The big picture in customer service

John Parker
John Parker

This month we’re going to look at two examples of customer service and why it’s important for employees to be aware of the big picture when dealing with customers and preserving the company’s reputation.

Both incidents were described in a recent customer service training seminar.

Bridal suite mixup

The young groom lifted up his bride to carry her across the threshold of their luxurious five-star resort honeymoon suite. Laughing, his bride unlocked the door and together they pushed it open.

Startled screams and shouts arose out of the other honeymoon couple, who had been assigned to the room just 45 minutes earlier. The distressed couple at the door fled. An outraged phone call from the groom-in-the-room followed.

The front desk immediately informed Bill, the hotel’s guest services supervisor, of  the awful news that they had mistakenly assigned the same suite to two couples.

Bill gathered his courage and knocked at the bridal suite door. The angry husband stood in the open door verbally raging and repeatedly poked his finger on Bill’s chest.

Bill lowered his arms and nodded his head to send every body-language message of actively listening he could muster as the irate guest got it all out. Bill didn’t defend the hotel and fully agreed that there was no excuse for the unspeakable error.

At the right moment Bill recalled their history together saying, “You chose to celebrate your honeymoon with us because of the faith you have in our resort. You chose us because you knew this was the best honeymoon resort in the world.”

The frowning man reluctantly nodded his head in agreement. Then Bill, on the spot, made it clear that the hotel would pay for all nine days of the couple’s stay and would cover all meals in the resort restaurants or, if they chose, by room service.

The husband leaned around the door to check with his distraught but attentive bride. Sniffling and wiping away tears she also managed a smile while nodding in agreement.

Bill and the husband shook hands. Amazingly, the man even thanked Bill for helping them through the embarrassing incident.

Someone in our service excellence training event asked Bill if he was authorized to give all the hotel comps away.

“No and yes,” Bill explained. “No, there is nothing written down about how much I could comp the couple.  Yes, our brand and customer service purpose are so valuable that I knew it would be fine.”

He added, “The next day my manager thanked me and simply asked if I thought it would be good for him to make contact the couple with an apology as well. I said yes, and that’s what he did.”

The Zorro and Batman suits

Bill told a second story to drive his point home. He’d purchased a Zorro costume for his young son to wear for Halloween.

Later, the boy changed his mind and wanted to be Batman. On Bill’s way home from work the next day, he went in to make the exchange.

The same service representative was at the counter and remembered Bill. While making the exchange, she asked for the receipt which Bill had forgotten at home over 30 minutes away.

“You remember me, right? You know I bought this suit here from you, right?” Bill asked hopefully.

“Yes, I do,” the clerk smiled. “But you still need a receipt. It’s company policy. Sorry, there’s nothing I can do.”

Purpose or policy?

The point of both stories is the same. In both cases, the company brand and service reputation are at stake.

In Bill’s hotel story, company brand and service aligned with company policy. The policy was to protect the five-star brand and service with wisdom and integrity.

In Bill’s costume exchange story, company policy completely dominated the company’s purpose. Instead of simply documenting why the exchange lacked a receipt the clerk did the “right thing” which became the wrong thing for her company’s brand and service.

The resort hotel won more stars and a story. The costume store lost stars and, sadly, its story gets told too.

What great service recovery stories do you have?  What stories are being told about your company’s customer service and brand? What is your next step for service excellence?

Finally, is your brand and service purpose in charge of your policies — or is it the other way around?

John Parker is a customer service expert with Professional Development Adventures and an instructor for the UC Davis Center for Human Services. You can reach him at [email protected]


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