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“Master the contents of Endless Referrals and you will practically GUARANTEE your future success.”

~ Tom Hopkins, Author, Master the Art of Selling

They Were Fine…But This Could Have Set Them Apart

January 18th, 2012 by Bob Burg

In a recent post we discussed how paying attention to detail and doing those little things right (especially those your competitors don’t do) can set you apart from the crowd and make the big difference in your business.

I was reminded of this last month when arriving at a doctor’s office in West Palm Beach. It was my first visit there and I mistakenly showed up an hour early. When the two receptionists told me this I was a bit upset at myself as that was an hour that could have used to work.

I uttered a self-annoyed, “I can’t believe I did that.”

No response.

Then, “Well, that was an hour I could have made better use of” and shook my head.

Now, as silly as this sounds, I think I wanted one of them to tell me they understood how I felt and were so sorry that happened.

But, they didn’t. They just looked at me and waited. Don’t get me wrong. They were very nice. They just had nothing to say and so, they didn’t. As soon as I left the office I found there were several coffee shops very close and across the street was a strip mall with numerous restaurants. Always having a book on hand, I had lunch and caught up on some reading. Turned into a nice extra hour.

But, here is where the doctor’s team could have shined big in my eyes. Actually, here is how any office could:

Be Prepared: realizing that Bob Burg is probably not the only klutz whose mind goes on absent, be ready when such a patient arrives.

Communicate Empathy: Let them know you feel for them. Suggested language might be, “I’m so sorry that happened. I hope that didn’t cause you too big an inconvenience. Believe me, you’re not the only one who’s done that.” (And, if you’ve done something similar, let them know that, too.)

Provide Suggestions: What amenities are in your area that could be taken advantage of? In this case, a simple, “Fortunately, and if you’re interested, we have both a Dunkin’ Donuts and a Starbucks within three blocks in either direction. There’s also a wonderful strip mall across the street with your choice of restaurants (and name the restaurants).”

Wow — what a difference! Again, please don’t get me wrong. They were very nice. They just didn’t go that extra step. And, it’s leadership’s responsibility to be sure they are equipped to take that step.

At least, that’s what I think. What say you?

19 Responses to “They Were Fine…But This Could Have Set Them Apart”
  1. Kim White said at 8:20 am on

    I want to share a story this post reminded me of that I think will blow you away. Bear with me if it’s long, but I think this is the kind of group that appreciates a good story.

    A few years ago I was working for a company that was located in the same building as several doctor’s offices. Being in Florida, a lot of the patients coming to those doctors were elderly. It was common place to find them wondering the halls, looking for the right office (the signage in this building was terrible, so it wasn’t their fault.) All of us got use to directing these patients, but sometimes the office had either moved or the person was in the wrong building altogether. So, we had also all gotten used to saying ‘sorry’ to the patients and telling them, if we could, where the office had moved. ( A giant ‘shame on you’ to these offices for not leaving a sign or notifying patients they had moved!) But one day, our CEO taught us all an incredible lesson in helping others who’ve found themselves in an awkward situation. He encountered a woman in the hallway who was asking for help. Turned out she was definitely in the wrong building and very confused about how to get to the right place. So our CEO, a man I’m sure with a million things to do that day, got his assistant to follow him in his car while he drove the woman – in her car – to the right office! His courtesy, helping a total stranger, far surpassed any courtesy the woman’s doctor’s office had shown in not doing something simple like making sure she knew where they were now located.

  2. Amy Wells said at 8:26 am on

    First of all, you are not a klutz, you are a busy man with Go Giving on your mind.:-) Im glad you were resourceful and had a book.:-) This same thing happens at my Salon often enough that empathy is one of the things we train on. We have brides hurry in when their appointment is a week away. It seems that the closer the wedding day gets, the more forgetful and hurried they are. We acknowledge them and let them know that we understand. We can usually accommodate them, but if we can’t we do exactly what you suggested…… We offer a rest on our couch, a few stores in the area, etc.

    Now that I just wrote the above, I see something else I can do. I can help my brides by calling to confirm their appointments a few days before they arrive. I’ll call this, “Wedding Month Confirmation Courtesy.” 🙂 Thanks Bob, for bringing this to my awareness.

  3. Amy Wells said at 8:31 am on

    Wish there was a like button on blogs, I would click “like” on what Kim wrote. 🙂

  4. Steve Boyett said at 8:32 am on

    What a great topic! As someone who travels an insane amount, it is normal to run into situations where my timing (or lack of planning) is messed up. I have found that in situations like the one you explained, there are two scenarios.
    1) The staff that you are dealing with looks at you with that precious “deer in the headlights look” that makes me think I must be the only person dumb enough to have ever done this. Or
    2) The staff makes me feel normal by having ideas and/or suggestions in how to male the best of the situation.
    I have always said to my kids and coworkers “your lack of planning doesn’t constitute an emergency for me” and believe that to be true, so I don’t approach the people as if they owe me a solution to my own stupidity (don’t think that exists anyway), BUT when they react in a value adding way, I remember!

  5. helen said at 8:34 am on

    Certainly, in this case, silence was NOT golden. I like all your suggestions. Maybe you could send them a copy of this post so they can better handle this situation in the future.

  6. Bruno Coelho said at 10:33 am on

    People keep searching the internet for the secret of creating a successful business… but what they don’t realize is that the “secret” lies in this “little” things. Those moments of truth, when you can save a positive feeling/emotion inside a costumer’s mind, aren’t little things… they are everything!

    Your story also reminds me that what to BE comes first than what to DO. Because if you know what to BE you don’t need your boss to tell you that you should do this or that to the customer… because if you truly CARE about them, guess what you’ll do: you’ll take that extra minute and do the things Bob suggested.

    In the end that’s what being a Go-Giver and a One-Minute manager is all about: taking an extra minute and give your costumers the experience they deserve: EXTRAordinary!

    However, I have to confess to this group, that even with this mindset, sometimes I fail to deliver this experiences to the people I lead and to the people I serve… I wish it as easy to do as it is to write. I’m not perfect but I persist in looking for constant, immediate and unfiltered feedback so I can improve every single time.

    I’m just grateful to have discovered a teacher like you Bob to keep me on the right track for Success!

  7. Bob Burg said at 1:33 pm on

    Kim: That is such an awesome story. Thank you for sharing that!

    Amy: I love how you took one idea and turned it into another that you’ll use in your business. Great for you! And, I agree regarding the Like button for Kim’s comment! 🙂

    Steve: Right on. Thank you for sharing that!

    Helen: Indeed, it was not golden at all, was it? 🙂 Thank you for your comment!

    Bruno: Indeed, it is the little things, isn’t it? It’s all those little things that add up to the big thing. You show great wisdom for such a young man, my friend! Regarding your “confession”…my good brother, none of us get it right all the time. I can tell you personally, I’ve got a long way to go to even get close to where I feel I should be. All we can do is continue to learn and continue to do our best, measuring today’s performance against yesterday’s and tomorrow’s against today’s. And…hope it goes in the direction we want it to! 🙂 And, thank you for your very kind compliment!

  8. Joel Ungar said at 3:08 pm on

    Great post Bob. I’d like to think that is how I’d respond.

    And kudos for getting a Dunkin’ Donuts mention in!

  9. Great tips, I’ve been doing stuff like this for along time (I’ve been a cashier for many years now with a handful of businesses) and never realized it was considered going a step further, it’s just what I’ve been doing.

    I think a lot of the time people don’t know how to train their staff when it comes to going that one step farther. I even have trouble training my staff to do so, mostly because the one that interact with customers the most use to be a bartender and she’s kind of set in her ways. Haha 🙂

  10. Bob Burg said at 6:51 pm on

    Awesome, Michael. Knowing of the many accomplishments you’ve had thus far in your young life, it doesn’t surprise me at all that you do these things intuitively. Now just work on educating your staff to do the thing. “Set in her ways” isn’t the issue; she needs to be set in *your* ways when it comes to providing great value to the customer. By the way, I don’t think being a bartender has anything to do with it. Certainly there are bartenders who provide exceptional, over-the-top service.

  11. Bob Burg said at 6:45 pm on

    Joel, I have no doubt you would!

    Gotta’ love the Dunkin’! 🙂

  12. SO simple–yet so seldom done by many service providers! I don’t know if the folks that work in such organizations truly care enough to go the extra step it would take to make such a difference. Unfortunately, it seems that the younger the staff is, the more often I notice this. I’m most impressed by those who do take the time to think of how to provide better service, especially when it is a younger employee. I often find myself analyzing my experiences with service providers, thinking ofhow they might’ve made the experience better. “Yeah, that was OK, but if they’d just done XYZ, it would’ve been so much better!” Those who go that extra step TRULY stand out!!

  13. Geetha said at 11:09 pm on

    Great post, Bob on key differentiators that can make us ‘Beyond Category’. Thank you!

    The two receptionists lost out on a wonderful opportunity to be your ‘angels of white space.’

    I do love the chapter on ‘White Space’ in The Professional.


    And yes! Having a book on hand helps always to effectively take care of unexpected white space especially!

  14. Bruno Coelho said at 5:55 am on

    I was just wondering if sending a “Help us make a difference with YOU!” or “Help us serve YOU EXTRAordinaraly!” feedback would give this companies a chance to deliver a world-class service.

  15. Great blog Bob! It seems so easy to add that value but how often we miss an opportunity. I love these posts because they are great reminders to reevaluate and make sure I am doing that extra little bit that can make all the difference.

  16. Bob Burg said at 9:22 am on

    Michelle: Thank you for your thoughts and comments. I believe that company leadership must take it upon themselves to develop and cultivate the type of company culture in which their team members *do* care.

    Geetha: Thank you. so glad you enjoyed the post!

    Bruno: You always have the opportunity to do that.

    Christie: Thank you. And, I’m sure we all miss those opportunities from time to time. So important to stay conscious of it, isn’t it? Thank you for the reminder that we can all use reminders. 🙂

  17. Bob- I am glad you are talking about medical offices. This way my day like that but on the health care provider end. My first patient at 8:00 did not show and the weather was very foggy and bad traffic (I even got in a few minutes late and sort of relieved I made it in before my patient did.) So when she still wasn’t there by 8:30 I called her and she thought her appt was at 9:00 ( which was the time of her second appt with the dentist. I told her that the mistake is common and come on in anyway. When she got there I got started right away with her vitals and all. Then my 9:00 patient came in on schedule so I had to see her on time, but still saw the lady right after and didn’t make her come back another day. She felt so bad for messing up but I was not going to make her feel that way at al and instead gave her excellent treatment and joked that some days we just “throw the schedule in the trash” and stay flexible. She laughed and left a very happy patient.
    When I do see patients who have to wait on a family member and some times look sleepy I offer them a pillow so they can ean their head on it by the wal and usually are very happy to do so! A little can go so far in the waiting room and in patinet care.

  18. Bob Burg said at 8:38 pm on

    Michele, thank you for setting such a great example. I know you well enough to know that is simply who you are as well as what you do!

  19. […] 0 commentsDo a little more each day than you think you possibly can. ~Thomas, LowellI remember this incredible story coming from the author of several best selling books, Bob Burg. A few months ago, he shared his […]

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