The food was good. The location, great. Prices were reasonable. And service was consistently better than corporate standards.
The only thing that was missing was customers. How could we be doing everything so right and yet have so little left to pay the bills?
As a franchisee of the company that used to call me their National Director of Training, I was more than a little frustrated. I had been teaching franchisees for years how to run their franchise and here I was failing miserably. There had to be something missing, something simple but perhaps just not obvious.
I looked at other operations both in and out of the industry. Some had secondary locations and yet were doing well. Some had good but not necessarily great product and still seemed to be leading the pack. Others I thought were over-priced. From college I knew the answer had to be a matter of product, price, package, place or promotion…but I was wrong. It was a matter of people and how they were allowed to engage the customer, turning an ordinary transaction into an experience.
When a customer has an unexpected positive service experience, they can’t help but say, WOW! And, this is the best part… they are compelled to talk about it. We gave the concept of playing with customers a name. We called it Positively Outrageous Service! We didn’t really invent Positively Outrageous Service, we just gave it a name. People who had been playing with customers all along finally had a name for what they had been doing all along. They became POS fanatics, happy to be identified as masters of Positively Outrageous Service.
We gave POS a definition: random and unexpected, bigger than life, customer invited to play or be otherwise personally involved, and finally, it creates compelling, positive work of mouth.
So far we are telling a story that is twenty years old. How does POS hold up in the age of Millennials?
The world has changed since POS was created. But there’s one thing that has not changed—human nature. Humans want to feel good and we avoid anything that makes us feel bad. That’s human nature in a nut shell.
Humans still love a pleasant surprise… that’s where Positively Outrageous Service comes in. Earlier we defined POS as service that is random and unexpected, bigger than life, invites the customer to play or be otherwise personally involved, and creates positive, compelling word of mouth. It is the story you can’t wait to tell.
Flash back more than two decades:
When Phil Romano opened an upscale Italian restaurant a few miles outside of San Antonio, it didn’t take long to figure that while the food and service were great, the location was going to be difficult. Romano, a restaurant genius, had a real problem. He was one unit strong in a major metropolitan market…there was no way he could efficiently use traditional advertising.
Imagine your surprise if, as a diner at Phil’s restaurant, when you opened the leather case expecting a guest check and instead found a letter that read something like this:
The one thing we dislike about this business is having to charge our guests for their good time. So, once a month, always on a Monday or aTuesday and always without notice… every one eats free. Tonight is your lucky night.
Your drinks, your appetizer, your entrée, and even your dessert are on the house. We ask that if you enjoyed your visit that you will tell someone.
Our waitstaff are working off the clock tonight so please treat them generously.
Quick quiz: If that happened to you, would you tell someone?
Quick quiz, part two: How were sales on Tuesday nights?
The restaurant? That was Romano’s Macaroni Grill, founded on great food and built by masterful marketing and Positively Outrageous Service. Would you say Wow?
And of course there is one of my all-time favorites… the story of the Southwest Airlines flight attendant who liked to climb into the overhead luggage compartment, close the lid and, well, you get the picture!
Can you imagine limping onto the plane after a long day on the road and when you go put your briefcase into the overhead compartment, you are greeted by a cute, blonde flight attendant saying, “Surprise!” You would talk about that, wouldn’t you? Right after they get your heart re-started!
Positively Outrageous Service.
Random and unexpected, bigger than life, invites the customer to play or be otherwise personally involved, and creates positive, compelling word of mouth. It is the story you can’t wait to tell.
There is an element of risk when it comes to playing with customers. Because customers so often are expecting poor service, they sometimes misinterpret your attempt to make the transaction fun. But for every one customer you lose… my guess is you will gain a hundred.
Positive, compelling word of mouth. That’s what you’ll get when you dare to give a little Positively Outrageous Service.
Send us your stories of Positively Outrageous Service… we’d love to share them!
T. Scott Gross, the creator of Positively Outrageous Service, studies Millennials up close and personal. Gross, a social explorer, calls his Millennial subjects Perfect Strangers and believes they are in many ways taking the workplace to where the Boomers should have already gone. He is the author of “Invisible: How Millennials Are Changing the Way We Sell“.