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Customer Service is Key

How much do you consider the service you're given in your decision making, be it for a place to eat, product to buy, or person/vendor to support? After reading a thread about basing a mouse purchase on the quality of customer service in replacement of a broken one, I decided to post this. 

While this is a gaming site, the lessons here are applicable way beyond the world of video games. But if you're a gaming organization, a league, a peripheral company, etc., there's valuable information in here for you as well.

Have you ever had a really bad customer service experience? I have. But I've also had some incredible, amazing customer service experiences as well. 

One of the worst customer experiences I've had came from a wireless telecommunication company whose name I will try to refrain from mentioning. I had been a customer of this company for over a decade-- about 12 years. I had never missed a payment, constantly upgraded to the latest and greatest phones, and never had much of an issue with them. Until one day, my phone died and getting it replaced was critically important. I was out of town and in desperate need of a smartphone for both business and personal use, and needed to SPRINT to the nearest cellular provider store. Fortunately for me, I had been paying $7/month for the insurance on my phone for almost 8 years, and that plan included next day phone replacement, right? 

Unfortunately for me, I was about to experience some consistently horrific customer service. After calling the closest store, they informed me that there particular shop didn't do phone repair or replacement, and that I'd have to go to one about 15 miles further away. Okay, no biggie. 

I arrived at the more distant store, waited in line for 15 minutes, and was told that they could not help me, but that I had to go to the original store I called for warranty work (the one that had told me they couldn't help me). So I hopped back into my car, went to the other store, and (long story short) was told that I'd have to wait until I was home and go to my local store instead, which was about 300 miles away. 

Not having a phone for 3 business days was painful, but I got through it. I was back into town for the weekend and had another business trip coming up the following week, so I went to the store near my house to get the situation resolved before leaving for my trip. It was there I was told they could not replace my phone for 2 weeks. TWO WEEKS. And the reason? They don't replace warranty phones with new phones, so even while they had one sitting in a case, waiting to be used, they would not give it to me. 

In some beautiful and painful bit of irony, I was standing next to a sign that touted their $7/month warranty service, which included "NEXT DAY PHONE REPLACEMENT". I asked if that was no longer the case, and they said it was, just not on my phone in this situation. Remaining pretty calm and looking for a solution that would fit both parties, I asked if they could provide me with a similarly featured phone temporarily until my replacement phone arrived. They told me no, but offered me a 1999-looking flip phone that provided no email, web, navigation, etc., which was the functionality that I required. 

I gently reminded them that I was a 12 year customer, had been paying the $7/month warrant fee for YEARS (which would've bought me countless phones if I had just saved it instead), and that if I wasn't provided some amicable resolution, I'd be walking into a different provider's store, and switching my service. They told me there was nothing they could do, and acted  as if the didn't even care. So here I am now, happily a customer of the other, better provider, and the original provider is continuously dropping in customer and revenue quarter over quarter, year over year. I wonder why. 

All it would have taken was for that store to have a small discretionary "customer service" fund in place, where they could eat the cost of replacing a phone to keep a customer in my situation, and I'd still have them as my provider, years later. They would've easily made that money back.

Lesson 1: Empower your employees to handle situations like that and never lose a long time customer over something so easily resolvable, even if it costs a bit of money in the short term. You'll make it up in the end.

A better situation 

Now on the flip side, let me tell you about my Christmas trip in 2011. As a lifelong New York Giants fan, I had purchased tickets to take my family to the Christmas Eve game, the Giants vs the Jets, on Stubhub.com. During the 12 hour drive up (and about 9 hours into it), I was informed that someone who was responsible for bringing the tickets had forgotten them, and that they were sitting on my kitchen table, nearly 600 miles away, with only 1 day until Christmas Eve. I was bringing my entire family to the game as our "Christmas plans", and without the tickets, all would be ruined. 

I called StubHub in a panic and explained the situation to their automated voicemail type system, and expected nothing from them. What I received, however, was the best customer service experience I've had in as long as I can remember.

First, they assigned a single person to assist-- and I dealt with that person throughout the entire situation. He was respectful, courteous, and genuinely cared about getting me a working solution. When he called me the first time, he let me know he understood the situation, asked me a few questions, and then told me, "No matter what it takes, sir, I'm going to get you and your family to that game." And bam, all the stress, all the worry, gone, just like that. 

Lesson 2: If the customer is upset and there's an emotional component, reassurance of a solution has an immediate, powerful impact. 

He then spent the next several hours trying to track down the original seller of the tickets, and was successful in doing so. While I sat around, spending time with my family, confident our plans would not be ruined, the representative from StubHub had the original seller go through the process of converting the tickets into their "digital ticket" equivalent, and had the seller send them to him.

Then he called me back and shared the great news-- that I was going to be able to take my family to the game, in the seats I had purchased, without spending another dime. He literally saved our Christmas. I told him that StubHub had a customer for life, and every event and game I've purchased tickets for since has been through StubHub. I will gladly spend my money through them, even if it costs me more than an alternative service-- they have won me over and turned me from customer to fan.

Lesson 3: A customer converted into a fan will, in turn, become a salesperson for you. I can't even tell you how many people I've pushed to StubHub, so not only do they receive my business exclusively, they've received others as well. 

Lesson 4: Put yourself in the shoes of your customer, and DO THE RIGHT THING. If their mouse is broken, replace it. If they're paying for a service and not receiving it, refund their money. But get into the same mindset of the customer, and "see as they see", so you know what the RIGHT THING TO DO is. 

Lesson 5: Customer service is key. It's NOT optional. Server your customers well, or someone else will.

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