Feb 5, 2012, Written by Sue Miley

We just got back from dropping our daughter off at college in Birmingham, Alabama.  I thought that Birmingham was just another southern town.  Everyone we told that our daughter was going to school in Birmingham all espoused compliments on the city itself.


Now I live Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  So in our visits to Birmingham it isn’t a far stretch to see why people think it is a pretty place.  It is full of lush greenery and rolling hills.


This is not what stood out to me.


The characteristic that was over the top all three times that I have visited Birmingham is the customer service that you find everywhere.


At every store.

Every Hotel.

All of the departments on campus.

Even at the Walmart, which is known for it’s prices, not it’s service!


I am not just talking a smile, a pleasant hello, or even an efficient process!  From hotel clerk to Bed, Bath and Beyond warehouse attendant, we had over the top service.  I noticed it last time I visited and this time my husband called it out.


They even have consistency!


So how do I define over the top, brag about it on your blog, customer service:


  1. When they act like I am the only customer in the place.  We went to Bed, Bath and Beyond to pick up our Pack and Ship (you pick it out in Baton Rouge and pick it up in Birmingham.) and from the cashier in the front to the warehouse in the back you would have thought we were the only people in the store.  They printed our list, walked us through the process, held our return that we carried in our car all the way from BR, and sent us to get our product.  We were met in the back by a guy with our box.  As we sifted through our items and wanted to trade stuff out, the guy insisted on running around the store for us and getting us the needed replacement.
  2. When they explain to me how things work.  Remember above when I said they walked us through the process?  This happened at Bed, Bath and Beyond, at the Aloft Hotel, at the Pier One Imports and several times at Samford University!  At Samford they have an awesome move-in program.  You pull your cars up (we had two) and they have 6-8 people open all of your doors and trunks and in about 30 seconds empty out your car.  Before we could move our car out of the way and walk back everything was in our daughter’s dorm room.  As we drove through the campus at every stop sign was a person to tell you what would happen.  Then as we sat in line and waited our turn to have our car “hijacked”, they explained what they were going to do and what we need to do.  [Oh and the guy who was talking to my husband in his car in front of me thought I was his daughter – you can’t beat that!]
  3. When it is everyone in the place, not just one employee.  The thing that was truly incredible was that it was all of he people.  We stayed at our hotel for 3 nights and had many different front desk attendants.  They were all particular friendly and outgoing.  They shared information about the hotel amenities, local restaurants, etc.  They made changes for us with a big smile and engaged with us in personal conversation each time we came by.  This was every employee from the young girl who was in her early twenties to the older man in his 50’s or 60’s.  It was everyone!
  4. When they openly admit and correct their mistakes.  We all make mistakes.  The mistake isn’t the problem.  It is when the person is rude, doesn’t acknowledge it, or doesn’t rectify the situation quickly and efficiently.  We were at a Starbucks (I’ve been to hundreds) and they forgot his coffee.  They noticed him standing there and asked him what they had forgotten (they assumed it was them) and jumped to grab his coffee and get him taken care of even though there was a line still coming through.  When we came back to Baton Rouge and went to a busy restaurant that night, the waiter barely acknowledged us, never apologized for long waits or the several mistakes, and when he was running past us wouldn’t even look our way so that we could catch his attention.  The disparity between the service in Birmingham and when we came back home was huge.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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