Tiny Twix and Peppermint Puffs: Lessons in Customer Service

Big lessons can come in small packages.

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On top of my filing cabinet at work, I keep 2 candy containers.  One, a glass goblet, holds mini candy bars.  The other, a mug that says I LOVE CHOCOLATE, holds Red Bird Peppermint Puffs. (I know…the candy bars should be in the mug).  My co-workers enjoy the puffs because they instantly dissolve in your mouth.  And the candy bars are popular for snacks or something sweet after lunch.

Sometime last spring, I found a candy bar wrapper with no candy inside but it was completely sealed.  Then, in December of 2013, I came across a puff wrapper with the same thing.  I could have just said, “oh well” and thrown the empty wrappers in the trash.  But in both instances, I decided to contact the manufacturer.  My intent was to a). let them know about it and b). see how the situation would be handled.

Customer service today is not what it used to be.  Basic expectations, for me, are to at least receive a friendly greeting and smile.  And if I have a return or a mistake was made, at least receive an acknowledgement an error may have occurred.  But lately, when I need assistance from a staff member, I almost feel like they don’t want to be there and they aren’t really interested in helping me.

I have worked in sales and service industries since I was 18.  From hotels to retail stores, I’ve sold the tangible and intangible. And I have taught employees how to close a sale.  And I’ve taught how to provide excellent service.  There were many supervisors, district managers and owners who taught ME those skills.  Because of this, I can recognize excellent customer service.  And I can recognize when a company has invested in the training behind the service.

But no matter if it is an excellent product or service, someone will always find something to complain about.  Business owners know they can’t please everyone.  But they will do their best to try.  This becomes very important when something is truly wrong with the product or service.

My expectation from the two manufacturers was they would maybe send me a small 1 or 2 ounce bag to compensate for the missing sweets.  But in both instances, my expectations were not met but exceeded.

Both manufacturers exemplified what great customer service looks like if there is a problem, error or complaint:

  • Set the tone for resolution:  Both manufacturers communicated they would do their best to resolve it.  I spoke to a customer service representative at Mars, Inc.  He verbally stated  by phone the company would send me coupons to compensate for the error.  With the Piedmont Candy Company, I received an email stating I would receive a package of mints as a replacement.
  • Respond in a timely fashion:  In the case of Mars, I initially sent an email and received a response within a couple of days.  The email then instructed me to call customer service to provide further information.  In the case of Piedmont, they responded to my initially email within 24 hours.
  • Be accountable for errors and work on preventing them:  Piedmont acknowledged the information I provided to them as valuable to addressing improvements in their processing.  They also explained their manufacturing process and stated errors sometimes occur.  With Mars, they requested information about where I purchased the bag.  They also requested a number from the bag.  This is smart for a couple of reasons.  1.  They can trace it back to a particular production batch and/or manufacturing location for further investigation.  2.  They can actually verify the bag exists (I’m sure they’ve had many people contact them complaining just to try to get a free bag of candy).
  • Exceed expectations:  With Mars, I received not one but two coupons.  Piedmont gave me the impression I would receive a small bag as compensation.  I arrived home recently to find a large box on my doorstep.  To my surprise, it was from Piedmont.  Inside was a bag of mints MUCH larger than I expected.

Whether it’s just basic customer service or a customer complaint, not all service providers or retailers are bad.  There are a lot of them who get it right from the first encounter all the way through the close of transaction.  We, as consumers, need to work with companies to improve their customer service.  Not just complain about something but offer suggestions.  There’s a saying that goes, “if you have one complaint, offer two suggestions.”

Back in my retail days, I had a district manager who taught me a valuable lesson.  She had a wonderful experience at a shoe store and she shared it with everyone at our store.  I remember her saying, “if someone has a bad experience, they will tell 10 people.  If someone has a good experience, they may tell only one person,if that.”

So, I’m telling YOU about my good experience with these two companies. Now, I challenge you, as a consumer, to share when you have a positive experience with many people.  And if you have a complaint, don’t share with everyone you know.  Share it with a manager or owner.  Give them the opportunity to address it.  And let them know what would have been a better outcome in your experience.  Give them the opportunity to put the best Products, Processes, Procedures and People in place!  That’s what excellent customer service is.

Be blessed and be a blessing to someone else,

Carlton

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