A woman relayed to me that one day she was feeling … well … crap. Her five year old son had a friend over who greeted her with “Gee Mrs Smith, you look lovely today.” And her day suddenly brightened up. That’s all it took.
Often it is the little incidental, trivial things that make all the difference; especially so when it comes to customer service.
Australians love to complain about customer service – just peruse the letters section in the Saturday Herald or Age travel section for great vitriol. Or more precisely, when it comes to customer service they like to complain about the lack-their-of. Just introduce the topic and off they go.
When discussing the flip-side, that is good service experiences, something interesting becomes apparent. It doesn’t take much effort on behalf of a company for a customer service experience to be a positive one. And having a good experience is so at odds with negative expectations that the experience is lasting and leads consumers to rave about it.
Two examples might put this into perspective:
In one group we were discussing mortgages and home buying. One man relayed that he’d recently settled on what most people would consider to be an expensive property. The real estate agent sent him a bottle of champagne in congratulations. “I know they’ve got a cellar full of them, probably, and send these to everyone, but still, it was such a nice thing to do I couldn’t help but be impressed,” was his response.
In another discussion with business people the topic turned to flying. It seems that that the little kit they hand out in business class goes a long way. Even though they are paying thousands extra for the privilege of travelling in comfort they could not help but get excited by this little package containing a tooth brush, an eye mask and socks. “Rationally I understand I pay for it and it’s not much, but I love getting it and going through it,” one said. “It’s the same at fancy hotels,” said another. “You get back to your room and there’s a beautiful chocolate waiting for you.”
AAMI insurance is often commented on positively for their customer service. While all insurers will repair your car (or you hope they do) and probably offer a taxi fair to their service centres, AAMI will phone the day after the car has been picked up to ensure everything is okay, just to check in.
Companies tend to focus on high quality, product or service attributes and price – and for good reason. But beyond these, sometimes a small effort can make a lot of difference to creating a positive brand experience and perceptions.
One mum spoke of going to a supermarket with her toddler. “A nightmare experience,” she said to the concurrence of everyone in the room. “But at one store there was someone at the door handing out balloons. My child’s hand was occupied stopping him from grabbing everything in the aisles.” And a balloon costs what? A couple of cents?