When I say restaurants and great customer service – I’ll bet your first thought wasn’t of a fast food restaurant, but I had an experience recently that changed that attitude for me. Kyle and I were driving to Phoenix. We were picking my sister up at the airport, and then going out to dinner. However we were hungry ‘now’ – and dinner was still a few hours away. So we stopped at the Food Court at the outlet mall in Anthem, AZ. This is our usual quick stop spot on the 2 hour drive from Prescott to Phoenix. On this day we just wanted a little protein pick-me-up. I went in on a scouting mission.

I saw Charley’s Grilled Subs - http://www.charleys.com/ . Grilled sounded good so I walked up to the counter. Protein – that’s what we wanted. So I ordered a grilled sub, with no bread  OK – that may be weird, but we didn’t want the bread. No problem. The subs come with grilled onions and peppers. Onions are not Kyle’s friend, so I asked if they could keep the veggies separate from the meat. No problem. When I walked down to the pick-up end of the counter, not only did they separate the meat from the veggies, but they put them on separate plates. Wow, no onion contamination with the meat  Then I was asked if I wanted lettuce and tomato since they come with the sandwich. I said sure. And that was dished up, also separately. No problem.

Now that is a lot of customization for a fast food ‘joint’. And it was done with a smile and an attitude as if they did it every day. No hassles. No questions. No glares or grumbles. Guess which counter we’ll head to on our next trip to The Valley???

It really was simple for them. They still had to grill the meat and the veggies – just put it on plates instead of the bread. Yet how often do we encounter a “system” that is so rigid that it can’t see beyond its own set of guidelines on how something is to be done. Forget how the customer wants it – this is the way “we” do things. I can think of a lot of businesses that can take a lesson from Charley’s Grilled Subs in Anthem, AZ!

Now is good time to inventory our own businesses. Am I doing something “just because I’ve always done it this way”? Or maybe, am I doing something because an ‘expert’ or coach said it should be done a certain way, but doesn’t feel quite right to me? Or maybe I learned it in a business class at college? Or maybe I just have never given myself the freedom to think outside the box – no matter where the box walls came from.

One of my ‘soap boxes’ is to walk a mile my customer’s shoes. What is their expectation when they come to my business? What can I do to meet those expectations? If they are checking me out, they are at least interested in my product or service. So as business owners we need to know what they are thinking. What are they looking for? What their need really is. Then we can tailor our offering to meet those needs.

It’s not really hard. We just need to listen, and step out of our box!

Author's Bio: 

Heidi McCarthy has been customer focused her whole life, getting a good orientation in her first job working as waitress while putting herself through college. After college she worked in the corporate arena for 8 years where she learned the ins and outs of working in a corporate culture including customer service working with and traveling to clients across North America. Next she worked with her husband in his salvage diving business where dealing with the “rich and famous” taught her much about people’s expectations. Running a consulting business she started working with Custom Training Institute. The consulting soon became a full time job, where she became the General Manager and Director of Operations. This job showed Heidi the immense need for what has become her specialty niche – customer service in the electronic universe.

Additionally, Heidi has the ability of being able to see holes in systems that on the surface look to be good and solid. And, she loves to teach – to share what she has learned .

Heidi’s passion for excellence in business caused her to found Toughest Customer, where today she helps companies grow and retain customers through improved customer service and extreme client care.