Do you "Squeeze the Lemon?"

iStock_lemonglassXSmallGo ahead and chuckle.  The title was meant to draw attention and give you a bit of a smile. :)

This is about customer service and the part of Constructive Disruption that I call "discovering the need."  In 2001, I took an executive survival clinic while I was working at PricewaterhouseCoopers. The class was for Partners and other PwC executives who lived life on the road with high stress jobs.  We went through a full battery of physical, psychological and other health related tests then classes over a weekend.  One of my outcomes was to change parts of my diet. I wasn't unhealthy but I wanted to cut out excess.  Among other things, I stopped drinking soda and pretty much anything else except water (lots!), coffee (before 8:30AM in the morning) and the occasional adult beverage (which we were told had moderate health benefits) in the evening.

Since 2001 I only drink water or seltzer (technical a "soda" yes but no additives except for carbonation) and usually order it with a lemon or lime wedge. Therein lies my story.  I've asked for water with lemon or lime when at restaurants, cafes, airplanes and bars on nearly every continent.  The math suggests I've probably ordered 10,000+ drinks this way.  I would say in less than 1% had the fruit been squeezed for me to enjoy the benefits of some refreshing citrus.  In most cases, the fruit is trapped under a layer of ice.  If I want to enjoy the flavor I need to dredge out the lemon myself and squeeze it. It generally makes a mess and my fingers end up sticky.  

Very rarely does the person serving my drink take care of this for me.  I had to ask myself why.  The challenge I find is that too often we don't understand the question being asked nor do we take time to break it down.  If I ask for a drink with lemon, the most probable thought should be 

  • I am thirsty
  • I want something to help digest my meal
  • The lemon is there to provide a taste that I enjoy

In none of the 10,000 instances did anyone bring me a shot glass or tub of water.  There is always some element of understanding the need for drink and not a place to wash my hands.  Nor did I ever get a glass of boiling water; suitable for making tea. Is it because people are lazy?  Unlikely, career service people are selected for a "do it right" and customer satisfaction attitude.  It's key to take a question/problem; identify the smallest elements, play them back to ensure you understand each on and their meaning.  All this must be done in the context of the situation.  I call this part A/P (Active and Passive) Learning.  

Good customer service should be preparing the drink for me to enjoy.  Too often we fail to ask ourselves, "Do we understand the question being asked?"  Here's another example.  I am in the process of finding someone to redesign my web site. Using my social media network I put out a request and received a good number of responses.  I asked for two things.  The first was to have the designer explain their working style. The second was to provide me with two or three examples of other sites they had done for consulting or professional services. 

I received some very fine examples of product catalogues, dentistry, power tools, family vacations and an assortment of other work.  Some sent me examples of (paper) product brochures.  Few, I think, had actually taken time to breakdown and understand my request.  Simply put "I am looking for an expert in web design that can provide examples of their work in my industry."   In their haste to pitch me, few provided good customer services, they lost the opportunity to work with me and they hadn't demonstrate desire or ability to understand the particular needs of my business.  

Taking the time to understand the context, discover needs, observe how it's being done (less than a handful of design firms looked at my site before responding) and organize a response are the foundations to the methodology and superior customer service.

So I ask you, "Do you squeeze the lemon?"