In a Pickle

Most people might classify Digital Agencies and Systems Integrators as being part of the technology industry. But you rarely hear of us or companies like us as being part of a larger and more encompassing industry—the Service Industry.

It’s easy to stay laser focused on meeting deadlines, passing QA, writing the next tweet and designing the next website. But it’s one thing to complete the project and a whole other thing to delight your customer with your outstanding service. I’ve had the opportunity to spend the last 15 years in the service industry in one way or another. Sure, the vast majority of that was technology related. However, the lessons I learned early on in the hospitality industry led right into the experience I gained from fixing PCs to architecting Fortune 500 infrastructure. There is always opportunity to find a way to delight your customer beyond the expected.

One of my favorite examples of what I mean started out over a fairly unlikely topic—pickles. A couple years ago, a customer of mine ordered a plate of artisan pickles at an upscale restaurant in downtown San Antonio, Texas. Having seen the pickling episode of Good Eats on Food Network, I was able make some casual conversation around the art of pickle making (quick brine vs fermentation is a bit of a heated conversation starter) and came to find my customer had a great appreciation for pickles.

A few weeks later, that customer’s application had an outage. He was very happy with our quick response and our ability to help fix the problem that wasn’t within our scope. Most companies likely would have thought they did a great job that day and made another happy customer and then would have moved on to the next item. But those companies would have missed an opportunity to really shine. The following Saturday I went to the local farmer’s market and picked up a jar of locally produced (fermented) pickles. I mailed them to the customer with a note that said, “sorry you were in a pickle!” Cheesy? Yes. Unexpected and delightful? Yes. The smile he had after dealing with a tough outage was definitely worth the $8 plus shipping and handling.

Ultimately, I like to think of our field as customer service with a technology focus. Excellent solutions and quick resolutions are a necessary first step but it doesn’t complete the story. Creative and compelling moments of customer service define you as a company—even if it’s something as simple as a jar of pickles.

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