Paul Fenn

How Much Value is Created by Providing Exceptional Service to your Customers?

DSC00515The other day I had a nice surprise when out of the blue, through my office door marched 6 very nice bottles of wine, sent to me by an old customer, Kim and Gary Baright. Kim and Gary had purchased a Prestige 46 from us back in 2007; it may have been the first one sold in the USA. I remember them well, they fell in love with their boat right from the start and named it “Our Three Buoys” after their three sons. My first thought was, wow this is a pretty nice gift, ideally suited for someone who firmly believes that life is too short not to finish the bottle. My second thought was, what had I done to deserve something as nice as being given 6 bottles of good quality vino, especially from someone who had purchased a boat 6 years ago? I hadn’t talked with Gary and Kim in some time but it made me happy to know that they were still enjoying their boat and more importantly, still satisfied customers.

We talk a lot in our office about customer service and what we can do to be more customer-centric. I happen to be one of those people who really love being a satisfied customer. I know that sounds simplistic and obvious, but I really do. And, when I am made to feel special, I become extremely loyal to those companies and brands who made me feel that way.

A favorite company of mine is Southwest Airlines. I love these guys, they make air travel simple, easy and manage to throw a little fun into the mix along the way. I remember one time I was taking a 6 am flight out of Detroit back to Baltimore specifically so I could make it to my office by 9. It was the first flight to go, hence no reason for any delays right? Unfortunately, not this time.

It was February and it had snowed during the night. Our plane had not been parked at the gate the night before but rather left out in the field somewhere. When they went to move it to the gate, they learned that they were stuck and needed help getting unstuck. This took some time and caused the first of many delays.

Once on board and settled, the pilot hustled us over to the de-icing station but because we were now off-schedule, we found ourselves in a long line of other planes also waiting to be de-iced. OK I thought, this is taking longer than expected but if we can get out of here in the next 15 minutes or so, I can still make it to the office by 10 am. Finally, after more like 30 minutes, the guys with the guns started hosing us down. By this time, we were easily an hour behind schedule and although some of the passengers were growing impatient, the flight attendants (always good-natured) were doing a great job of keeping everyone as happy as possible.

SWA SnowSo the guys with guns are outside shooting away when all of a sudden, “boom” everything shuts down; the engines, the air conditioning, the lights, everything. Everything goes down and we are left sitting quietly in the dark.

The pilot comes out and has to shout to be heard because the intercom has also gone out. “No need for concern folks” he said. “It seems one of the guys outside got a little over zealous with his de-icing gun and managed to fire some de-icing agent up our tail pipe which knocked out our computer system. Just as soon as we re-boot the system, which will only take a few minutes, we’ll be on our way to Baltimore.” By this time, the situation had become completely humourous with many of the passengers actually laughing out loud.

After several minutes, with still no power, the pilot sheepishly comes out to once again, address the troops. “Folks” he says, “we’ve been trying to re-boot the system but haven’t been able to, so we have a service crew on their way out to essentially give us a jump.” These words are met with true side-splitting laughter at what has now become a scene right out of Candid Camera. It was truly priceless!

We eventually made it off the ground and back to Baltimore. All together, we arrived 3 hours or so behind schedule. The next day, I received an e-mail from Southwest that read something like this:

“We would like to begin by apologizing for the trouble we may have caused you and your fellow passengers on your recent flight with us. While some of the problems were weather related, others were clearly ours and we should have done better. To make it up to you, we would like to present you with the attached voucher good for a free SWA flight.”

SWA Mission

I was completely blown away by Southwest’s level of customer service in an effort to make me happy. In my view, it was completely unnecessary since I viewed the entire mishap to be weather related and out of Southwest’s control. Their gesture cost the company a lot of money and believe me it didn’t go unnoticed. As a result, I always fly Southwest, always!

So, how much value is created by providing exceptional service to your customers? I guess I answered my own question, A LOT! And, if you’re lucky and play your cards right, your customers might just surprise you and send you a really nice collection of good wine!

On we go….

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