This Is What Customer Service Looks Like

Jon Stolpe was one of the first people to submit a guest post for my blog, and I have been very impressed with what I've read on his own site. I'm pleased to introduce you to his work, and hope you enjoy it.
– Ray Edwards


This is what customer service looks like! Customer service looks like a jar of spiced apple rings? Yes! Let me explain…

I’m Swedish. As a child, I have fond memories of gathering around my grandparents table at Christmas time to feast on the Swedish Christmas culinary traditions. We ate my Grandpa’s Korv – a Swedish potato sausage. We ate my Grandma’s Swedish meatballs. We ate Swedish cheese, pickled herring, and Swedish breads. As part of the meal, I will always remember my Grandma setting out a dish of spiced apple rings.

Honestly, I’m not sure if spiced apple rings are Swedish. For me, the apple rings are part of the tradition.

My Grandpa passed away several years ago. My Grandma is now 93 years old, and she isn’t up to preparing the Swedish feast. Now it’s my turn. I make Korv for my family. My wife makes great Swedish meatballs. And we try to keep as many of the other traditions as possible. This still includes spiced apple rings.

The weekend before Christmas, my wife sent me to the grocery store to pick up a few final items for the feast. I found the pickled herring, the Swedish cheese, and even some lingonberry jam. But I couldn’t find the spiced apple rings. I searched everywhere without success.

Before giving up, I decided to ask an employee of the grocery store. The employee listened to my story about our family’s Swedish traditions. She proceeded to get a couple of her co-workers into the discussion as they tried to determine if the store had spiced apple rings. After searching a few places, checking a couple of lists, and calling some other employees, they informed me they didn’t have any in the store. I thanked them and headed to the checkout line.

This is where the story took a dramatic turn.

After I paid for my items in the self-checkout line, I started towards the exit. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed someone running towards me from the back of the store. Actually, three employees were sprinting towards me. They shouted, “Sir! Sir! We found it!” One of the employees held the jar of spiced apple rings above their head like the Stanley Cup. They persisted until they found the treasured apple rings.

I will always remember this experience as a huge example of customer service.

What does customer service look like? Here’s what I learned from my experience.

5 Ways To Deliver Customer Service

  1. Customer service starts by being available to your customers. In my experience, the grocery store employees where clearly accessible to handle customers and their questions. Customer service means getting in front of your customers face-to-face or on the phone.
  2. Customer service involves listening to your customers. The grocery store employees listened to me. They knew what I was needed, because they listened to my request and my story. We must listen to our customers, so we understand their needs. Knowing our customers’ needs sets us up to deliver.
  3. Customer service is marked by persistence. The grocery store employees didn’t give up. They kept looking for the spiced apple rings even after they send me on my way. We provide solutions to our customers. Sometimes it takes a lot of time and effort. Don’t give up! Customers will be blown away when they see you kept working hard to meet their needs.
  4. Customer service is marked by an all out pursuit of your customers. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the three grocery store employees sprinting towards me, yet this is how customers deserved to be treated. How are you pursuing your customers?
  5. Customer service means celebrating with your customers. It was clear to me these employees were excited for me and for helping to complete my Swedish Christmas dinner. They high-fived me and each other as they delivered the jar of spiced apple rings to me. We should feel the same way when we deliver our services and products to our customers knowing what we provided were just what they wanted and needed.

The empty jar now sits on my desk at work as a reminder to lead and interact with my internal and external customers with persistence and all out effort. This is the kind of service experience I want to deliver to my customers!

What does customer service look like to you? What is one thing you can do differently or better this week to deliver a better service experience to your customers?

Jon Stolpe is passionate about small groups, missions, family, marriage, parenting, and Philadelphia sports. Jon is also a writer and blogs daily at Jon Stolpe Stretched. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wonderful wife, Leanne, and their two kids. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or his blog.

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  • Nailed it Jon! I have often wondered if customer service is dead. Your 5 points maybe the CPR needed to revive it.

    • Thanks, Paul! What is one thing you can do today to deliver this level of customer service?

      • I will start where I always do: Doing everything I do the best that I can. That to me is how you deliver excellence.

  • Thanks for the opportunity to share on your blog today!

  • This is a great post Jon, thanks for contributing. Now I want to go buy some spiced apple rings…

    • Ray, I was cleaning out our pantry at home last night when I discovered another jar of spiced apple rings. I might have to crack it open this weekend.

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  • Dan Tredo

    I’ll never forget this story and how it relates to customer service. I took notes on your five rules, and oh – why am I now craving spiced apple rings?

    • Great to hear, Dan. I told this story to my department last week as I was speaking about customer satisfaction. When the meeting finished up, there were several comments about spiced apple rings. Sometimes it helps to have examples like this to share and to remember.

  • David

    Rare to find customer service like that anymore. Often it seems like you’re putting them out if you ask them to go check in the back for something. Good reminder for me to go the extra mile when I can …

    • I know we tend to relate stories like this to our business world, but I also wonder how differently our personal relationships would be if we treated each other like this.

  • Great story! When I worked for Chick-fil-a, I learned about the measure of “Second Mile Service” (meeting & exceeding expectations, without being asked) and I always mentally evaluate my customer experience situations against that measure now. This sounds like a second mile service situation!

    • It sure does! I was very impressed by the service provided by these employees.

    • Ah, the delights of Chick-fil-A… and one of those delights is definitely their customer service.

  • One of the biggest things I miss about living in America (and there are hundreds of things!) it has to be the customer service.

    Being from Europe and more specifically the UK we HATE the customer. They are seen as nothing but a huge inconvenience to money just falling in our laps for the bare minimum effort possible. I’m honestly amazed that anyone can make any money with this attitude but somehow it seems to function just fine. (Perhaps because there is no competition when it comes to customer service and we’ve come to expect bad service.)

    One of the benefits of course is that it is very easy to stand out from the crowd in the UK regarding your customer service if you are a one man show… the issue is when you grow and need to employ people with the same over the top, “wow” factor, mentality.

    In saying all that though, as globalisation has it’s effect all over the world we are being affected more and more by the customer service in the States and being put to shame. Things are changing for the better (albeit slowly).

    Thanks for writing this Jon – a great reminder today of how I can continue to go above and beyond for my tribe.

    • You’re welcome, Phil! Thanks for reading and chiming in on the discussion.

      • Wow, those are some great thoughts Phil. Definitely a different perspective!

  • Great post Jon! I would also add that customer services means doing the unexpected by going above and beyond your customers expectations of you.

  • Great article! Let me also add, customer service is knowing that customers needed help. And as a customer service rep, you should not only help them but show them that you are happy and more than willing to help them. That kind of disposition can also create an impact to the customers.

    • It sure can. The employees at this grocery store were clearly happy to help me.

  • I’m reminded of the principle emphasized by Michael Hyatt: deliver a WOW product (or service)! Go beyond what your customers or clients would expect. I worked at a store for a year, and rarely did I see this kind of action from the employees. But when I did, I saw that it made an impact on the customer.

    • It’s not the type of service I’m used to seeing either, but it sure had an impact on me. Keep delivering the WOW, Joshua!

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