We’ve written about good or bad experiences before, we’ve stood on our soapbox and preached about it, and we’ve drilled it into our clients: the little things you do make a difference to your customers. They know and they remember. They tell friends and tweet the world at large. It’s a topic we never tire of… so here’s another first-hand experience that highlights how both good and bad experiences linger in the customer’s mind, and have the potential to create repeat and new business for your company.
My husband has been scoping out GPS devices for months… years even… since before we even owned a car, in fact! But two weeks ago, in preparation for our first weekend road-trip out of state with my family, he got serious about it. We were headed to Vermont for a few days to ski, and we weren’t really sure how to get there, so we figured it was the perfect time to make a purchase. To seal the deal, Best Buy was offering some tremendous deals on GPS devices.
Thanks to hours of research, we knew we wanted a Garmin. And living in a major metropolitan area, with lots of traffic congestion, we knew we wanted not just live map updates, but also live traffic updates (these are called LMT, for Live Maps and Traffic). As luck would have it, a Garmin device with both features was on sale for a great price at Best Buy at that very moment! We sped to the closest Best Buy, found a salesperson who retrieved the GPS we wanted from the stock room, and completed our purchase.
Three hours later, I had a fully charged device complete with downloaded maps for North America and Puerto Rico, and a smiling husband with a new spring in his step. A few days later, trunk overflowing with gear, we set off on our first adventure with turn-by-turn navigation.
Our trip began during mid-week rush hour in a metropolitan area competing for the most congested traffic nationwide. My brother had suggested we avoid the major roads and opt for slightly smaller highways. We were feeling confident knowing that our trusty Garmin with live traffic would steer us away from gridlock.
After 45 minutes on the road, we suspected that something was awry. Traffic updates didn’t seem to register on our device, and roadways were not showing the characteristic red/yellow/green traffic flow indicators. It wasn’t such a big deal, since we had already planned to take smaller highways anyway, but we were concerned that maybe something was wrong with the item we had purchased. Nonetheless, we arrived at our destination safely after an uneventful journey.
We decided to get on with the ski day, and deal with our GPS concerns when we got back to my brother’s house. Despite crappy weather, with threats of rain, we persisted and purchased lift tickets at a southern VT resort that will remain nameless. We knew what we were getting into; spring skiing on the East Coast means slow, sticky, slush. But it had snowed 6 inches overnight, and it was still snowing in the morning, so we held out that we’d get in most of the day before it turned to rain. What we didn’t count on was that most of the lifts on the mountain would be shut down while we were in the lodge eating lunch!
Now I can understand that the resort has no control over the weather. But what you’re paying for at most ski resorts is a LIFT ticket, not really slope access. And when they charge full price for lift access, I expect full lift service…. Not the kind of lift service I get at a much smaller resort with only 3 or 4 very slow lifts. If I get the kind of lift access I get at a smaller resort, I also expect to pay the prices I pay at a smaller resort. I felt like I’d been sold a BMW and then had it switched out for a Fiesta after a few laps around the track.
Despite making our points to management, we were told it was a weather issue that was out of their control, that the mountain was still open and that we could still get access to all trails. To add salt to the wound, we walked out the door, got on one of the four open lifts, and got stuck for 30 minutes in windy sleet. Needless to say, I won’t be going back there anytime soon. I’ll make the trip farther north, where conditions are better, or out West, where Spring conditions come with Spring pricing… both of which are far better than the East Coast.
Upon arriving back in civilization, a little more online investigating into our GPS issue led my husband to believe that we needed a special cord, with a built-in antenna, in order to receive the live traffic updates. So we found a Best Buy nearby, and trekked in to speak to someone, prepared to buy the special cord. The salesperson in the GPS area, although very nice, was not really that informed about the differences between regular GPS devices, and LMT devices. He had never even heard of a cable with a built-in antenna. So, we called Garmin directly, and were very surprised when a customer service rep for the company told us that the serial number for our device indicated it was not an LMT, but just an LM device! Of course we hadn’t been getting traffic updates! We had been given the wrong item from the stock room!
When we got back from our trip, the first item of business was to dig up the receipt and take the GPS back to Best Buy. I have to admit, we were a little nervous about what they would say to us, and whether or not they would honor the price from a week ago (which was $40 cheaper than the current listed price). I expected to have to put up a fight. But after a short wait in the customer service line, we told our story to a representative, presented an ID, and walked out the front door of Best Buy with a Garmin LMT device! Talk about good customer service! Despite the fact that I would rather have been given the proper device in the first place, the whole exchange was painless.
So, what’s the bottom line? Customers instinctively know when they are getting the short end of the stick, or getting exceptional service. If you think you can pull one over on your customers by using jargon or legalese, and throwing around corporate policies, remember that customer BS meters are more finely honed in the internet age than they have ever been. We all know the airlines are taking us for a ride… in the wrong direction. We also know the cable companies are feeding us lines… of propaganda. Cell phone companies? Yep: we’ve got their number. And guess what, we’re onto you too. Have you run into a company who pleasantly surprised you? Share your story with our readers so they can get inspired to turn their focus on their customers’ needs.