A Tale of Ducks, Shopping Carts, Cookware, Hurricane Harvey, and Wagging Tails
Last month we published a blog post called “Don’t Put Your Customer Service in a Policy Prison.” It seems that nearly everyone has had a few of those kinds of experiences – where a customer service team just can’t seem to do the right thing because company policy gets in the way of the obvious right thing to do. Around the office, the phrase “policy prison” has gone a little viral – we use it whenever a company is missing the big picture.
But for every story of customer service teams hamstrung by unthinking, unfeeling dictates from corporate towers, there are an equal number of times a customer service team has stepped out and dazzled with amazing feats of awesomeness. Over the last few weeks we have had a cluster of these awesome experiences all in a row, so we are going to share a few of these stories with you. And if you are wondering what these stories have to do with Shopify eCommerce stores, understand that customer service is a key differentiator to build loyalty and repeat sales in EVERY retail and sales environment.
Let's get to it. The first customer service success story touches close to home for us at TaskHusky.
If It Walks Like a Duck and Quacks Like a Duck …
“Oreo” is more than just our company mascot. She is a living, breathing Husky dog who has the official title “Director of Treats.” She basically walks around making people happy. Oreo’s best buddy is Dagwood – our German Shepherd-Lab mix. What makes Dagwood happy is a small fabric chew-toy shaped like a mallard duck. Dagwood loves this particular toy so much that he has worn several of them out completely. But getting a new one has never been a problem because they were inexpensive and stocked at the local Meijer Supermarket … until now.
During our last trip to acquire a replacement duck – like we said, Dagwood likes these things a LOT – we were informed that this particular chew-toy was being discontinued. Cue the dramatic music and wide, sad puppy-eyes.
We called the customer service team at Meijer to see if they could check inventory. Meijer is a fairly large regional chain and we were hoping that one or two stores might have a few left in stock. If there were any left within fifty miles or so, we planned on gathering as many as we could to ensure that Dagwood continued to live the high life with his favorite toy. The phone rep said that the computers didn’t show any in stock at any of the local stores.
But this is where things get interesting.
A few weeks later we got a call out of the blue. It was the Meijer customer service team. It seems that someone had flagged the UPC code in their systems and a box of duck chew-toys had been discovered in a back-room or warehouse or wherever. They sent them to us. All of them. For free. The only thing that they asked was for us to keep getting our pet supplies at Meijer.
Yes … yes we will.
Winning Biggby With Coffee, Community, and Hurricanes
We haven’t had a major hurricane hit the United States in over a decade, but this year we’ve had two of them so far. That’s just the way it goes, I guess. Let’s hope that we are done with all of that for the year. But our customer service story starts with our daily cup of coffee.
Biggby Coffee is a chain of coffee shops in the Midwest United States. But each location is independently owned and operated with a decidedly “local community” focus. We’ve made the habit of stopping by for our morning cup of joe at the Three Rivers Biggby. The coffee is consistently good, prices reasonable, and the staff is friendly. And when the season’s first hurricane hit – Hurricane Harvey in Houston – we were greeted at the coffee shop one morning with an organized relief effort.
In a way, this is not a unique story. Millions of people from all over have stepped to make sure that the displaced and disrupted people of southern Texas have what they need. It’s darned heart-warming. And some people might not call this a story of customer service. But think of it this way ….
One of the most important parts of delivering great customer service is to anticipate the needs of your customers and prepare for them when you can, but always responding to those needs. The customers of our local Biggby Coffee wanted – needed – to participate in the relief effort in some way. Biggby Coffee needed to as well. But instead of fulfilling their own need to help, they opened the door to their customers. The gathering of supplies became a way to satisfy the needs of the entire local community in a shared experience. Every coffee customer – us included – is grateful to them for helping us help out.
Which Brings Us Back to Meijer
Hurricane Harvey struck the Houston area before that big box of duck-shaped chew-toys arrived from Meijer’s customer service team. Inspired by the Three Rivers Biggby Coffee shop, we made a run to the Meijer’s market to gather supplies to donate; including bottled water, dry cereal, personal care items and – because we are huge fans of man’s best friend – dog food. We filled up two shopping carts full of stuff. And that became a problem because trying to push two shopping carts around can be a headache.
The Meijer chain has a store greeter who stands at the door. We pushed our cart up to him and asked if he could watch it for us while we handled the other one. He said sure. But he also came and helped us check out and bag-up all our supplies and take them out and load up the truck without even being asked to. He just did it with a smile and a wave.
Restoring Our Customer Service Faith With Pots and Pans
I LOVE to cook. More than fifteen years ago I purchased a high-end set of pots and pans from Cuisinart – special “clad” cookware that has a layer of aluminum sandwiched between two layers of professional-grade stainless steel. And to be clear, I am a heavy user. I cook two or three times per day every single day.
Recently, those layers of metal started to separate revealing sharp edges. I had no idea what to do. I had purchased that cookware in a retail store that no longer existed due to various mergers and acquisitions and whatever. There is no way I still had the receipt and … it had been more than fifteen years, right? But I just called the Cuisinart customer service team to ask. I have been using their products for years and I had no idea if the pans were even safe to use anymore.
They asked me to take photos of the issue and that show the product serial numbers on the bottom of each pan. A few days later – as all those duck-shaped chew-toys were being delivered to the office – I heard back. Cuisinart is sending me an entire set of their latest models at no charge. They apologized because – since this professional grade cookware is so heavy – it has to ship with special handling and would take one to two weeks to arrive.
No receipt, no real idea where I purchased it, and after some unknown number of years greater than fifteen … no argument, no hassles, just happiness.
We Can’t Help But Be Inspired By Great Service ... Online and Offline
There is an old expression, “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck … it’s a duck.” Well, a similar thing can be said about customer service. If it makes your customers feel valuable, like a member of your community, and makes them “want” to be your customer again and again … no matter how it happened, that’s great customer service. It’s more than a phone rep sitting in a call-center, we all know it when we experience it – because we “feel” it – and we can’t help but be inspired. If you are an online eCommerce merchant using Shopify, the details might be different. But the customer-centered focus and desire to step outside of policies and job descriptions is a culture that makes a real difference in your customer's satisfaction ... and yours.
If you agree with us that these are examples of great customer service, then share this article. Spreading our appreciation for companies that step up is the best way to make sure that we all get more of a good thing.Thanks for reading!