The Magic Customer Service Question

I was hungry.

I had just checked in at the Sheraton hotel in Tampa, Florida, where I was conducting a sales training seminar the next day. Now, normally when I’m traveling, I like to get out of the hotel and find a good, local restaurant to eat at. But this evening, it was late and I was tired. So I simply ordered room service—a fish sandwich and fries. It was local fish and it was tasty.

When I called down later to have the tray picked up, the friendly woman on the other end of the phone asked the usual question: “How was everything?”

“Fine,” I replied.

That would normally be the end of the conversation. But then she asked me a question nobody had ever asked me before: “Is there anything we could have done better?”

That was a very different question. And it prompted me to give her more feedback.

“Well, since you asked….the fish was kind of small compared to the bun. There was a lot more bread than fish.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” she responded. “I’ll pass that on to the kitchen staff, because they’ll want to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Thank you for letting me know. And I’m going to comp your meal for you.”


I hadn’t expected that. That’s customer service. I was stunned. And delighted. Not because I saved $20 on a meal. But because somebody really cared about my experience. She made me feel valued and important.

I have recounted that story—and given Sheraton tons of free publicity—in countless keynote speeches and workshops. I have made it a point to return to that Sheraton for seminars, and once I went there just for dinner. (It was fantastic, by the way.)

All because of the great experience I had there. And it wouldn’t have happened if the woman hadn’t asked what I now call “The Magic Customer Service Question.” Because that question elicited the information she needed to turn an ordinary situation into an extraordinary one.

Sales is service and service is sales. So if you want to improve your sales, you need to improve your service. And to do that, you need as much feedback as possible from your customers. Don’t settle for the standard question and the standard answer. Ask, “Is there anything we could have done better?” and use the information you get to improve your products, services, and customer experiences. Do that and your sales will flourish. Like magic.