Shep Hyken\'s Customer Service Blog

Pay Attention! Don’t Just Go Through the Motions!

A friend of mine went to the airport rental car agency and had a chance to upgrade to a Tesla. He had never driven a Tesla so he was happy to pay the upcharge to have the experience. If you’ve ever rented a car at the airport, you typically are stopped at a gated exit where the car rental employee looks over the paperwork, checks your driver’s license and sends you on your way. One of the questions they will typically ask is, “Would you like the fuel option?” That allows you the convenience of paying for a tank of gas so you don’t have to worry about filling before returning the car.

At the gate, the attendant went through the typical routine and then asked the routine question, “Would you like the fuel option?”

My friend thought was funny and started laughing. A Tesla is an electric car. No fuel necessary to run this amazing four-wheeled piece of technology. The attendant wasn’t sure what was funny, then he realized what he’d asked and was embarrassed.

A similar experience happened to me at McDonald’s. I just love those fries! It was quite some time ago, but I’ll never forget the day I ordered a chicken sandwich with fries. After I told the nice woman behind the counter what I wanted, she asked me, “Would you like fries with that?”

My response was, “Do you mean another order of fries, or did you mean to ask me if I’d like a hot apple pie with that chicken sandwich and fries?” I smiled at her. At first, she blushed with embarrassment and then laughed.  And, by the way, I added the apple pie to my order, which I love almost as much as the fries.

And, that is what brings us to the point. Both the gate attendant at the rental car agency and my new friend at McDonalds were just going through the motions. This is easy to do when it’s late in the day and fatigue is setting in. But, the best people stay alert and focused. They recognize that their customers are unique individuals and do their best to give them the unique experience they deserve.

One way to avoid the “just going through the motions” syndrome is to individualize each interaction you have with a customer. After you greet the customer come up with something specific to say to them. For example, a customer in a store might be wearing a baseball hat from their favorite team. Break the ice by making a comment about the team. Or, perhaps you’re talking with someone on the phone. Ask her where she is calling from. The goal is to break the monotony of the routine. That creates a unique conversation with each customer, allowing you to stay away from routine and monotony.

Every interaction you have counts. Never make a customer feel as if they are anything less than special and unique.

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

(Copyright © MMXVII, Shep Hyken)

  1. Shep, I loved looking for the uniqueness in each and every Guest who visited at my previous job location! Since I am starting a new job soon, I will enjoy doing the same, which will allow me to break the ice and be truly interested in each and every person who visits our local Boy Scout Shop! There will NEVER be a dull Guest Experience this way, with the added bonus of meeting fascinating people and learning new ideas along the way! I can’t wait to start on Tuesday of next week!

    • Your example about the employee asking the Tesla customer if they wanted the “fill up with gas” option is a classic, but treating a individual as a unique person is not only a value to the customer and the company–
      But it keeps the employee sharp, and makes their job a lot more interesting than just repeating the mundane company script –and seriously aren’t we all looking for a little more creativity to keep us here fresh in our daily activities ?
      That then becomes a win/ win for all

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