For almost any business, customer service is something that has to be perfect; indeed many go so far as to implement advanced solutions all in the name of differentiation. Sometimes, however, it’s really just the basic things that set your customer service apart.
When I get time-off one of the things I enjoy doing is taking motorcycle rides through the mountains in northern Thailand. It’s easy to take a short flight up north, rent a bike and escape for a few days. Beautiful scenery, endless roads of twists and turns and delicious food at every small village are the reason I keep going back for more. For me it’s a great way to clear things out between the ears and come back to Pronto reinvigorated.
Recently I tried a new bike rental shop up in Chiang Rai. After a number of emails and a phone call with the shop owner at last I had a trip scheduled and nice Kawasaki Versys 650 reserved. I flew up on a Friday night after work so I could be at the shop the first thing the next day, fresh and ready to hit the road.
On Saturday morning I went to the motorcycle shop to pick up the bike I’d reserved. I arrived at 9:00 AM as arranged on the phone, but the manager was not there, so I had to call and wait awhile. Not a big deal, living in Thailand you get used to waiting, it's a part of life here in the kingdom. When at last the manager showed up and rolled my bike out of the shop, it was dirty.
Maybe it had just been returned the day before but it would have just taken 10 minutes for the guy to hose down the bike and clean the fairing. It's not that big a deal that it was a little dirty, but it made me wonder how well maintained their equipment was. I was risking my life on this bike, and traveling well off the beaten path. Could I trust the bike? A little dirt made me wonder if I should. Misgivings aside, I went ahead and took off, and had a wonderful weekend ride.
I knew from the email exchanges with the owner of the business that he had to be out of town when I was there, so I wondered if this experience represented his standards, or just his manager’s when he's away. So far he hasn't followed-up with me, I may never know. But imagine how a short email like, "How did everything go, any feedback?" would a) make me feel better about his shop and b) give me an opening to give him feedback, good and bad, on my experience.
Take-aways for better customer service
Customer service experiences like this always remind me how it's not one big idea, it’s not a poster on the wall or a slogan on your website. It’s a hundred little things, done well, again and again. I've found what works best is to:
- Take care of the basics. Wash the bike. You know your job - do it well.
- Build and follow process. Establishing process and checklists will go a long way to ensuring the basics are taken care of. What if the shop had a pre-release checklist that everyone followed and signed-off on? That would ensure everything was taken care of. To take it one step further, if they had shown me the checklist, I would have been impresses and more confident.
- Ask for feedback. No one is perfect, if you don’t ask, you’ll never know how your customers feel about your company’s service. And after you ask and get feedback? Use it to drive improvements.
Cory, Pronto’s co-founder, recently wrote a great article on how Pronto uses customer satisfaction feedback to improve our Internet Presence Management services. If you’re interested in improving your customer services you’ll find this an informative read.