What you give to customers doesn’t have to be limited by your budget. While some of these stories come from big companies with leeway to offer free products, the underlying message is that customer service reps should personalize their interactions with consumers in order to facilitate a genuine connection. You don’t have to offer a free steak or discounted clothing to make patrons feel appreciated. Zappo’s customer service stories prove that they do more than sell and deliver shoes. Or look to online services like Instant Checkmate for an example of accessible customer support—even if it’s to offer ways to cancel their services. Something as simple as friendly service, thorough answers, and transparency will show your customers that you’re in the business of serving them—not of pinching money from them.
1. Trader Joe’s
An 89-year-old grandfather was snowed in and didn’t have much food left for cooking meals. His daughter called some markets in the area to ask about grocery delivery services, and Trader Joe’s was the only store that said they did. If you’ve shopped at TJ’s, you know that’s not true. But they wanted to help out the WWII vet, so the daughter placed an order while a TJ’s rep suggested other items to go along with her purchase. (Her dad was on a low-sodium diet.) The groceries were delivered within 30 minutes, at no charge to the family. It’s a sweet story with a funny ending: The grandfather was so thankful for the food delivery that he tried to get out of his apartment to personally thank the TJ’s staff.
2. Morton’s Steakhouse
Peter Shankman had a long day of traveling ahead of him. A loyal patron of Morton’s Steakhouse (he was also on a diet), he felt his long day called for some steak. He jokingly sent out a tweet: “Hey, @Mortons – can you meet me at newark airport with a porterhouse when I land in two hours? K, thanks. :).” Of course he was being facetious, like saying, “Hey winter, stop snowing. K thanks.” But to his surprise, a tuxedoed man showed up at the airport with a giant dinner, including a 24-ounce porterhouse steak. Shankman was so overwhelmed, he told the whole story in his blog. Kudos to Morton’s for recognizing the value in appreciating loyal customers, and for having a PR team that can quickly comb through and respond to Morton-related tweets.
3. Office Depot
A customer’s mother collected a mishmash of typed pages and scrambled photos, and took them into Office Depot to have them put together into a memory book for her four children. In a week, staff had created a beautiful photo book for the family. Considering Office Depot is an office supply store, and not a photo album or stationery store that provides assistance with making albums, the staff here offered a service that went beyond their expected job duties.
4. The Dollar Tree
This company was able to turn what started as poor service into an example of excellent customer care (and very effective damage control). A family went shopping at the Dollar Tree and were given what the dad called “egregious” treatment by the store manager. He sent off a very harsh email through the company’s website, then forwarded the message to the email addresses of the top corporate execs. By the end of the day, he had a voicemail and email response from one the execs, as well as the regional manager for the stores in the Portland area where he lived. The Portland regional manager apologized and promised to take corrective action. He also promised to stop by the man’s house with gift baskets as a way to apologize for the incident. He made an appointment so that he’d stop by when the family was home. He brought two gift baskets that had been hand-selected for each of the family members that had been at the store. This move turned an angry customer into a thankful one—so much so that he publicized the story in his blog to thank The Dollar Tree.
As a customer service rep for a major brand based in Chicago, Julia Bryant has heard her fair share of tremendous and terrible employee-to-customer interactions. She likes to end her days on a good note, so she likes to focus on the positive stories that come out of customer service departments.
Photo credit: Jon Ashcroft