Saturday, November 22, 2008

Introducing Remarkable Service: "Bring it, Spokane!"

"There is new momentum occurring across all sectors of business in Spokane. Its all about a new era of really Remarkable Service."

-- Janet Bartman

Hello again, Spokane. You are remarkable! It impresses me how Spokane's quality of life easily transfers into an excellent work ethic. I'd like to share why I think the business climate here in Spokane is so special, and how we are ripe for this new era of remarkable service sweeping across all business sectors.

For what I hope will be lively business discussion, please read on for highlights of local experiences that offer ideas you can apply to your specific business. I hope these stories will spark company roundtables and appear on bulletin boards around the Inland Northwest.

Let me begin by telling you the story of James (not his real name) who, five years ago, worked for a well-known rental car company at the Spokane International Airport. I don't know where James works now, but he is destined to excel in any career, with any company. He is a shining example of the remarkable service found in Spokane.

This story begins as I am planning my move back to Spokane. I am flying in for a weekend of house hunting. After the plane lands, I wheel my suitcase and walk up to the rental car counter, where I am greeted warmly by a young man who is wearing a long sleeved button-down shirt and tie. I can tell by his youth and the way he fidgeted with his sleeves and buttons that this is probably his first job requiring professional business attire. He tells me his name is James, and he politely asks for the reservation name and my driver's license. For two or three minutes he efficiently fills in the paperwork and has me sign where required.

At this point, I am expecting him to dangle some keys at me and point down the hall to glass doors and indicate a vast parking lot where I would hopefully find my rental car and be on my way. Instead, James does something completely different.

He smiles and walks around to my side of the counter. He says, "Janet, I'd like to show you to your car. May I carry your suitcase?" He takes the handle from me and escorts me down the hallway, chatting amiably and inquiring about the nature of what brings me to Spokane. The glass doors slide open and our eyes adjust to the bright June sunlight reflecting off the concrete in the parking lot. Again, I expect him to dangle keys and say "Have a nice day, ma'am." (My lowered expectations came from living in Southern California for almost twenty years.) Instead, he cheerfully says, "Right this way, please."

And then, a series of remarkable actions occur.

We approach my car. James opens the trunk. He places my suitcase inside. He opens the car door. He reaches in for a map in the glove box. He starts the car. He performs the walk-around inspection. He hands me a map and asks if I need any directions, anywhere at all. Using my name, he thanks me for my business, and wishes me a wonderful stay in Spokane. As I get seated and drive away, James warmly waves at me and then turns back into the terminal.

I had tears in my eyes. In the car, I gave a victorious little shout: "Yes, THIS is why I'm moving back to Spokane!"

James gave a memorable effort in his "flow of service," from start to finish. So memorable that, five years later, I am still telling his story.

You probably don't run a rental car company. However, you can use this experience as a "service across sectors" exercise. This week, I challenge you to consider your company's flow of service.

Does every employee perform with the polish that James did? Any one of any age, at any time of day, can deliver that "rush" of remarkable service.

Are you consistent across your entire organization, or do some forget that while they are on the clock, in every conversation, they are ambassadors of your corporate brand?

Let's begin a dialogue, Spokane. In what ways can you "bring it" in this new era of Remarkable Service?

Janet Bartman is the Communications Director for a large professional membership organization in Spokane. She welcomes your comments.

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