Great customer service makes or breaks businesses

Bongo Billy's excellent service makes for coffee love.From time to time I write about experiences with customer service. Recently three customer service experiences stood out and a brief examination provides some great take-aways.

The customer is never right service

The first of these experiences is that of interacting with a company, not even worthy of being named here, that provides medical and dependent-care reimbursements for Acquia's pre-tax plan. I signed up with the company some time back and had received a debit card and welcome email. The welcome email describes different ways of having claims handled from using the debit card, to faxing them or emailing them.

The email claims instructions in this welcome email consisted of an item on a list "Email Claims:". That was it. Nowhere in the welcome was there anything more about what was necessary. With a few year's experience submitting claims I thought there might be something more to it so with my first submission I included the documents and a note saying "if ANYTHING else is needed please let me know and I'll get it submitted right away." A couple of weeks later nothing had happened. Eventually I had some time and got around to calling the company. When I connected with a representative at the company I was told they had mailed a denial to me since I didn't include the proper form.

This company had all the information necessary to associate the email claim with my account and knew that it was dependent care and who the dependents were all en-route to denying the claim. I told the representative of several problems with this approach. First the email I sent clearly asked if more information was needed to please let me know. Second, the initial email and all instructions said nothing about needing the claim form found on the website. And, finally, a company with which I had exclusively email and web communications was responding to my request via old-fashioned mail.

Making a tediously long story shorter the company's account manager called me back later and the conversation was filled with them telling me "you have to understand our claims processors have no visibility to your information," and "if you want it faster just fax it" (yeah I guess there are places that still have fax machines). My side of the conversation kept coming back to two points. First the email didn't say anything about this claim form; Second that the hours I was spending trying to get this done aren't helping my employer and I would do everything in my power to make sure that when renewals come up we change companies. In response I got more "you need to understands" and fax this or that.

In the end my re-submitted claim was paid.

This situation would have been simple to address in a satisfactory way. Starting with an acknowledgement that the welcome email lacked important information and that they'd update it. Leading into a response that the company would email me information in the future (a capability they have which came out well into these conversations). And if they really wanted to help repair things a simple apology for not having served the customer, me, well. Instead if the company is listening they know they now have a person at one of their client companies, two in fact given that they've heard the same thing from our contract administrator, who are working to make sure they don't renew this contract.

A little help from Bob

In contrast to the first story the second one here is about a great company that provides a great customer service experience. We own a Bob Revolution stroller, simply the best stroller on the market. Ours has an add-on kit we added for carrying an infant car-seat on the stroller. Since the kids are getting bigger the time has come where this attachment is more in the way than it is a service.

Sarah called the company to get some information on how to remove the attachment since the instructions had flown away years ago. Within the span of a short conversation they gave her the information and said they'd mail the necessary parts. No hassle. No billing. Heck they don't even know for sure we own a stroller as far as we know. We could be secret screw collectors but that didn't matter. This is the sort of transaction that makes customers feel good about having spent hundreds of dollars on a company's products.

Sometimes service is a grind

Comparing the first two accounts it would be easy to see which company is likely to have better success. But what if there was an even more fanatical, great way of providing service. One that not only makes you feel good about doing business with a company but makes you want to tell everybody else you meet that they should use a company. Bongo Billy's Coffee is one such company.

This story starts a month ago when the Acquia offices got a new coffee maker. With a reliable grind-and-brew coffee maker to replace the annoyingly complicated and wasteful single-serve machine I wanted to help celebrate. I ordered up three pounds of great coffee from the best coffee roaster we've ever found. I didn't think much more about the order until the 20th of this month. It was then that UPS showed up at my home office with the three pounds of coffee I'd ordered for the Acquia offices.

Looking at the inner packaging it looked like the coffee had been sent first to my old home office instead of to Acquia's digs. Surprised and disappointed that the coffee hadn't made it in a timely manner I sent Bongo Billy's a short note. We've worked with them before when I messed up an order in the past so I expected they would be good about handling it. Good turned out to be an understatement as they blew the doors off any expectations. Not only did they apologize and immediately ship the coffee off to Acquia's offices as I expected they would, but they also left us with the coffee errantly sent to our house and issued a gift-certificate that more than covered the cost of the full order and shipping.

That is the kind of over-the-top service that makes customers not just happy but want to go out and become ambassadors for the company they're doing business with.

What is your company doing to turn customers into brand-ambassadors? How do you make sure every customer contact provides for an experience that makes them want to see your company succeed?


1 Comment

Sometimes I think

sometimes - I think I can change somethings, but I was wrong.