I have written previously that customer service as a discipline appears to be under siege. Airlines charging for a checked bag, and considering charges for carry-ons or using the toilet on board, are all signs of this trend. The race is on to penny-pinch the most valuable asset of any business, it’s customers.
Like me, you have probably taken your car to a repair shop or dealer to have something small fixed, only to be told of the myriad of other things wrong. And many of the repairs sound dire, as if you should not dare get back in your car, for the mortal danger you will face. After one repair shop suggested replacing my windshield wipers, one week after they had been replaced and were in perfect condition, it became evident that some of these recommendations were commercially motivated, and not intended to save my life, or what I really needed. Have a few of these experiences, and you begin to question every piece of advice or service interaction. Are they really thinking about what is best for you?
A recent experience though, has restored my faith in enlightened management and service approach to customers. Some companies really do get it, and they are carving out massive equity with their customers.
I took a trip to Dubai recently. When we landed and I took my Tumi bag out of the overhead, the handle fell off. On my return home, I took some photographs and sent a note one evening, around 9pm, to the folks at Tumi. By 11am the next day I had a reply from the Director of Marketing. Mikal had looked up where I lived, where their stores and service center were in relation, and laid out three options for me to have my bag sent to be repaired. It would be my choice of what was most convenient for me! My bag was shipped to the Tumi service center, and I had several very pleasant conversations with Sharon, who runs After Sales Service. Sharon and I talked about my travel habits and use of the bags and she helped me upgrade to a newer bag, with a design more suited to handle the rigors of my travel schedule. Even though in short supply, Sharon was able to secure and ship the bag to me that day. I got the new bag in time for my next international trip.
I believe that when customers need service, a “moment of truth” is created in the relationship between that consumer and the company. Many of these interactions result in an average experience, or worse, in a permanent loss of a customer. A relatively small number of these service interactions result in winning a customer for life! It is a company with enlightened management and service practices that knows how to turn a “sour lime’ into a “sweet key-lime pie”. For these companies, service is not about extracting an immediate extra buck from the customer, but about ensuring an annuity well into the future, secured by brand loyalty and positive word of mouth marketing. Mikal, Sharon, and the rest of the folks at Tumi were really thinking about me. They understand that a winning business does not just consist of great products, but also requires fantastic customer service interaction. The combination is lethal.
The weekend after my bag was replaced by Tumi, our family was out shopping. My daughter needed a new travel bag. She loves her newly acquired Tumi. A new customer for life maybe?