In the words of Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

I had two recent customer service experiences that couldn’t have been more different, and as a result, I started to think how the two establishments valued service and repeat business. In the modern era of instant communication, thanks to social media and the myriad of sites available to anyone with a smartphone or tablet, a recap of a good experience or a bad experience can appear anywhere from a small blog to thousands of YouTube views to the national TV news.

I visited a local restaurant for lunch. The restaurant is in Los Angeles, but there are other locations, so it is not a one-off like the Cheers bar we all know and love from the TV show where you walk in the door, and “everyone knows your name.” However, at this restaurant, I have a favorite waiter who knows what I like and actually brings my favorite items without asking. But alas, on this particular visit, my favorite waiter wasn’t working. Since I have positive experiences at this restaurant 99% of the time, imagine my horror at this rare experience.

After entering the restaurant and waiting 10 minutes for the hostess, I was seated at a patio table. Then, after waiting another 10 minutes to be acknowledged by a server, I placed my order. After the order was taken, I saw the waiter walk out of the restaurant’s back door never to return. Yes, you read that correctly, I never saw him again. Some other waiters tried to provide decent service, but without “owning” my table, they were unsure about order details and did not check back to ask if anything was needed after the kitchen team delivered the food.

Contrast this poor excuse for service with another recent experience. I visited a large hotel (a member of the Westin hotel chain) for a family celebration. From the moment I checked in to the moment I checked out, I was treated like a VIP. My name was used when the front desk personnel spoke to me, and my name was used when I dined at the hotel’s restaurant. It was clear that, despite the poor economy, this hotel staff understood that people have choices when it comes to choosing a hotel. The staff at this hotel wanted its guests to remember their version of excellent customer service – and return in the future.

Think how quickly I could have posted my dissatisfaction with the restaurant online. I could have posted a comment on Twitter or Foursquare, uploaded a photo of the waiter’s disappearance out the restaurant’s back door on Facebook or Pinterest, shared a short video on YouTube, or posted a negative review on Yelp. By contrast, I could have posted positive comments or photos or both about the hotel’s experience just as quickly.

With social media becoming such an integral part of a company’s overall marketing strategy these days, service is really the only way for companies to stand out from their competitors. While negative reviews tend to remain online longer, it is critical for customers, clients, stakeholders, and guests to share their positive experiences and feedback too.

So, at the conclusion of your business dealings, do you request that your customers talk about their positive experiences online? Do you follow up with them to repeat the ask? And how do you thank them? This should all be part of your social media strategy.

Debbie Laskey has 15 years of marketing experience and an MBA Degree with a concentration in International Marketing and Management. She developed her diverse marketing expertise while working in the high-tech industry, the Consumer Marketing Department at Disneyland Paris in France, the non-profit arena, and the insurance industry. Currently, Debbie is a consultant to small businesses and non-profits in California, and specializes in brand marketing, social media, employee engagement, leadership development, and customer experience marketing. Since 2002, Debbie has served as a judge for the Web Marketing Association’s annual web award competition and has been recognized as one of the "Top 100 Branding Experts" to follow on Twitter.


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