Lessons from Valet Guy: A Customer Service Clinic

How the Four Seasons, hosts of NSCA Business & Leadership Conference, can help integrator attendees from leaving money on the table.

Tom LeBlanc

NSCA hopes that attendees of its Business & Leadership Conference later this month will have some “aha moments.”

One of those realizations might be in regards to how their lack of attention to customer service leads to money left of the table. Interestingly, the “aha moment” may come not from the well-thought-out panel discussions but from the guy who tells them where the bathroom is.

The 16th annual BLC takes place at Four Seasons in Las Colinas, Texas, near Dallas. Four Seasons’ renowned customer service training stems from “the golden rule,” says Vail Tolbert, director of public relations at Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas. “It’s as simple as that—treat others as you would like to be treated.”

Specifically, she says integrators attending BLC can learn from how perceptive the Four Seasons staff tries to be. “If they see a customer that seems to be looking for something, they try to anticipate what that guest might need.”

All companies, she adds, can benefit from the exercise of trying to determine what their customers might want next—like, to know where the bathroom is.

The connection to the integration market is very significant. Customer engagement (the new, chic way of referring to “customer service”) is on many integrators’ minds. With profitability on projects down, the industry seems to be coming to a collective understand that it’s too transaction based, a shift that NSCA executive director Chuck Wilson summarized in a recent CI interview.

For integrators, demonstrating that they’re invested in the well-being of their clients’ organizations beyond selling them products is “absolutely important for companies to maximize their profitability,” he said. “That’s where they’ve got to go.”

Register for NSCA’s 2014 Business & Leadership Conference

Bradford Caron, president of Norwell, Mass.-based Signet Electronic Systems, is one of several integrators that Wilson has heard from that is actively looking to improve and manage their customers’ experiences. He had one of those “aha moments” recently while checking out colleges with his daughter.

What struck Caron, as they walked through High Point University in High Point, N.C., was the way the college seemed to ensure that every employee treated them as a valued customer. “From the maintenance staff to the admissions people to the cafeteria workers, the attitude is like you’re walking through Disney World—eye-to-eye, pleasant, smiling, happy to be there, diligent, clean.”

Then Caron visited other schools and “what a contrast,” he exclaims. “You have maintenance people smoking out in public, a huge difference in culture.”

Caron’s experience at High Point triggered him to enlist a customer engagement specialist to work with every single one of Signet’s employees. There was a time when Signet viewed customer service as a component of its service group, Caron says.  “We’ve come to realize that it’s got to be permeated through the whole company. It’s got to be from the warehouse people to the project managers to engineers to technicians to installers. It’s got to be spread throughout the entire company, in my opinion, to be successful.”

Commercial Integrator Editor Tom LeBlanc on Collecting Customer Service Metrics: