The Best and Worst of Customer Service

Customer service does not depend on your product or service, it hinges on the experience you create for your customer. It is how the person with whom you interact feels when they work with you and the feelings with which they are left. Experience trumps product or service every time. This week, experiencing the best and worst of customer service helped me to experience the difference.

Work took me to Providence, Rhode Island and I decided to drive as opposed to fly. While searching for flights, I found none met my schedule which meant staying another day and I needed to be home by Saturday. I thought of taking the train to Boston to fly out from there, but decided by the time I did that, went through security and got transportation to the hotel, and how it feels to travel by air today, it would be easier to drive. Leaving Rochester, I drove through a mix of sleet and slush, so when I was almost at my location, I wanted to run the car through a car wash. Although I washed the windshield when I stopped for gas, it was not clear and made driving at night in new surroundings difficult. Couple that with the fact that I hate a dirty car, I was motivated to get it in shape.

I called OnStar and asked for directions to a car wash and was given one about 10 minutes off my route. I took their directions only to find no car wash at the address they gave me. I called OnStar back and asked them to remove the first address as no car wash existed and they gave me directions to a second location a gas station with a car wash. Although the station was open, the car wash was closed, so I decided to venture on to my hotel.

Arriving at the Castle Hill Inn, a lovely 141- year old facility on the ocean, I heard the waves breaking on the shore. As I walked toward the front door, I saw a young man rushing to the door, so I stood back assuming he was coming out and in a hurry. He opened the door with a smile and said, “Welcome Mrs. Sears.” I thanked him and moved to the reception desk where I was again received a welcoming greeting. I have not been at the inn since 2009, so I was pleasantly surprised at my welcome. Once checked in, I was escorted to a lovely, immaculate beach house with a deck overlooking the ocean. The next morning, after being greeted by name, I was escorted to my table. The service was impeccable and the food delicious and the server checked back a couple of times to ensure everything was to my liking.

At the end of the work day, I ventured out again to get my car washed. The first directions brought me to a second location where no car wash existed. I called and asked the OnStar agent to search for a car wash and remove the location where none existed. The agent I received on that call was unsure she could search for a car wash, but finally found one, and promptly gave me directions back to the car wash I visited the previous night, and asked them to remove. A second call sent me to another non-existent car wash. With extreme frustration, I recalled OnStar got an agent who was helpful and said she would call the various car washes to see if they were open. I was put on hold for at least 5 minutes and she came on to tell me she had called the car washes and I was 15 minutes away from the only one open and it closes in 10 minutes at 5:00PM! I had started this quest an hour before, so I returned to my hotel very agitated.

Once back at the hotel, I attended a reception and found the food and service exquisite. I received an email that a contract needed to be signed so I asked the front desk if they had a business center where I could make a copy and fax it to my client. They said they did not, but would be willing to do it for me. They not only did that but told me they would return it to my room so I could get back to my session. All breaks arrived on time …. Just as promptly as the other breaks and lunches. When I mentioned my saga of the carwash, they printed out directions and they were waiting for me when I finished my breakfast. The service was like that throughout my stay. When I inquired how they knew my name one waiter told me when parties arrive they are given pictures of the attendees off the internet so they can address them properly.

Moral of the story: I plan to return to Castle Hill Inn and have so far told 5 people about my experience. They not only made me feel welcome, they met my needs at every step of the way. OnStar, however, will not fare as well and I will tell hundreds of people about my experience because I plan to write a keynote speech comparing my experience with both places. It truly is helping a person to feel cared for and important and helping them to make the decision not only to return, but to become a walking billboard for your business.

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