Today’s guest blogger is Todd Brockdorf, author of the new book, Better than Average, Excelling in a Mediocre World. He is a frequent speaker leading programs and training for corporations, non-profit associations, and colleges and universities who want to be Better than Average in order to stand out from the crowd.
Better than Average companies are those that stand apart from their crowd. Could customer service be a differentiator? Most certainly. When we have become systematically drilled to be disappointed, prepared for poor service, and blind to bad interactions, it is easy to exceed expectations and stand out from the crowd.
You’ve heard of Zappos, Disney, and Apple as names often associated with outstanding customer service. But have you heard of Chicco USA?
As my wife and I were preparing to welcome our first son, we shopped at the local big box baby store for a stroller. We looked at this model and that one. We checked out the features and functionalities. We prodded and priced. After a few hours, we settled on a sleek kid carrying machine in the form of a Chicco Cortina travel system.
It performed as expected for our first son and both my wife and I thought we made a wise investment. When our second son arrived 19 months later, our gear was still in good shape and we continued to use it.
One day, when I returned to my mother-in-law’s house to retrieve my youngest one, I found the stroller standing on her porch with the push bar hanging at its side. Mind you, this push bar goes up and folds down. It’s not designed to go side to side.
Still not understanding how exactly this situation happened, my wife called Chicco to see if there was a replacement push bar available.
At that point, we had the stroller for about three years and it was clearly out of warranty.
After my wife explained the situation, the customer service woman said, “Well, the push bar is not available as a separate part.”
“Rats,” I thought. Here goes another few hundred dollars out the window for a new stroller.
“But, it’s no problem,” the customer service woman continued. “I can send you out a new frame with the push bar attached.”
“Wow, that’s cool,” I thought. I just saved a few hundred dollars and no longer need to replace the window which I was about to throw it out. Note to self: Open window before throwing out money.
When the frame arrived, Chicco not only supplied the frame, but new wheels and a new snack tray. The only parts that we needed to reuse from our broken stroller were the seat cover, canopy, and storage basket. Essentially, it was a brand new stroller. Sweet!
Chicco is committed to the safety of children. Their goal is to produce quality products. At Chicco, spokeswoman Lisen Syp explained, customer service is “the right thing to do.” It is “not a particular pillar of emphasis.” But consumers do notice and routinely comment about their practices.
Three lessons that can be learned from this Better than Average company are:
- Autonomous Authority – The customer service woman was empowered to analyze the situation, determine how best to help the customer, and act on an outcome. Notice that she did not once ask to place my wife on hold to consult with her supervisor. She made a decision to right the wrong without needing to ask for permission. If they have to ask for permission, they are powerless.
- Exceed Expectations – I expected a stroller frame. If Chicco had sent just a stroller frame, I would have been more than satisfied. It seemed like a small miracle that we could even get a frame. But when the frame and wheels and snack tray arrived, I was truly blown away. Wow your customers by giving them more than they can chew.
- Create the Culture – When I later asked the spokeswoman about Chicco’s customer service practices, she commented that it isn’t an area of emphasis but it is the right thing to do. There are no false pretenses. They try to be an honest company standing up for their products and quality. If there is a wrong, they will fix it. It’s as simple as that. Do you view customer service as something to be worked on or another chance for a positive company interaction?