culture is one that is more empathetic and accommodating to your customers.
  • Train/develop your employees to own these core beliefs of empathy and accommodation. They must really care to make a difference.
  • Train/develop employees at all levels that they should be remembered for “wow!” and for going beyond what they think is possible rather than for being compared to the rest of the competition.

The choice is yours!

Stuart Friedman is president of Progressive Management Associates. He is a business visionary who guides organizations through cultural shifts. He promotes environments that inspire collaboration, transparency in the pursuit of strategic outcomes and heart-felt desires. Reach Stuart via email: stuart@pma-co.com