Yesterday I dined at my favorite Indian buffet. Although the butter chicken is to die for and I desperately wish I could bathe in the sauce, it’s the remarkable service that has won my loyalty and the reason I return week after week even though it’s one of the highest priced lunches downtown. Good service, my dad always said, was keeping your water glass full. While I appreciate “good” service it takes much more than that to be great. Making sure I have enough water is merely meeting my expectations. I’ll never leave a restaurant and exclaim with great joy, “No matter how fast I guzzled the water, there they were to refill.” As big a deal as that may seem to the waiter, having to hover over the customers and fill the water glass with alacrity, it doesn’t make an impression. It’s what I expect.
Members feel the same way. When you bring in good speakers and host meaningful events, that’s what’s expected. When sign-up goes off without a hitch, that’s meeting expectations. If you prompt members for their feedback on how registration went, they may compliment you, but you’re just doing what they think you should.
My Indian buffet, on the other hand, brings disposable cups for your drink when they notice you will be leaving shortly. It’s a buffet but they bring it to you without asking because they anticipate you will be leaving and you might just want to take your drink on the road. When fresh naan comes out of the oven (or wherever that heavenly goodness comes from), Amy (the hostess with the mostest) brings it around. Sure, she could just chuck it down on the buffet but she brings it around to hear seated patrons first just in case someone wanted the warm pillowy flatbread. She anticipates her customers needs, always one step ahead of what we’re asking for.
The term “adding value” has become muddled recently. We hear it so much it’s lost its meaning. We scratch our heads and wonder how can we be heard over the noise? How do we compete for members’ time? That’s right – we have to add value! But how? Honing your service is one way to make an immediate change without a financial investment (other than time). Don’t just meet your members needs. Anticipate them. What will they need next at the conference? What information can be provided before they even ask? How can I make a member feel like he or she is the only one I care about? Specifics are organization-dependent but a good place to start is by asking questions: What will they need next? What is their next stage or undertaking? How can I make their lives easier?
Bringing them a to-go cup trumps refilling their water any day.