Sunday, June 13, 2010

Customer Service Stories Are Everywhere

Recently, I flew to Colorado Springs for a weekend of meetings. Going from Downeast Maine to just about anywhere is not especially straightforward, but I did manage to find economical airfare from Bangor. There were three hops, and on the longest of these (New York City to Dallas-Fort Worth), I found myself sitting next to a delightful woman—I'll call her "Sally"—who asked where I was from, where I was going, and what I did. When I told her that I write about Customer Service, she immediately said she had a couple of stories for me, one "good" one, and one "bad" one, and said I could use them here if I wanted to.

I'll start with the bad one. Sally is living in Vancouver Island, BC, now, but is from the US. She and her husband share a cell phone, and use a pay-as-you-go service. The last time she went to add minutes to the phone, the site would not allow her to complete the transaction without a Zip Code. Since the address is BC, there's a different postal code, and the site would not accept it, nor put in a placeholder zip like 99999. She called the Customer Service number listed on the site. She was connected to a representative who went through the fields on the site with her, but stopped at the Zip Code, saying, "We can't process this without a Zip Code. I'm sorry but I cannot help you." Sally again explained that she was not in the US, and that she had done this before, and that she did not understand what the problem was. Again, the response was, "I'm sorry, but I cannot help you." Sally asked for a supervisor, and, reluctantly, the representative agreed. A short time later, the issue was resolved, but Sally was left to wonder what hurdles she would have to get over next time she needed to add service to the phone. Bottom line? Sally will drop this company like a hot potato as soon as she can find a replacement service.

My comment: If they accept Canadian customers, why not provide a way for the to enter the appropriate information on their payment site? This is not only bad Customer Service but also just plain bad business.

Sally's second story was of an individual act of service "above and beyond" the norm when a Customer Service representative at an airline stayed on the line with her for an hour-and-a-half, walking through all the possibilities to resolve a serious travel issue involving a very sick pet, her husband's schedule, and necessity to change flight plans fast. The airline rep brought other people on the phone, asked questions, explored possibilities, and eventually brought everything to a happy conclusion, at least travel-wise. Again, Sally asked for the supervisor, this time to congratulate the company on a job well done, and to make sure that the representative's efforts did not go unnoticed. Bottom line? Sally will fly this airline whenever and wherever possible.

My comment: Loyalty is built on good experiences. Making the Customer feel valued goes a very long way to creating repeat customers and advocates for the company, both of which affect the bottom line.

Give it some thought. (Thanks, "Sally," for sharing your stories with me!)

1 comment:

  1. I really like the 'good' story!

    As far as the 'bad' story - that is a frequent one in Canada -

    One example - corporate emails to my Dot CA address asking for information - get all the way through to get "Sorry US residents only..." (and even HBR & info week have been guilty of that)

    I think the .CA domain might be hint to exclude the email from non-us customers

    A second - phone CSR forced me to use an online support tool on the status of a shipment - 3 pages of information later; "US only...."

    The US ZIP code used to be a nightmare a few years ago - but I admit that it has been getting better. Although I am guessing that more & more companies are purchasing the code for that as the majority of them now have drop down lists with what seems to be the same countries all over the globe.

    Best Regards - and thanks for the "good' story!