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Have you ever noticed that Thanksgiving dinner is the ultimate in service experiences? From the strategic planning of the "operation" right down to "delivery and implementation," each step is carefully thought out with the "customers’" satisfaction being the primary goal.
As you know, planning and executing a Thanksgiving gala that’s talked about for months requires that you pay careful attention to each detail to ensure smooth interactions and, ultimately, satisfaction (often seen after dinner as the rubbing or patting of the stomach!). That same detailed planning applies to the service you deliver at your company. Here are three ways you can apply Turkey Day planning to creating the ultimate customer experience:

1) Table Presentation is (almost) EVERYTHING!

What impression do you have when you sit down for Thanksgiving Dinner and the table is sticky or the flatware has spots?  Well, if you’re like me, you wonder what the heck’s going on in the kitchen!  Customer care is no different. The ‘table’ must be pleasing to the eye, yet set in a practical and easy manner to enable smooth flow from one course to the next. Think about it:

What happens if you contact a service center and the person on the other end of the phone is chewing gum or doesn’t speak clearly? You wonder what the heck’s going on behind the scenes. Your faith and credibility in the service you’re about to receive is diminished, and this means the service agent now has a twofold task: To change your perception by regaining your respect and to resolve your problem!
As the manager or leader of a service organization, it’s important for you to ensure that each member of your organization understands the importance of presentation.  How to begin? By asking yourself and others: What are the key success ingredients of our presentation to customers? Then double-check that you’re right by asking some customers the same question. Compare your answers and zero in on what aspects of presentation matter most.

Now you might find yourself thinking&ldots;the dinner may look pretty, but does it taste good? Which brings us to tip #2:

2) The Bird’s Got to be MEATY!

If the table looks great and the food is awful, chances are you’ll walk away from the meal remembering the bad taste. Case in point: Remember Chevy Chase in the movie Christmas Vacation? OK, the holiday’s not the same but the scene featuring the holiday meal makes my point. The entire family is gathered around the table for what looks to be the perfect feast (except maybe the cat food Jello® mold).  Sparky (Chevy Chase) begins to tear up as he carefully begins to carve the bird when&ldots;it explodes into a smoky haze of shell of bones! Suddenly the table presentation is meaningless. Do you see where I’m going here?

Let’s say you pass the service ‘presentation test’ and the customer is happy, but when he or she reports a problem your service professional explodes in a cloud of gas and bones&ldots;YIKES!  Your service – the bird – has to be meaty!  It has to have substance or, as they say, your company’s just "full of hot air."  So, tip #2 is making sure your people are properly skilled to do the job right and provide solutions to the challenges of your customers. 
To help you get more meat on your bones, ask your service staff, "How many times have you had a customer interaction where you were unable to solve the problem – or find the right resource to solve the problem? What did you do? What was the result? What would help you do your job better?" Then give ‘em what they need, and make sure they’re getting continuous training to keep them up to snuff. 

3) The Sweet Finish Line!

What Thanksgiving Dinner (well, any dinner for that matter) would be complete without dessert?  Nothing says satisfaction like the taste of something that screams calories galore (and takes two hours on the treadmill to burn off).  You’re never home free until you can see the fork scrapes across the dessert dishes and those same plates licked clean. Yummy!

Once again, service is no different. Don’t cut out when 80% of the job is done; you can’t just fix the problem and call it a day!  Customer caring leaders make sure their staff knows to confirm that the problem has been resolved to the customer’s satisfaction. And they don’t stop there&ldots;they also encourage their team to take a proactive approach and ask the customer if there’s anything else he or she needs! If the customer says, "I couldn’t possibly take another bite I’m so stuffed," thank them for their time and their support of your organization.
Questions to consider: Do you have a standard set of questions or comments you pose to customers after you resolve their problems? Do you have a similar protocol to end any customer interaction? If yes, are they being used consistently?  If no, develop ‘em and put ‘em into action!

Presentation, a meaty bird and ah, the sweet finish line&ldots;whether you’re preparing a holiday meal or delivering exquisite service, success takes hard work and attention to detail. If the preparation for the ultimate customer experience begins to feel overwhelming just remember, when everyone is happily dozing after your succulent feast, you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy your own dessert  – and in the workplace that means customer loyalty and profits!

This Business article was written by JoAnna Brandi on 2/18/2005

JoAnna Brandi is Publisher of the Customer Care Coach – a weekly training program on mastering “”The Art and Science of Exquisite Customer Care.”” She is the author of “”Winning at Customer Retention, 101 Ways to Keep ’em Happy, Keep ’em Loyal and Keep ’em Coming Back”” and “”Building Customer Loyalty – 21 Essential Elements in ACTION”” she writes a free email tip on customer caring. You can sign up at and