How Customer Service Should Be

My daughter adores the character Eloise, and she has an Eloise umbrella that she loves to use…even when it’s not raining. The umbrella’s handle broke the other week,  so I brought the umbrella to the Eloise Room at The Plaza Hotel, here in New York, to see if it could be exchanged and, if it couldn’t, I would purchase a new one.

When I got to the store, I explained to the sales person that the handle of the umbrella broke and I was wondering what could be done. The sales person asked when the umbrella was purchased and if I had a receipt, and I told him it was bought about 3-4 months ago and, no, I did not have a receipt with me. He asked me to wait a few minutes while he went to ask his manager what could be done, especially since the umbrella was no longer new.

In a couple of minutes, the sales person came back and said that the store has realized that these umbrellas have not been made very well and they have been getting a large number returned,  so what the store was willing to do was to replace the broken umbrella with a brand new one AND to give me a store credit for the original cost of the umbrella ($17.50). WOW! All I asked for was what could be done and left it at that. The next thing I know, I’m getting a brand new replacement and a store credit. That’s customer service. That’s going above and beyond a customer’s expectation. That’s what wins business and drives word-of-mouth, as made evident here.

To further illustrate my point…here’s when customer service is lacking.

The other day, I  needed to add money to my MetroCard (a card used to purchase rides on the New York City subway and buses), but, for some reason, the card was defective and the vending machine I was using would not allow the transaction.  I went to a ticket booth in the subway station and asked the clerk if the money left on the MetroCard could be placed onto another card that I had, and the answer was, “this card is defective, I can’t add the amount.” That’s it. So I asked, “how can I get the money back, which was left on the card?”The clerk looks at me like I’m crazy and says, “you can mail it in for a refund.” Great. Then I ask, “where do I need to mail it to?” The clerk then says, “we normally have envelopes you can use to do this, but we are all out, so try another station or come back another day.” It never fails.

So, a few days later, I pick up an envelope from another subway station, fill out the form and mail it in along with my defective MetroCard. Want to guess what I got in the mail? A check for the amount left on the card. That’s it. Nothing extra for my being inconvenienced for the attempted use of a product that became defective, or for the hassle of finding a station that had an envelope to use. Would it break the bank if the MTA, the owner of the subway, sent me a voucher for a free ride or two, just to say, thanks for being a loyal MTA customer/rider, sorry for the inconvenience of having a defective MetroCard? I doubt it.

There’s a lot more than expenses and the bottom line when it comes to operating a business. The delivery of exceptional customer service and all of the intangibles that go along with it (e.g., brand value, goodwill, etc.) can be just as important to pay attention to.

Also, I notice that many companies go to such great lengths to talk about their involvement with all things social, but don’t they realize that it’s situations like the ones above that actually drive social (i.e., word-of-mouth, story telling, sharing,  etc.)?


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