Author Archives: fabservice

#30 Personalize It

These posts have been about service experiences observed in or outside of our business with the goal of getting at the nugget of that experience that can then be learned and put into practice.  The following business has many nuggets we all can learn from.

Over the past year or so, I’ve experienced some great and unique customer service from a local wine store in Westport.  I came across the store as I was looking for wines that are made the old-fashion way (bio-dynamic – without pesticides, chemical processing, etc.).  The fact that they specialized in that was enough to get me to try them out. But, when I met the owner, Cory, the experience improved drastically.  

Unlike every other wine store I’ve been in, Cory asked me “what kind of food do you like?” Pretty obvious question since wine is served with food.  Once I started naming some of my favorite dishes (eggplant parmigiana was number one of course – blog #21 Eggplant Parmigiana | Fab Service), that’s when the experience began.  “This wine is great with red sauce.  This one is fantastic with fish.  This will go great with Tai food…….” How is one to remember all this I’m thinking!

As I got to know Cory, I found out that she was not only a trained chef but also spent years as a wine importer which allowed her to travel to vineyards around the world and experience and learn about various wines and how they’re made.  Talk about the perfect wine merchant! 

My excitement combined with confusion merged as I was heading to check out with a case of wine to bring home.  That’s when Cory took each bottle and wrote with a white crayon how to pair the wine with the perfect dish.  It was then that I said to myself, I’m not going anywhere else for wine and have been a loyal customer since.  

A few months after my first experience with Cory, I was staying at my brother’s place in Florida and thought it would be nice to send him a case of wine knowing that he also likes the biodynamic ones.  Cory not only sent him the case, but wrote 4 pages of notes on the wines and included a book on one of the vineyards!

So what are the key takeaways (nuggets) we can learn from Cory and her business The  Fine Wine Company of Westport?

  1. Getting a customer to try you once is often not enough.  Cory’s place is a little out of the way for me so there needed to be more in order for me to make that my “go-to” place for wine.
  2. Relationship sales vs transactional is better.  I can buy wine anywhere and pick what I’ve liked in the past off the shelf.  When the purchase is personalized to one’s individual tastes, it is more meaningful.
  3. Helping relate the product to its use improves the experience with that product.  Having an expert pair the wine with the type of food increases the value of that purchase and makes it more enjoyable.
  4. Help the customer use the product for the full experience.  Writing notes on each bottle frees up the customer from trying to remember (it’s also a reminder of where you purchased the wine when you go to open it.  Also, also, it becomes a conversation about the experience when you open a bottle with guests or bring a bottle as a dinner guest)
  5. Surprise and delight.  Sending a case to my brother with a book wowed him so much he  is still talking about the experience AND ordered from Cory as well. 
  6. Passion for excellence.  This clearly comes through with every purchasing experience.
  7. Unique experience compared to all competition.  Wine stores are often viewed as a commodity which is why we have Home Depot type wine stores popping up (e.g. Total Wine).  Differentiating yourself and competing in these types of businesses is easy but, as Cory has shown, possible)


Blog #29 Selfless

I’m writing this during black history month and came across this great quote from Martin Luther King that I thought would be fitting for our Fab Service blog:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’”

I’m wondering why he used the word “urgent” and, I’m thinking here we are 50 years later and sadly, racism is still a hot topic in our culture.  

But let’s focus on “what are you doing for others” which is what this blog is all about. 

My dad taught me a saying when I was young that always stuck with me:  

“the word ‘selfish’ sounds like self first and ‘selfless’ sounds like self last.

I thought that was pretty simple and made sense which is probably why I remembered it.  

Wouldn’t customer service be great if everyone thought that way?  

In our last blog, we wrote about the idea of being self-serving.  What’s in it for me? How do I benefit from the situation?  

While I’m reminiscing about family quotes, my grandmother had a great one when someone was being selfish.  She would say they are acting like “hurray for me and to hell with you!”

Today, I think, more than ever, we are living in a world of “what’s in it for me?”  We never used to have the  word “selfie” in our vocabulary and social media is filled with pictures and posts of individuals and their wonderful individual achievements. 

How does this relate to building a culture of service in our organization?   

Well, I think all cultures start with the individuals who are in it.  And if we are going to be an organization that is founded on service then I think we have to start thinking that way ourselves. How can we think of ourselves last and others first?  How do we think this way at work, at home, in the car, at the grocery store?  

I also think it’s important to put into context  our organization and the outside culture and environment for which it exists within.  In other words, we don’t live and work  in a vacuum.  If our culture is becoming more and more about the individual, then, I think that is worth reflecting on and how it’s influencing us individually and collectively.  

As such, when we give exceptional service, it will often stand out in a world and culture in which it is lacking.   I will quote again from the last blog when the customer was so surprised at our service she wrote: “oh my goodness.” She went on to say that no one in any industry gives that kind of service anymore.  

Rest assured that I will quote this customer again smf again as she crystalizes what Fab Service means and what we are trying to achieve.  What can you do for someone that makes them say – 

“Oh my goodness!” 

Blog #28 “Keeping new Customers.”

One big reason I got into the dry cleaning business many years ago was due to the idea of once you had a customer, it was ours to lose him. Everyone had clothes to professionally dry clean or launder every week  and if you kept the customer happy and added some new customers, your business will grow.  

That was the idea at least.  

Recently, working with a grad student at Fairfield University who was interested in analyzing our data for her studies, she discovered an interesting (and dissapointing) aspect about our business in looking back 20 plus years of customer data.  She discovered our new customer churn rate was incredibly high and that our retention of new customers was a mere 10-12%. In other words, for every 100 new customers who tried our service, only 10% would stick.

Despite the demand for dry cleaning has gone down over the years due to casual clothing (exacerbated by the pandemic and people working from home), there was something else going on here. Our thinking was that even if you only have one thing in your closet to dry clean, you will, eventually, have to clean that one thing again. Well, we were right about that for only 10% of the customers.  Since getting new customers was costly, we figured it would make sense to work on the retention of the new customers so we stepped back to look at improving that.

We’ve always felt that our new customer on-boarding was second to none for our industry.  At Fabricare, we are proud of the quality of our work and the service we give our customers.  Our welcome package would highlight all the great services and every new customer would also get a follow up from one of our route managers. 

We realized that after that first effort, there was nothing.  Periodically, we would reach out to all customers who hadn’t used us for some time, but we always found they were happy with the service but didn’t have anything to be cleaned.  

In reviewing our new customer system, we realized that we weren’t giving enough time or effort to building the relationship.  As part of our analysis, we looked back at customers who have been with Fabricare since we installed a computer system almost 25 years ago and found that hundreds of them are still active customers.  At closer look at this group, we noticed we knew most of them and something about them.  We had “relationships” with them. Good relationships.  

How did that happen and as important, how do we build those relationships with new customers?  

We concluded it takes time.  Like any relationship, two people need to get to know each other and that doesn’t happen after one visit.  

As I type this, we are still developing a new on-boarding process that is focused on how to give unprecedented service for any industry.  We are realistic that we can’t retain 100% of new customers but we can retain higher than 10%.  Our process will be more focused on the individual than one size service fits all.  There will be more touch points to get to know the customer and have them get to know us.  As we test this process out, early indicators are good.  Here is what one new customer said after her first experience with us:

“My goodness-what excellent customer service.  I am going to call the Ralph Lauren store in New Canaan and let them know about you. They don’t have a dry cleaner contact to send clients to…and now they do!  Also, when my friends are looking for a top shelf dry cleaning service, I will certainly refer them to you.  There is nobody like this in any industry anymore…you are a cut above!”  – a more than satisfied Greenwich customer!
This email crystalizes the mission for Fab Service in that we surprised and delighted the customer, she is now an advocate and most satisfying is that we gave her service that she doesn’t experience “in any industry.” 

Public Service

I’m writing this the day after our 46 president was inaugurated and, after, let’s say, a dramatic post election period.  I’m also writing this with a current book I’m reading called “First Principles” which is about the first four U.S. presidents and how they came to the ideals that formed our country.  I will make every effort to not make this even seem political as I want to touch upon the different aspects of service in our society and its importance. 

Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755–1828), George Washington (The Lansdowne Portrait), 1796, oil on canvas, 247.6 x 158.7 cm (97.5 x 62.5 in), National Portrait Gallery, Washington (Photo by VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)

In reading First Principles there was part of the book where the author describes how the early presidents couldn’t wait to get out of their government jobs and return to civilian life.  George Washington did not want to become president, but instead, simply wanted to return to his farm for the remainder of his life in Virginia.  Jefferson, enjoyed wine, reading and architecture and found political life frustrating and hard work. Adams and Madison had similar feelings.  

George Washington, on reluctantly accepting the nomination of president, said “I was summoned by my country, whose voice I can never hear but with the veneration and love, from a retreat which I had chosen with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years.”  

How did we go from the idea of service and sacrifice to lifelong politicians?  The new president has been in “service” of our government for 37 years.  I wonder what the father of our country would think of that.  How have things changed over the years in terms of service?  Makes me think, has our government gone from an institution of service to self-service

In comparing political life with private industry, let’s compare business to government.  Businesses need customers.  Government needs citizens.  Businesses need to provide good service to keep their customers.  Government needs to provide good service to keep its citizens.  Wait a second.  Is that true? Does the government need to provide good service to keep their citizens?

If the elected officials are “the government” then I guess they do need to provide good service to keep their jobs.  Then how did we go from service and sacrifice to career politicians?  Would someone “serving” in battle want to stay at war for a career?  The answer must be that public service has become preferable to private practice for many.  I don’t think that’s a stretch to say. 

Back to the concept of self-service.  

In my 30 or so years in the service industry, I’ve had employees and have experienced employees in other businesses that were in the “self-service” business. Their thinking was  “the job was great except for the customers” as the saying goes.  Instead of the customer service concept “the answer is yes, what’s your question” – the self-service employee would think – “the answer is no because it’s going to be a hassle otherwise.” 

No matter what kind of service you are in, it’s about thinking of others first. I think as long as all of us keep that concept front and center, whether we are in public life or private, things will be ok.  Since I started these posts with the goal of keeping them short and sweet and in the 500 word count range, I’ll end this with trying to tie up this loose thought of public and private service.  

The US constitution starts with the words, “We the people…” 

Note: it doesn’t start with, “me the Senator…”

How about we leave it at that.  

# 26 Service during a pandemic II

About 6 months ago, we were at the worst part of the pandemic when I wrote our last blog.  Since then, we’ve all experienced a wide variety of lifestyle changes,  and businesses like ours are trying to acclimate to the new “abnormal.”  

As businesses have reopened, we can now reflect on how service has changed for better or for worse. From my personal experience, my hat is off to the many businesses like restaurants which have adapted to take out and/or delivery as well as other means to survive with restrictions that make it like playing golf with one hand tied behind your back (I know how hard it is to play with two hands!) Efforts  have been made to reduce contact with customers by using everything from plastic screens to QR codes for the menu. Tables are set up in parking lots under tents with waiters and waitresses serving food with facemasks and sometimes rubber gloves. 

All this made me reflect on our fifth blog which discusses the difference between human service and technology. Back then, ordering from an iPad was the exception and I questioned whether this would replace human service.  When I raised this question in a conversation with my youngest daughter Margot, she  observed that patrons would be missing out on the “experience.”

Margot’s point was reaffirmed recently by a restaurant owner in New York City who lamented to me about the difference between “dining” and “eating.” When restaurants reopened at limited capacity, people came and ate. They didn’t linger and converse over a bottle of wine or connect with others dining next to them. They ate and they left.  

I think we are learning from this pandemic that we really are social animals.  We don’t like to be quarantined and need to share experiences with others.  

Service is about connecting with people not just giving them food (or clothes!). Dale Carnegie said it long ago that people do business with other people. It’s about relationships and “relating” to others.  

Margot  is now a senior in college and said she just took an exam and it was the first time she didn’t know one person in the class.  The old saying “you don’t know what you have ‘til it’s gone” applies here. We see how those relationships have value. We need to connect to people. 

I think this pandemic has clearly answered the question posed in that post from 3 years ago. Technology won’t replace the human connection.  It may substitute it for a time but we will go back to wanting, needing that personal, human touch. 

So, as we begin to go into the colder months and the tendency to lean towards hibernating is more than usual, let’s remember the importance of connecting with others.  Making the effort, even if it’s with a phone call to see if everything is ok will go a long way.

Key takeaway:  Service is about connecting with people.  

Service during a Pandemic

As I type this, we are in the middle of experiencing the worst pandemic in the last 100 years.  People are getting sick, some dying, many afraid among a variety of other feelings like loneliness and other new unfamiliar feelings that are partially a result of the constant bombardment of the news media as well as this “new normal” of “social distancing” and disinfection we have been experiencing for about a month now.  

Front line Fab Service member – Ubaldo Ahuatl

As one of the many business owners out there, I am trying to be practical and looking at this as another business problem to solve.  One that doesn’t look solvable with revenue down 80% and a future, as a result of people finding new ways to do business, that looks very different than when we first found out about this virus.  

But this is a blog about service not pandemics or business problems.  So I thought it would be of value to write about what it means to serve with that as a backdrop.  

I recently read a quote that said, “the best way to reduce anxiety in times like this is to start thinking about what you can do for others.” Doing for others can reduce anxiety?  

This supports an article in a recent WSJ article that prompted me to finish this blog.

The article starts with the sentence, “when you’re down, help others.”  

According to a study in the Association for Psychological Science, “prosocial behavior” helped reduce the stress and anxiety one experiences in difficult times. I had to look up prosocial behavior which means doing charitable acts with no tangible benefits from doing so.   Simply put from the author of the study, “helping others helps ourselves.” 

Since the start of people in quarantine and not using our service, I’ve been approached with several business opportunities to capitalize on the pandemic one way or another with the idea of making up for lost revenue.   Making face masks or other protective hospital attire were a couple of examples.  Although changing times provide new opportunities, none of these felt right.  Times like these make us ask ourselves “how can we help,” not “how can we profit?”  

And at its core, isn’t that what service is all about?  How can we help others at the highest level of quality and service.  If we are not set up to make hospital gowns or face masks, then we shouldn’t try and do it just for money.  However, if we are set up to provide laundry service to those who need it, that is in our wheelhouse and something we should look to provide with the type of service we believe in.  

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen examples of appreciation and kindness with our customers that I normally don’t see when it’s business as usual.  I see handwritten notes in with the clothes that show appreciation for us delivering during these times and hoping we stay safe.  I think we should pause at this and think about the fact that our customers do appreciate our service.  Like us, they are grateful for all the things they have in life during these times.  Even having our service is causing them to reflect, and maybe, reducing their anxiety a little.  

I’ve also seen tremendous examples of service with our Fab Service team.  All of you on the front line at the stores or on the routes are part of the “essential workers” that are allowed to go out while others are in lock down.  In an effort to keep you and the whole team safe, Ernst has taken the initiative to make masks to protect us all from this invisible enemy.  That is Fab Service! And that is “prosocial behavior” at its core.  No profit.  Just doing acts of kindness without looking for anything in return.


While at a customer service seminar, I asked the presenter, “can good service be taught to anyone or do you need to be brought up a certain way?”  The presenter didn’t hesitate and said, “Yes.  Anyone can learn good service.”   With that advice, I was determined to train on customer service for which is partly the reason for this blog.  

As the grateful owner of a business with a great team of customer service representatives, I often hear feedback on the service when I see or talk to customers.  I am proud that that feedback is often very positive and I also welcome any not-so-positive feedback as it is all helpful.

With that concept in mind, I bring you Elena Johnson (better known as “Joy.”)  In my 28 years as a business owner, no one gets a more compliments than Joy. People go out of their way to tell me that they stop in to see Joy even when they don’t have any clothes to drop off or pick up!

(Now, I need to pause here before going further and acknowledge, again, that we have a GREAT TEAM of customer service reps at both stores, with our drivers, in our office, etc.  I am singling out Joy for the hopes that we can learn something from a customer service perspective)

Since the point of this blog is to get at the essence of a good customer service concept, let’s break down what makes Joy…”special.” 

  1. She is authentic.  She really loves her job.  She loves her job because she truly  loves her customers. And they love her.  
  2. Sincerety creates relationships. Real relationships.  Real conversations; not just ones about the weather or topical news.  
  3. Learn to like people!  All of them.  Not just the customers who make it easy.  Be curious about them and their lives, interests, etc.  
  4. Learn to like yourself. Your life.  At the Fabricare Christmas party the other day, a fellow employee asked Joy how she was doing, Joy answered an enthusiastic “I am great!!”
  5. View customers as friends instead of an inconvenience.  So often we focus on how demanding some customers are instead of seeing them just wanting what was promised to them.  Remember the CARE in Fabricare stands for Customers Are the Reason we Exist!
  6. You get what you give.  Joy will tell you how good it makes her feel to see customers around town and they yell out her name and chat with her. And she knows a lot of people!  Relationships go two ways. 
  7. “Joy” is contageous.  When you’re happy and positive it rubs off on others.  People want to be around “JOYful” people.

So, I think it’s fitting at this time of year, to recognize a special Joy.  One who brightens whatever room she is in. Apply this spirit to customer service and life and the world will be a little better. 

Have a Fab Holiday season!

Service Across the Pond

Fab Service was started with the goal of having the conversation about service. Discussing how we feel as a customer. Sharing our experiences and making our service better as a result. This summer, we had a FAB intern at Fabricare, Mark D’Augelli, and he has contributed the following blog post. I invite everyone to consider contributing with the goal of creating better service for all!

I spent the last week traveling across the pond throughout London, England. As it was my first trip to Western Europe, I really did not know what to expect. I was lucky enough to have a travel partner who had been there for quite some time, to prepare me. It was truly a learning experience from the minute I touched down in London, to the last minute I left. 

To start, I probably came off as a typical American – I get out of the car service and offer my driver a tip. He politely declines. Declining a tip!? Who would ever? I had thought, as someone who works for tips in another job. “We do not accept tips here in London, the 10% gratuity is included!” I did the math in my head, and for an hour and a half trip, he was making roughly £3. I put away the £20 in my hand, and thought: Wow, he was a great driver, he deserves more than 10%. It baffled me that I could receive such great service, and not have to take care of the provider in the end. Off to a great start, I was expecting superb service from there on out.

I close the car door, and approach the hotel. Let me paint you a picture: three tough looking individuals sharing two cigarettes on the front step, all looking at me. As I approach the front door of the hotel I think – This cannot be what I signed up for. As I get closer, two of the three people run off, and one remains seated with a cigarette in his mouth, as I approach the stairs. 

“Hello mate, what can I do you for?” says the man blowing smoke out of his mouth. 

“Hi, um, I think I’m staying here tonight? Where do I check in?” He bums his cigarette, opens the door, proceeds to check me in, and leaves me to find my room. 

“If you have any questions, call my cell phone, I leave at 6pm and live about 30 minutes away. So keep that in mind.”  

I went from seeing both sides of the service spectrum – a charismatic and grateful driver who made the ride very easy and enjoyable, to the concierge who couldn’t care less about making a first impression. His impression alone, made me extremely uncomfortable, and before my stay even began, I couldn’t wait for it to be over. Luckily, it was only one night. 

The first restaurant I went to – the waiter comes to the table and fills my glass halfway with water, then goes onto the next glass. He leaves, and I ask, “My glass is filled halfway, what’s up with that?” Margot calmly explains, “Mark, it’s about service here, the less you have in your glass, the more attentive the waiters are to your table, and will constantly be filling it up”. At that point I was simply confused. In my opinion, waiters should be attentive anyway, filling up water or not. In New York, customer preference is key. My preference, along with every other American that we were with, was to have a full glass of water, and have the waiter come over anyway and ask if we needed anything. If the customer wanted no extra interaction with the waiter, in New York, that wish would be granted. 

In addition, after we had finished our meals, and were enjoying conversational time, the check was taking a while to come. Respectfully, I asked, “Margot… when is this guy going to come with the check?” She replied, “They do not rush you out here, you have to seek out the waiter in order to get the check. You specifically have to ask for the bill.”

So, at this time I was pretty back and forth with what I had seen in regards to service. Some places were very nice and treated us well, and others did not care one bit. How did this relate to visiting New York for the first time? Some of us are used to it, but New York can come off as fast paced, pressing, not friendly, and most of all overwhelming. From that, I was grateful to have seen at least some good service, to relax my nerves.  

From this trip, I learned to not take for granted the type of service that we receive in the United States. It makes me especially grateful for initiatives like FabService to exist. Knowing that there are companies and businesses dedicated to excellent customer service, is an amazing feeling. 

Some simple service tips and takeaways from my trip to London are as follows: 

  • Make a welcoming and comforting first impression – it will go a long way for the customer, and their experience. 
  • Form a relationship with the customer to better cater to their needs.
  • Make simple accomodations for the customer to make their lives easier, and promote good service for your business. 

In these examples, a hotel should never want to make an occupant feel uncomfortable. They should have rules and regulations of their employees, and focus on making an amazing first impression, so that the occupant feels at home! After my experience, I walked away saying “I am never staying there again”. That should never be the case. If the customer has any doubt in the service, there is always a chance they will not return. Make a first impression that leaves no doubt or worry in the service that the customer is buying. Selling confidence in the service, makes the impression last. 

This customer-employee relationship is key to FabService. Whether it is a driver delivering dry cleaning, or a salesman selling magazines, forming that connection with the customer goes a long way. These relationships have a large impact on customer-loyalty. If an employee builds a relationship with a customer, the customer is more likely to come back, and keep using the services provided. In dry cleaning, the customer would be more likely to go to the dry cleaners that is fifteen minutes away rather than across the street, due to the relationship-oriented service that they provide. It gives the customer a sense of confidence in the brand, and leaves no doubt in their mind that they will be attended to.  

The service was very different in Western Europe, but it is irrational to expect FabService from every business that you step into. That’s why it is important to be grateful that you’re even reading about FabService, you’re one step ahead of most…

… until next time London!

#22 Fab Moments

It’s been a couple of years now since we set out on this journey of creating a culture of Fab Service.  This was after concluding that service is not something you can train in a sequential process but rather that you build throughout the organization over time.  We’ve learned a lot over the past two years. For example, service is more of an attitude than what you say or how you handle a situation. That may seem obvious but how you get that attitude is not as clear.

I recently heard the president of the National Cleaners Association talk about a new customer service program they were launching.  I was in the room with about 12 other cleaners who were, like me, interested in training their employees. It didn’t take long for everyone in the room to realize that it was going to be impossible to to get their customer service people away from work for training.  

This was our conclusion and the reason for this blog.  But this blog was just a starting point. The start of the conversation.  The start of looking at service from a different perspective. I’ve had many interesting conversations with our team when we thought the customer was being unreasonable and then changed our minds when we looked at it from a different angle.  We’ve also used this blog as a reference point for certain customer situations and helping us develop our own customer service philosophy.

As I type this, I do believe we have improved our service as an organization and, more importantly, we continue to improve. I’ve learned that building a “culture” of service takes time and starts with a few individuals, a few conversations and builds until it’s part of a company’s DNA.  I believe this because I’m witnessing great service in our organization and it’s happening organically. I’d like to name these examples “Fab Moments.”

Let’s start with 2 Fab Moments that happened on the same day!  The first was when I checked my voicemail around 2:00 after not having access to my phone all morning.  I heard a frantic message from Erica, the owner of the Helen Ainson store. There was a spot on a new dress and they needed to know if it would come out or if they had to order a new one that same day. To save time, I called Vanessa first to see if she could send a shuttle to Helen Ainson and then I would call Erica back.  Vanessa told me they not only picked up the dress already, they cleaned it and delivered it back to a happy business owner. Now that’s a Fab Moment!

Later that night, I got home late from New York (after hearing the NCA president talk about customer service training!). I checked my emails and saw a message from the answering service.  A customer was in a panic because he was leaving for a wedding that night and had his suit at our store in Fairfield. Once again, I’m late to the party. When I checked with Vanessa to see if there’s any way to help this guy, Joy had already gone to the store, fetched the customer’s suit, and delivered it to him.  That’s a Fab Moment! And Joy did that after being at home after a long day working two jobs!

I’ll end with another Fab Moment from Ernst who has a book of great customer service experiences.  Another retail emergency, this time from our friends at Mitchells. Their tailoring department inadvertently got some stains on a gown while it was being tailored.  The customer had to wear the dress that night and the type of fabric was next to impossible to clean. Ernst miraculously got it done AND delivered the dress himself to a happy customer!  

So, we’re learning that Fab Service is really about Fab Moments.  Doing little things every day that make customers happy and the world a little better.  

Eggplant Parmigiana

I was recently out to dinner with my wife Michele. We were at an italian restaurant that was new to us since we were visiting from out of town.  I didn’t see my favorite dish on the menu so I thought I’d ask if they could make it.

When I asked the waitress if the kitchen could make eggplant parmigiana, Michele looked at me as if I was being some obnoxious customer.  Why?

Later I asked her why the dirty stare and she said “why can’t you just order something off the menu like normal people?”  

Did I do something wrong? This was an italian restaurant.  It wasn’t as if I asked them to make a special order of Beef Wellington.  Are customers expected to just order off the menu?

This got me thinking of the state of service and what makes for Fab Service.  

In blog #13 “Have it your way,” we talked about how Burger King made a name for itself by making your food the way you wanted it vs the way other fast food chains decide how you’re going to get it.  We talked about the concept of “listen to what the customer wants and give it to them.”  Another Fab Service concept that relates to this is “The answer is yes, what’s your question.”

So what’s behind customers not wanting to go “off road” when ordering at a restaurant or anywhere? Is it wrong to ask if there are feather pillows when staying at a decent hotel?  The airlines have wised up to this idea and they charge you for it! Want an aisle seat? More money. Exit row? More money. Suitcase? More money. You can’t even get something to eat on some airlines without paying for it.     

So what’s behind the apprehension of asking for more?  Is that viewed as putting the server out of her way? Or, is it that we shouldn’t expect anything more than basic service today’s businessworld of mediocre service?

I’m not sure what the answer is but I know how we approach special requests.  

At Fabricare, we have a long list and a variety of special customer requests.  Starch on shirts can be light, medium, heavy or none at all. Pants can be pressed with or without a crease.  Shirts can be packaged in a paper bag, cardboard box, or a recyclable bag. They can be hung or folded. The list goes on and on.  We even have one customer who likes his hangers turned the opposite way which is a pain because our whole production facility is designed for the hangers to go in one direction.  Then we also have some customers who actually give us their own hangers!

It is my belief, that we have a culture at Fabricare of giving people whatever they want.  In fact, I truly believe we welcome the uncommon request because we’ve built our business and systems around it.  

Please respond to this if you have a customer with a unique request that we service.