This morning I got a call from Bill Chapman of Chapman Brothers about our bill. Chapman Brothers is a local plumbing and heating company in Cranford, New Jersey, that we had called for some service. Bill told me to forget about his bill entirely. He didn't want a dime from us! At first, I thought he was angry for some reason but he then went on to ask us to consider his firm for future business and assured me he wouldn't disappoint us again.
I started to argue with him that my husband wanted to pay for the service he had requested; however, he thought the bill was a bit high and he wanted to review it. Bill said that wasn't how he ran his business. His employees and contractors were required to provide a price before going ahead with the service and since that had not been done, he didn't want to charge us anything. I tried again to negotiate something that we both could accept and he again told me no. His company stood for excellent customer service and the service we had received didn't match up. He apologized again and reiterated that he would like us to continue to work with them in the future. I told my husband and he said, "That's crazy, we owe them something."
My husband felt guilty that he had complained. He immediately decided to write a favorable review in Angie's List. Afterwards, I started to consider it from a marketing perspective. That is my specialty but sometimes, when dealing with everyday life, you don't apply the principles. So what emotions did we feel? What did we do?
As I considered this, I realized I had a similar experience the day before with Tim Maher, Senior VP and Relationship Manager for Citibank. I had been at a business conference and he was in a booth. He is in charge of business relationships, not personal ones. But I had been charged an ATM fee that I didn't understand and I asked if the rules had changed. He said no and that he would look into the fee. I forgot about it. But later that day, I got an e-mail. he was researching the issue and needed further information. He took personal responsibility and solved my problem. Not his job, but he went "above and beyond." A couple of years ago, when I was responsible for International Sales Training and Management Development at Prudential, I visited Prudential of Korea which had excellent customer service results. I talked to some of the people in the company and they told me that their objective was to generate "happy calls." They defined those as customers who were so happy with their service that they referred other people and those people called out-of-the-blue to request help.
More recently, I was listening to a book by "Free Marketing: 101 Low and No-Cost Ways to Grow Your Business" by Jim Cockrum and one of his tips was to provide a money-back guarantee. Not just a good guarantee but an outstanding one, an over-the-top promise for customer satisfaction. The case studies in the book showcased examples where the addition of that guarantee increased sales and profits exponentially.
In closing, remember that going the extra mile works. Most people want to feel that they have given as much as they have gotten. When that equation goes out of sync, they try to do more to put it back in balance. In this case, Bill's and Tim's actions triggered powerful re-actions in us. We want to reciprocate! We recommend them.
What about you? Do you have any stories of extraordinary service that precipitated action from you?