Sunday, April 8, 2012

Delightful Customer Service vs Simply Surviving: A Case for Both

There is a reason why customer service sucks at the DMV, post office and local courthouse. Because it can. And you, the customer, can do nothing about it except smile and suffer through. And then, when you are in need of their respective services again, all you can do is survive all over again.

And we have grown comfortable with this standard of customer service from businesses we can't live without.

That's the key performance indicator in all good customer service strategies; to avoid making the customer simply survive and instead aim to delight. If being "delightful" is your customer service philosophy, likely you are closer to success than failure. If not, you better hope you are in the utilitarian services industry and not a business where people have a choice. Case in point; a little day spa in Peoria, Illinois that I unfortunately had to survive recently.


Five Senses Spa and Salon may be one of the few self-proclaimed spa and salons in the city of Peoria, but they are not the only spa, and certainly not the best. [I recommend a very affordable Natural Concepts Day Spa or Serenity Spa if you are in Peoria. Otherwise, Bliss Spa in Chicago or Grove Park Inn near Asheville, NC happen to be among my favorites of all time.] My recent experience at Five Senses spa left me reeling with a want to share my horrific story with all those who would listen. But not just because it was awful, but because it's a real testament to how social media is customer service and customer service is indeed, social media.

After a totally undesirable evening that left my feet sore [the staff uses thick rubber dish-washing gloves for pedicures], my integrity bruised and my new leather boots in ruins, I had plenty of time to think about letting this one go; chalking it up to a very unhappy spa owner and a naive business owner, not to mention super harsh chemical products instead of the lovely organic skin-softening spa products they sold me on. Instead of surviving this unfortunate, unnecessary event, I asked the spa owner for help on how to fix the leather on my [brand spanking new John Fluevog] boots. The owner of Five Senses basically told me that the paperwork I signed waived my rights and that "buyer beware."

That's not something you want to hear after paying for a certain service and getting something else entirely (a chemical burn on fine leather). But when the owner provides the same level of customer services as an overworked, underappreciated DMV worker, it's all I could do. I tweeted about it, I posted pictures in Facebook, I added comments in FourSquare and Yelp and more. That's the power of social media; allowing disenfranchised customers the right to warn friends before they too become victims of poor customer service; or worse. Compounding social media's effect is certainly word of mouth, and that will never change. People are people, after all, and people talk. Customer reviews, peer reviews and personal stories help to form opinions where advertising and marketing pale in comparison.

The good thing to come out of this experience is a story I can share.When the post office worker treats you like a number and barks orders in your direction, there is no point in taking it personal. But when a retailer or a business or a spa treats your money less important than the next dollar walking through the door, the point is to take it personal and social media provides that right.