Customer Service For The Win! Verbena in El Dorado Hills



I thought I was ahead of the game. I called on Tuesday February 12th to order flowers from Verbena in El Dorado Hills for my wife on Valentine’s Day.  I figured I would stop by on my way home on the 13th and pick them up. Put them in the fridge in the garage on Wednesday night and boom, I’m good to go with flowers when she wakes up.

As sometimes happens, I was a little late getting out of the office and wasn’t going to make it.  While driving, I received a call asking if I was going to make it before they closed. I said probably not. They offered to wait for me, but given traffic I said, thank you but I’ll pick them up tomorrow.

Well, tomorrow is today and I’m running late again.  While driving from Sacramento to El Dorado Hills, I’m on a conference call and see that the florist calls again.  It’s well past their closing time when I roll in to the parking lot and all the lights are off.  At that moment, when I’m rolling through the options of picking through the carnage that would be left at Safeway at 6 pm on Valentine’s Day, a message pops up on my phone.

It was the florist. They had left the flowers out for me and told me where they were.  Just stop by or call and pay us when you can.  I had never been there before. Never bought anything from them.  They now have a customer for life.  Well done Verbena.



Weber and Home Depot, yes Home Depot, show me the value of real customer service

I am a fan of customer service.  Real customer service is often discussed, but in my mind rarely exhibited.  There’s been a lot of talk recently how ‘customer service is the new marketing.” Sure, it is. Everyone talks about it, but when it really experienced, it can be transformative for the consumer and for their friends.

I grill outside a lot.   I use a Weber Summit Gold grill that was given to me as a gift from my wife eight years ago. This is a nice grill, that if I remember correctly cost approximately $1,000, when she bought it for me for my birthday.  She bought it at a local Weber ‘dealer.’ and I was thankful.  I cook on it regularly and those that know me, know I use it for grilling and smoking several times per week.

This is my grill:

Using my grill several times per week, apparently led to both the ignighter and to the burners getting used up.

You can imagine my sadness, when I was unable to use my grill any longer due to the burners being unable to any longer being able to transfer propane, thank you Hank Hill.  I first went to the ‘dealer,’ where my wife bought the grill. I was told that “we don’t carry those any more, but maybe if you go on their web site, you can order it.”  Not, maybe let us do it for you for you, or here’s what to do.

Next, I went to Home Depot to try and see if they maybe had an interim fix, such as a universal burner I could buy and put in.  This is where I experienced my first level of true customer service.  I went to the BBQ aisle and ran into a customer service rep where I explained what I was looking for.  He said, that they don’t carry the burner and ignighter, but try calling Weber directly, and if the grill was less than ten years old, they would probably replace it.

I called Weber, provided the serial number from the grill, and with no further questions beyond my address recieved:

That is two boxes that included a brand new ignighter and two new burners:

There were three separate things that happened here:

– a ‘dealer’ didn’t know that they could have made me happy by telling me the options available to me;

– an employee at Home Depot didn’t make a sale, but provided exceptional customer service;  and

– Weber took care of a customer, and subsequently has made a customer for life.’

So, thank you Weber, and thank you Home Depot.

Customer Service and Social Media

Today I was on a panel talking about social media best practices for PRSA Sacramento. My plan was to talk about social media and customer service.  Instead, I ended up talking about the Grateful Dead. That’s a different post that will come soon.

Since I didn’t cover the thoughts in the meeting today, I wanted to try them out here and see if they make sense to anyone else.  In my view, customer service may very well eclipse news and conversations as the use of social media with the most lasting impact.  Consumers are beginning to expect immediate responses from companies when they mention a problem or poor experience with a product or service, and if they don’t get it they get louder.

Is this somewhat self-centered, impatient or rude behavior? Yes, probably, but companies still have to listen and respond.  My recommendation when looking at how your company deals with customer service using social media is boiled down to the “Three A’s.”  Growing up going to baseball games at the Oakland Coliseum the “Three A’s” were the outfield of Henderson, Murphy and Armas, but the Three A’s here are:

  • Awareness – companies have to be always looking for people talking about their products. You can’t wait for people to come to you anymore, they go to the crowd, or perhaps more accurately here “the cloud” first. They shout into the ether with their problem and expect you to hear it.
  • Attitude – “Customer service,” for many companies is a pain. It is looked at as a cost, not a profit center. It’s also something that should be minimized in the eyes of many. Sorry, look at it as a marketing cost and opportunity to turn someone (and all of their friends) into evangelists for your company and approach those with issues with a positive attitude, not with an eye roll and and an “Oh geez,” what is wrong with these people.
  • Action – Make sure that whomever is responding for the company can take action that can rectify a situation quickly.  Look at Zappo’s and how they go out of their way to help customers. They empower the heck out of their employees to make things right for customers.

Southwest Airlines seems to have grabbed hold of this concept and is running with it as highlighted in this article from The Boston Globe last year. Below is an excerpt of how Southwest is using Twitter to stay on top of issues before they become problems:

“For example, when Travis Johnson, known by the Twitter handle, “pastortrav,” complained recently about Southwest’s check-in process, he received a quick, public response from an airline employee saying, “So sorry to hear it! What don’t you like about the check-in process? Did your flight get off okay?”

This kind of response is like when two kids are talking in the back of the classroom and the teacher says,”Is there something you would like to share with the rest of the class?” They lower their heads, stare at their desks and mumble a quiet, “no.”

I’m not saying that people don’t have problems when they fly, but by being quick and asking if there was anything that could be helped, most of the time it will end there and you keep a small irritation from becoming a major problem.

Not everything can be solved with the “Three A’s,” but if Rickey Henderson can steal 130 bases and Dwayne Murphy was able to keep his cap from falling off his head (at least sometimes) then your company can do pretty well with customer service.