Thanksgiving Dinner as a Customer Care Model? You Bet!

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What does Thanksgiving dinner have to do with customer care? According to nationally renowned customer care expert JoAnna Brandi, there are three aspects of holiday meal planning that apply to an organizationÂ?s customer care efforts. When consistently done well, she says they can help build and fortify the kinds of loyal customer relationships that create profits.

Managers and business leaders intent on creating customer loyalty can learn a thing or three from planning their Thanksgiving dinners, says customer care expert JoAnna Brandi. She explains, “Thanksgiving dinner is the ultimate in service experiences. From the ‘strategic planning’ of the event right down to ‘delivery and implementation,’ each step is carefully thought out with the guests’ satisfaction being the primary goal.”

According to Brandi, just as planning and executing a Thanksgiving gala that’s talked about for months on end requires careful attention to details so, too, does that same detailed planning apply to the service an organization delivers. She points out three ways managers can apply Turkey Day strategies to creating the ultimate customer experience:

1) Table Presentation is (almost) EVERYTHING!

A holiday table setting should be clean, attractive and arranged in a practical and easy manner that enables smooth flow from one course to the next. Likewise, Brandi suggests that the ‘face’ your organization presents to customers at every touchpoint should have the same features.

She explains, “Think about it. What happens if you contact a service center and the person on the other end of the phone is chewing gum or doesn’t speak clearly? You wonder what the heck’s going on behind the scenes. Your faith and credibility in the service you’re about to receive is diminished, and this means the service agent now has a twofold task: To change your perception by regaining your respect and to resolve your problem!”

She urges leaders of service organizations to ensure that each member of the organization understands the importance of presentation. How to begin? By asking yourself and others: What are the key success ingredients of our presentation to customers? Then double-check that you’re right by asking some customers the same question. Compare your answers and zero in on what aspects of presentation matter most.

2) The Bird’s Got to be MEATY!

Presentation creates a tone and an expectation, but Brandi says if the table looks great and the food is awful, chances are that guests will leave the meal remembering the bad taste. She points to a dinner scene from the movie Christmas Vacation to illustrate her point, “The entire family is gathered around the table for what looks to be the perfect feast. Sparky (Chevy Chase) begins to tear up as he carefully begins to carve the bird when…it explodes into a smoky haze of shell of bones! Suddenly the table presentation is meaningless.”

She explains that your organization is in trouble if it ‘looks’ good but ‘explodes in a cloud of gas and bones’ when presented with a customer problem. Her advice: “Your service - the bird - has to be meaty! It has to have substance or, as they say, your company’s just ‘full of hot air.’ So, Turkey Day tip #2 is to make sure your people are properly skilled to do the job right and to provide solutions to customer challenges.”

To help you get more meat on your bones, she suggests you ask your service staff, “How many times have you had a customer interaction where you were unable to solve the problem - or find the right resource to solve the problem? What did you do? What was the result? What would help you do your job better? Then give them what they need, and make sure they’re getting continuous training to keep them up to snuff.”     

3) The Sweet Finish Line!

Just as Thanksgiving Dinner would be incomplete without some lip-smacking sweets, Brandi says ‘incomplete service’ can ruin a company’s efforts at creating loyal customer relationships.

She explains, “All too many service providers unknowingly cut out when 80% of the job is done; they fix the customer’s problem and call it a day! Customer caring leaders make sure their staffs know to confirm that the problem has been resolved to the customer’s satisfaction. And they don’t stop there…they also encourage their team to take a proactive approach and ask the customer if there’s anything else he or she needs!

“If the customer says, ‘I couldn’t possibly take another bite I’m so stuffed,’ thank them for their time and their support of your organization.”

To get your wheels turning about whether or not you deprive your customers of ‘dessert’ (and your company of loyalty and profits), Brandi urges you to consider these questions: Do you have a standard set of questions or comments you pose to customers after you resolve their problems? Do you have a similar protocol to end any customer interaction? If yes, are they being used consistently? Says Brandi, “If you’ve answered ‘no’ to these questions, develop a proactive follow-up plan and put it into action!”

Whether you’re preparing a holiday meal or delivering exquisite service, Brandi notes that success takes hard work and attention to detail. If preparing for the ultimate customer experience begins to feel overwhelming, she says, “Just remember, when everyone is happily dozing after your succulent feast, you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy your own dessert - and in the workplace that means customer loyalty and profits!”

JoAnna Brandi is publisher of The Customer Care Coach®, an email-based customer care training program for managers. For more information, visit or contact Tracey Paradiso at

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