Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Kindness and the Spirit of Service

It is nice to hear about kindness and service in unusual places. Family friends had a very unfortunate car accident on their way to their annual beach vacation. They were traveling in two cars – dad, mom and youngest daughter in the lead and the two teenagers following behind. Traffic came to sudden and complete stop and the teens ran into the back of their parents car at a pretty high rate of speed. The girls were shaken and banged up but thankfully no real serious injuries. The car was a total loss. The parent’s car had rear end damage that needed attention in order to continue to the beach.

Here’s where the kindness comes in Sgt. Jason L. Johnson, Georgia State Patrol, Post Commander, Post 25, Grovetown was the only trooper on duty in a five county area. He reported to the accident and turned into a real hero. After doing the needed paperwork, he led them to the closest dealership for bumper and rear light repair so they could drive the car safely. It was a Saturday. Sgt. Johnson went into the dealership and quickly assessed they had no interest in staying open past the normal closing time of 1pm. This did not deter the trooper. He got on the radio and called ahead to another dealership in Augusta 30 miles down the road. He then went back to the shaken up and shocked family to let them in on the game plan. The Augusta dealership was expecting them and ready to help with any and all repairs. He followed them down the road 30 miles and made certain all was as he promised. Our friends were in great hands with Sgt. Johnson who understood how to truly serve.

Kindness continued to prevail during their trip. While at the beach recovering and relaxing, my friend returned to the rental home and found a real surprise. Sitting on the counter is a lovely cake iced with the words, “Thank you”. This note was attached – “We heard you had a tough time getting here. We also wanted to thank you for sharing your 19th year of vacationing at Sunset Beach, NC with us. We are happy you made it and wanted to show our appreciation.”

How cool is that? She is uncertain how this property management company found out about the accident so you can imagine her surprise. Another example of a person doing the right thing – being kind and serving the customer.

The lesson for all of us – Kindness and a true spirit of service will work every time. Now go and deliver some kindness today.

Monday, August 16, 2010

First Time Clients Only

It doesn’t get any better than when a colleague sends me her recent customer experience. It is best if I let you hear it from her –

“I made an appointment to get my hair cut a week ago because I received a 50% off  coupon for the salon I’ve been going to for 6 years, 2 – 3 times a year. After my hair cut, I was informed the coupon was good for “first time clients only.” Sure enough, it was there in the fine print, so I paid full price. I can accept the fact that I should have looked at it more closely, but it made me think – why are they willing to give a discount for a new client, but not honor it for me, a loyal client of 6 years! Of course, all businesses are trying to lure new customers, but something about this just felt wrong and it certainly did not produce a favorable customer experience. If they had honored the coupon this one time, or even said we’ll give you 25% off, I would have been thrilled and walked away extremely happy, ready to tell all my girlfriends what wonderful service my salon has!

Also, as I gave the front desk person my debit card to pay, I asked if she would add the tip, as I had always done in the past. She said, “By the way, we’re not supposed to accept tip via credit card any more. Next time, you need to bring cash for that.” I said, “Sorry, I don’t have any cash on me right now. Why didn’t they let me know about this change when I made the appointment?”

Long story short, I left the salon thinking, I’m not sure if I’ll go back. Maybe I will ask friends if they have any other great places to recommend. It would have been so easy to keep a loyal customer happy, yet they seemed more concerned with bringing in new clients.”

Michele is right. Many of you have had a very similar experience to this. Most companies are more concerned with attracting new customers than they are with keeping current ones loyal. Where is the common sense in this experience? Your current customers are more valuable and they are less expensive to serve. Research tells you loyal customers are more likely to try new products and services and even pay a premium. They are your best referral source.

So what is your lesson for this story –

Should the coupon be for all customers?
Do your team members know what to do when faced with a similar situation?
How hard are you working to keep current customers?
What does this type of mistake cost you? 
Even think about the customers who overheard this salon transaction.

Here is my recommendation – Be fair, be respectful. Customers are hard to get so work even harder to keep them.