In conversation the other evening with the proprietor of a local Guesthouse we were talking about the different levels of expectation amongst visitors of different nationality. Talk about differentiation…!
One notable difference my friend commented upon was that visitors from the United States tended to have very large items of luggage which they unloaded en masse from the car and brought into the B&B. They seemed to have packed for every eventuality he commented. His role? To lug the luggage up to the rooms. In return he sometimes received a tip. Even staying for only one night, every item of baggage is brought into the house and up the stairs. He duly obliges every time, knowing what to expect.
It reminded me of a tale told to me by a taxi driver in Belfast who was doing the Airport run. He complained bitterly about ‘Some Big Yank’ who after being picked up at the airport and driven to the Europa Hotel, expected the taxi driver to then lift his baggage out of the Cab and into the hotel. That being what would happen back home in the US of A and most right thinking places.
But no. Not with this Taxi Driver, the Travis Bickle of Belfast. He of course refused to carry the bag, and complained bitterly that he didn’t receive a tip for the job of driving him. “Lazy big fuckin Yank expected me to lift his bag in so he did… then he didn’t even give me a tip.”
I listened amused – he didn’t realise that by actually carrying the bag he may have received a tip beyond his wildest dreams. Touché.
The customer service culture is one with which we are not entirely comfortable to be honest in this country. There are those companies that do it very well. Some indulge the customer to the point of being overbearing. But, it can be hit and miss.
For others, it is so good it comes across as their natural state and they don’t even appear to be trying. I suppose the acid test is when it comes down to customer complaints. In your business, how do you deal with them?
In Christmas 2010 during the bad weather, I ordered an engraved iPod Nano direct from Apple for my son from Santa Claus. It was ordered more than two weeks ahead of the big day and I was confident Apple wouldn’t let me down. Then of course the bad weather struck with the news full of tales of orders not being fulfilled.
Sure enough Christmas approached and no sign of it. My son aged eight, and still being a believer couldn’t be told that Apple had sent the Nano but Santa hadn’t picked it up on time. No, despite the recessionary times, we took the collective decision to buy a Nano in HMV. I have recently developed the simple approach ‘if you can’t control it, don’t worry about it’ .
I resolved to worry about Apple after Christmas. I assumed the Nano may arrive at some stage. So I range early in the New Year to explain the situation and spoke to a guy from Cork on the helpdesk. I told him I had bought another and was disappointed the original handn’t arrived. I was prepared for an argument to secure a refund.
After running though my details, card number etc, “OK” says the Apply guy. “We’ll refund that OK?”. “What” I spluttered. Gobsmacked. I couldn’t believe it, I hadn’t even asked the question!
It is one of the golden rules of customer service to exceed customer expectations. If you let them down, the relationship has already drifted towards negative equity. Arguing the toss over something when you are already on to a loser isn’t necessarily the best policy.
By taking the wind completely out of my sails, the Apple customer relationship operative (or whatever his official title is) not only exceeded expectations but succeeded in another detail. As a result of his helpfulness and the fact he executed a no quibble policy faultlessly.
He also achieved something else. Since then I have been telling people how good Apple are at customer service. Isn’t that what we all dream of? Word of mouth marketing.
Postscript: I called into the apple store in Belfast. One of the Geniuses working there approached me. Can I help you he asked. Yes, I replied, can you fit some extra memory for my macBook, I have it here. Yes I can he said, but it will cost you about £150. He edged closer and said conspiritorially, my advice is to go online, buy it yourself It’ll cost you about twenty quid, and fit it yourself.
So: iDid, it did, and iDid. iPressive.