Most small-business owners say that they will do anything to satisfy a customer. What most don't say is that "anything" has its limitations. Here are a few examples of companies that truly went above and beyond to keep their customers.
The Extended Vacation
Chris Hurn at Mercantile Capital Corporation left his son’s favorite stuffed animal, “Joshie,” at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Amelia Island, Florida, on a family vacation. When he got home, his son was devastated. Hurn told him that Joshie had decided to stay a few extra days at the hotel on vacation. He called the hotel and was relieved when they found the stuffed animal in the laundry. The hotel staff sent Joshie home and supported Hurn's little fib to his son. In the box, Joshie came with pictures of him by the pool, having a massage and taking a drive on the beach. The extreme customer service even prompted Hurn to make a video about this episode and share the experience.
Takeaway: The Ritz Carlton now has a customer for life, not to mention the video Hurn made received almost 30,000 views—that's great word-of-mouth marketing.
The Unexpected Overnight
Bill Leys, the Deck Expert, was tearing off an old deck and installing a new one on top of a house in Hermosa Beach, California. He had the old deck off, but had not yet waterproofed the area when strong storms were forecast. Leys tarped the house as a precaution, then drove four hours home. He received a call from the owner at 10:30 p.m. panicked about the tarp protecting his millions of dollars of real estate. Leys drove back the next morning, sandbagged everything and agreed to stay overnight at the house. During the storm, which boasted 60 mph winds, he found himself outside sitting on the tarp during the howling wind and the driving rain.
Takeaway: When things get a little dicey, most people bolt. Show your unwavering dedication to your customers by sticking with them, and being there for them when times are tough.
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The Long Drive
Peter Emmenegger at Studio PLUUNK in Toronto sells custom beds for $6,000. When a client received a recent delivery, there was extensive shipping damage. Emmenegger decided to build a new bed for the client and load it onto a U-Haul trailer to drive it to the client personally. Eighteen hours later, at 6:30 a.m., Emmenegger arrived outside the client's door. He shared a coffee with them and drove back to Canada. (Unfortunately, the truck needed a new transmission after that trip.)
Takeaway: If a company sells something that is high price and high value, that company needs to deliver above-and-beyond service. Customers not only expect it, but in the case of a high-end niche business like Studio PLUUNL, you can't rely on repeat business—you need positive referrals and reviews.
Just Text Me
Gillian Grefé at Little Duck Organics, an organic food startup in Brooklyn, sells only two food products for babies. It recently added "Text Us" with a phone number on its products to give consumers a new way to get in touch with the company immediately. It now gets 10 to 20 texts a day from customers purchasing its products. Each team member, including the CEO, takes turns responding to the texts. Grefé says they not only answer product questions but also exchange, “knock–knock” jokes with customers.
Takeaway: Texting is a way to establish a very real-time relationship with a customer, and makes the company even more accessible than being on social media. Through text you can establish a very personal relationship, which is great for any company but can be especially powerful for those in the early stages of starting up.
The Poetic Act
A customer of You Smell bought a gift certificate on the site for her friend's birthday. The website's system usually automatically generates the certificate and emails it out, but in this case, the certificate got lost in the customer's spam folder. The customer emailed, upset that the gift would be late. Within a few minutes of receiving the email, founder Megan Cummins apologized, created a PDF to send to them directly (bypassing the automation) and added a birthday poem to make up for the wait.
Takeaway: The little extras, or marketing lagniappes, as Stan Phelps calls them, should be standard protocol in your business when things go wrong. It's a simple, additional way to delight your customers who, in the moment of being upset over a mishap, could easily leave you for another vendor.
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Yaniv Masjedi at Nextiva, a business VoIP provider, tells the story about his account executive's quick thinking. One of his accounts, a doctor’s office, was underwater due to a severe flood. The doctor's business, which usually sees 110 patients a day, came to a screeching halt—and none of the patients could get in touch with him for emergency treatments. The doctor's original VoIP supplier estimated three weeks to replace the phone system, Nextiva came in and completed the work the same day. That next day the doctor was able to see patients, including a new patient who was diagnosed on the spot with oral cancer. Seeing the doctor quickly saved this person’s life.
Takeaway: The original VoIP provider made the mistake of thinking its business was only about VoIP, whereas Nextiva understood that its business relies on the success of the businesses it services—and should do anything it can to make sure those businesses' networks are working at 100 percent.
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Photos from top: Getty Images, youtube.com, littleduckorganics.com