Originally posted on Customer Service Experience by Dr Jason Price

One of the great things about commenting on customer service is the day you get to tell a story about the little things that, in reality, go to create a truly spectacular customer service experience.

Leading management author, Ken Blanchard, has written extensively [1] about how customer service employees make the difference in providing an exceptional customer experience.

Ken’s experiences tell us that satisfied customers aren’t enough – we should look to create experiences that make “raving fans” of our organisation.

Today, I’m a raving fan of Upper Hutt City Council in New Zealand for the simple, dedicated actions taken – well above and beyond the call of duty – by their website administrator, Maria. It’s a story that I think should be mandatory reading for every customer service advisor who works on an e-mail response team anywhere on the planet.

Proof positive, just like my previous article on FedEx, how simple, thoughtful and committed belief from one customer-facing employee creates a genuinely exceptional customer experience enhancing an organisation’s brand.

A great customer experience is driven by employee attitudes

What’s got me so excited? It wasn’t a tough enquiry, but the response I received from Maria showed the kind of commitment to customer service values that every manager is crying out for in their team.

Here’s what happened to me last night…

I’m at home, in the evening, browsing the Upper Hutt City Council website for some property related information. It’s a routine transaction and I quickly find the right page from a first time search. However, when I click on a link to the relevant document, it turns out all the links on this page are broken.

That happens in any website sometimes, so I selected the ‘feedback’ form on the page and left my comment that the page links were all broken. It was 8:46pm at night.

At 9:51pm, I received a very polite e-mail from Maria thanking me for the feedback, apologising for the inconvenience caused and letting me know that the site links had been fixed if I’d like to try again.

This wasn’t an auto-response e-mail letting me know a team would look into it. This was a personalised e-mail from a human being, telling me (at quarter to ten at night) that they’d received my e-mail, fixed my problem and were terribly sorry I’d been inconvenienced.

Not since Craig from FedEx appeared at my door with a cheery grin holding a parcel have my expectations been so dramatically blown away. I clicked on the page again, and lo and behold, all the links were fixed and I was able to look up the information I wanted – in a fraction over one hour from my first contact.

Now let’s be clear about this, Upper Hutt City Council is a relatively small Local Government authority at the southern end of New Zealand’s North Island and Maria left the office at 4:30pm.

Global businesses with 24×7 contact centres that tell me they value my feedback, but refuse to actually respond when I provide it (and trust me, I always provide feedback)? Your contact centres could learn more than a thing or two from Maria at Upper Hutt City Council.

Going above and beyond to excel in customer service

Blanchard talks at length about the role of customer contact employees going above and beyond customer service, and that delivering whenever possible is the key to creating raving fans. It’s this dedication to service that creates unforgettable customer experiences [2] .

In this case, an employee who’d actually finished her working day at 4:30pm cared enough about an individual’s customer experience to put something right – and send them a personal response right there and then to help them get their business done – rather than waiting for the next morning.

That’s a definitive example of putting the customer first, above and beyond the call of duty.

As with my FedEx experience, it was the final response I received from Maria that propelled this from a story about commitment into a stellar customer experience. Simply put, her final e-mail demonstrated a personal belief in customer service that would gladden the heart of so many contact centre managers.

When I expressed my thanks for such a fast fix, her e-mail reply (again, within minutes at 10:21pm) was to say that “I know it’s frustrating and inconvenient when technology does not provide the information you need – when you need it!”

Rather than an automatic out of hours response, I got a dedicated, personal service from an off duty employee who cares enough about her customers, her job and the brand reputation of Upper Hutt City Council to go the extra mile. In doing so, she created a raving fan.

Simple, caring employee actions make all the difference.

Exceptional people, like Maria, make for a stellar customer service experience.

[1] Blanchard, K, Bowles, S (1993), Raving Fans: A revolutionary approach to customer service, New York: HarperCollins; Blanchard, K (2007), Leading at a Higher Level, London: Pearson.
[2] Blanchard, K (2007, p.55), Leading at a Higher Level, London: Pearson

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