“Welcome, Sarah…it’s great to see you again.” Wow!!! I had been to this spin gym only five or so times in the past two years, and the last visit was about nine months ago. Yet the owner, Ian, stood at the door with the list of 20 class attendees and immediately recognized and welcomed me.

How often do you have conversations with people complaining about the lack of service from businesses of all kinds? If you’re like me, you’re having them a lot these days. I’ve even written about it—the unpleasantness of the experience and the frustration and disappointment of getting less for your money than in the past. No more pride in a job well done.  No more “the customer is always right” a la Nordstrom’s.

My goal is to inspire, not complain, so here’s some good news. I’ve recently had a number of amazing service experiences. I want to share them with you because I think there are lessons to be learned. It’s truly striking how good it feels to have a business be excited to do business with me…and in return, I am excited to do business with them.

Hopefully service is returning. My hope is that the more we reward those efforts with gratitude and increased use of their services, the better that service will get. 

So back to this spin gym. Rush Cycle in Mission Valley, California—yes, I want to call out the business by name. I first went there two years ago when my daughter moved to California. Everyone was so nice and welcoming, and the instructors were a bundle of “yippee!!!”  Over the years, I’ve been to quite a few different spin classes and spin gyms—and other exercise classes and venues—in different parts of the country. Some were better than others, but none were like Rush, where the entire energy is simply superlative and what every gym should be. Big smiles. Great enthusiasm. Calling everyone by name…even the new people. And, oh yes, knowledgeable instructors.

During class, it was clear that there were a bunch of regulars so I was not surprised when the instructor, Alyssa, called them out by name for the “great job” they were doing. It was a surprise, however, when she called out my name! 

It may sound small and childish, but it felt really good when I heard Alyssa say, “Nice job, Sarah.” Names matter. People like to be remembered. They like to hear their name called.  “Pick me, teacher, pick me.” It’s raw and childish and totally consistent with what Bottom Line expert Alice Aspen March, now deceased, spent her career talking about—how important it is to give attention to people of all ages.

What about restaurants?  One of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic and one of the most challenging to makes its return…not because people aren’t going out, but because restaurants can’t hire enough workers for the many people who are going out. Tables are filled, but restaurants are short-staffed, which can make for some very grumpy workers and potentially grumpy customers when service is slow.

But not at Fattoria, a new restaurant near us in Colorado. My husband and I went there for a rare dinner out last week. As at Rush Cycle, we received a warm, welcome from the host—he didn’t know us, but made us feel like he was genuinely glad to see us and we’d been friends forever. The server was just as gracious and very knowledgeable. The food was delicious. And both the server and host checked with us repeatedly to be sure everything was good. Yes!!! 

Do you shop local when you can?  I do it to support the “little guy” but also because the service generally is so much better. Living in a small town in the mountains means we have a Walmart, a Costco and a whole lot of locally owned stores. And those retailers go out of their way to provide the personalized service that makes you want to return. Some examples…

A local women’s clothing store let me take home a pair of pants to get my husband’s opinion before I paid for them. I just took them home and left her my phone number and credit card number. Either I would bring them back, or I would call her and tell her to charge my card. Sure, she had my credit card so it was low risk for her, but there was something about taking them without processing the transaction that made it feel more neighborly. 

Similarly, the local sporting-goods store never needs to give me a receipt because they have my entire shopping history in the computer. It’s always super-easy to buy, return and exchange whether it’s for me or for a gift. And it’s also really nice to see the same people working there month after month and year after year.

One last surprising example of excellence—the airport. Yes, you heard that right. No, not all aspects of travel—but if you’re traveling and can’t walk the distance from the check-in to the gate, I highly recommend taking advantage of a wonderful service offered by most airlines—a wheelchair escort. I’ve done it a number of times with both my mother and my mother-in-law, and it was a total game changer, reducing the stress of traveling with someone who doesn’t move well.  The wheelchairs are at the departure areas when you check in. They speed you to the head of the line through TSA so “no lines, no waiting,” and they then bring you directly to your gate, making stops along the way for food or the restroom if you need it. Upon arrival at your destination, you are greeted in the jetway when you de-plane. The aide takes you to baggage claim and then wherever you need to go for ground transportation, be it a taxi, shuttle or the parking garage. Every aide we have had has been kind, patient and caring, making my mothers feel like royalty rather than old and feeble. They never rush or make you feel like they have somewhere else they need to be. They are there for you and your comfort. One other plus:  It’s free (except for tipping the aide if you choose to).   

Many years ago, when I worked in advertising, one of our clients owned a leading hotel in town. He would tell us that his organization is not selling just beds and sleeping arrangements. They are selling security and a home away from home. They want people feeling comfortable, welcome and safe.

“Welcome.” “Home.”   “Connected.” I can’t say these things enough.  It’s what we want and what we need.  It is refreshing to see examples of businesses bringing that to their customers. It’s a lifeline for our economic and social future. May this ripple become a wave of change.

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