Customer appreciation is customer service

Friday, December 6, 2013

When we talk about customer service, we talk about satisfying customers. This involves giving what they need, making them happy during and after every call to boost sales and keep them coming back to our business. At least, this is how most of us understand customer care.

Behind this phrase, however, lies a different definition, and it's how brands show sincere appreciation to customers. Some would say that a simple "Thank you" is enough, or by just giving them what they paid for is a justification of our being fair to our customers: they pay us, we serve them. But brands must go beyond the usual definition of customer satisfaction.

Customers would also want to feel something beyond what is typically expected from a customer-brand relationship. More than verbal appreciation, they want tangible and realistic recognition from the brands they love.

In fact, there are actual brands—big brands—that have resorted to doing extraordinary feats just to make their customers feel appreciated, feats in which we can learn great customer appreciation lessons, feats that are not show-offs but truly sincere, and have therefore given these brands an outstanding reputation  

Trader Joe's: Going beyond the usual

In 2010, Trader Joe's surprised an 89-year old grandfather who's been stuck in his apartment with his daughter during a heavy snowfall. The daughter called several markets for grocery deliveries, but ended up getting no result—until she dialed Trader Joe's number.

The grocery store's representative said that normally, they don't do such things for customers, but he acceded nonetheless to a point that he even suggested low sodium diet for the grandfather. The food came after 30 minutes, and the story went straight to Reddit.

Ritz-Carlton: Living up to the hype

Everyone knows how glitzy the Ritz-Carlton is, but only a few people know how well it handles its customers. There was a story when a Ritz-Carlton manager called her mother-in law in Singapore just to buy specialized eggs and milk for a vacationer who has food allergies. The food this vacationer's family has brought to the hotel was spoiled en route, and the allergic son could not eat the food available at the hotel. After more than two hours, the food arrived at the hotel, which made the boy's family happy. The hotel, by the way, is in Bali, Indonesia.

Rackspace: Simply moving

There was this employee at the office of the cloud computing provider Rackspace who heard a customer telling a friend in the background that they are all already hungry. The employee put the phone on hold and ordered them pizza. The pizza arrived after 30 minutes, and it made the customers' excited.

Zappos: Making it unique and consistent

Zappos, perhaps, is the king of customer service stories, as the company itself has founded its brand on serving customers. At Zappos, customers can order 10 pair of shoes, have them delivered at the customer's home, let them try the products, and return nine if the customer only wants one—for free.

There was this story when Zappos sent six pair of shoes to a woman because her feet were damaged by a medical treatment. And there are many more, which only tell how consistent the brand is when it comes to showing their appreciation to their customers.

Customer satisfaction, sometimes, don't just happen inside the exclusive transactions where brands and customers get to interact—on the phone, email, or when the customer is calling to complain. There would be times that a brand must step up, do something extraordinary, and extend their appreciation directly, literally.

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