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The Power of Positive Customer Service

On a recent trip I experienced the best and worst of customer service. The impact of each was huge, yet the gap between the two was small and easily closed. So why doesn’t every company  choose to provide the best?

I’ll name names.

Let’s start with the bad. I landed at the Cincinnati airport and took the shuttle to pickup my car at Alamo. Signage inside the airport wasn’t great, so I had to wander some before I found the right place to wait for the shuttle, but once I found it the driver was courteous enough. Then I entered the Alamo lobby. OMG. The young woman looked more than a little put out about having to deal with me, a customer. She scowled. She mumbled. She made no attempt to up-sell me to unneeded insurance or fuel plans. Now, I usually am not pleased when rental companies try to up-sell, but in this case it was the final insult. It hurt my feelings. Why wasn’t she concerned that my day might be ruined if I have to fill up before returning the car?

We completed paperwork without her ever making eye contact, then she waved vaguely towards a couple of cars in the lot. “Choose. Whichever.”

I took the silver instead of the red. It had satellite radio (which, had she pointed it out, would have largely made up for lack of eye contact). Started, drove to exit. The Alamo agent thrust out his hand. I gave papers. He waved his hand impatiently. I shrugged. Finally he pointed to something on my dashboard. I gave it. He snorted and raised the gate. I drove off vowing to never again rent from Alamo. Hope you see why.

Several hours later, I arrived at Cincinnati Marriott Northeast in a pissy mood. I did not want to spend that much for a few hours of sleeping in a hotel, but it is where my friends had agreed to stay. Except they all stayed elsewhere.
I walked to the desk with Alamo on my mind.

The clerk, about the age of the Alamo woman, beamed me a grand smile and welcomed me. She asked about my travel. She made certain that the room preference in my record was correct and that she had my correct Rewards number. And then, rather than simply hand me the key card, get this: she walked around the counter, and stood next to me. She looked down the hall from my point of view to ensure her directions to the elevator were clear and correct.

I walked to the elevator delighted that I was spending a few dollars more to be at that hotel. (And it looks like I’m not alone: check out all these positive reviews).

The next morning, it got better. Two housekeepers greeted me. The waiter at the lobby café took my order for something not on the menu, made suggestions about how to improve the meal, and threw in some extras. When the desk clerk could not accommodate my request for a late checkout, I knew she had genuinely tried.

I left loving that Marriott. I felt loved in return.

I topped off the gas tank and returned the car to Alamo. The agent who checked me in smiled, asked how my visit had been, and chatted about the weather. He made sure I knew where to catch the shuttle. As we pulled out of the lot, I thought that maybe Alamo wasn’t so bad after all.

See how easy it is? Just be nice. Walk a couple extra steps and be interested in the other person. Business will grow. I promise.

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