I (Still) See You

A couple of years back I wrote a blog post called I See You. It was based on a concept borrowed from numerous groups of indigenous tribes world wide but re-presented in the runaway hit movie, Avatar, where the native inhabitants of planet Pandora used the term to acknowledge one another in a deeper way than just saying “hi” or “what’s up.”

What reminded me of this post and thus this concept were interactions I had recently with several different companies across a few different industries. Some of these customer service interactions were better than others but in each case, there is a key take away that I would suggest other companies — big and small — take note of.

JetBlue – I fly JetBlue about 50% of the time I fly. This has a lot to do with the fact that they service many of the direct flights from my hometown of Austin, TX to places like New York, San Francisco and Boston. However, I also like JetBlue because of their friendly service, snacks, built in televisions and comfortable seating. Two weeks ago, I was flying home on a fairly packed flight from SFO to Austin. It’s not a long flight (3 hours) but a little tricky to try and use my laptop when stuck in a middle row. After unsuccessfully asking the kind woman at the ticket counter if I could switch to an aisle or window seat post-check-in, I reached out to Twitter. Believe it or not, I wasn’t expecting anything as I really try to not be “one of those people.” If anything, I like to use my social channels and reach for good versus anything negative. And in this case, I used a little of both by saying, “@JetBlue, you know I love you but not looking forward to the middle seat from SFO >> AUS. ;(”  Much to my surprise, JetBlue tweeted me back within minutes and asked me to direct message them my flight info to see if they could do anything about it. Unfortunately, the flight was so full, even the social media folks couldn’t pull strings but as you can see from this blog post (and my ensuing tweet), just the fact that they acknowledged me and made an attempt to help went a long way toward making me feel like I was a valued customer. Now other people in my social graph know that too.

Key take away: sometimes just reaching out and trying to help (in a meaningful way) goes a long way toward surprising and delighting customers

Lexus – if you’ve never owned a Lexus, it’s worth buying one some day just for the service (and trust me, they are damn good cars). This past weekend, I needed to drop my car off to be serviced. In addition to arranging a loaner car for me, Lexus walked me through all the work that needed to be done (new breaks and a tire replacement). What I appreciated most was that they presented me with all the information, the pricing and the pros and cons of waiting versus doing certain things sooner rather than later. And in particular, I was very impressed when after letting me know that my tire wasn’t in stock but that they could have it within two days, the service representative agreed with me that taking my car to a tire specialist was actually a better idea than waiting and letting them do the work. You can bet that I tweeted positive feedback about my experience with Lexus.

Key take away: Being transparent and providing your customers options, especially when big price tags are involved is much appreciated.

American Express – While reviewing my online statement, I realized that I had been errantly charged for four purchases that I hadn’t made during a recent trip to JFK airport. After trying to remedy the situation directly with the vendor in question, I called Amex (business account) and immediately got in touch with a customer service rep. Within three minutes, they had taken all the necessary information they needed from me, walked me verbally through what the next steps looked like and let me know that they would take things from there. On top of that, they thanked me for my business (in a genuine “I’m not reading off a script” kind of way). They also reminded me of a valuable service they offered every time I used the card to purchase airline tickets (something I do regularly).

Key take away: Quick access to a customer service rep, minimal operational nonsense and then a well-informed acknowledgment of my relationship and a genuine thank you for my business.

Bank of America – In stark contrast to my experience with American Express, this one was a little rocky. Similar to my American Express story, I also had an errant charge on my BofA Visa card (tried paying for food at the same broken kiosk with a different credit card). After calling BofA and entering all my pertinent information into the system, the first customer service rep I spoke with asked me to provide significantly more information. That wasn’t a huge deal except after giving her all the necessary information, she let me know that she was going to have to transfer me to another specialist rep. While I wasn’t thrilled with this, I expected that she would hand all of the information I had provided (in addition to the fact that I had been “validated”) to the new rep. Not so. Instead, I had to provide all of my information again from scratch, a fact I let the rep know I was not happy about. Here’s where BofA scored a few points back. The rep apologized several times and acknowledged my frustration. It didn’t make it go away but I appreciated that she at least tried to smooth things over.

Key take away: Create smoother hands offs between systems and reps. And when you put an 800 number on your website (particularly, the logged in portion where you know what my relationship is with you) for a particular type of call, you should be better about actually getting me to the right place. Oh, did I mention that I’ve been a customer since 1993?

So which company has “seen you” recently? Which company didn’t that should have?

  • http://twitter.com/doogsatx Matt McDougall

    Nice list!

    I have three I think warrant some love.

    Chase – Ever since Washington Mutual collapsed and got bought by Chase, I’ve been a customer-by-laziness. Literally just never worked up the ire to switch banks. That all changed about a month ago. I have one seldom-used account that pinged a whole slew of purchases one morning. Fraudulent charges and very obviously not mine. Within ten minutes, the Chase app on my iPhone was alerting me of suspicious activity. Within fifteen minutes, a Chase fraud services rep called me directly, walked me through what was going on, confirmed the purchases were not mine, and told me they’d call back within 24 hours with an update. 24 hours later all was resolved and I was issued a new card. All without lifting a finger. 

    UPS – So we moved recently…and in the runup, the wife ordered some new barstools and sent them to the new house. Shipping went faster than usual, and they arrived before we moved in. The UPS guy realized it was an unoccupied house, took the boxes around to the back porch, then called us to tell us he’d left them back there as a precaution. 

    AT&T – I hate AT&T. But I hate Time Warner more. So when it came time to set up internet service in the new house, I decided to give uVerse a try. After signing up online, they called to confirm everything, double-confirm the installation appointment, and we were off. The next day the tech called to say their fiber guy would be out there installing the box on the outside of the house. Didn’t need to call, but it was a nice heads up. On install day, the tech showed up on time, did not fall asleep on our couch, and was in and out in 45 minutes, when they’d warned it would be a four hour job. Downstream speeds 5X faster than I was getting through Time Warner certainly didn’t hurt the experience, either!

  • http://twitter.com/spiritandwine Mark Buckley

    Good points. I’ve seen Rick Bakas talk about recent interactions with Airlines where they weren’t responsive. I think its important to be responsive at all times. If able to respond, a company should and just the acknowledgement can go a long way to letting you know that you are taken seriously. 

  • http://twitter.com/HeatherJStrout Heather Strout

    Great post, Aaron.  One of the other things I like about JetBlue customer service is that they try to address your issue on the platform by which you reach out.  I’ve had experiences with other companies where I’ve reached out on Twitter and the company has sent me an email address or phone number to use to communicate with them.  I know it’s not possible to address all issues over Twitter, but I like JetBlue’s efforts.

    I’ve been thinking about customer service — long-term relationship customer service — lately and I think JetBlue and AMEX have that down. 

  • Anonymous

    @twitter-14190566:disqus fabulous examples. Thank you for adding to the list. I’m particularly intrigued by AT&T who does seem to be trying hard to repair their image of not really caring about their customers.
    @twitter-22319651:disqus couldn’t agree more!
    @twitter-10109712:disqus great point. And you’re right, it isn’t always possible to respond in the channel the initial touch originated in. But those that can interact in those channels (like @jetblue:twitter  on Twitter) are doing it right!