Tell Me About A Time You Went “Above And Beyond” For A Customer

There I was in an interview with a hiring manager from Amazon.com. I realized later maybe I should have prepared with one of those books about questions google managers ask. My answer wasn’t well-rehearsed or highly polished. I hadn’t much considered in the past couple of years whether my performance was above and beyond for a customer, and customer satisfaction hadn’t been a conversation in my organization for a while before then. Making the big play and increasing valuation has been all the rage lately.

In recent years I’ve been an inside staff member, with no direct customer contact. As a result, I’ve focused my attention in the direction that would most impact organization performance or results that matter to a customer. I do what’s right and I urge my teams to do the same. No reasonable request and many unreasonable ones are on the table, if they’re technically possible and inside the financial limits of success in the customer relationship. For me, there is no “above and beyond”. It’s either possible or it’s not. We do it if it’s possible, and we don’t if it’s not. Customer Service isn’t remarkable: it’s the job of every employee of the company. I’ve been inspired this way since I worked for Applied Materials and every one of my paychecks said, “this paycheck courtesy of a satisfied Applied Materials Customer.”

What’s your view?

My answer didn’t wow me, and my bet is it didn’t wow that Amazon Manager either (I didn’t get an offer). Beyond the paragraph above, which probably is the best answer to this question, here are a few things I’ve done that may be good fodder for that question:

Are Travel Gigs “Above And Beyond”?

For four years I boarded flights every other week hundreds of times. I spent 4-6 days a week away from home, living in hotels and rental cars, restaurants, and conference rooms as a software implementation consultant. For four years, half of my weeks began and ended with an 8 hour commute. I modified my schedule and my location for about 100 weeks to be with those Fortune 500 customers at their site. I agree this was a part of the job description, so not particularly beyond expectation. However, I have great respect for anybody who fulfills a role like this. It’s a hard lifestyle.

Off-hours Deployments To Assure Customer Satisfaction

For two years, my team and I worked a full day every Thursday, then we ordered dinner (expense policy required less than $15/person, so it was often pizza or fajitas or sandwiches), then we initiated our 7:00 pm software launch of Hoover’s.com and/or any of several other systems supporting it. On a good night we were done by 11:00, but it wasn’t uncommon to be there well after midnight. We gave up sleep and reworked our schedule on a regular basis for those 40,000 users.

In another role, we performed live data integration and new system cut-over at a time that would least impact the overall operation. We arrived at work on a Friday morning, and didn’t leave until about 11:00 am the next day.

Is Physical Discomfort Worthy?

While in college, I worked a few months for a landscaping construction company that specialized in hillside lots. It’s a good thing the company specialized in hills because all the expensive residential real estate in Berkeley and Oakland California is in the hills. That’s where the money is!

This particular house had a narrow, deep lot, probably 200 feet deep, at about a 20 degree angle from the street. Everything had to go in buckets up about 90 stairs, past the house, then farther back in the yard to its intended location. Bags of Portland cement, buckets of sand and pea gravel, chain saws and other tools all went into the backyard by hand. Tree limbs and any waste came down the hill the same way.

That winter was unusually cold to freezing for a couple weeks. In addition to tree removal and terrace cutting for a couple patios, we trenched extensively for an automatic sprinkler system. Trenches were all dug by hand, with picks and shovels, in the frozen earth for the top 15 inches or so. Because the soil was rocky and frozen, shovels were useless early in the day. We handled frozen chunks of earth with bare hands. I recall we had gloves, and I recall they impeded progress of the task, though I no longer recall precisely why. Maybe they got wet and even colder. Nonetheless, I handled frozen earth with frozen hands for a few hours for those clients. My hands were raw and numb. My dad and my boss liked to say it was incentive to stay in college!

Are Sales Increases Outside The Scope Of My Role “Above And Beyond”?

Here are some times I helped friends improve their business results. These results occurred because I got in touch and offered. If I hadn’t offered my help, these results would not have happened.

Consider And Act

  • Are those stories above and beyond, or are they just part of the job? What would above and beyond look like?
  • How have you gone above and beyond for a customer? Have your story ready next time you’re in an interview!
  • Share your stories in the comments section below.

Also published on Medium.

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