The Service Essence

After working in lots of roles throughout my life, I’ve come to appreciate the benefits of working in the restaurant industry more than most from a service perspective. Carfi’s post from Chicago reminded me of that.

I don’t often think back to being a waiter (oh the ramen noodle days), but I do recall getting most of my customer centric approach to service from being a waiter. Loyalty and ongoing spend was more important than the margin of any given interaction. Some things are always transferable and relevant. That being said, this is a under appreciated adage.

I had a job at a Big Boy in Ypsilanti, MI. I mainly liked worked days because I got free food, I lived on slim jims, patty melts and cole slaw. Nevertheless, I was rapidly indoctrinated in the restaurant way of life. The whole essence of a restaurant is service.

This guy who managed me at the big boy – put it fairly well “These people are paying for service or they would have done it themselves – so serve”. That is almost an exact quote and clearly great leadership skills for a bunch of college kids. As a person who loves a good meal and good service, I’ve come to take it almost for granted.

Not only do we take it for granted as consumers, we wildly forget about it in our daily interactions and overall management of our products and businesses. If someone didn’t want service they would do it themselves - hmm.

While not practical in some scenarios - I’m not going to build a car, but I do still buy service when I get a car. Service is a key influencer in buying and the general experience of being a customer is an important part of the product.

Essentially the age old adage of the “customer is always right” may be a concept of yesteryear in many industries and may have never existed in some industries. I mean it wouldn’t be an adage if there wasn’t something to it - right?

The good news is what’s old is new again - the social customer is here!

So what is it that consumers are entitled to? How can a business drive extended value for both themselves and the customer? Loyalty should be a variable for most of your product decisions, but definitely in ALL customer interactions.

The informal word of mouth impact is gaining momentum thanks to web 2.0. With the increasing relevance of social networks, word of mouth is increasingly more important within the corporate decision making process, the customer may be right right again! Back to the future! This whole “interweb” thing is working out.

I know at times it clearly appears the customer isn’t right at the end of quarter or when analyzing margin, but really? To better understand what a social customer is:


  • I want to have a say.
  • I don’t want to do business with idiots.
  • I want to know when something is wrong, and what you’re going to do to fix it.
  • I want to help shape things that I’ll find useful.
  • I want to connect with others who are working on similar problems.
  • I don’t want to be called by another salesperson. Ever. (Unless they have something useful. Then I want it yesterday.)
  • I want to buy things on my schedule, not yours. I don’t care if it’s the end of your quarter.
  • I want to know your selling process.
  • I want to tell you when you’re screwing up. Conversely, I’m happy to tell you the things that you are doing well. I may even tell you what your competitors are doing.
  • I want to do business with companies that act in a transparent and ethical manner.
  • I want to know what’s next. We’re in partnership…where should we go?

I clearly think we are all social customers, perhaps we need to be more mindful social product managers.

On a random note, I’ve been struggling to develop a business metaphor around FIFO. Ideas?

David Daniels

David Daniels

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