Last week, during my travels to Poland and back, I experienced how companies are using customer service as sales tools. In most cases, customer service tends to be vanilla, bland, and although professional in its approach, it is typically highly unspectacular. However, sometimes, customer service is so good, or so bad, that their brand statements go beyond what marketing or sales could ever do. After all, what leaves a stronger and potentially longer lasting impression than your own experience with a brand? Let's start with two great examples - experiences that make you choose to return for more.
Upon landing in Frankfurt on my first leg home from Warsaw, I received an email from Expedia.com telling me that my flight from Frankfurt to Boston was canceled. My anxiety intensified and I began Googling alternate flights to Boston while deplaning, only to learn that the flight had not actually been canceled. As I was about to board my flight to Boston, I realized that in my moments of despair, I had left my iPad in the seat back pocket on the previous flight. I stopped at Lufthansa's Flight Services counter upon my return to Boston and they gave me an email address to contact in Frankfurt. Imagine my surprise, and relief (the iPad was not password protected, so someone could have had a free-for-all until I could change the passwords those accounts that my iPad apps connected to!) when I received this email response:
Dear Mr. Kurlan,
Thank you for your e-mail. Your iPad is found and registered.
Ref Nr xxxxxxx
Please authorize a shipping agent of your choice (DHL, FEDEX, United Parcels, etc) to pick up your item at:
Deutsche Lufthansa AG and authorize them to deliver it to your address. They could pick it up any day at our counter 284, Terminal 1-A, departure level, from 7am to 7pm. There is a telephone at the counter that they should pick up. It is automatically connected to our office. We will bring the packet to the counter. They should mention xxxx and show us the written authorization they have from you.
Please send us the details.
I will most definitely seek out Lufthansa whenever I have an international trip!
When I arrived at the Regent Warsaw Hotel at 14:30, I inquired about getting my suit pressed. Their service promised that clothing picked up after noon would be returned by 9:00 the following morning. I explained that I was speaking at 8:00 the next morning, so 9:00 would not be sufficient. They picked up my suit, pressed it and returned it 30 minutes later! Guess where I'll be staying if I return to Poland?
People are convinced - every second of every day - to either begin doing business, continue doing business, or stop doing business with companies - based on the way they are treated by the company's employees. The customer service I'm referring to is rarely performed by actual customer service reps. These employees actually have more of an impact on customers than customer service reps, but aren't trained, paid or treated like customer service reps. It's one thing to get good or bad customer service from someone who is paid to provide it. It's quite another to get the good or bad service from someone whose primary role in the company is not customer service. These are people who either choose to be helpful, indifferent or worse.
Unfortunately, we experience many more examples of bad service than good. Here are some that I've written about before. These are ten very short examples that you must read in order to fully understand the extent to which this impacts revenue:
Unbelievable at United Airlines
Volatile at Verizon and a Second Issue with Verizon and a Third Issue with Verizon
Dumb at Dell but Awesome at Apple
Nuts at National Car Rental and a Second Time at National
While each article represented a good example and together they provide paths to retaining business, also notice that I tend to write about the bad ones. Today, with social media, bad news travels further and faster than ever before, sometimes going viral. Knowing that It also costs more than ever to acquire new customers, it's important to realize that companies could grow their revenue at exponential rates if they weren't so inept at retaining business! How much business do your employees cause you to lose? It's not enough to train salespeople and customer service reps. EVERYONE should be trained on how even the most insignificant interactions with customers can impact the business.