Why We Love Customer Service Stories at Small Businesses
Fri, 24 May 2019, in Customer Service
Since customer service is such a routine (and sometimes dreadful) experience in our lives, we love hearing about companies that break all the rules of the game. Stories that turn ordinary situations into extraordinary, into something short of miraculous. Stories that turn regular people into heroes. Stories that, in a way, make us feel that anything ins possible.
Indeed, there seem to be no shortage of awesome customer service stories, some even a few years old, that continue making rounds on social media, or talked about on a random blog on entrepreneurship.
Zappos held a 10 hour support call over the phone
Zappos has long been known for its customer service. They took it to a new level when one support call lasted for over 10 hours and 29 minutes. Eventually, the phone call resulted in a shoe purchase, but the many subjects of the conversation still remain a mystery to us.
Sainsbury renamed their Tiger Bread to Giraffe Bread
Three year old Lily wrote in to Sainsbury’s (a UK supermarket chain) concerned about the tiger bread having the spots of a giraffe. Chris King, a customer service representative responded, agreeing with her. Months later the chain renamed their tiger bread to giraffe bread.
Mortons steakhouse offers a steak to an airline passenger
Peter Shankman once, as a joke, tweeted that Mortons steakhouse should meet him at Newark Airport with a steak when he lands there. Indeed, two hours later, a Mortons representative came to meet Peter with a steak, shrimp, side potatoes and bread. This story immediately blew up on social media.
Tampa Bay International Airport staff gives tiger Hobbes an adventure
Six year old Owen lost his favorite toy Hobbes at the Tampa Bay Airport, but the staff had something else on their mind when they found it. Employees took picture of Hobbes at different places in the airport and quickly made a photo album of his adventures before returning the toy.
What’s common between the stories above?
Two things stand out: they’re definitely not everyday events and didn’t take place at a small business. While no question that they are inspiring and beneficial (bringing positive word of mouth), how are these stories interpreted by customers, managers and business owners, particularly in the context of today’s customer expectations?
After all, if customers expect support staff to break policies in the name of wow-ing them, it could set a dangerous precedent. First, it normalizes exemplary, unattainable service as something ordinary and attainable. Second, it prioritizes needs of one customer over the majority. Third, it removes the brand from the equation. What is the brand’s (or even the manager’s) take on the fact that a frontline support rep went above and beyond their responsibilities, are they empowered to do so or was an invisible boundary crossed? It’s difficult to tell looking at the situation from the outside in.
What makes small businesseses different?
A customer service story involving a large corporation or a chain restaurant can end up making a superhero out of one customer. A small business makes a hero out of everyone.
Why? It all just sounds more realistic to us. We assume a small business has a smaller team of people similar to us. We think they’ll be offering more sincere, human service. Most importantly, it proves that one doesn’t need a multi-million marketing budget to offer great support.
I had just ordered prescription food for my old cat. Then my cat suddenly passed away. I was heartbroken. I was wondering if I could now return all this food given that the box was unopened. After I contacted the store I noticed on their return policy that they didn’t accept returns on prescription foods. The agent wrote back saying they would be more than happy to credit me in full and their one request was that I donate the food to my local animal shelter. I started to cry – in such a dark time of my life, someone had shown such incredible empathy. It made getting past the death just a little bit easier.I told all my friends about this experience and they were blown away. One of them even signed up for auto-ship after!– Alaina from advicemedia
A veteran came into our clinic. He had been to a few different clinics before and by the time he had his appointment with us, he was understandably frustrated. He started with something like, I know y’all don’t care about me and I’m just another number to you, so do whatever you have to do. Instead of proceeding with my normal assessment routine, I sat down across from him and asked him question: what’s going on? How has that made you feel? He opened up in a way that I didn’t anticipate or was prepared for. By the end of our appointment, he went from crying, to smiling and laughing..As he headed out of the clinic that afternoon he said, Thanks. This has been different. You really care about us here.– Rafael from Rehab U Practice Solutions
I am a project manager for a commercial painting contractor and was using one paint supplier. While I was managing a job, it was becoming obvious that we were running short on paint. With seemingly no way out, I decided to call my paint rep over the weekend. And even though it was his day off, he managed get a rush delivery sent to the job site on the spot. This pretty much saved the job. When someone goes out of their way so you make your own customer happy, that’s definitely an unforgettable moment of great customer service.It was unforgettable. His actions pretty much saved the job. – Jeff from Penn Coat Inc.
A long time ago there was this tiny dry cleaner place with one elderly Italian gentleman as the owner. When he saw your car pull up, he would go to the back and get your clothes, so by the time you entered his store, your bundle was ready to be picked up. Never mind the pink slip which was in your other pocket or other coat, he knew what was yours and always had it ready for you. It was truly out of this world. This level of care and customer service I’ve never seen before.There was one dry cleaner who was different from the rest.– Adeodata from Business of Manners
There was an 86-year-old man, who was in search of a VCR so he could play his old VHS tapes reminding of his younger days. He signed up for eBay for the first time in his life. To his surprise, he found a guy in Phoenix who was selling his VCR player. The old man purchased it for $40. While most buyers usually leave an online review, the seller was surprised when he received a letter of appreciation in the mail. The man wrote that he was able to watch his life events including his retirement party and even his wedding that included appearances from family and friends, many of which are no longer around.I never thought that selling a VCR could mean so much.– Nooria from GigWorker
In Mississippi there’s a locally owned restaurant called Taste of Detroit that I had heard about and decided to try. I went in, but from the moment I met the manager, John, I knew this place was something special. The way he engaged with the customers, checked in on them personally and actually tried to get to know people impressed me. During our conversation he found out I hosted book events and said that if we wanted to have our events there and were getting food we could use the place at no additional charge. I remembered that and it made me want to do what I could to help promote his business.A local restaurant with a desire to listen and help out.– Curys from Curys Webb
Some time ago I worked with guitar majors at a nearby university. Most students lived on campus—making getting their guitar serviced difficult—so I offered to make repairs in the field. Piano technicians make house calls regularly: why couldn’t guitar technicians? My customers turned out to love the ease and convenience it provided. As a final note, excellent customer service starts with being present, simple as that. Turn the radio down, put away the phone or computer, and acknowledge the customer as another person with valid needs similar to yours.Simply be present and listen. Make it easy for the customer.– Nathan from Learning to Speak Guitar
Years ago, I planned a Mad Hatter birthday tea party at a hotel. The catering manager suggested that the party be on the outdoor terrace. On the day of the party, however, the weather was abysmal. So she took it upon herself and surrounded the ballroom with 8-foot-high hedges. She completed the picture with one long table for 70 people with a great big ornate chair at one end for the Birthday Boy. Best of all, when the party was over, she presented me with a shopping bag of gifts, and, seeing that I was too busy to eat much, several boxes of goodies from the event.This catering manager (literally) made the day brighter.– Allen Klein from Mango Publishing and VivaEditions
At one fast food place, my to-go order of fries didn’t have the cheese I had ordered on them so I went to the counter and asked for the cheese. The worker apologized and got out an entire new tray of fries, put fresh cheese on top, then told me to keep both. Little did I know, the company really overdelivered. When I got home I saw my fries had a tiny to-go cup of cheese. I ended up getting two cheese fries for the price of one, based on a mistake I made combined with their no-questions, great customer service.This catering manager (literally) made the day brighter.– Stacy from Stacy Caprio
Small business stories have a way of sticking with us. It’s that human touch, that individual approach, it’s the simple fact that the company owner can directly interact with the customer.
Most of what we hear we rightly assume was conceived and executed by frontline staff. But let’s not forget about the role company culture plays in this, too. Even at a small business, it takes a level of leadership to let employees in on it. This means establishing a culture that either taught such employee behavior, or empowered them to make certain support decisions using their own judgement.
What are some of the ways you can give your customers an unforgettable experience?
Tags: customer service