Because pleasing your customers is just good business.
At the end of the day, what should matter most to any company is whether they’re making their customers happy. If your customers are happy with your business, your business will succeed, right? So most companies have at least one person responsible for customer service. The average company emails people on their birthdays, or sends out coupons to people who retweet their special promotion. That’s what average companies do.
Above-average companies go beyond their customers’ expectations of prompt, friendly service. They do their job exceptionally; they surprise their clients; and they do their best to turn negative experiences into positive ones. So let’s take a closer look at some examples of amazing customer service, shall we?
1) Do a simple thing really well
If you’ve ever been to the airport, chances are you’ve left your car at a “park-n-ride” — somewhere for you to drop off your car that doesn’t cost quite as much as airport parking. It’s not a terribly complicated concept, but sometimes the best things are the simple things. Take the Fast Park at the Baltimore, MD airport for example.
You won’t have to spend very much time trying to find a spot here, as an attendant directs you to the best row as soon as you enter the lot. Like most park-n-rides, the Fast Park offers a shuttle to get you from their facility to the airport. Unlike most park-n-rides, however, the shuttle at the Fast Park meets you at your car, minimizing your time spent hauling your bags through the parking lot. The shuttle drivers are happy to chat with you, and on your way back, you get a free bottled water.
What should you take from this example? Your company is probably similar to other ones out there. Find a way to stand out from the pack, especially when it comes to the way you treat your customers, and you’ll maximize your chances for success.
2) Never underestimate social media
You might have heard this story before. (I know I had before writing this article.) Here’s a link to the original, but I’ll summarize it for you here. Peter Shankman, an author and consultant, was on a plane ride home when he tweeted Morton’s Steakhouse. He didn’t feel like cooking himself dinner, but it’d be too late to go out anywhere, so as a joke, he tweeted, “Hey @Mortons – can you meet me at the Newark airport with a porterhouse when I land in two hours? K, thanks. :)” I know I tweet to famous people and companies all the time, and one never really expects them to answer. But this time, something awesome happened.
When Mr. Shankman got to the airport, he found someone standing next to his driver, someone holding a to-go bag from Morton’s Steakhouse.
Mr. Shankman immediately tweeted the encounter and word spread throughout the Twittersphere. Now, what Morton’s did wasn’t terribly expensive. It cost them the profit from a single meal, the gas to drive their waiter to the airport, and however much the guy made an hour, but as Mr. Shankman points out:
Morton’s Hackensack is 23.5 miles away from EWR, according to Google Maps. That meant that in just under three hours, someone at Morton’s Corporate had to see my tweet, get authorization to do this stunt, get in touch with Morton’s Hackensack, and place the order. Then Morton’s Hackensack had to cook the order, get it boxed up, and get a server to get in his car, and drive to Newark Airport (never an easy task, no matter where you’re coming from) then, (and this is the part the continues to blow me away,) while all this was happening, track down my flight, where I was landing, and be there when I walked out of security!”
So sure, this wasn’t a terribly expensive way for Morton’s to connect with one of their customers (not like the next example on our list, for instance), but it did take some effort on their part. But doing so paid off dividends. Peter Shankman has 163k followers on Twitter (as of this posting), and all of those people heard about his experience. How many of them went to Morton’s Steakhouse not long after that tweet?
What should you take from this example? Look at your clients. Pick one (or a few) to connect with in a way that blows their mind. Not only will you be cementing their business, they’ll share their experience with others–and people listen to the good things others have to say about you more than the good things you say about yourself.
3) Surprise your customers
I’m not sure about you, but I’d never heard of WestJet before encountering this awesome video. Last Christmas, the Canadian airline made some special wishes come true for their patrons in a way that blew their minds (and mine). As customers got to their gate, they found Santa Claus waiting for them.
After scanning their tickets at the electronic kiosk, the screen came to life, and a live-action Santa (dressed in WestJet blue) greeted customers by name. Pretty cool, right? Even if that’s all there was to this stunt—Santa wishing you and yours glad tidings for the holidays—I still think the campaign would have been a success. But that’s not all there was to it. Not by a long shot.
As Santa is wont to do, the WestJet version asked people what they wanted for Christmas. Some asked for a big screen TV, free plane tickets home, even socks and underwear, but everyone did so in good humor. Here’s the thing about Santa though (and the WestJet version in particular): he’s in the habit of granting wishes. And so with the help of 175 volunteers, the passengers of two Calgary-bound flights got a heaping helping of Christmas magic.
While the flights were in the air, volunteers scoured the stores of Calgary, buying the items on the passengers’ wish lists. When the unsuspecting passengers landed and made their way to baggage claim, they got a bit more than they expected…
Can you imagine what these people were thinking when those gifts came down the baggage carousel? I know that I would have been absolutely floored if something like that happened to me, and from the looks on their faces in the video, WestJet forged an incredible bond with some of their customers. Sure, their promotion cost a bit more than what Morton’s Steakhouse did for Mr. Shankman, but they made an enormous statement too. “Look how far we’re willing to go for their customers,” they said. “Look how much we care about you, and how happy it makes us to make you happy.”
What should you take from this example? Think about how you can make your customers happy and then do that. (If you can surprise them, all the better.) It’s true that not every company can afford to go to the lengths that WestJet did, but you don’t have to buy someone a big screen TV to make their day. In your conversations with your customer, you’ll find out all kinds of information about them. Hear that somebody’s graduating? Send them a congratulation card. Have flowers delivered for Mother’s Day. Show your customers that you care about them, not just as clients, but as people. The gesture will do wonders.
4) Turn a negative into a positive
We’ve all had problems with our computer before. Sometimes, the problems aren’t with our computers but the programs we’re running on them. Take Norm the Netflix customer, for example.
Norm contacted Netflix to let them know that he was having a problem with an episode of Parks and Recreation. But because the customer service rep that Norm contacted had access to Norm’s info, he knew that Norm was a big fan of Star Trek. So he phrased the whole conversation in Star Trek lingo, much to Norm’s delight.
Now, Mike the Netflix rep never let the scifi-speak interfere with his ability to solve Norm’s problem. But because he connected with his customer the way that he did, Netflix’s reputation rose not only with Norm, but with everyone whom Norm shared his conversation. Technical problems that hinder your ability to do what you want are an easy way to ruin your day, but when solving them sounds like stepping into one of your favorite shows, they’re not nearly as bad.
What should you take from this example? When a customer has a problem, don’t just solve their issue, turn it into a positive experience. If you know your customers (and you really should), find something about them that will help improve their mood while you solve their issue. Obviously, solving the issue should be your number one priority, but if you can do so in a way that brings a smile to their face, you’ll be killing two birds with one stone.
There are tons of great customer service stories out there—we limited ourselves to four that we really liked—but we’d love to hear about your favorite experiences with customer service, whether you were on the receiving or the delivering side.