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My million dollar customer experience and then some!

by Anne Tonkin | Aug 15, 2014

It had been more than a year in the planning for our huge family trip to Disneyland, San Diego, San Francisco and then a relaxing time in Hawaii.  Three weeks of holiday fun!

Significant planning had gone into the first 10 days in California with a tour or activity planned, booked and paid for everyday.  Hawaii was to unwind from the madness. Everything had to go perfectly.  Well most of it did!  As a marketer you want to make your customers feel great!  Creating a valued customer connection is pivitol.  I couldn't wait to experience the best service ever.  I think I had imagined that as a result of the small fortune I had handed over!

Customer service had been drummed into be when I worked in a department store, whilst I was studying full time.  Our supervisor every night even said thank for our efforts everyday.  She made us all feel great.  A connection was being made! I felt valued. (I knew I only ever wanted this supervisor as my boss)  In the lead up to Christmas in the record or music department it could get quite stressful ensuring you know the top 10 singles, albums, record companies, emerging artists etc. There was nothing on line in those days. It was CD's and tapes only!  Then my first full time job was in marketing and then I worked my way to the top as the National Accounts Executive for a leading company in Australia.  During this time our company expected staff to stay back to help a customer.  It was nothing to drop a spare part in on our way home to make sure their customer experience was second to none.  A boss of ours even visited a customer on Christmas Day. Customer service had always been a priority and our company was the market leader as a result.

Now after spending a huge amount of money on our first trip to America, I wanted to get great bang for my buck.  Yes I had even done a case study at Uni on the amazing service at Disneyland so I was ready to judge every customer experience I had to see if it matched up with my huge financial investment and the learnings I had undertaken.  I tested the staff around Disneyland to see if they could answer questions on parade times, toilets, fast pass etc and yes they passed the test.  Disneyland was incredible, until the last day when we went to enter and we were stopped at the gates.  "Do you have photo ID?" This was obviously someone who hadn't read the case study I had read on the Disney experience.  I politely explained that as tourists our photos had already been taken and were connected to our Disney entry cards (which I thought was a pretty cool idea if they were ever lost), but no she wanted to know how I was going to prove that these were my cards in the first place!  Shocked, I politely said I had purchased 4 and there were 4 of us and we were going in.  The reply... "Well you will have trouble with those cards next time!"  She was not going to ruin my experience however I will never forget how she made me feel. There was no customer experience connection created here.

We did enjoy Disneyland and I am not going to explain every amazing aspect of our trip (although Alcatraz was a highlight), I am going to share the experience that changed my educated mind on customer service.  Our trip was planned and then we discovered we would be in San Diego for the 4th of July.  I was excited and yet nervous about this event.  We had booked a dinner cruise on the bay to watch the most spectacular fireworks I will probably ever see, however it was our transport planning that gave me the chills.  How were we going to get in and out in all the traffic?  Our transport experience made me rethink even my own values on customer service.  With 850,000 others wanting to watch the fireworks a taxi was our only option from our accommodation, to and from the fireworks.  The thought of the cost of this made me nervous, cars, traffic jams, more cars, people, waiting times... oh well it is just part of the experience I was telling myself. ( I was still feeling anxious though)  There was one driver who told us he would pick us up after he dropped us off at the harbour, for our cruise.  Well the cynic in me said, "Yes that would be great but I bet you are not there when we get off!"  When we went to pay for the first leg of our journey, he politely and proudly said, "No just fix me up the other end!"  This was incredible.  This made us feel like we were the only people in San Diego!  We cruised the harbour, were spellbound by the fireworks and ate enough for the next day too.  This cruise was hard to get onto and we enjoyed it much more as our driver removed all our worries about the trip home.  He even fixed the price! 

Our driver positively influenced our entire experience in San Diego.  His customer service was some of the best we had ever experienced in our whole life!  He connected with us.  He removed my worries.  He over delivered on his promise to pick us up. We felt like his only customers in San Diego.  Our baseball experience followed exactly the same pattern.  He was there after the game finished.  Ready and waiting and building that connection with us.

Even though customer service has been ingrained in my education and work experience I have thought about it differently as we encountered all extremes during our holiday.  A shuttle did not pick us up and we missed our flight.  Yes a terrible experience with terrible service.

It is so important that staff take time to personalise, connect and develop relationships with their clients.  Keep it at the forefront of the minds of staff and remember it is just as important to build those connections internally as it is externally.

Keep those connections alive and those customers will come back.

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