Shep Hyken\'s Customer Service Blog

How to Provide a Better Customer Experience

No Traffic Jam on the Extra MileGo the Extra Mile

Going the extra mile is an old expression. It describes people who provide better customer service, do a little more than expected and try a little harder. This is a great concept for customer service and is further enhanced by Roger Staubach, the Hall-of-Fame football player who played quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, who said:

There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.

This is a great metaphor that can be used in a variety of ways and is especially applicable to business, and specifically the concept of the customer experience (CX).

Going the extra mile is about the “baker’s dozen,” which is getting more than you thought you were paying for. It’s the extra time a salesperson spends helping  you make the right selection. It’s the customer support rep that takes an extra few minutes to ensure you have all of your questions answered and won’t need to call back. You get the idea.

I was talking to a client, Chris Cielewich at FLAVORx, about this very concept. FLAVORx is a machine that takes terrible tasting medications and flavors them. Parents love this, because kids are more willing to take their medicine. Sounds good so far. There is a catch, and here is where the concept of the extra mile comes into play.

If the customer asks for the FLAVORx, it takes the pharmacist an extra 45 seconds to fill the prescription. Some pharmacies are so focused on productivity that they don’t want to take the extra 45 seconds, even if it creates a better customer experience.

Chris Cielewich conducted an experiment. He had three prescriptions to fill for his children and decided to go to three different pharmacies to see which pharmacist would recommend FLAVORx. With the kids in tow, he ventured out to fill the prescriptions. None of the pharmacists went the extra mile to ask if the kids wanted their meds flavored. When Chris asked them to flavor the medicine all three complied, but only one did so with a smile. The other two begrudgingly commented about how busy they were; obviously too busy to go the extra mile.

So what can you do to go the extra mile? Simple: Give the customer more than they thought they were going to get. The old saying of going the extra mile is a sound customer service strategy. It’s taking some extra time, making an unexpected phone call to make sure the customer is happy or adding a little “something” extra. And, this is important, through all of it never make the customer feel as if he or she is an inconvenience.

And just because there isn’t any traffic on that extra mile, it doesn’t mean you’ll be lonely. On the contrary, you’ll be “driving” that extra mile with your customers!

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright © MMXVI, Shep Hyken)

 
  1. Thanks for another great article Shep. You touch on some really important customer service and customer experience points in this post.

    ‘Going the extra mile’ is banded about too much in the customer service world today. It has become a cliché that only a few people really ‘get’. In order to truly go the extra mile you need to understand your customers first. You need to talk to and understand your customer. The pharmacies that served Chris Cielewich, when he had his children with him, should have offered FLAVORx in the situation they were presented with. But it would be just as bad for those pharmacies to offer FLAVORx to everyone. In the end it comes down to understanding and offering a personalised service to customers where appropriate. That really is going the extra mile.

    You are also spot on with your comments about lots of businesses being ‘too busy to go the extra mile’. Lots of companies focus on the running of their business and their processes rather than the why of their business – businesses exist to serve a customer need. If they serve others well enough, they earn the right to earn a profit. Business is, at its heart, all about service because if you don’t have a customer to serve, you don’t have a business and customers today have more choice of who they want to buy from.

    I also think you are right, a smile is vital to any interaction with customers. They should never be felt to be an inconvenience, especially when they are asking to spend more money! Why do it begrudgingly… what you are doing is telling the customer that you don’t want their money… Why would you do that?

    What you have showed us with this example, is that often you don’t need to do that much to go the extra mile. The phrase is deceptive because really it isn’t an extra mile… it is an extra inch which feels like a mile for your customer. With a smile and a genuinely helpful attitude you will stand out a mile from your competition. Why wouldn’t you do those little things that can make such a huge difference to your customers?

    Great article and some brilliant insight. Thanks for sharing.

    Yours in service,

    James

    • Thank you James! Excellent comments and observations about not only the article, but also the way many businesses operate. The extra mile can be a great business strategy – or just a cliché. The best companies make it a strategy and do all of the things you mention in your comment and more. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts!

  2. Hey Shep! Love the article. Although “going the extra mile” is a common phrase, and I understand the meaning behind it, especially in relation to this post, I guess I have one question. What do you do when going the extra mile takes you back a few steps? For example, let’s say I have a client. They are my “lowest paying client”, but I still give them top of the line service. Now, more often than not, they take advantage of my kindness, and are blowing up my phone at all hours of the day, wanting assistance that goes above and beyond what they pay for. Now, I could go the extra mile with this client, and provide complimentary services, but when do you say enough is enough with the extra mile walking? Haha, hopefully that made sense.

    • Hi Kristen – Great question. Does going the extra mile make sense for every customer? Even the less profitable customers? For the purpose of this question, don’t think of the individual customers regarding profitability. Think of the averages. What is the average lifetime value, the average spend, the average… anything. Your goal is to bump up the average. There are always some customers that spend more than others. It’s all about the averages. Remember the old saying… A rising tide lifts all boats. Well a better experience (for every customer) can lift the average lifetime value of your customers.

  3. Shep,

    Thank you so much for this great article. Going that “extra mile” isn’t all that common anymore. I wish more people understood that doing a little bit extra can have such a huge impact on not only the customer, but the business!

    Thank you again for sharing.
    Best,
    Sam

  4. Victoria Allen says:

    The company that I work for is all about the metrics they our customer service orientated but under a call time of 5 minutes max per call. I struggle with this because I go above and beyond and I raise the bar on every one of my calls. I believe that when you hear somebody say you just don’t get good customer service these days thank you so much for taking the time! It is so much worth it! And I know if they listened to our calls and they hear the response from these dedicated members that spend a lot of money every year on this hotel chain these people are important to the economy of this Corporation they would have liked a little bit of leniency in that 5 minutes but I guess my point is even though there are metrics to follow I believe it’s worth going over when needed to give that extra to the guest and go the extra mile! It’s the only way to do a job and feel good about it and now that you’ve done your best.

    • Hi Victoria – There are different metrics that call centers use. Unfortunately, one of them is time. The true metric is customer satisfaction, not time. Companies like American Express and Zappos recognize the importance of customer satisfaction over anything else. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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