I spent the day today as a consumer.
Somewhat urgent family issues called me to Philadelphia for several days - seemed like an interesting opportunity to pay attention to the consumer experience, especially since traveling these days can be such a nuisance. Perhaps there would be some lessons and reminders about customer service.
Lesson 1 - PROVIDING UNNECESSARY SERVICE UNEXPECTEDLY.
A quick drive early in the morning before rush hour brought me to the Long Term Parking facility I have used before - Park Shuttle and Fly off Harbor Drive. I was greeted at the automatic gate in the rain by a friendly young woman offering me the newspaper. She got me my ticket and asked if I had been there before. I had. She wished me a good day. I was impressed.
There was a waiting shuttle in the aisle where I was asked to park; the driver appeared at my car before I had even gotten out asking if I needed help with any luggage. I was impressed.
There were 2 guys on the shuttle, one has clearly asked about a newspaper, so when we pulled up to the exit on the way to the airport the same young woman who had greeted me appeared with a paper for this passenger - the shuttle driver had clearly called ahead. Politeness, smiles, and doing things I didn't expect made for a very impressive customer experience early in the morning. Would I use this company again? You bet. I think they made a great first impression. Something to keep in mind.
Lesson 2 - PLEASANTNESS IN UNPLEASANT PLACES.
Airport security was the next stop. I always expect this to be a pain, since it usually is. I always feel like part of a cattle drive, at the mercy of some ambivalent TSA employee. The day was going well - no line at all. Got everything unloaded, including the shoes (I hate that); the TSA agent politely reminded me to please also include my cell phone. Not a big deal but she was polite about it and gave me a smile. I suppose on busy days things are not so nice. I don't envy these folks these days. We don't have a choice of providers here, but at least the experience can be made a bit better with a little effort.
Lesson 3 - GOING ABOVE AND BEYOND
I upgraded my outside blog on ActiveRain last night...finally. I ran into a couple of issues so I sent Brad Andersohn a late night note. Checked my email on my Blackberry this morning while waiting to board the plane and saw one from Brad (no surprise). I decided to call to chat about the issues...my new domain, and a problem with my theme.
True to form, Brad took charge, changed my theme, and fixed the issue with the new domain that I could not resolve the night before. Since I was having problems with Internet access at the airport, Brad's willingness to fix things on the spot so as to not inconvenience me was a blessing. I give Brad an A+ for service. Sorta what we see regularly on AR. Providing a solution that worked without having to be asked is a good reminder, don't you think?
Brad also said something I thought we should all keep in mind when I complimented him on his service "I enjoy it and it's my job." My retort? Yes, but it is often someone's job but they DON'T do it. (see #5 for a good example).
Lesson 4 - STUCK IN A RUT
I flew US Airways using frequent flyer miles. So I didn't REALLY have a choice. All in all the experience was good. Not great. But then flying these days rarely is (exception -two different flights to San Francisco via Virgin America last year that MADE we tell others about trying them out). Everyone was pleasant, the flight was comfortable and on time (that was a pleasant surprise), but it sure didn't wow me in any way. And now they are charging $1 for coffee? Give me a break. Maybe being stuck in a rut is what happens when some companies don't care about setting themselves apart, or feel there is no competition to worry about. So the service is adequate. But that's it.
Lesson 5 - UNIMPRESSIVE SERVICE
I rented an SUV from Budget Rental to get from the airport to my destination about an hour west of Philly. The shuttle service was efficient - I was lucky and waited less than 2 minutes. The driver was polite. At the rental counter the fellow who helped me did what he was supposed to do. I got what I expected. But the attitude was lousy. Apathetic, no smile, and a total disinterest in what he was doing. Sure the service WAS provided but I felt like I was interfering with his day. He clearly was not enjoying his job and didn't seem to care what I might think. My first impression at this Budget Counter? Lousy. Makes me thinking twice about returning. We'll see what happens when the car is returned on Monday. But they have already blown their chance to impress this consumer. Did I feel special or welcome? Nope, not a bit.
There are too many opportunities in our business to provide excellent service that goes beyond what the client wants, needs or even expects. But also many chances to really blow it. And there is plenty of competition if we do.
Are you seeking opportunities to shine in your service? And mindful of the times when you are not doing the best you can? Sometimes there are things we have to do that one might label drudgery. And clients don't have a choice because it's part of the process. But we can make the experience better if we choose.
NOTE: I just realized that this is POST #1000 on AR. Amazing. Whoda thought I could yap so much.