When Were You (Happily) Surprised By Customer Service?

Natalie L. Petouhoff, Ph.D. By Dr. Natalie Petouhoff

I was getting ready to go to the Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on April 1st when I realized alot of the hotels were already booked. Not sure where to stay, a friend suggested I call the Pick Wick Hotel. If you haven't met me before, you know I believe companies live or die by their customer service. They had rooms. Whew! Holding my breath I asked the price. It was $108.00. I asked if the price included a bed. They laughed.

I looked at the schedule again, I saw that Forrester Senior Analyst Jeremiah Owyang was speaking on Wednesday morning. Wanting to support my colleague, I thought I would check to see if they had rooms for Tuesday and Wednesday night. Thursday was Clara Shih's book signing party. Friday I was scheduled to meet with Lithium and Jive. There was more to do than the time allotted. Yes, they did have rooms. Wow! And — drum roll... the price was $84. Every night I added, the price went down. I asked about wireless internet. Yes, they had it and it was free.

Every time I asked a question, I was surprised by the answer. They were fun, nice, and I got everything I needed. The hotel was cozy and I slept well.The conference was great. I'll write more about the conference soon, but what I wanted to focus on was — how surprised I was by the hotel accomodations. I was also surprised that I was surprised.

So my question for you is....

  • When was the last time you interacted with a company and were surprised by great service?
  • What happened?
  • What was surprising?
  • Did you call the company back and tell them how happy they made you?

Wouldn't it be an interesting world if we weren't surprised when customer service was extraordinary?

Write me back — I want to hear your stories — about good (or bad) customer service experiences. Don't spare any details. Your examples just may end up in my research!


re: When Were You (Happily) Surprised By Customer Service?

I use Kensington power adapter for my laptop when I travel. One of the cord pieces wore off and wires were showing through it. I emailed the company about the problem (though I didn't have the original receipt, packaging, etc - didn't even remember where and when I bought the piece). Within a few hours I got an email form which they asked me to fill out (product #, etc) and within a few days I received a package with the new part. Best service I ever had! Yep, and I left a comment on their website thanking them for great service.

re: When Were You (Happily) Surprised By Customer Service?

Boris! That's a great story! And good to hear as alot of digital lifestyle companies are finding it difficult to keep up with wide range of customer issues and -- they are struggling to figure out how to service people and balance the cost of service with the margin from a product.For instance... if a product costs $20 and the service call costs $30 - there's a net loss... I wonder if we all called the CEO and left a message for them when we got good service if that would make a difference. I don't know how many CEO's read website comments... somehow we need to get the message to those with the power to make customer service a priority...I bet you are a customer for life now... or at least tell others that story... the power of word of mouth is amazing!

re: When Were You (Happily) Surprised By Customer Service?

My worst customer service story is with American Airlines. Although really a long story, making it short for just high level details, American Airlines played around with our flight on Christmas Eve (actually, making a game out of which plane could make it to the gate first) and taking so long to cancel our flight, they sent most of their workers home. The one woman who could help rebook us walked away with saying a word to us. The phone number they told us to call hung up on us twice and when we could actually talk to someone, he took delight in not helping us (even though the announcement said they would pay for lodging for the night). We ended up finally getting a refund for the flights because we didn't take the flight. We paid for the hotel ourselves and American Airlines offered us only $150 in a flight voucher (which won't fly you anywhere) as a "I'm sorry".On the flipside, Continental Airlines was friendly, rebooked us on a better timed flight and even got us on an earlier flight as we were stuck at the airport for the time between our hotel checkout and scheduled flight on Christmas Day.I made sure I told everyone the story about both of those.

re: When Were You (Happily) Surprised By Customer Service?

Hi Ben, Wow that is some holiday story! I'm glad that you did end up finding another company that "got" the importance of customer service. And I bet this won't be the last time you tell that story!I wonder if people really understand that whether they are call center agents or the person behind the desk, that they are "ambassadors" for that brand? And if they or the company understand how that experience "leaves us" creates an impression of not just that moment, but often the whole company? What if companies "got" that? Do you think the "customer experience" might change?

re: When Were You (Happily) Surprised By Customer Service?

Being a road warrior, a "wheelie bag" for my laptop is a must. The wheels on my first bag wore out in about a year. My second bag was a Samsonite. The representative in the store informed me of the warranty. I told him, "Expect to see me again before the warranty expires." The wheels on this bag lasted two years. I drug the bag around on defective wheels for a week or two while I dug through my files to find my receipt. When I arrived in the store, the gal instructed me to pick out a replacement bag I liked. She didn't even need to see my receipt!! I filled out a short form and left the store with the bag of my choice. How cool is that! I'm a CPA and keep receipts, but most customers don't. Its nice when a company honors a warranty without making life difficult.

re: When Were You (Happily) Surprised By Customer Service?

Interesting point you make. With all of the latest review sites that are on the web, it is interesting to see that your choice came from a friend rather than from an actual consumer review site. If you can't trust your friends why rely on countless reviews from strangers...Thanks for the post.