Two months ago, I wrote about a poor customer experience that led me to consider dropping a car service I had used happily for 15 years in favor of an alternate ride-hailing service like Uber. The other day I had the opposite experience, which led me to ruminate on how really simple it is to provide good customer service, and how even someone on the lower rungs of a corporate ladder can have a big influence.
While making last-minute preparations for a trip to Shareholders Services Group’s annual conference for its RIAs in San Diego, I realized I hadn’t booked a room. A quick search on the conference hotel’s site found some available rooms, like a two-story suite for $764 a night. That wouldn’t work. But maybe my frequent-stayer membership at the hotel chain could get me a cheaper room. Unfortunately, while I had my membership number, the affinity site told me my account had been suspended for non-activity. The only way to get back in its (SPG Starwood’s) good graces was to call the customer service number and speak with a representative. My heart fell. Who wants to stay on hold for 15 minutes to talk to someone with a bad accent or a bad attitude? But I called.
Alex (his actual name) answered the phone and was pleasant enough at first. I knew my password, but then he asked me for my verbal password. What could that be, I wondered, before deciding it had to be one of my fallback passwords: some variant of my dog’s name, of course! I supplied it, Alex said yes, that was right, and then came the customer service gold medal question: “What kind of dog is Arwen?” Alex asked. (“Arwen” is not my dog’s real name; I practice good password security, after all.)
I told him my dog’s provenance (a pit bull mix; that’s the breed you find in dog pounds these days) and we proceeded with our business at hand.
It took Alex about five seconds to ask about my dog, but that’s all the time it took to make me really like him and the company he represented. What this no-doubt harried customer service rep delivered was a very small thing, with very little time and effort involved, yet it paid and will pay dividends for his company for some time.