When Customer Service Is Not Just a Clever Name

Custsvc_3Lately there have been a lot of stories about customer service and customer relations foul-ups.  A couple of notable blog posts recently are Seth Godin’s frustrations parking his Prius and one regarding jetBlue, including engaging the former jetBlue CEO in the blog comments.  I’m guessing that everyone has had those moments – my dad likes to call his persona for taking on a customer service mishap "The Director of Retribution." (He’s become the subject matter expert on writing letters directly to the CEO of companies and getting a response).

I also spotted Chris Brogan’s brief post on sincerely thanking Contintenal Airlines, and I thought I’d also take a minute to jot down three positive customer service stories that happened to me recently.

  • I also had a great experience with Continental Airlines.  Two days before a recent flight from Boston to Cleveland, I received a call from customer service mentioning the flight was oversold.  The rep asked me if it was OK to move me from my upgraded-due-to-status first class seat to an exit row seat in coach in exchange for 2 free one-way upgrade coupons and a $300 credit for future travel.  This is a 90 minute flight which I take often – getting bumped up to first class is cool but frankly a perk.  The fact that they called with an offer already in hand was both surprising and refreshing.
  • I am addicted to my Blackberry.  I should probably seek counseling, but I digress.  Last week, the earpiece speaker (not the speakerphone) suddenly stopped working.  I went to an AT&T Wireless store prepared for the worst, having to buy a new one, since I didn’t have replacement insurance.  At the store, the sales rep was extremely helpful.  He looked up my account and saw that my 1 year warranty had expired 2 weeks ago.  He called their customer service line directly in the store, and after a few minutes they had agreed to replace my phone and consider it still under the warranty.  Rather than wait for a replacement in the mail, I went to a service center down the street.  When I walked in and gave them my name, they took my phone and 10 minutes later handed me a new one with all my data replicated.  It was a seemless transaction and I was able to head out the next day on a business trip without an issue.  Nice job, AT&T.
  • I picked up bagels Sunday morning at Cafe Fresh bagels around the corner from home.  The owner always greets customers with a smile and recognized me from a visit about a month earlier with my sons.  I ordered a dozen, he threw in 3 extra bagels "for the kids."  It wasn’t neccessary – he’s running the only local bagel shop around.  Going that little extra distance made me feel good about coming back next week.

There are good stories out there too, and while blogs and other social media tools can be used to influence or call out customer service mishaps, they can be used to reinforce the good stories too.  Do you have a good customer service story to share?

Photo credit: RW Photobug via Flickr 

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  • I think a lot of bad customer service is a result of bad employees/poor employee training more than it is company policy. It is nice to see good things being said about CS, especially since I work for one of those companies mentioned.

  • I think a lot of bad customer service is a result of bad employees/poor employee training more than it is company policy. It is nice to see good things being said about CS, especially since I work for one of those companies mentioned.

  • This is one of the concepts of social media that is often overlooked: online word-of-mouth marketing can be used for brand advocates, just as easily as flaming.
    It’s pretty fair to say that if a company has bad service, you will be more likely to tell people than if they provide you good service. Mainly because we always hope to have good service… but I always say that winning an online champion is just as important as keeping the upset customers managed.
    AND – my story of this is Taylormade. I once cracked the face of a driver I’d had for two years (one year out of warranty) and decided to call anyway. They apologized and asked me to send it in so they could look at it, very politely. They receive my club and immediately call me to say there was a misunderstanding – they were sorry but no longer had that version in stock…
    So the sent me, with overnight shipping, a brand-new current model- worth about twice my original club. Was this necessary? Definitely not- but I tell tons of people about it and I sure as hell am sticking with TaylorMade for future drivers.

  • This is one of the concepts of social media that is often overlooked: online word-of-mouth marketing can be used for brand advocates, just as easily as flaming.

    It’s pretty fair to say that if a company has bad service, you will be more likely to tell people than if they provide you good service. Mainly because we always hope to have good service… but I always say that winning an online champion is just as important as keeping the upset customers managed.

    AND – my story of this is Taylormade. I once cracked the face of a driver I’d had for two years (one year out of warranty) and decided to call anyway. They apologized and asked me to send it in so they could look at it, very politely. They receive my club and immediately call me to say there was a misunderstanding – they were sorry but no longer had that version in stock…

    So the sent me, with overnight shipping, a brand-new current model- worth about twice my original club. Was this necessary? Definitely not- but I tell tons of people about it and I sure as hell am sticking with TaylorMade for future drivers.

  • Four Seasons
    We (four of us) were staying at the Four Seasons in Austin. We arrived back at the room at about 2:30am after an evening of great music, and all that goes with great music. In retrospect, perhaps a bit too much “all.”
    The Four Seasons offers room service 24 hours per day. We picked up the phone, ordered cheeseburgers and similar, and then got the bad news: because of the time (by now about 3am) it would take an hour or so to get the kitchen opened, and then another half-hour or so to get everything cooked and sent up.
    That simply wasn’t going to work. We (politely) pointed out that this was the Four Seasons, and at the Four Seasons a promise of performance counts for something.
    So, instead of opening the kitchen, they pulled the Four Seasons’ limo up to the front, loaded us into it, and drove us to Katz’s Deli, a great all-night eatery. They waited outside, and then drove us back.
    That is the kind of service that has built the Four Seasons brand. I’ve told this story a hundred times, as recently as yesterday. (This happened a few years ago). I have stayed at the Four Seasons many times, and in many places. I have yet to experience anything other than excellent service. We stayed at the Four Seasons in Atlanta for a friend’s birthday: on arrival, there was a cookie and cold glass of milk waiting for our (then) four-year old son, with his name correctly spelled (B-r-o-c-h) in chocolate on the plate. We didn’t even request it!
    I have no idea how they did that: elapsed time between check-in and walking into our room was perhaps 5 minutes. Yet, there it was: a cookie and glass of milk. Like the limo, it was the Four Seasons “magic” and superb commitment to customer service.

  • Four Seasons

    We (four of us) were staying at the Four Seasons in Austin. We arrived back at the room at about 2:30am after an evening of great music, and all that goes with great music. In retrospect, perhaps a bit too much “all.”

    The Four Seasons offers room service 24 hours per day. We picked up the phone, ordered cheeseburgers and similar, and then got the bad news: because of the time (by now about 3am) it would take an hour or so to get the kitchen opened, and then another half-hour or so to get everything cooked and sent up.

    That simply wasn’t going to work. We (politely) pointed out that this was the Four Seasons, and at the Four Seasons a promise of performance counts for something.

    So, instead of opening the kitchen, they pulled the Four Seasons’ limo up to the front, loaded us into it, and drove us to Katz’s Deli, a great all-night eatery. They waited outside, and then drove us back.

    That is the kind of service that has built the Four Seasons brand. I’ve told this story a hundred times, as recently as yesterday. (This happened a few years ago). I have stayed at the Four Seasons many times, and in many places. I have yet to experience anything other than excellent service. We stayed at the Four Seasons in Atlanta for a friend’s birthday: on arrival, there was a cookie and cold glass of milk waiting for our (then) four-year old son, with his name correctly spelled (B-r-o-c-h) in chocolate on the plate. We didn’t even request it!

    I have no idea how they did that: elapsed time between check-in and walking into our room was perhaps 5 minutes. Yet, there it was: a cookie and glass of milk. Like the limo, it was the Four Seasons “magic” and superb commitment to customer service.