Customer success guru John DiJulius says that using the phrase “my pleasure” “elevates the professionalism of your employees’ terminology.” These words may be powerful if you deliver remarkable experiences, but they can also annoy the heck out of your customers if you deliver a terrible experience.
I want to share two stories with you: a good one and a bad one. Let’s start with the good one.
Not Your Average Fast-Food Lunch
Years ago, I had my first-ever Chick-fil-A meal. My wife and daughters had been raving about it for months, so I had to give it a try.
Placing our order was pleasant enough, but not substantially different from other fast-food restaurants. The dining experience was pretty typical until, midway through our meal, the manager walked up to us.
“How is your food?” he asked.
I was confused. Wasn’t this a fast-food restaurant? A McDonald’s manager would never walk up and ask me if I was enjoying my meal. What was going on?
We assured him that our food was great (which it was), and with a smile, he thanked us for dining at Chick-fil-A. I thanked him for checking on us, and he replied, “It’s my pleasure.” Then he went to take care of other customers.
I quickly found myself becoming a Chick-fil-A fan, just like the rest of my family. (In fact, my daughter Joy loves it so much that her chief complaint about attending Cornell was that there wasn’t a Chick-fil-A in Ithaca, NY!). Chick-fil-A has combined their delicious food with a caring customer service process to create a remarkable dining experience. They are efficient, they check in with their customers, and they do everything with a smile.
It was not by chance that my first experience at Chick-fil-A was so positive. They do a great job training their employees on how to deliver a customer experience that matches the phrase “it’s my pleasure.” This phrase does much more than elevate their professionalism–it reinforces what the customers can already clearly see: It is their pleasure to take care of us.
The Hotel Reservation Fiasco
I had a very different experience during a recent hotel stay. We hosted our annual Rhythm Systems Breakthrough Conference at a Marriott location in Charlotte. It was a beautiful hotel with all the amenities we needed. We were excited to work together with the hotel’s conference team to execute the best conference yet!
Check-in was going smoothly until I discovered a mistake that had been made by the hotel. Because of this mistake, I needed to extend my stay by one day–until Friday. They assured me it would be taken care of, and my reservation would be easily extended with my conference rate to Friday.
Wednesday night came around, and I received a notification that it would be time to check out on Thursday. Surprised, I decided to reach out to the front desk via text to fix this minor issue.
The front desk employee told me that my reservation was confirmed to end Thursday morning. Instead of offering to fix the issue or taking a few moments to find a solution internally, she told me that she could not change the reservation. After a couple of texts back and forth, she texted me a phone number and suggested that I book a new reservation myself for the final night.
I was shocked. I shared that as an Ambassador Level Marriott loyalty program member, I clearly knew the reservation number. I asked her again to solve my problem and she could not. Frustrated, I suggested that next year, I might choose a different hotel for my conference since they could not help me with such a minor problem.
She replied: “Okay.” I was thinking: Are you kidding? How can it be okay for me to take my conference to some other hotel over something so minor? Do you not care about your customer at all?!
“You don’t understand,” I texted. “This reservation is tied to a conference. The hotel made the mistake of making it two nights instead of three. The conference group was supposed to have corrected it. I have a special conference rate.”
Even with this information, which should not have been new to her, she did not jump to fix the error. Nor did she apologize.
“I actually can extend your stay,” she told me, “but not at the same rate.”
I was at the end of my rope. I already had so much on my plate with the conference, and I was done wasting my time with this discussion. My exasperation became sarcasm as I texted: “Okay. Please at least set me up for a late checkout tomorrow. Clearly, I need to talk to your conference group. If they can’t solve it, we will take our event elsewhere next year.”
My late checkout request must have been easily managed, because she quickly confirmed a 4:00 p.m. checkout. This felt like a very small consolation prize. My initial issue, which had been created by the hotel, still hadn’t been resolved.
I thanked her begrudgingly, and that is when she texted back: “My pleasure.”
I hit the roof. I was so mad that I had to text someone on my team: “Is she crazy? What does ‘my pleasure’ mean? Was it her pleasure to piss me off? To do nothing for me? To not even care that I would take my conference somewhere else next year? She did not even give a damn about my situation.”
Her words were empty because they did not match the level of care she showed for me. I felt like the most unimportant customer in the hotel.
The whole conversation was such a disaster that ending with “my pleasure” felt like a twisted joke.
A Broken Process
I believe the two core issues of my Marriott fiasco were a poor process combined with employee disempowerment.
Evidently, Marriott’s process has become so inflexible that it does not allow employees to fix customers’ problems. This way of working is not aligned with their core value of “We Put People First”. What I experienced made me feel that the Marriott group of hotels has now become so big that they have forgotten that a great customer experience must first start with the customer. It can’t just be about your own efficiency or processes.
It pains me to write this article because I love the Marriott brand. I have been a road warrior, and Marriott hotels have made my travel a little easier and a little more comfortable. I like to roll into a familiar Marriott. I have been a loyal Marriott customer, proven by my lifetime Titanium status and current Ambassador status. And I continue to recommend my friends to stay at Marriott properties. I believe Marriott cares and that they hire good people! Where they are falling down is in training and empowering their people to take care of customer problems and to put the customer experience first when resolving problems. Don’t make the customer feel that they are unimportant to you.
Let’s learn vicariously through Marriott. When customer problems arise, typical processes probably won’t fix them in a way that leaves the customer still feeling great about your brand. Be careful not to sacrifice the customer experience for better efficiency. Sometimes it’s not what you did or did not do–rather, it’s how you made your customer feel. And if you only apply your typical process without thinking about how the customer is feeling, it could exacerbate the problem and give the customer a terrible customer journey.
When things go wrong, you actually have an opportunity to rise above your regular game and give the customer a strong and memorably positive experience. Your customer will remember how you solved their problem and might even become more loyal.
As Chick-fil-A does, align your customer service process with your Core Values. Chick-fil-A employees live their value of “We’re here to serve” because their process allows and encourages them to delight their customers. This is why “it’s my pleasure” works for Chick-fil-A: because they gave the customer a pleasant experience.
And if you can’t seem to serve up a pleasant customer experience, don’t wrap up with “it’s my pleasure”–your customer will feel the lack of sincerity.
Other blogs I've written:
Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images
Patrick Thean is an international speaker, best-selling Author, and serial entrepreneur and is currently the CEO and co-founder of Rhythm Systems. Visit Rhythmsystems.com to learn more.
Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images