Getting the basics right: welcome!

Superior customer service is largely about knowing what the basic elements of good service are – and delivering them consistently and well. A couple of examples from last week’s family holiday in Yorkshire illustrate how making people feel welcome sets the right tone for a good customer experience.

Sutton Bank – great cakes, great service

We drove to Sutton Bank in the North Yorkshire National Park, anticipating a picnic and a brisk and breezy walk on the moors. As it turned out by the time we got there the unseasonably sunny weather had returned to something more appropriate to the beginning of November so we visited the by now rather windswept visitor centre. At 2.30pm on a darkening afternoon this didn’t look like the most welcoming spot in the world but we were in need of tea and cakes. The lady behind the counter in what was a fairly functional-looking restaurant took the time to talk us through the assortment of cakes as we were being fairly indecisive about what to have. There was something about the care she took over this that made us feel particularly welcome – and the apricot pie was delicious!

In the shop, too, there was a friendly welcome and service so thank you Sutton Bank, we’ll certainly be back next time we’re in the area.

Sherwood Forest – made to order

Another visitor centre – this time in Sherwood Forest as we drove south – offered another small example of how customer care can be more than just a statement. The Sherwood Forest centre is a collection of unremarkable buildings (but hoping to be transformed – see here) set in the forest itself and we arrived at about 2.30pm assuming we would be able to get something to eat. Despite offering an ‘all-day breakfast’ the self-service restaurant seemed devoid of food.

‘Do you actually have anything to eat?’ I asked, feeling like this was a bit of a dumb question for a restaurant. We were told that food was being prepared (we later found out that they had hosted a launch event for a tourism initiative earlier and catering for the ‘suits’ had temporarily exhausted their supply) but they would be happy to make us up some rolls. That suited us just fine.

Like the Sutton Bank experience this was in some respects pretty unremarkable – we had basic needs and they were met – but it was the fact that the staff appeared to take some trouble over meeting those basic needs made it feel a little bit special.

It seems obvious that the core competence of a visitor centre should be to welcome visitors but in my experience the welcome is not always a warm one – these two were exceptions.

Final thought

On a related topic a recent post by Katie Konrath on her Get Fresh Minds blog deals extensively with the state of loos (bathrooms to US readers) and makes a similar point about how getting these basic areas right is absolutely key to a good customer experience.

How much time do you spend thinking about how the various basic elements of service come together in your organisation to turn a functional experience into a superior one?

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