Recently though, I had an experience that takes this idea in another direction. I ordered a new computer system for my home. My previous interaction with this company was positive. A few years ago this outfit delivered my new system on time, and it's worked flawlessly. They stayed in contact, through mailings and e-mails, over the years. So when it was time for a new machine, I naturally thought of them first.
I placed my order, and waited for my delivery. And waited. And waited some more. Eventually I got an e-mail saying that the ship date had slipped by several weeks. No kidding. Unfortunately, in this case I was counting on the system to arrive by a certain date because I'd already promised my older system to someone else. They didn't want to wait either.
So I decided that the new ship date wouldn't work, and I canceled the order. Or I tried to. When I called the toll-free line, I was put on hold five times. And when I got a new agent, that person needed to reestablish my name, address, order number and other information. One agent erroneously told me that it would be impossible to cancel the order this far into the process.
At no time did anyone attempt to solve the problem by locating a similar replacement system that might work instead. No one I talked to even sounded the least bit sorry that the delivery wouldn't go as promised. Each agent just seemed to be in a hurry to get me off the phone and move onto the next call. Guess which company isn't getting my business any more?
I'm tempted to say that this is fairly typical customer service these days. However, I've also had a very positive experience lately.
In early February, when the east coast was being deluged with snow, I had to fly out of Baltimore. I had an early-evening flight, but, in anticipation of the storm, the airport had already decided a day ahead of time that it was going to shut down early that morning. My only chance was to leave the customer site a day earlier than planned so I could figure out how to get out of town.
Over lunch I returned to my hotel to check out. Even though I was a bit past the official checkout time, I wasn't charged for an extra night. Moreover, the desk clerk got me a room at a hotel closer to the airport for that evening, taking the time to relay all of my information to the new property. In addition, the airline switched my departure time without charging me extra. And of course, I'm grateful to my customer for understanding my dilemma and letting me leave early in the first place. I made a flight early the next morning, and got out ahead of the storm.
So, do you think I'll use this hotel chain again, and/or recommend them to others? Do you think I'll speak highly of the airline? And it's all due to service people who took the initiative and spent a few minutes to help me.
We should all treat our customers -- be they actual customers, co-workers, end users, what have you -- as well as I was treated that day. We should all take an extra moment to exceed their expectations and make their day.
If not, you might drive someone into the arms of your competition.