Recently, I met up with a friend for drinks, and she asked me to recommend some new apps. (With friends like these, who wants to spend all day combing through AppStore reviews?)
“You always have good apps,” she said. “What’s your favorite these days?”
Before I reveal it, let’s take a step back. Here at Salesforce, we write a lot about customer service. And I can’t deny that, on occasion, I’ve wondered about these seemingly pie-in-the-sky stories in which a customer is so excited about the product or the service that she goes around telling her friends about customer service. I mean, seriously—who talks about that?
I do, apparently. As my unsuspecting friend sipped her wine, I proceeded to launch into the following story:
A few weeks ago, my husband and I ordered food from Sprig. If you don’t know it, Sprig is a food delivery service that offers three plates each at lunch and dinner. They deliver almost anywhere in San Francisco for a set price of $2, and each meal is priced the same ($9 for lunch, $11 for dinner). Every day, the meal options are uniformly healthy yet hearty—braised lamb with polenta cakes and zucchini, vegetarian lasagna, chicken cacciatore, etc.—and are usually delivered by a smiling bike messenger. It’s a great option for busy professionals without the time (read: inclination) to pull together a meal.
Anyway, on this particular night, both my husband and I worked late, and there wasn’t much food in the house, so we ordered from Sprig. But the food didn’t come...and didn’t come...and still didn’t come. We received a couple of text messages indicating that there had been a delay, but eventually we began to wonder if our food would arrive at all.
Finally, it did, and we were too hungry and tired to bother to complain. We assumed something had gone wrong and went on with our lives, slightly less inclined to order from Sprig in the future.
But the following day, I got an email from someone named Kim:
Just wanted to reach out and follow up on your order from last night. Very sorry for the late delivery, we were a little backed up on orders. I’d like to offer a free meal on us as a consolation. We don’t have promo codes yet, so just reply to this email next time you order and we’ll comp it in our system. Thanks so much for your patience and hope you still enjoyed the food once it arrived!
I was, quite frankly, floored. I hadn’t complained; as far as they knew, I’d had no problem waiting around for my order. But instead of waiting for me to tell them that the service was subpar or hoping I hadn’t notice, they’d proactively reached out. It made me feel like someone cared—so much so that they were willing to take extra pains to make it right.
Intrigued, I reached out to Sprig’s Ops Team to understand how they’d implemented a culture of proactive service that produced a great customer experience. I got a response the same day, from a guy named Nick, who explained Sprig’s approach to customer service (bolded text is mine):
“It’s more intuitive than anything really. Since we started, we all agreed that the Sprig experience should feel a certain way. We took a lot of cues from our favorite restaurants, and also from our own personal experiences. Having a clear understanding of what ordering and receiving Sprig should feel like makes it easy for our team to empathize with the people who aren’t having that experience...
"Also, within the support team we leave room for a lot of judgment calls. Instead of laying out rigid guidelines to follow, we trust each other to do what feels right and handle each situation in a manner on par with what we would want as a customer… Sometimes that’s a sincere apology, and sometimes it’s a free meal. Because of this we’re able to maintain more authentic, human interactions.”
Well, there you have it: the keys to offering the kind of service that customers actually do tell their friends about. And now that customer service has emerged as the key differentiator among brands — surpassing price and product — it's a lesson every company should pay attention to.