Customer Service Stories

I was dining in a restaurant in Atlanta, recently. It was a restaurant that my girlfriend had dined at many times, though not recently, and she was excited to be going back. We were seated promptly, asked for our drink order, which arrived quickly, and we made our meal selections. So far nothing out of the ordinary compared to millions of dining experiences all over the world every day. The food came, and while mine was excellent, my girlfriend, who had ordered a dish she’d eaten and enjoyed at this place dozens of times, was less than impressed. Something had changed in the recipe, or there was a new chef, and the quality was not what she expected.

The server approached the table at that moment when I’d just shoveled a giant helping of rice into my face, and asked “How is everything?”

And this is where the experience differs from most of those around the world.

Those three words almost always prompt a positive response from diners. Not this time. I explained (while my girlfriend cringed) that my food was great, but the other meal, not as good as expected.

And this is what separates good customer service from the rest: the wait staff asked whether the food tasted “off” or if it was poorly prepared or if there was something else. It was something else, it just didn’t meet the expectations the restaurant had set on dozens of previous visits. They offered to re-make the dish, and if that wasn’t something we wanted, to simply order something different — either way, they wouldn’t be charging us for her meal.

Compare that to service I routinely experience from my cable company following an outage. Their standard response for service recover is that “we’ll credit your account for the days you didn’t have service.” Really? That’s customer care? Not charging me for a service they didn’t provide? That isn’t actually customer care. I don’t expect to be billed for not receiving a service EVER. But that’s as far as my cable company goes without prompting. Most of the time, the CSR on the phone can’t see that not charging me for not providing service isn’t actually doing anything to make it up to me. I’m not saying that I expect a bunch of free stuff, but some recognition that there was a service failing would be nice.

If you fail to provide the service or customer care I expect and it affects my enjoyment of the product or service you provide, my expectation is that your customer recovery policy will be overwhelmingly over-the-top.

Take Sony for example. I am a PlayStation Network subscriber. When their servers were hacked recently, and customer information put at risk, Sony shut down the PlayStation Network. For weeks. I have a Netflix account I use through PSN, and since I couldn’t go online with my PlayStation, I couldn’t watch any Netflix movies.

What did Sony do when they brought their network back online? Two free game downloads for the PS3, two for the PlayStation Personal system, a month of free access to PlayStation Plus (which allows free and discounted game and add-on downloads), or 60 days for existing Plus subscribers, and 100 free virtual items for PlayStation Home users (which is some kind of a virtual world, like the Sims).

The value of that stuff added together is about $100. That is how to exceed expectations.

So ask yourself, what kind of care do you give your customers? Have you ever turned a customer’s frown upside-down, and then some? Do you know what it takes to turn a complaining customer into an evangelist for your company?

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