Sometimes it’s the little things…Customer Service tales

We are often quick to complain about shoddy service and treatment.  If a bad experience happens we tell everyone we know and we tell it loud, often with embellishments.   Just view my post on a recent Air Canada experience for proof of that.  Duane’s had one too, but he seems to have removed it for some reason.   Too often, we tend to not shout nearly as loudly when we recieve excellent service, which is a bit of a shame.  I remember hearing years ago that a bad experience will travel 16 times faster and further than a good experience, on average.  The sad thing is that the majority of customer facing individuals ARE good service/good feeling generators, and it’s not necessarily by doing something huge.  I had a couple of good experiences yesterday.
First off, yesterday the  elevators in the building where I work were down all day.  It was a minor inconvenience for us here on the third floor…truth be told I actually appreciated the excercise going up and down the stairs.  It was probably a less minor inconvenience for people on the 20th floor.  They did get two elevators MacGyver’d into service by midmorning and then proceeded to have operators controlling them all day.   I thought the building management company did an excellent job of making the best of a crappy situation.  They had 5 or 6 people who stood in the lobby basically all day, telling people what was happening and directing traffic.  Then they had two guys who just ran the elevators, taking people up and down.  A lessor company may have posted a sign and had people take the stairs or freight elevator only, ignoring the fact that this problem could possibly have an adverse affect on people’s businesses.  This was good customer service; I never noticed anyone get upset or cranky in my various walks out of the office, and it was in my mind a really smart thing to do that didn’t cost much of anything.  Sure, those 6 or 8 employees probably have all had better days, but the fact is that one day of standing in one place helping people get to work is hardly a major impact on any of their lives.  And not one of them looked stressed about it either.  So good on Bentall center for that.

The kicker for me is that this morning i strolled into work to find free coffee and donuts in the building foyer.  This is above and beyond, in my mind and crosses the line from good customer service to excellent customer service.  The whole thing may have cost them 200 bux (and that’s guessing on the high side) and created a wealth of good feelings.  THAT is excellent customer service.

I’m a big fan of the Cactus Club, and have been for years, and it all comes down to their excellent service.  The Cactus Club on Cambie and Broadway has always gone above and beyond for me, and has made me a very loyal customer.  One time I was there and the waitress offered dessert menus…when I told her that in all the years going there i’d never had one of their desserts (cuz i’m always full after the meal) she tried and tried to comp me one.  THAT was excellent customer service; I hadn’t complained, there were no problems with the meal, heck I wasn’t even flirting with her!  Anyways, I never did have the dessert, and I still haven’t had a Cactus Club dessert!  Although I have shared one or two…

Last night I took Ruth to a store to pick up a gift for a friend’s baby shower, and then we went out to dinner.   We went to the Cactus Club on Broadway (which was, btw, the site of our first dinner date two months ago).  It wasn’t a planned thing at all, just kind of happened.  Anyways, we ordered our meals and prepared to enjoy the experience as always.  Unfortunately her grilled salmon wasn’t quite up to par, and she ended up not eating much of it.   While I was still eating our waiter came by and replaced our drinks (we weren’t drinking alcohol) unsolicited, which always strikes me as best practice customer service.  I especially am appreciative of it in a more casual or downscale restaurant like Cactus; I expect it in a higher tier place.   Anyways at the end of the meal waiter asked she would like the rest of her salmon wrapped up, and she said no thanks, it wasn’t very good.  He asked the usual questions, and she told him what she didn’t like about it (in a friendly way of course).  Waiter apologized, and everything was cool.  When he brought the bill by we noticed that he had struck her whole meal off of it.  THAT was excellent customer service.  We neither asked for nor expected that to happen; we would have been just as happy and would have gone back again anyways even if he hadn’t done that.  Now what he’s done is made me an even more loyal customer than I already was, and I suspect Ruth as well.  So good on him for that.

Over the years I’ve had many other excellent customer service experiences; a few stick out in my head:

  • Sheraton Hotel, Eau Claire  in Calgary.  When I worked for Nokia I did monthly trips across Western Canada.  I stayed in mostly the same places much of the time.  When they opened Eau Claire Sheraton, I stayed there like a month into their operations.  I went back a month later, and as I walked in the desk girl said “Mr Blacker…welcome back!” with a big smile.  I was sold…THAT was excellent customer service.  Unfortunately eventually the Eau Claire got outside of the Nokia travel budget and I had to stop going there, but I always appreciated and remembered that.
  • Another Sheraton, this one in Bangkok on Sukhumvet road.  Due to the amount of travel I did with that job, I had over the years collected a boatload of Starwood frequent guest points.  When I went to Thailand for my brothers wedding I went a few days early and spent some time in Bangkok, booking the hotel on my Starwood points.   We got to Bangkok after much stress flying Air Canada on Aeroplan points, so I was somewhat concerned.  At check in, the lady said “Well we ended up over booked tonight due to (whatever it was called) conference going on this week…”  My heart sunk…I had visions of staying in a frightening room a la the opening scene in “The Beach”.  She continued on:  “…so we’re going to have to upgrade you to an executive suite.  Is that ok?”  !!!!! Hell yeah that’s ok!  We ended up in a room that according to their rate sheet costs $650 USD per night!  For FREE!  Anyways…yay starwood, sheraton, and Thai customer service.
  • VW Audi: my previous car needed some scheduled service work;  First off, the service manager guy knew me when I walked in…makes sense cuz I had been in there ONCE before three months earlier.  They were somehow out of a part they thought they had in stock which meant it was going to take a day to get my car instead of the planned two hours.  They gave me a demo loaner (that was a much more expensive car than mine), at no charge plus discounted the service for my inconvenience.  THAT was excellent customer service in both aspects; the remembering me and the taking care of me two ways.  If finances had not dictated a change in requirements and payment level, I would definitely have leased my current car from them too.  I will go see them for my next car and if there’s something that fits the budget and needs, I will buy from them.  Er…depending on what the buyer’s guides say.

I don’t know about anyone else, but for me it really is the little things that make me loyal to a company.  Once I am loyal to an enterprise, I will pay a bit more or put up with a bit more trouble (to a certain threshold at least).  If a front line person remembers my name, I’m convinced.  If they fix an issue painlessly and happily, I’m convinced.  If they go the extra mile with a smile, I’m convinced.  It’s really quite simple in the end.


3 comments so far

  1. Rosie on

    I had a really great shopping experience at Agent Provocateur in Vegas. I was going to write a letter, but never got around to it.

    (I had a not as great shopping experience at Agent Provocateur in LA, though.)

    (ew, Cactus Club!)

  2. Cage on

    My boss is in Calgary this week staying at the Sheraton Hotel, Eau Claire, I’m happy to hear you had such a positive experience with that hotel. Kevin did this horrible stint of travel this week; went like this: Boston, Hong Kong, Calgary, Chicago, Boston…he’s still has to make the last legs tomorrow. The last thing a hard core traveler needs is a crappy hotel experience.

  3. Tyler on

    Oh your customer service stories are awesome! Wish I had stories like that, but then if something goes wrong I’m more likely not to say anything and never come back…. (while training for management at another job they said that type of person is killer to any business. The one who says nothing and never comes back)

    Now.. my question is, have you ever gone above and beyond to help a customer or to fix something that went wrong?

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