Inside Look: How to Make the “Special Sauce” of Excellent Customer Service

Winning ideas stand out to me, even when enjoying a fine dinner of fresh grouper and a glass of red wine.

So it was recently at Duval’s restaurant in Sarasota, FL, where I was impressed by the shared responsibility, customer service teamwork of the staff.

According to  Joshua Halbrucker, the restaurant’s General Manager/Partner, their approach is simple:

“Treat every customer like they are your mother (and if you don’t like your mother… haha, treat them like someone you love dearly and would do anything for).”

Duval's Logo

Our waiter orchestrated the evening and was our primary service provider. He was friendly and effective. Where Duval’s stood out, though, was the totality of service provided. The entire team, regardless of title or role, formed a rapid-response customer service unit. Whenever someone passed by our table, he/she did so attentively and ready to act. For instance:

  • Need more bread? Coming right up.
  • Low on water? Be right back.
  • Appetizers finished? I’ll clear your plates.

It was customer-focused versatility in action, all geared to make sure that Duval’s provided us with an excellent dining experience. As one of the managers told me after dinner: “I tell the team to look at the tables as you walk by and if the customers need something, take care of it.”


A few days later, I reached out to Joshua Halbrucker to learn more about the restaurant’s operating philosophy. He answered my questions via email. Look for a number of marketing and business nuggets, some of which I’ve highlighted, followed by my three takeaways for your company. Continue reading

Great Customer Relations Means More than Just Saying “Sorry”

So many companies talk about the importance of their customer relationships, but, in reality, what do they really do when something goes wrong?

Image – Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield Facebook.

Insurance provider Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey decided that just saying sorry wasn’t good enough..

In a December 6th letter, Horizon notified 839,000+ customers that their sensitive private information might be at risk including name, social security number, address, date of birth, and insurance identification number.  The reason?  Two company laptops, which were “cable-locked to employee workstations,” were stolen from the headquarters office.

Horizon informed customers “we are not certain that all of this information is accessible,” explaining that the computers were password-protected but unencrypted.  Nevertheless, the company decided to take action, beyond the standard mea culpa and you’re on your own communication: Continue reading

American Express Treats “Service” as a Marketing Differentiator

I thought about the opportunity of capitalizing on every interaction and moving away from being a cost of doing business to being an investment in building relationships.

Jim Bush – Executive Vice President of World Service – American Express

Let’s give Jim Bush a “marketer of the day” award for his mindset on how to leverage the service function to impact the bottom line – via customer engagement and not simple transaction management.

As he declared in a recent Fortune interview:  “We let the customer determine how much time they want to engage. That engagement drives value. We serve customers, not transactions.”

Even if you don’t work in service, adopt an “outside:in” perspective and always consider what you can do to positively impact customers.  It may come as a surprise that the AMEX service team is focused on and considers what it does a company competitive advantage. Continue reading