Some of the Best Customer Service Stories – to Put a Smile on Your Face this Christmas

When someone wants to tell you a story about a recent customer experience, it usually tends to be more Tales from the Crypt than Happily Ever After. But that’s not to say good service isn’t out there. Here are 11 companies that will restore your faith – at least temporarily.

1. Morton’s Steakhouse

In August, author and business consultant Peter Shankman was getting ready to board a flight that was the last leg of a long day of traveling. It just happened to occur over dinnertime, and he knew he would be starving when he deplaned and headed home. “Hey, @Mortons – can you meet me at newark airport with a porterhouse when I land in two hours? K, thanks. :)” Imagine his surprise when he got off the plane to find a tuxedoed gentleman holding a bag that contained a 24 oz. Morton’s porterhouse, shrimp, potatoes, bread, napkins and silverware. Shankman noted that the Tweet had to be noticed, someone had to get approval for the idea, a cook had to make his food, the food had to be driven 23.5 miles away from the nearest Morton’s, and someone had to track down his flight information and figure out where he was landing to meet him at the right location. All while his stomach was grumbling on a 2.5-hour flight. Pretty impressive.

2. Sainsbury’s

Sainsbury’s, a grocery store in the U.K., must have been pretty amused when they received a letter from a three-year-old girl named Lily. “Why is tiger bread called tiger bread?” she asked, referring to one of their bakery items. “It should be called giraffe bread.” Lily was just being observant – the pattern on the bread does resemble a giraffe more than a tiger. To everyone’s surprise, Chris King, a customer service manager at the chain, responded. “I think renaming tiger bread giraffe bread is a brilliant idea – it looks much more like the blotches on a giraffe than the stripes on a tiger, doesn’t it? It is called tiger bread because the first baker who made it a looong time ago thought it looked stripey like a tiger. Maybe they were a bit silly.” He enclosed a gift card, and the bread was renamed earlier this year.

3. Zappos

I could do an entire Quick 10 on Zappos customer service superstars alone, but I’ve limited it to one of my favorites instead. A customer’s mother had recently had some medical treatment that left her feet numb and sensitive to pressure – and also rendering most of her shoes totally useless. She ordered her mother six pairs of shoes from Zappos, hoping that at least one of them would work. After receiving the shoes, her mother called Zappos to get instructions on how to return the shoes that didn’t work, explaining why she was returning so many shoes. Two days later, she received a large bouquet of flowers from Zappos, wishing her well and hoping that she recovered from her treatments soon. Two days later, the customer, her mother and her sister were all upgraded to “Zappos VIP Members,” which gives them all free expedited shipping on all orders.

Not impressed? Just Google “Zappos” and “customer service” and you’re bound to find something that astounds you.

4. Trader Joe’s

A Redditor’s 89-year-old grandfather got snowed in a couple years ago and didn’t have much in the house for meals. His daughter called several markets in the area to see if any of them had grocery delivery services, but the only one that said they did was Trader Joe’s. They don’t, actually, but were willing to help out this WWII vet. As the man’s daughter placed an order, the Trader Joe’s representative on the phone recommended other items that would be good for her dad’s low-sodium diet. An up-sell, you may be asking? Nope. They didn’t charge her a dime for the delivery or the groceries.

5. Southwest Airlines

While these other stories have been nice, this one might actually make you teary (it made me teary, and I’m a hard sell). A man was en route from a business trip in L.A. to his daughter’s home in Denver to see his three-year-old grandson for the last time. The boy, beaten into a coma by his mother’s live-in boyfriend, was being taken off of life support at 9 p.m. that evening so his organs could be used to save other lives. The man’s wife called Southwest to arrange the last-minute flight and explained the emergency situation. Unfortunately, the man was held up by L.A. traffic and long lines at LAX and didn’t make it to the gate on time. When he finally made it there 12 minutes after the plane was scheduled to leave, he was shocked to find the pilot waiting for him. He thanked the pilot profusely, and the pilot said, “They can’t go anywhere without me, and I wasn’t going anywhere without you. Now relax. We’ll get you there. And again, I’m so sorry.”
Image of a Southwest plane at LAX by Wikimedia user Basil D Soufi

6. Amazon

If you order a PlayStation online and it gets snatched from your doorstep instead of being delivered safely to your living room, that’s your problem, right? Or maybe it’s the delivery service’s problem. Or it’s the problem of the neighbor who signed for your expensive gaming system but didn’t bother to bring it inside to protect it from sticky fingers. Wherever the blame lands, it’s definitely not the problem of the company who fulfilled their end of the bargain by shipping the system using a secure method. However, when this scenario happened to an Amazon customer a few years ago, he called them to beg – plead – to see if there was anything that could be done because his son was expecting a PlayStation from Santa. Much to the customer’s shock, they not only sent another, but they didn’t even charge him for shipping. It even made it there on time for Christmas.

7. The Ritz-Carlton

Because of their son’s food allergies, a family vacationing at the Ritz-Carlton, Bali, was always careful to bring their own supply of specialized eggs and milk. In this particular instance, however, the food was ruined en route. The Ritz-Carlton manager couldn’t find any of the special items in town, but his executive chef recalled that a store in Singapore sold them. The chef contacted his mother-in-law, who lived there, and had her purchase the items, then fly to Bali (about 2.5 hours) to deliver them. Only at the Ritz-Carlton.

8. Nordstrom

The tales of Nordie’s customer service are so mind-boggling that some of them are considered urban legend, but I’ll give you one that’s definitely factual. Last year, a member of the security staff noticed a woman crawling around on her hands and knees on the sales floor. When he discovered that she was looking for a diamond that had fallen out of her wedding ring while she was trying on clothes, he got down and searched with her. He also recruited a small team of people to help comb the floors. Eventually, the crew painstakingly picked through the dirt and debris in the store vacuum cleaners before coming up with the woman’s diamond.

9. Apple

This one may be a rumor, but the story was all over the place with the launch of the iPad 2 last year. Apparently a man bought an iPad online, then returned it to the company almost immediately, affixing a Post-It to the front of the device that simply read, “Wife said no.” Returns processors must have gotten a kick out of it, because the story eventually made its way to a couple of Apple VPs, who refunded the customer and returned the iPad with an attached Post-It that said, “Apple said yes.” If it is a rumor, perhaps Apple should take note with the upcoming iPad 3 launch.

10. Lexus

Most of us have experienced it at one time or another – the dreaded vehicle recall. It’s usually some minor part, but replacing it ends up being a huge inconvenience for the car owner, even when replacement parts are free. Lexus certainly knows how to take the sting out of that. Although previous recalls had been addressed by sending technicians to the affected customers’ homes to fix the problem on the spot, when the Lexus ES 350 sedan was recalled in 2006, the company decided to ask owners to come on into the dealership. Instead of sitting in a waiting room waiting for their cars to be worked on, customers were given a brand new Lexus instead, no questions asked.

11. Gaylord Opryland

A writer was in Nashville for a blogging conference last month and adored the clock radio at her hotel, the Gaylord Opryland. It wasn’t just any clock radio, but a clock radio/noise machine with very specific spa-style music that relaxed this writer as if she were actually getting a deep-tissue massage every time it played. Wanting to experience the same serenity at home, the blogger took to Twitter to ask the folks at the hotel where she could purchase one. Their response, essentially, was, “Sorry, it’s made just for us, but here’s a similar one at the Sharper Image.” Unfortunately, the one they recommended lacked the spa music feature that the blogger loved so much. She told them as much and thanked them for the effort anyway. When she returned to her room later, she found a second clock radio sitting next to the permanent one, along with a note saying, “We hope you enjoy these spa sounds at home.”

Let’s spread a little goodwill today – tell us your best-ever customer service story in the comments.
Source: http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/120126#ixzz2FVJaA0jQ

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The Zappos Effect: 5 Great Customer Service Ideas for Smaller Businesses

Go to the Zappos.com homepage!

Zappos, the online retailer, has used incredible customer service to create an extremely loyal customer base. Small ecommerce businesses that want to grow would be wise to take a lesson from Zappos.

As an example of Zappos’ almost insane customer care, the company has even been known to shop at other stores for customers.

In 2009, a traveler checked into the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. When the traveler was unpacking she realized that she’d forgotten a pair of her favorite shoes. She had purchased the missing shoes at Zappos, so she headed to its website. When she could not find another pair of the same shoes on the site, she called the company’s help-desk concierge service. Zappos no longer had the shoes, but its headquarters are just outside of Las Vegas. So the Zappos team located the shoes at a nearby mall, went there and purchased the shoes, and then hand-delivered them to the Mandalay Bay, all at no charge.

This act of customer service heroism certainly sounds crazy. It almost certainly cost Zappos money. So why is this one of the secrets to online retail success? To get the answer just imagine how the customer felt. No doubt, she’ll shop Zappos again. She probably told lots of friends, who told their friends. And the goodwill that the company generated most certainly did more for the business than any advertising or marketing program Zappos might have spent those dollars on.

The only real question is what can a small ecommerce business do to delight customers in a manner similar to what Zappos does?

Lightning Fast Response

Many large businesses do not reply to customer emails. This sort of response won’t fly in a customer-focused ecommerce business. Do your best to provide lighting fast responses to customer questions, comments, or orders.

Many small merchants cannot easily afford a call center, so they rely on email as the only means of customer communication. This is fine, as long as you get right back to the customer. Consider keeping your customer service inbox open all day when you’re sitting at your desk. When an email comes in, treat it like a fire alarm. Also, after hours, have a means of monitoring customer service emails from your smartphone.

Define what lighting fast response means in your company — perhaps five minutes or less — and track your response times. You want to get back to every customer before that customer starts wondering what’s going on.

Never Argue About Returns

Zappos has a 100 percent satisfaction guaranteed return policy. The company will never fuss about any return. In fact, Zappos actually encourages customers to order several products, check them out, and return what they don’t want. Here’s a Zappos-produced video on the company’s return policy.

Consider implementing a similar policy. It will make customers feel more comfortable buying from you, and if your ecommerce platform will support it, consider offering the refund in the form of store credit.

Treat Good Customers Well

Another Zappos customer service tactic that translates well to small online retailers is the concept of treating loyal or new customers well. Specifically, Zappos often upgrades good customers to next day or second day air shipping from standard ground shipping. This policy encourages customers and rewards those customers that frequently shop your store.

You might also consider offering coupons or other bonuses to your best customers.

Expect Problems, Be a Solution

Next, expect problems. Remember, you’re selling products via mail, often on images alone. Lots of things could go wrong, from shipping problems to the customer ordering the wrong size.

Knowing that there will be problems, you should be prepared to handle them when they come. If a certain type of problem — perhaps packages damaged during shipping or something similar — be sure to take some action to prevent this sort of problem in the future.

Customers that have had problems and believe they were treated fairly will often be your most loyal customers in the long run.

Treat Customers Like Individuals

Finally, learn to treat every customer like an individual with a unique story, challenge or problem. Imagine what you would do if a customer called you and said she had forgotten to pack her favorite pair of shoes.

Reference: Armando Roggio – Practical E-Commerce , Insights for Online Merchants

Why have a customer portal that is integrated with my CRM application??

As discussed in previous articles,

CRM is about acquiring and retaining customers, improving customer  loyalty, gaining customer insight, and implementing customer-focused strategies. A true customer-centric enterprise helps your company drive new growth, maintain competitive agility, and attain operational excellence. “SAP

Before engaging with the customers, we should have some basic and general behaviours of our customers. I.e their age group, what generation category they fall into. Knowing some of this basic information like something along demographics….

  • How old are they?
  • What gender are they?
  • Where do they live?,

By understanding the demographics, the nature and buying behavior of the generation of buyers who will be our customers, the business will realize the increasing importance to use more technological savvy modes of marketing and communication.

The customers will be increasingly from the current Generation Y group. A brief explanation of the 3 major Generations will be discussed shortly.

born between 1946 – 1965 – The baby Boomers

born between 1966 – 1982 –  Generation X

born between 1983 – date – Generation Y

Baby Boom Generation is a term that portrays the people born during the middle part of the 20th century. The birth years of the Baby Boom Generation are the subject of controversy. Historically, everyone born during the post–World War II demographic boom in births was called part of the Baby Boom Generation.[1][2]

One of the features of Boomers is that they tend to think of themselves as a special generation, very different from those that had come before them. In fact, the Baby Boom Generation is often tagged “The Me Generation”. In the 1960s, as the relatively large numbers of young people became teenagers and young adults, they, and those around them, created a very specific rhetoric around their cohort, and the change they were bringing about.[5] This rhetoric had an important impact in the self perceptions of the boomers, as well as their tendency to define the world in terms of generations.

Generation X was coined by the Magnum photographer Robert Capa in the early 1950s. He would use it later as a title for a photo-essay about young men and women growing up immediately after the Second World War. The project first appeared in “Picture Post” (UK) and “Holiday” (USA) in 1953. Describing his intention, Capa said ‘We named this unknown generation, The Generation X, and even in our first enthusiasm we realised that we had something far bigger than our talents and pockets could cope with’.[7] Author John Ulrich explains that, “Since then, “Generation X” has always signified a group of young people, seemingly without identity, who face an uncertain, ill-defined (and perhaps hostile) future. Subsequent appearances of the term in the mid-1960s and mid-1970s narrowed the referent for “Generation X” from Capa’s global generation to specific sets of primarily white, male, working class British youth sub-cultures, from the spiffy mods and their rivals the rockers, to the more overtly negationist punk subculture.” [6]

The term was used in a 1964 study of British youth by Jane Deverson. Deverson was asked by Woman’s Own magazine to interview teenagers of the time. The study revealed a generation of teenagers who “sleep together before they are married, were not taught to believe in God as ‘much’, dislike the Queen, and don’t respect parents.” Because of these controversial findings, the piece was deemed unsuitable for the magazine. Deverson, in an attempt to save her research, worked with Hollywood correspondent Charles Hamblett to create a book about the study. Hamblett decided to name it Generation X.[8]

The term was popularized by Canadian author Douglas Coupland‘s 1991 novel, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, concerning young adults during the late 1980s and their lifestyles. While Coupland’s book helped to popularize the phrase “Generation X,” in a 1989 magazine article[9] he erroneously attributed the term to English musician Billy Idol. In fact, Idol had been a member of the punk band Generation X from 1976–1981, which was named after Deverson and Hamblett’s 1965 sociology book—a copy of which was owned by Idol’s mother.[10]

In the U.S. Generation X was originally referred to as the “baby bust” generation because of the drop in the birth rate following the baby boom.[11]

Often defined as those born from 1982-2000, Generation Y’ers are growing up, and therefore becoming increasingly important in world affairs.

Gen Y is growing up. The oldest of the generation are now 26. They’re beginning to take to the workplace. As a result, a plethora of articles has turned up in business magazines worldwide, suggesting creative ways for employers to deal with this new, seemingly odd, generation. This article looks at who they are and why they matter.

This young generation is the first native online population. This alone has set the tone for how they act, react, and see the world. They are vastly different from their parent’s generation.

Ninety percent of Gen Y’ers in the US own a PC, while 82 percent own a mobile. And, perhaps not surprisingly, they spend more time online than they do watching TV.

Characteristics of Generation Y

They have grown up engaging with the Internet. This had led to their expectation of being able to obtain information at exceedingly rapid speeds.

Gen Y is also known for caring about the world and its problems, forming a large part of the worldwide Green movement.

Generation Y numbers is smaller than Generation X, or those born between 1961 to 1981. There are 78 million Gen Yers in the world. They make up about 25 percent of the US population. In some countries (ex. Iran), this percentage is much higher.

Understanding that our customers are more tech savvy, and internet depended, it is only logical to find ways and means to engage your customers through the internet, by implementing a customer portal that is integrated to your CRM application.

With a customer portal, your customers can get service on their own, 24 hours a day. They’ll get case updates and search the knowledge base, all without picking up the phone. Your customers and agents can even interact in ideas and answers communities. You’ll see loyalty go up while your service costs go down.

With a customer portal, your customers can log cases and get updates 24×7. All via an easy, user-friendly GUI and applications that can be run on mobile phones; all the methods which the current Generation is familiar and comfortable with.  The result: higher customer satisfaction at a lower cost.

Your business can grow by Connecting with Customers and Vendors through a Customer Portal.

A customer portal is a private, secure Website that enables businesses to share documents, calendars, and project information with customers. Commonly known as a customer extranet, a customer portal enhances customer relationships by providing complete 24×7 access to collaborative tools with just an Internet connection. It makes excellent business sense to use the customer portal as a means of getting and dissemination information to the customers, especially now that we have a better understanding of our customers.

Through a portal that is integrated to the CRM, a customer can raise tickets, view the solutions, check the products and services provided by the business, look up the FAQ to get their information, even chat online with the CSR. The customer can also update their personal information online, so its all done at their own pace and own time, you reduce the time and cost incurred to hiring people to telemarket and call customers, lets face many people, you and I included hate getting calls from telemarketers, this is a perfect solution for this.

This current generation of customers expect access to the most reliable, accurate, and up-to-date information. A customer portal provides a cost-effective solution without the anxieties and costs inherent with supporting complex virtual private networks (VPN). Provide each customer with access to an online portal to share important project documents, schedules, billing notices, and much more.