It’s the proverbial man-bites-dog story for consumer reporters: an over-the-top customer service experience in which an employee goes the extra mile.
It’s even more rare — on the order of man-bites-man — to find a proven way to extract the very best service from employees.
I won’t mince words. Men are not biting men. But a series of recent stories and one reader’s experience give me hope that it’s possible.
In other words, you could get superior service every time you go to the store or log on to your computer to go shopping.
Beam me up, Netflix
If you’re a Star Trek fan, you’ve probably already seen the funny IM chat transcript between Captain Mike of the good ship Netflix and another fan.
It’s been described as the best customer service “ever” by the person seeking help with getting a good picture on an episode of Parks and Recreation.
If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s playful, humorous and more importantly, it gets the job done.
The most problematic part of the incident came in the comments, where another customer service rep confessed the company he works for would fire him if he engaged in that kind of light-hearted banter with a customer.
Truth is, the interaction was infinitely better because the Netflix customer service rep was allowed to be himself.
There’s a lesson in here for the rest of us. By acknowledging the humanity of employees, we give them permission to be more human.
Do you think Captain Mike of the good ship Netflix was using a script, as many call center workers do? Unlikely.
Give them a chance
Reader Bruce Kane brings us the next story of unexpectedly terrific service. Several weeks ago, he saw a delivery truck driving down the highway erratically.
“He was weaving and failing to maintain his speed,” he recalls. “As I passed him, I could see he was focused on his cell phone.“
Kane honked to warn the driver that he was driving dangerously, but he just sped up and then returned to sending a text message. So Kane emailed the company to let them know.
To his surprise he heard back from the CEO.
“I would like to express my thanks to you for sharing the information pertaining to the lack of safety and professionalism it appears you encountered while following one of our vehicles last evening,” the CEO wrote.
He continued, “It is very unfortunate and something we are truly concerned to hear and it of course has been justly communicated not only with the believed offending party but also with the fleet users who use our vehicles on a daily basis.”
By way of apology, the CEO sent him a $100 gift card.
“My personal thanks for taking the time to share the information and help us rectify a drastically and careless action which could impact our standing with the communities and neighbors who depend on us to protect what matters most to them,” he added.
Kane was shocked by the immediate resolution at the highest level. He wasn’t even expecting anything more than a form acknowledgment. Instead, the CEO apologized. Who would have thought?
But Kane shouldn’t have been surprised. His initial email to the delivery company was brief, cordial and non-accusatory. It simply pointed out the fact that one of its drivers wasn’t meeting the company’s high standards of conduct.
It’s not exactly a novel concept, but giving a company a chance to resolve something is often all it takes to get the best service. Not always, but more often than you think.
Too often, customers jump into a situation expecting the worst. They anticipate a scripted non- answer at best, or a “no” at worst. But the folks who get great service are open to the possibility of getting it.
And sometimes, they do.
Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate who blogs about getting better customer service at On Your Side. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook or send him your questions by email.