My Name Is Hank and I'll Be Your Nuisance Tonight

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Summary:

There's a hotel near my office that's a popular site for business meetings and conferences. It's part of a hotel chain that prides itself on its service, and it shows. I've given numerous presentations at this hotel chain, and I've been impressed with the staff's attentiveness and responsiveness.

But the last time I visited the hotel for a dinner meeting, something was different. I sensed that the management had implemented some new customer service initiatives when I noticed signs in various locations about how important customer service is to them.

There's a hotel near my office that's a popular site for business meetings and conferences. It's part of a hotel chain that prides itself on its service, and it shows. I've given numerous presentations at this hotel chain, and I've been impressed with the staff's attentiveness and responsiveness.

But the last time I visited the hotel for a dinner meeting, something was different. I sensed that the management had implemented some new customer service initiatives when I noticed signs in various locations about how important customer service is to them.

One such sign was posted just outside the restaurant. Signs like this have always struck me as curious, because if you provide good service, you don't need a sign to tell people you're doing it. And if your service is dreadful, displaying a sign won't fool people into seeing it as otherwise. If anything, it'll emphasize the disparity between the service as promised and as delivered.

How May I Interrupt You This Evening?

As soon as my client and I were seated, we were approached by an obnoxious waiter. I don't know much about restaurantology, but I know what I don't like, and I knew as soon as the waiter started to speak that I wasn't going to like him. He was too effervescent and bubbly. He was excessively and effusively kind and gracious. He was quite simply too eager to be at our service.

After he brought our dinners, he hovered, lavishing unwanted attention on us. He kept interrupting us to find out if everything was OK, which it was except for his interruptions to find out if everything was OK. It should have been obvious to him that we were engaged in serious conversation. But he was so busy attending to our needs that he failed to notice that we didn't have any.

To Serve or Not to Serve: That Is the Question

Whether in software development, restaurants or anywhere else, being customer-oriented means knowing when and how to serve customers. It also means knowing when and how not to. Just saying you care about customer service isn't enough, nor is posting signs in every nook and cranny. And overdoing it can be just as bad as underdoing it.

I began taking mental notes right from Hank's gushy, mushy "And how are you this evening?" It was obvious that he was destined to be featured in this blog.

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