The Three Types of Customer Service
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- Written on: May 14th, 2009
The single largest challenge that Schrock Innovations faces is maintaining the superior service levels that have been the building blocks of the success we are experiencing today. My greatest fear is that there could be an inescapable inverse relationship between the size of a company and the levels of service it provides.
Look at Geek Squad for example. Geek Squad was started by a bright entrepreneur in Minnesota who built a new kind of computer support company using a keen marketing eye and a commitment to service. He was so successful that Best Buy bought his company and scaled it nationwide in their retail box stores.
It is very safe to say that the service levels delivered by the Geek Squad today pale in comparison to the levels that were delivered by that small Minnesota company before it was purchased.
I have spent many sleepless nights lying in bed wondering if the natural tendency for lower service levels as a company grows was inescapable.
The answers to most complex questions are surprisingly simple. The answer to my service questions started to appear while I was waiting for a bus to Disney Worlds from the Orlando airport.
False Comfort on a Musty Bus
My wife and I had paid nearly $5,000 for a 9-day Disney resort package that included just about everything. Part of this package was complementary transportation from the Orlando Airport to the Wilderness Lodge Resort where we would be staying.
When we got off the plane we walked to the departure point for the “Magical Express” bus transport to Wilderness Lodge.
We rounded a corner to see the longest rope line maze I have ever seen. The ropes were designed to route large numbers of people to the bus for their appropriate resort.
It was 84 degrees in this outdoor maze. 84 degrees is normal for Orlando right now, but as a guy who just left 50 degree Nebraska a few hours ago, it seemed excessively warm.
We waited in the heated rope maze for about 45 minutes with for our bus to arrive. The line moved quickly into the bus as the drivers stowed our luggage and stroller under the vehicle.
We climbed on the bus silently thanking God for the air conditioning that was sure to greet us, only to be hit smack in the face with that musty old air conditioner smell that can never be evicted from a vehicle once it gets a hold.
My first impressions of my Disney experience was that it had not been very magical.
When we got off the bus the driver started unloading the luggage and our $200 stroller got caught on something in the cargo compartment. The driver lurched the stroller out, bending its frame and leaving us with a stroller that for 9 days continually wanted to turn left.
Some people would have been disappointed by that initial experience, but I actually found it reassuring. With all of the money and resources that Disney has, this is the best first impression they could muster. I was saddened that the relationship between growth and service levels was unavoidable, but with that question answered at the moment, I could finally relax and accept my fate.
Bureaucracy of Walking a Disney Dog
After that initial low point, another inevitable service rule made its appearance silently. Good service is never noticed. When an organization has good service everything goes as expected, customers are satisfied, and everyone walks away happy. (Note that exceptional service is often noticed and called good service by mistake)
Good service is like air – you don’t notice it until it is gone. Take this example:
My son desperately wanted to meet Bolt, the super dog form the 2008 Disney movie, Bolt. Bolt was a person in a Dog costume who poses for pictures with kids.
It was 5:00 and the Disney “Cast Member” (as they are called) informed us that Bolt would be posing until 7:00. The line was long, but we thought we could make it through the line in 2 hours. My son was VERY excited.
At 6:00 we were next to get our picture taken when the Cast Member handling Bolt roped off the line right in front of us. I assumed the poor guy in the dog suit needed a break, so I asked the handler when Bolt would be coming back. She informed us that he would not be coming back until tomorrow.
My anxiety level went through the roof and I told the handler that she might want to communicate that to the guy outside who told every person in this line (there was a significant line behind me) that Bolt would be here until 7 PM. Her response sent my temper through the roof and for the first and only time while I was on vacation.
I don’t know who that would be… I don’t even know what department that would be.
With that she walked bolt out the door.
I was white hot mad. My son was crying. I looked for a supervisor to communicate my disappointment to. There was not one that could be found. That was the end of it. I was left to return to our room angry, upset, frustrated, and disappointed while at the same time trying to console a 2 year old who just didn’t understand.
At that moment it hit me like a brick wall. There are only three kinds of service in the world. I had just experienced bad service and I didn’t like it. The other types are good service and exceptional service.
After I had calmed down a bit I thought, I wonder if we had ever sent a customer away from Schrock feeling like I just felt. In that moment I resolved that that I would do everything in my power to make sure that no customer ever leaves Schrock with a bad service experience.
Recharged and Repurposed
I love to work. I love to be productive. In the past I never understood why people had to take a vacation to regain insight and “recharge their batteries.” I understand that now, and in the last week I have been more focused, productive, and effective than I have ever been in my life.
The funny thing is I owe it all to that Disney Cast Member who took the time to show me what bad service FELT like. I hope she understands when I say thank you, but I hope I never have to meet you again.
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