Imposing rules that keep your staff from helping.
Denying them the tools to actually do their jobs.
And lastly, replacing the tools with phrases that sound helpful but aren’t.
Luckily, not all businesses work like that. We’ve been searching out examples of delightful customer interactions that had very little to do with handbooks - and everything to do with a service mentality and culture.
So here’s a small roundup of inspiring stories of employees dealing with customer problems in unusual ways. Enjoy!
One afternoon just before Christmas in 2009, High Wycombe is hit by a sudden blizzard. Roughly 100 people end up stranded in the John Lewis store, unable to get home. What happens next, is unbelievable: The store team mobilises all available resources and organises an in-store sleepover, effectively turning the bed department into an impromptu B&B.
We simply LOVED this when we heard about it. So we interviewed Deborah Strazza, the store manager. There was such mojo in her telling of the story that we turned the recording into an 'audiodeck". If you can't view the story here, you can also find it on the Prezi website.
This one became a bit of an internet sensation when it went viral. “Captain Mike Mears of the good ship Netflix” and customer “LT Norm” conducted an entire support conversation as characters from Star Trek.
They never fall out of character and their dialogue is a delightful read, complete with trekkie in-jokes, and using language of different military ranks discussing an engineering problem. An amazing example of a real connect between company and customer - and a refreshing shift away from soulless support conversations clicked together from boilerplate text.
A son flying home as an unaccompanied minor calls his dad during a layover at Chicago O’Hare and says that he’s broke, and hungry.
The dad tells him to go to an airport restaurant, explain the situation and ask them to take his card details over the phone, so he can pay for a meal. The kid tries several places. One after another refuses.
Until the Wolfgang Puck restaurant. They can’t take payment over the phone either. But they suggest he send his son in – and they’ll feed him, for free. Just like that. “Don’t worry about paying for the meal. Just do something nice for somebody else.”
When we read the father’s account, we contacted Iris and Sarah, who were on shift that day. They said there was nothing extraordinary about offering a sandwich on the house. It was just “listening to the customer and switching on human being mode”. Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
An odd one, as the customer’s request was designed to be impossible to deliver. But that makes the solution even more fantastic:
Jia Jiang is a businessman with a plan for one crazy request a day. The idea is to steel himself against rejection. This day’s task: go to Krispy Kreme and demand a custom set of donuts, glazed and arranged to represent the Olympic logo. And ready in 15 minutes.
That day, he fails to achieve his rejection goal. Jackie from Krispy Kreme takes his order and sketches out a plan. She explains how she’ll go about it. She even googles the correct colours for him. And when he can’t believe she’s actually created a donut Olympic logo, she doesn’t even accept any payment. You can watch the entire video here.
Jia Jiang was humbled by her initiative, and Jackie was overwhelmed by the response the video got. When she was interviewed, she said “when a customer wants something special, and it’s within my power to do that, for me that’s an artistic challenge.”
Not all customer interactions can be delightful. Every business has its standard requests and ways of handling them.
But what these stories show is that unique solutions aren’t rocket science. There are a million ways to deliver experiences that are personal, meaningful, creative, funny, resourceful, and warm. (And even better, everyone seemed to be having a blast.) All it takes are:
Improving customer service isn't easy, yes, technology can help, but great customer service stories come down to a great service culture that hires people for their empathy – then lets them do their jobs.
Once that kind of culture is in place, unique service isn’t about driving down costs or defending against the few customers who intend to take advantage – it’s a hugely satisfying job for ‘people people’ and an amazing opportunity for a business to build a reputation, one interaction at a time.
Unfortunately, chances to personally delight customers during unforeseen blizzards are once-in-a-lifetime. Customers demanding spot-on service across all channels are a reality. Download Multi-Channel Customer Service: Into The Bright Future and read about 5 steps that will get your service machine ready for now.