Earlier tonight, a two minute conversation that took place on my front steps got me thinking about the companies that I feel fiercely loyal to, and I realized that it’s all about the experiences that I’ve had with them. Throw everything else out the window… price, product, quality… if you want to make me into a life long customer, give me an amazing experience that I’m willing to stand on my front steps in my grubby t-shirt and sweats to argue about.
Let me back up just a little bit and set the stage…
At just about 7:30 this evening I was standing awkwardly in the middle of my shelving unit in my living room bay window to shoot my ProjectLife photo for the day, when I looked up to see two young guys wearing neon vests and carrying clipboards walking up my front steps. After they knocked on the door, blatantly ignoring our “No Solicitations” sign next to the doorbell, I contemplated my options. I could duck down and pretend that no one was home (which really I knew was silly since there was no way they had missed me 30 seconds before), or I could open the door and stop them mid-pitch and tell them I wasn’t interested.
I contemplated pretending no one was home for a moment, but eventually opted for the latter.
I opened the door, took note of their Waste Management polos, and stopped the poor kid mid-sentance with a “no thank you”, fully expecting the conversation to end, to shut my front door, and go back to my daily photo.
But rather than give up and say something like “Thanks for your time…” this guy decided to press on. I’ll give you the truncated version of our conversation…
“Who’s your current garbage company?”
“Burt’s, and I’m incredibly happy with them and have no interest in switching over to a large corporation.”
“…Well last time I checked, Burt’s cost over $260 for a year of service, we…”
“That doesn’t matter to me.”
“Well can I ask why?”
“Because they have great customer service, among other things.”
”Can you give me an example?”
Let me just butt in here and say, there’s nothing that will press my buttons faster than challenging me. This barely-out-of-high-school kid had not only shown up and rudely ignored our request for no sales, interrupted my creative process, and pushed my buttons… but he didn’t realize that he had walked into the end of a very ugly bedtime with an incredibly pissed off three year old. There wasn’t going to be a free pass for him this time.
“How about when we’ve been late getting our cans out on pickup day? It’s been as simple as a phone call to Burt’s, after which they’ve been more than happy to send a truck out the next day to pick up for us. Will WM do that? And if so, what’s the surcharge? How about when we have extra bags or boxes outside of our cans? We don’t get charged for them to get out of the truck to pick them up. Isn’t that an extra fee for WM?”
“Well… thanks for your time.”
End. Of. Conversation.
After I shut the door, I puffed out my chest and did the peacock walk through the living room. Matt just shook his head at me and said, “I’m glad you thought of an example; I would have just shut the door in his face.”
I hopped onto social media to share my immediate disgust with the interaction. That tweet led me to browsing through Burt’s Facebook page, which got me thinking about what it really is that makes me loyal to a particular company.
It’s the Apple effect.
One of the first things you’re taught as an Apple employee is that the customer’s experience trumps everything else. It doesn’t matter how much money your customer spends, or even if they buy anything the first ten times they come into the store… what matters is that they have an amazing experience that will blow them away so much that they wouldn’t consider going anywhere else to buy their computer/phone/iPod/accessories.
For the three years that I put on my lanyard and stepped out onto the cool grey granite, I brought that mindset to work with me. I was the lowest man on the totem pole, but I felt a sense of pride for the company I was representing. I didn’t feel like I was just earning a paycheck; I felt like I was actually making a difference in how people received technology and put it to use in their everyday.
That very mindset has carried with me ever since; and now that’s how I judge every single employee I interact with at every single company I do business with. It doesn’t matter if it’s over the phone, in an online chat, via email, or in person. How you talk to me is going to shape how I feel about your entire company.
I was shopping around for a new foundation, and had heard spectacular things about Bare Minerals. Matt and I were walking around the mall one evening when we walked past Sephora and I decided to stop in and see if they were able to help me out. After an awful and rude interaction with one of their salespeople, I walked out and vowed never to set foot in one of their stores again. That was three years ago…
A month ago, Bridget and I popped into a small local restaurant in Minneapolis for a quick Saturday morning brunch before heading out of town for Jess + Michael’s wedding. We walked in to a surprisingly empty dining room and expected a great meal. Instead we were super disappointed. The service was beyond slow; so slow that the couple next to us got up and left after sitting at their table for 10+ minutes without so much as a hello from the staff. And then our server screwed up our bills… twice. Which really is a shame, because the food was quite tasty!
This past weekend after being rained out of our campsite and Myre-Big Island State Park we decided to drive into Albert Lea for a hot (and dry) breakfast. We drove past McDonalds and Perkins, and settled on a small local place. The food was less than amazing, but the customer service was over the top. The server was attentive and friendly, taking note of when our coffee cups dipped below the half-full point and stopped by to top us off. When I walked to the cash register to get change for a newspaper, the hostess waved me away and handed me the house copy of the paper instead. It may not seem like much, but those little things were greatly appreciated in ways that we couldn’t express. Needless to say, we left an $8 tip on our $20 breakfast.
Some of my absolute favorite companies are the ones that I’ve had some really incredible conversations and/or interactions with:
Kiss Books. Zappos. Chobani. Totally Rad. John Fluevog. FitBit. Just to name a few…
And in just the same way, I can list off the companies that I’ve felt wronged by over the last ten years. Guess what? Chances are REALLY good that if I have a different option with similar services, I won’t be a returning customer.
Is that blowing things out of proportion? I don’t seem to think so.
You could argue that the one person I interacted with at Sephora shouldn’t shape my perception of the entire 10,000+ employee company, but then again, why shouldn’t it?
Maybe it’s my sleep-deprived brain talking over here. But really…
And to the poor kid that got an earful of my soapbox tonight: Thank you for reminding me that sometimes it’s just not worth saving an extra $50 a year. No matter how many Starbucks Lattes I could buy…