My wife, Barb, was knocked off her feet recently by some type of virus.  Her doctor e-mailed in a prescription to the pharmacy at 3pm and I got there at 4:45pm to pick it up.  “It’s not ready yet,” the clerk responded, “the doctor just called it in.  It will be about 30 minutes.”  The truth was that they had just got around to checking their e-mail and had only now noticed it but I let it slide, I lived close and could come back.  At 5:40 I rushed out the door to hit the pharmacy and get to the start of the Biddeford vs. Thornton high school baseball game at 6:00. “Oh, sorry the clerk said, we don’t have this medication on hand and we have called around to our other stores and they are out also.  Ouch, I was frustrated. “Couldn’t you have taken the time to look at the prescription an hour ago and let me know then or given me a call?” I asked.

Superior!
Top-notch.
World-class!
Exceptional.
Unparalleled.
The best.
Ho Hum.

We have all heard these claims of exceptional service while experiencing the opposite.

“We always weaken whatever we exaggerate.”
Unknown

As Harry Beckwith states in, What Clients Love, “We think that we are better than we are.  When researchers asked students to rate their ability to get along with others, 60 percent rated themselves in the top 10 percent.  Ninety-four percent of university professors say they are doing a better job than their average colleague.  The problem is that our illusions of superiority are so widespread that psychologists have come up with a name for it.  They call it the Lake Wobegon Effect, after Garrison Keillors’ famous radio show sign-off from his fictional hometown Lake Wobegon, ‘where the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and all of the children are above average.’”

Being human, everyone thinks they are better than they are – and they actually spend the money to advertise that belief.  It’s no wonder we have all become calloused and cautious to the claims of others.  As I have heard it said, “Service in this country has gotten so bad that you can offer above average service and still stink.”  As Beckwith shares, “Service quality has sunk so low that if no one complains about your service, you shouldn’t feel good.  Most people have given up complaining.”

So I asked the clerk to call around to another pharmacy, “Well, I could call CVS for you,” she offered.  “Well, why not I responded,” now a little frustrated.  Sure enough CVS had the medication but it was 5:48 and I had little chance of making the beginning of the game.  I scooted up the road but being a big box store wasn’t expecting a miracle.  As I approached the store over the door hung a sign, ‘Expect something extra.’  Yeah right I thought to myself – another empty promise.

But I entered the store hopeful, it wasn’t a big unbelievable superlative, simply… expect something extra.  I liked it, at least it was reasonable, understandable, and plausible – they weren’t promising to be the best, exceptional, or superior – they just promised something extra.

The problem with superlatives is that people don’t often believe them and most cases don’t care to be a judge of the best, extraordinary, or exceptional.  People just want good solid service where they are treated with respect, appreciation, where they felt heard and understood, and where they can get their needs met in a timely manner – they just want a little something extra.

The pharmacist at CVS simply took my order, listened to me explain that I had 7 minutes to be somewhere five minutes away and had me out the door in two minutes and to the game in time to see the first pitch.  No thirty minute wait, no excuses, no big promises – just the delivery of something extra.

What a sales pitch!   We could all employ CVS’s mantra in how we deal with our own customers, co-workers, employers, and family members …. We don’t need to promise to be the best … all we need to do is that little extra to be appreciated by, and increase our value to, those we serve.

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