You Shared Your Stand-Out Customer Experiences: Best and Worst!

We recently asked our Customer Service Revolution Consortium to submit their best customer service experience stories…and their worst. We wanted to examine whether there were any common themes that made those good experiences especially good, and bad ones not so good. What did we find?

It will come as no surprise that, over and over again, we discovered that with our ‘good experience’ submissions, our Revolutionaries felt personally cared for. So much so that their interactions resulted in a connection that drove long-term brand loyalty. And, interestingly enough, a large percentage of the good experiences submitted occurred in a face-to-face channel.

What about the ‘bad experience’ submissions? The theme that emerged was that of feeling mistreated and uncared for by a series of customer care providers who just didn’t listen—who didn’t take the extra steps to make a personal connection. Most of those situations escalated to the point of heightened frustration for issues that could (and should!) have been simply rectified. And, those worst experiences ultimately killed any brand loyalty that may have been built prior to the offending event. Finally, a large majority of our worst experiences also happened in person vs. an omnichannel option (e.x., phone, online, texting, chatting, self-service).

In the end, regardless of channel, it seems memorable customer experiences—good and bad—boil down to empathy. Which begs the question: How do you select and equip your Customer Care Experts in a way that lands your desired brand experience?

With that said, and without further ado, here are the winning submissions!

Winner of Best Customer Experience: Fred Hamilton, Regis Corporation
Unreasonable Customer Loyalty

My co-workers recently did a double-take walking by my cubicle. A large empty suitcase with a badly broken wheel had been delivered and took up a good part of my desk. Practically everyone asked something like, “So where are you moving to? New job or something??” I eventually put a note on the bag explaining that no, I was staying put in Minnesota. My daughter at college in Vermont shipped the bag back to me so that I could get it repaired.

That makes no sense! Don’t they have luggage repair shops in Vermont? Why go through the hassle and expense of shipping it back to get fixed? Well, besides low shipping rates through my employer, I realized my actions were based on unreasonable customer loyalty.

For over 7 years I’ve used the same local, independent luggage shop for new luggage and repairs. It’s not close to me, but one experience long ago had me hooked…

How it Started

In 2008, a TravelPro carry-on bag I ordered online arrived incomplete. It was missing the inner suit hanger. The online merchant sent me a complete replacement and told me to keep the incomplete bag. Well thank you very much! I ordered the missing suit hanger, put it in Bag #1, and now had TWO complete, brand new TravelPro carry-on bags. I only needed one.

And an unreasonably loyal customer is created.

I brought Bag #1 to the independent luggage shop by my office at the time. I explained the situation to the owner and proposed this: Let me trade my new TravelPro for a smaller TravelPro. He looked at my bag, and we did the swap on the spot. No forms, no policies, no hassles – just a handshake and two people much better off than they were before.

How much loyalty do you think I’ve had for this business owner since then? I’ve been told it’s an unreasonable amount, and it feels great! I would bet the owner doesn’t even remember our luggage swap – it was for him just running a business the right way.


Winner of Worst Customer Experience

(We’re withholding the submitter’s name (as well as the offending company’s name) on their request. Why? “If ever I need to partner with, contract for, or work for [this international car rental company], I think this may not be their best experience either.”)

My wife and I took a trip to Ireland in 2005 right before starting our family. We spent a few days in Dublin, and would spend the rest of the two weeks driving around Ireland. So we go to the International Car Rental Company rental office and were directed to the parking lot. As I started to drive the car to the exit of the lot, I noticed that the clutch (it was a manual; pretty standard in Europe) was VERY stiff. By the time I hit the exit itself, there was smoke coming up from under the hood. Realizing that was a bad thing, I swung a U-turn and headed back to the rental office. I described what happened, and asked for a new car. We were told to wait. After about 45 min of waiting (no context, no next steps, just waiting) a manager came out and declared “well, the clutch is gone out on that car!”  I shared that didn’t surprise me since the clutch was acting up when I put it into gear, and asked again if we could get a different vehicle and be on or way.

At this point, I was a bit annoyed, but here’s when things took a crazy turn. He essentially blamed me for destroying the clutch. I was amazed. I calmly told him that I at most drove the car for less than a minute and probably less than 100 meters. You can grind gears in that short of time, but you can’t ruin an entire clutch or transmission. After debating this back and forth – we finally got a different vehicle and went on our way. Two weeks of driving around Ireland insured and it was awesome. When I returned the car at the rental office, the man checking in our car directed me back to the office. You guessed it – they wanted to blame me for the clutch again on car #1. After explaining that I had only driven that car for a minute – and that the driver PRIOR to me might be to blame, they finally let us go on our way (which was good, because if we’d stayed any longer we would have missed our flight back home – and that would have been awful).

The icing on the cake for this story? About 3 weeks after our trip – we received a charge for $1200 USD from International Car Rental Company due to the clutch being gone on Car #1. Unbelievable!


Thank you to all our Revolutionaries for submitting their stories! And, we look forward to seeing you all at our next Customer Service Revolution event on November 2nd, where we tackle the very timely topic of Social Listening and Service Recovery. Don’t forget to register to save your spot: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/social-listening-and-service-recovery-registration-38506541101?mc_eid=8f374e37b5&mc_cid=52ca0c77ae

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Andrea Pohlman

Customer Service Management Strategy & Solution Leader, AERITAE