Service as Pain Remover

papercupA very gloomy Wall Street Journal on a very long flight left me with a very bad headache. And, I never get headaches! As soon as I exited the jet way at the San Francisco Airport, I headed for the nearest newsstand for some relief—Advil. The vendor was about to close but I talked him into selling me his last package. I opened the plastic package and removed the two tablets in foil for some quick relief. Tucked behind the foil was a collapsible paper cup just big enough for two large swallows of water.

I laughed out loud. What genius! What simplicity! What great service! I could almost feel my headache start to dissipate. And, I had not yet taken the pain relievers.

Customers are getting more headaches than normal these days. The economic recovery seems slow and uncertain; layoffs, bankruptcies and foreclosures appear to increase. If customers have personally been spared disappointment, they have plenty for family or friends who have not. So, customers drag their woes into stores along with their thinning wallets.

Why not give them a “two-swallow paper cup.” That cup might take the form of much longer patience when a customer frets over minutia. It might be a sincere, unexpected smile. It might be a random act of kindness targeted at a familiar service challenge—a long wait time, a crowded check-out line, or laborious required paperwork. How can you use service as an antidote to customer pain and anxiety? Do your customers see you as someone who is a pain remover? What’s your free paper cup?

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