Friday, October 5, 2012

Now THAT'S Customer Service!

In honor of Customer Service Week, today's blog post is about a great (customer service) experience that I had this week. I often write about service and experiences gone wrong, but today, I'm pleased to share a happy story!

First, a factoid about Customer Service Week. Did you know that 20 years ago, it was proclaimed a nationally-recognized event by the U.S. Congress? It occurs the first full week of October every year.

OK, on to the great experience at hand.

The Purchase
On Saturday, my kids and I went to our local Living Spaces showroom to find some sofas for one of the rooms in my house. From the moment we walked in the door, I felt immediately at ease. The salesperson at the front of the store greeted us within seconds of walking in, and she let me know that the salespeople are not on commission, which meant that I could work with anyone on the floor - no pressure, no hovering - they were all there to help.

Honestly, I can't even remember how many people greeted us, asked me if I needed help, engaged in conversation with the kids, offered us cookies and drinks, etc. The employees had clearly been properly trained:
  • Greet your customers when you're within X feet of them
  • Smile, be friendly and courteous
  • Ask customers if they need help
  • Offer refreshments to your customers
  • Let customers know that there's a kids' play area where they can play video games and watch TV while they shop
  • Don't just engage with the purchaser/decision maker, engage with the whole family
  • Make product suggestions
  • Don't hover or smother; give customers space to shop and think
  • But keep an eye on them and don't let them go too long without contact
The entire shopping and purchase process were very easy. Once we found our sofas, I sat with the kids, thinking about the fit in the room and just generally getting comfortable with the purchase. A sales associate approached and asked if I needed help, and I let her know I was ready to buy the sofas we were sitting on. She instructed me to stay put; she would go get the paperwork, and we could fill out all the details while sitting in a comfortable spot.

After the paperwork was completed, we walked to the cash register to pay and schedule the delivery. The checkout process was quick and easy. The sales associate and the cashier clearly explained everything, from the price to the Scotchgard and cleaning kit to the delivery process. It was extremely refreshing. Again, the staff...
  • Was well-trained and knowledgeable
  • Was friendly and courteous
  • Took their time to explain everything
  • Highlighted important information, including their phone number, on the invoice
The Living Spaces tagline is "Buy It Today, Enjoy It Tonight," but since we had plans that evening, I scheduled the delivery for the next day. The cashier was able to give a 6-hour window for the delivery but promised a called from the delivery team later that evening with a smaller delivery window.

As a thank you for our patience and for the purchase, they offered a choice of a t-shirt (USC or UCLA) or a ball (football, basketball, or soccer ball). I grabbed a t-shirt, and we were on our way.

The Delivery
This is the part I think you'll really love! As promised, I got a call on Saturday evening with my specific 3-hour delivery window. Not only did I get a call, but I also got an email, which included a link to click to confirm my delivery. The email is great because it also provides instructions on what to do if I have questions or concerns, e.g., that delivery window doesn't work.


I clicked the link and was pleased to see a note on the confirmation page that said that I could come back to that page the next morning to see the status of my delivery. I wasn't quite sure what that meant at the moment, but I definitely planned to check it out. I had told the boys I would take them to see a movie in the morning and needed to plan the day accordingly.

On Sunday morning, I clicked the link and found this.


Wow! I was so impressed! I could definitely plan my day with that. I checked the status throughout the morning and discreetly while in the movie theater. We were going to be back with time to spare. And shortly before the delivery, the driver called to let me know they were 5-10 minutes away. Now that's service!

The delivery went smoothly.  Lots of kudos here for...
  • Great communication
  • Including the Customer Service number
  • Clean and friendly delivery personnel
  • Speedy delivery and setup
  • Taking care not to smash my walls
  • Cleaning up after themselves
I was happy, and the furniture worked perfectly in the room. Unfortunately, while I had checked the furniture and even signed off that the furniture was damage-free, after the delivery team left, I found a large ding/tear on the corner of one of the arms of the sofa. I immediately called Customer Service.

The Customer Service Call
I didn't have to dig around for the Customer Service number because it was highlighted for me on the invoice. The customer service rep who answered the phone asked me to take a picture of the tear and email it to her along with my order number. She promised to call me back within an hour of receiving the picture. She kept her promise and decided that the tear was too large to just repair; they would do an exchange instead. They could deliver it the next day. I wasn't available on Monday, but we scheduled the delivery for Tuesday afternoon.

Again, great things occurred:
  • Make it easy for the customer
  • Don't question the issue
  • Be responsive
  • Fix the problem
Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game. Service wins the game.
-Tony Allesandra

The Post-Transaction Survey
On Monday morning, I received a survey asking about my experience. The cashier had let me know that I'd be getting a survey, and I must say that this part is the only thing that I didn't like about the entire experience. The cashier handed me a piece of paper (see image to left) with a copy of the survey (yes, it needs help); as you can see, the answers are highlighted (all 10s, of course). While she didn't say, "Please give us all 10s," she might as well have. This is a big no-no.

1. Don't give customers a copy of the survey.
2. Don't circle the answers on said copy.
3. Don't ask/beg for all 10s (or whatever the highest rating is).

The timing of the survey was great, i.e., the day after the delivery. Of course, had their systems all been talking, they would have waited until after my exchange. But experience tells me that they probably sent a file with all their closed/delivered business for the day to their survey vendor on Saturday night, without waiting for information about follow-up issues. I did not get a second survey (after the exchange).

The Exchange
The exchange was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, and the best way I can sum it up is: lather, rinse, repeat.  I got the call with my 3-hour delivery window, followed up with the email, which I again used to track the progress of my delivery. The good news here is that they have...
  • Consistent processes (sets expectations)
  • Consistency in people (great attitudes, friendly, helpful)
Was the survey difficult to complete? No. Ultimately, it was a great experience, from purchase through delivery and exchange, and I'd be happy to recommend Living Spaces.

You’ll never have a product or price advantage again; they can be easily duplicated. But a strong customer service culture can’t be copied. -Jerry Fritz

4 comments:

  1. The story was great! It’s a great example of exceptional customer service from Living Spaces! And I like what happened throughout the customer service call. Businesses should value customers, even after they’ve walked out of their premises, because they’re still responsible for their products. Having a well-trained customer service representative that can help customers with their inquiries can certainly prevent stress from both parties.

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    1. Ruby, thanks for reading and for your comment. Glad you like the story. It was quite the experience for me. Agree wholeheartedly with your statement that "businesses should value customers, even after they've walked out of their premises..."

      Annette :-)

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  2. I think what makes this experience with customer service a truly memorable one is that the agent you spoke with treated you not just as another customer, but as a fellow human being with other important things to do. Having worked in customer service myself, I know that sometimes, in the urgent need to make a sale or get commissions, inexperienced agents tend to get either very pushy or very lax. But this agent definitely took into consideration the fact that you had a schedule to keep to, and took that seriously. That definitely deserves some praise.

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    1. Jeremiah,

      Thanks for reading and for commenting. I absolutely 110% agree with your point. Treating each other like humans is the ultimate approach. I have a post in the hopper about the human experience... this is definitely a great example of what I will describe when I finally write that one. :-)

      From an employee/management perspective, this most definitely deserves praise and recognition!

      Annette :-)

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