Customer Service isn’t Dead – Just Hiding

Customer Service isn’t Dead – We just don’t recognize is any longer….

Ok… so the first time I saw this video, I’ll admit to saying, “WTF????” in my head – but then I watched it a couple more times and it made a little more sense. Virgin (baby of Sir Richard Branson) is seriously one company that has focused on the “Consumer Experience” as their differentiating factor. About 2 years ago I listened to the autobiography of Richard on Audible and remember his discussion on this very topic regarding his decision to start Virgin Atlantic.

We were all fed up with flying airlines with grouchy staff. All we knew was from the customer’s perspective, and we set out to build a value for money proposition based on great service. We recruited staff that actually wanted to fly — fresh, lively and eager to have fun.”

There was also a quote I found from an interview with him here that stated something that really rang true.  ”Great customer service has always been defined by the opportunities presented when things go wrong.”

This got me thinking about a topic I have discussed on a number of opportunities with friends and leaders in our industry and out.  ”What really makes GREAT customer service?”  Truth be told, if we look at where we have come over the past 10 years, customer service is better than ever.  We can tweet to @comcastcares and they will respond at all hours of the night to fix our problems.  We get phone calls for surveys from our phone companies to make sure that everything went according to plan.  And with the introduction of online reviews like Yelp.com and social media – more and more companies are stepping up their game.  With all of these strides to become better and better with customer interaction and “expectation delivery” why is it that so many people out there question that customer service is dead?

Starbucks Customer Service PledgeWe’re Too Busy Waiting to be Amazed

I love this Starbucks ad.  It’s usually found posted right above the little “mixing station” where people slop their Americhinos and leave their stir sticks sitting out.  It simply states that, “if your coffee isn’t right – we’ll make it right”.  Best of all it’s not JUST words, it’s a pledge that I have taken advantage of a couple of times.  My wife usually drinks things with a steamed topper – and if it’s not frothy enough they’ll happily make it again.  Here’s the thing – This type of behavior from companies has become commonplace.  It’s not OK for a company or service provider to “F*ck Up” in today’s society without running the risk of someone lambasting them on Twitter, Facebook, Yelp and to every one of their friends.  They essentially HAVE to be perfect all of the time or suffer the consequences.  My point to this is, “if we’re expecting perfection every time we go/do something, how does something actually stand out?”

Take the Virgin ad above – this is a perfect example of going above and beyond the call of duty.  The restroom is clean, the guy is there to provide us with towels, mints, cologne, and in my case – a little refresh on the hair product (sidenote – you can now follow my hair on Twitter at @MyHairSpeaks).  If this happened to me, I would be shocked, feel violated (a little) but you’re goddamn right I would tell people about it!  But what about all of those “little things” that happen on a daily basis that are great examples of customer service?  Below are a couple examples of these “little things” that I feel really make a difference:

  1. Last week at my local gas station I was buying a cup of coffee and the woman working said, “That coffee has been there for an hour hun – lemme make you a fresh pot.”
  2. My favorite outdoor store in Chicago is Erehwhon (Nowhere spelled backwards) – one of their sales reps @clinard not only takes hours to inform my wife and I on our purchases, but if the right size isn’t in stock, he’ll hunt it down from other stores or dealers.
  3. We went to dinner last week at Perennial in Chicago and sat at the bar – not only did the bartender advise us to an awesome meal, but at the end he bought us a dessert that we, “couldn’t miss”.
  4. I was getting my clubs regripped at the local GolfSmith and the rep helping me informed me of a coupon available by “friending” Golfsmith on Facebook that would save me 20% on my total bill
  5. The place we take our dogs to for training (Morgan’s dogs) reached out and commented on a picture of our dogs yesterday and reminded me of upcoming free classes we might want to take advantage of.

I guess my point in all this is that we have become spoiled with really good above-the-bar service in many areas of our daily life and we should stop and recognize these efforts more often.  Personally, I don’t WANT the service that Virgin is touting (yes I understand it’s a farce).  I want good, consistent customer focused service.  Too often in my industry of real estate we hear vendors, speakers and products touting the exemplary is necessary.  Where I agree to an extent that the exemplary makes you memorable and is a pleasant surprise in certain elements – my issue is that we should probably focus on providing “really good” experiences first.  These don’t HAVE to be amazing every time, they should simply focus on providing what the consumer expects and maybe a little more.  There’s little value in providing OUTSTANDING service 1:5 times if the other 4 times it’s less than par.

I also believe that if we tune ourselves to recognize the efforts of others in our daily lives we can start to incorporate many of them into our businesses.  The next time you interact with a company/service provider ask yourself the following questions:

“How did they attempt to service my needs and address my concerns?  What could they have done better?  How could I incorporate this into my business?”

I think you’ll be amazed that the simplest of actions focused on your consumer will all add up to an overall experience that will make a difference.  Be aware of those around you and simply try to emulate their actions.  And remember that shaking more than once is playing with it :)

Matt