It took five days before someone would return a message to me. For a billion dollar company doing the simple job of picking up my trash, they clearly didn’t put an emphasis on customer service. Last Tuesday, a few days before a dozen family members arrived at my house to celebrate Thanksgiving, I took my trash to the curb like any other week, expecting Waste Management would pick up my trash.
But they didn’t. I’m still not entirely sure why.
Perhaps it was the fact that it snowed that night — the South Carolina version. Regardless of how it happened, when I came home Wednesday evening the trash was still there. So I filed a complaint with Waste Management, notifying them to pick up my trash.
They quickly replied that someone would be back within 24 hours to pick it up, saying that: “This rarely happens, but that when it does they are always quick to provide great service.”
Thinking the matter was over, I assume they would pick up the trash. But no trash was picked up on Wednesday. Or Thursday. Or Friday. Or Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday.
Everyday I would call, send an email, and use their online support platform to ask if someone from Waste Management could come pick up the pile of trash on my curb.
And every day I told that someone would pick it up. And no one did.
It was only when I took to Twitter on Monday evening out of my annoyance that their corporate team reach out to me and told me that they would have someone pick up my trash the next day — which happened to be the day that they were already scheduled to come for their weekly visit.
They corporate Waste Management Cares Team let me know that they wanted to do the right thing and refund me for my troubles. Appropriately, they placed a credit of $6 on my account. (I could only smile and shake my head at the absurdity of that $6 worth of value.)
A day later I had another absurd customer service experience with a different company. Looking to help Sara around the house I reached out to HomeJoy to schedule their service. I clicked a few links, open the web app on my smartphone and proceeded to start filling out two or three questions to get a house cleaning scheduled.
Somewhere in the process I realized I needed to check with Sara to make sure that the time I was scheduling wouldn’t conflict with her schedule. So I stop filling out the form and made a note to call and ask her about the best time for her.
But I got distracted and forgot to call her.
Around 2 p.m I received a call from someone at HomeJoy. “We noticed you started filling out the form to schedule service is at your house,” the young lady on the other end of the phone noted. “What can I do to make this easier for you?”
“You can call my wife and coordinate with her schedule,” I blurted out without thinking too much about it.
Without missing a beat she chimed back in: “Sure, no problem at all. What’s your wife’s phone number?”
It blew my mind. She wasn’t gimmicky or sarcastic or patronizing. She was sincere. You could tell by her tone of voice.
We spent a few more minutes on the phone talking about HomeJoy and the new services and markets they are expanding into.
Why is that companies like Waste Management can’t figure this out?
Why they can’t figure out what startups like HomeJoy intuitively know — that outrageous customer service is the key ingredient to building a raving customer base.
On one hand it took me dozens of phone calls and email, tweets and frustrating conversations with customer service people who didn’t seem to want to really help me, to resolve a problem their company values at $6. On the other hand, the first response from the customer service person was to take work off my plate and help me resolve the simple problem of scheduling
Maybe HomeJoy should start picking up my trash too. I suspect I wouldn’t have wasted a week of my life like I did last week.
There are several lessons to learn from both experiences.
- Your customer is not always right. But you should always treat let them like they are. And hope they figure it out (and Thank You) later
- If you don’t really care about your customers they’ll know, and they’ll never really care about your problem especially when you want them to.
- Your best return on investment for marketing is happy, smiling customers. So invest your marketing budget in motivating your customer service people to create happiness.
- There’s always someone who is willing to treat your customers a little bit more special then you are treating them right now. Be proactive about making sure people know you care.
- Instead of giving more discounts give help, give love, give attention — lots of it.
It doesn’t matter what policy you have. How you leave people feeling is ultimately how your service is judged.
Each day is a new opportunity to leave customers feeling like you have their back. Each day is a chance you go the extra mile on behalf of those who pay you for your services.
Its not good enough to follow the rules, the process, or whatever everyone else is doing.
Remarkable companies leave their clients feeling remarkable. They reward great service. They motivate happiness.
And if you want your company to grow, think about ways you could leave your clients feeling outrageously satisfied. Then do that.