Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Do No Harm?


Someone said to me recently (only half jokingly) that the definition of “great service” is when nothing goes wrong.

I chuckled along at the time but then I though…wait a minute…

Have we really reached a point of such low expectations that the absence of a negative experience actually counts as a positive one?

I hope not.

Sure "do no harm" might be OK in certain situations, like surgery, where a good outcome is no complications.

But when it comes to brands I think we need to set the bar a little higher.

It made me think of an experience I had not that long ago with Enterprise
Rent-A-Car - where my very low expectations were unexpectedly and stunningly surpassed.

I was returning my car in Florida near the airport. To save money, I had chosen the cheapest option where you return the car with a full tank.

But I was running late and couldn’t find a gas station en route to the car return. I was worried about missing my plane, so I decided to suck it up and return the car half full and pay the exorbitant car rental gas prices.

During my return processing I complained to the Enterprise employee that all the gas stations seemed to be on the wrong side of a particularly hard to navigate divided highway.

I didn’t really expect him to doing anything. I was just blowing off steam.

After all the contract option I had agreed to was “return full”. It was all there in black and white and I was clearly at fault.

To my surprise he offered to waive the extra gas charge.

Then, without me asking, he gave me an extra discount waiving some other fee and decreasing my bill even further then I expected.

He then made sure I had all my belongings and got me on to the shuttle bus and off to meet my plane on time.

I didn’t know what to say.

I stood there with my jaw dropped and continued with this puzzled expression all the way to the boarding gate.

Not only did he not give me a hard time about the gas, he actually went on to delight me with an added benefit of unanticipated savings.

That definitely wasn’t the absence of a negative, it was a plus side experience. One I remember vividly and repeat often.

When you are evaluating your own customer experiences, take a moment to make sure you are not falling in the mediocrity trap.

Are you counting “nothing going wrong” as successful service?

Or are you actually challenging yourself and your team to go to a plus side model, where the standard is surprise and delight?

Take a moment to brainstorm service elements that would catch your customers off guard...in a positive way.

Perhaps even the opposite of what a customer is expecting walking in to a situation.

You might just find that the extra step is worth miles in terms of good will and creating fans, not just customers, for your brand.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

What brands do you think go the extra mile to surprise and delight?

5 comments:

  1. I used to feel that way about Nike until I got a stress fracture from their shoes and had to switch sneaker brands. Honestly, I have not been delighted by a brand in a while. I think often brands get focus-grouped to death and start to cater to the lowest common denominator.

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  2. I had a great experience with YSL recently. I went in there to pick up a purse I had be longing for (and probably spent wayyy too much money on) and really wanted a little accent to go on it. But the least expensive thing they had was a $300 key chain (sheesh!) So a bit disappointed I declined and just bought the bag.
    The sales rep then brought out the bag (beautifully packaged), plus a free bottle of perfume, a free luggage tag, and---all wrapped up in a gift box---the key chain I'd been ogling. She said it was her way of thanking me for my patronage. And needless to say, I've told every girlfriend I have about the bag, and the story.

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  3. Jule@BrandTwist.comMay 15, 2009 at 7:46 AM

    That's a fabulous story! I bet that sales girl was empowered to make decisions like that without checking with her manager. I think that's key to this kind of service, when the front line can read a situation and act on it. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. I had a fabulous experience at YSL as well--I have one of those too expensive bags as well--and it broke! Carrying around my super heavy laptop all over the place, I ripped the lining right out. I wasn’t in the system because the bag was a gift and not only did they accommodate me and fix the bag--they messengered it to me all fixed up with a bow! It was like I was getting a present all over again. One more...

    I was meant to go to Italy in February...but the week I was scheduled to go, my grandfather sadly passed away and I had to postpone. When I called Delta to tell them, they were not only lovely and sympathetic, they waved every fee and the balance of the changed tickets for me! I will always fly Delta!

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  5. Yo, yo.....in your portfolio, Syniverse just lost a major customer (bye, Chad), and its directors and officers are dumping stock hand-over-fist. Re-evaluate, myabe?

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