I recently saw a show about cleaner fish. As I watched the show, I couldn’t stop thinking about how this fishy cleaning service was so much like a real business. As the cleaner fish would diligently go about their business of eating dead skin and parasites off the larger “host” fish, the parallels to business became more and more obvious. As I watched, I realized that there are some pretty important customer service lessons to be learned from our scaly friends.
The host fish want to be cleaned. The host fish know where the cleaning stations are and they will visit them frequently. They know the benefits of being cleaned. Like the loyal clients to a talented hair stylist, these host fish happily keep coming back. But, just like in business, if the cleaner fish don’t clean properly, the host fish get annoyed. If your clients are not happy with your service – even if you have provided good service to them for a long time – they too will get irritated and, oftentimes, they won’t return.
Cleaner fish go the extra mile. When a cleaner fish goes to work, it works diligently. It is laser-focused and serious about its work. Many times, a host fish will begin to swim away, but the cleaner fish will continue cleaning. The cleaner fish will eventually drop off, but in a reluctant way, as if to say, “You deserve my best and I haven’t given it my all yet. Don’t go yet. Let me finish up.” Can you imagine getting a massage and the massage therapist says, “I don’t have a client scheduled after you and you are still tight in your upper back. I know our time is up, but let me take another 10 minutes to work on that area.” That kind of single-minded service builds single-mindedly devoted customers.
It benefits both parties. Host fish love the cleaning service because it rids them of parasites, and cleaning fish love the tasty buffet. If you are a service-provider, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that only you are getting the benefit. Sure, you are receiving payment, but the value your customer perceives is worth the fee. I remember when I used to be a personal trainer and I would sheepishly ask my clients for payment at the end of the month. Sometimes the bills were over $1000. I struggled with asking my clients to pay that much money. But, over time, I realized that it was worth it to them. The value they received was well worth their investment.
In watching the way the host fish acted while being cleaned, it brought to mind images of an ultra-satisfied customer. When being serviced, the host fish slow down, they open their mouths, and they are careful not to get a fin in the way of one of the cleaners. Even predatory hosts will let cleaners do their work without even a thought of eating them. It’s amazing to watch this underwater example of stellar customer service.
So, the next time you are flipping stations and come across a show on cleaner fish, stop and watch. Imagine that you are the cleaner fish – happily and attentively going the extra mile for your customer. And, imagine the host fish are your customers – content and loyal. There’s nothing fishy about that kind of mutually-beneficial relationship.