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This could have been a disaster

This could have been a disaster

March 24, 2011

On a recent visit to New York City, one of my colleagues managed to avoid what could have been a horrible weekend thanks to the extraordinary customer service of just a few people.

We all have horrible customer service stories.

One my colleague, Rafael Mael, will never forget is when he was at the check-in counter at a hotel along Times Square in New York City.

Now this is a very nice hotel where a typical room runs about $300 per night. So you expect a better experience compared to the Motel 6 where they'll leave the light on but that's probably about it.

So imagine standing at the counter, getting your room key card, listening to directions to the elevator and then hearing the woman at the desk look past you and shout, 'Next!'

You get better service than that at McDonald's!

Another colleague, Dennis Sullivan, had another customer service story to tell that could have been a disaster ' I say 'could have.' But in this case, the horrible experience was turned into one that is absolutely amazing...

He and his wife love to watch bull riding on TV. So for a Christmas present he decided they would spend the weekend in New York City and go see Professional Bull Riding at Madison Square Garden. They've never taken a weekend trip like that so it was going to be a special occasion they would remember for years to come ' and they will, but not for the bull riding.

It had been snowing the entire drive when they finally pulled in front of the Four Points Sheraton Hotel in Midtown'Times Square. As you can imagine, they were anxious to get into the hotel and relax before going out to dinner. They were welcomed by the concierge who remembered Dennis' wife from her last visit ' actually he remembered her green bag. He remembers everyone by their luggage!

But as they unloaded the car, they realized that the back right tire was flat. Sure enough, one of the potholes in NYC's famous city streets was to blame! At home, Dennis could name a dozen places where he could get his tired fixed within a few miles but where do you go in New York City? And what would be open on a Saturday afternoon? He had no idea. Neither did AAA.

One woman and her husband stopped by to point to their car in the parking lot that also fell victim to the city roads. They couldn't find a garage that would work on their flat tire until Monday!

That's when the concierge went to work. He called all the nearby garages and found one open on a Saturday afternoon several blocks away. The head of maintenance at the hotel also came out to help put the spare tire on the car as the snow continued to fall.

Dennis and his wife took the car to the garage and while waiting in the lobby they read the emails from customers posted on the walls in between pictures of their most famous customers including Al Pacino, John Travolta and James Gandolfini from the Sopranos. Each one of the emails talked about how drivers experienced a flat tire or their car broke down while visiting the city and how they felt rescued by the service they received at the garage. They used words like 'amazing,' 'unbelievable' and 'thank G-d' to describe their experience. These were ordinary people who had received extraordinary customer service!

Within a few hours, Dennis and his wife headed back to the hotel with their new tire and they made their dinner reservation with plenty of time to spare ' all because a few people went out of their way to deliver amazing customer service!

This could have been one of the worst experiences Dennis and his wife could have ever had. Instead, it was one of the best due entirely to the customer service they received. He's also a customer for life at the hotel. He no longer shops for the best rate and doesn't even bother to find something more convenient.

Whenever he plans to stay in New York City there's only one hotel that really matters to him.

So while you're working on your next marketing campaign or your new product launch keep in mind that the most important thing that will keep your customers coming back tomorrow is the service they get today.

Got a great customer service story to tell? Add yours to the comments below'

Always taking you from where you are to where you want to,


Jon Goldman, President