Service When It’s Great

July 30th, 2010

Categories: Accommodation, Appreciation, Banking, Courtesy, Customer Service, Follow-Up, Newspapers, Recognition, Responsiveness, Service, Thanks

A recent American Express Global Customer Service Barometer inspired me to cover instances of great service again-it’s been a while. The Barometer reported that Americans will pay an average of nine percent more to receive quality customer service and that 61 percent noted that in this economic environment, service is more important to them.

The latter surprises me because I expect top quality service regardless of the economy, but I digress.

Happy Surprise

I was having guests on the roof of our NYC apartment and lined up some volunteers to help me install the chair cushions, stored elsewhere both to preserve them as well as to keep them from flying off and injuring someone. When I got home that day the super-and he is-told me that the cushions were already on the chairs and the tables all cleaned–a blessing on a sweltering day.

Four Star Credit Card Bill Resolution

My heart sank when I saw my credit card bill this month because it showed a finance charge and an unexpectedly large total. My habit is to pay the full amount so as to avoid both instances. I no longer get back my checks or even facsimiles, and I didn’t make a copy of the check mailed, so I figured I was up the creek. The issuer-USAA-which has never let me down, came through again. I asked the customer service rep to look at my payment history. He put me on hold and on his return didn’t question me and told me to delete the finance charge. It wasn’t  so much money, yet I was so relieved that I didn’t have to argue or speak with a thousand people.

Immaculate Delivery Follow-Up

The Wall Street Journal is delivered to the office. In the last month or so, it’s gone missing on three occasions when nobody in the building received a paper, according to the responsible man at reception. The third time it happened, I called the Journal and a copy came by messenger within an hour. I subsequently received emails from the paper and the newspaper delivery business as well as a phone call from the newspaper delivery concern’s customer service department. I was impressed at how much they wanted to keep the Journal’s and my business.

Exemplary Honesty

We totaled the car earlier this year and our trusty warhorse, with close to 135,000 miles on it, was sent to car heaven. Before it left, we visited it one last time at a garage a few towns away where someone representing the insurance company had seen it and determined that it wasn’t worth repairing. We were there to retrieve the stuff in it, though we could only open one door and the trunk. A week or so later, my husband got a letter with a $20 bill in it from what he thought was an employee of the car cemetery. The letter explained that the writer had found the bill in the car. So my husband wrote the chairman of the insurance company-USAA again-to let him know what a great supplier he had.  In return, he got two telephone calls from USAA until the rep found him in. He thanked my husband for the letter, and told him that the man who had returned his money actually worked for USAA and that he would be commended for what he’d done.

Friends Who Help

My last example is the service of friends. I was one train stop from where I get off on Friday night when my husband called to tell me he was stuck with a flat tire in a torrential storm. I reached the only car service in the vicinity and the woman explained that she couldn’t pick me up because of a fair going on in town so she couldn’t get near the station.

For years, I’d patted the cat of a couple who traveled on the same train and who got off a few stops north of mine. Their cat purred so loudly you’d hear him even if you were seated four or five rows away. People don’t generally speak with strangers on this train, but we began to chat. On hearing of my situation they immediately told me they’d drive me home. They live in the opposite direction, it was late, and their kitty gets carsick but they didn’t hesitate. I know it’s not service when friends do you a huge favor, but the feeling of gratitude is similar.

Do you have examples of great service to share?

9 Responses to “Service When It’s Great”

  1. Mervyn Kaufman Said:

    When Gracious Home opened a shop on the West Side, I found myself immediately attracted. I came to know that no matter what department I walked into, someone would be there to help me or direct me. If what I want is not on a shelf, each sales clerk I’ve dealt with during the past 10 years has been willing to check the stockroom in each of it.

    Yes, the products tend to be pricey, but the quality of service makes the expenditures worth every penny. When I walk through those doors, I always know I’ll come away satisfied.

    Are the employees brighter than their counterparts in other retail establishments? Are they more motivated? Are they better trained? I’m uncertain. I do know I’ve never been ignored or dealt with rudely at Gracious home—at the West Side store or at the East Side and Chelsea locations. Smart, customer-friendly management is my guess.

    —Merv Kaufman

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    I have heard that about Gracious Home, Mervyn, and what you say proves that people are willing to pay more, especially when the great service is matched with quality.

    About five years ago, a friend gave us a small window air conditioner that she had bought at this store years before. [She was moving into an apartment with central air.] The appliance is lightweight–she brought it home on the bus–and perfect for where we now use it and have every summer since. It cools a huge space and has been a lifesaver this summer especially.

  3. Judy S Said:

    We recently got a new computer.

    Since neither of us is technologically inclined, we called a new computer service (we weren’t happy with service from the one we’d used previously) and a young man
    arrived on time. He took one look at our only four-year-old computer
    and told us it was dead and that it would have to be replaced.

    However, he said, giving us his business card, when we got the new one
    he’d come out and install it for us for no charge. He wrote his
    personal cell phone number on the back and told us to call it when the
    new computer arrived.

    When the new computer came, we called his cell phone and he showed up within a couple days and quickly installed it and copied all our old files onto it. We will call that company again when we have computer issues. Judy

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Don’t lose that business card! A smart, efficient, polite and great computer guru is priceless. My bet is that you won’t need to call him anytime soon because he installed your equipment perfectly.

    I am becoming increasingly happy with these great examples.

  5. Lucille Said:

    American Express is one of the first credit cards I received in college and have used faithfully since. I have always had wonderful customer service but this one particular event that occurred last Saturday put them on my list of over the top customer service.

    My husband and I, (along with 3 young children), were due to arrive home on a flight from the Bahamas late Friday night. After a series of delays which included a tropical storm over Florida and a tornado warning over Manhattan we arrived at home close to 1:00am. We awoke to the phone ringing at about 7:45 am the next morning with an American Express agent asking us if we had authorized a purchase in Nassau, Bahamas that morning. (We had not as we were fast asleep in the USA).

    She was suspicious as she had noticed that our trip ,which had been placed on our American Express card, showed that we had left the Bahamas on Friday and these purchases were trying to be completed Saturday morning.

    Now that impressed us because I don’t even think our relatives knew when we would be arriving and departing. She promptly closed the account and overnighted a new set of cards which arrived on our doorstep first thing Monday morning. In addition, she went through each payment that was listed on our account during our time out of the country to make sure it was indeed ours.

    I am so grateful that this employee took the extra time to make the call because the fraud charges were for such small amounts we might have just overlooked them and payed the bill anyway.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Hooray for American Express! They obviously pay for and know how to use technology to provide superb customer service and have staff trained to interpret and follow up on what the technology alerts them to.

    At one point, I used my American Express card exclusively for restaurant charges. The eagle eyes at American Express questioned purchases made one-after-the-other at Macy’s, Bakers, a NYC shoe store and Lane Bryant. Turned out, my card had been stolen–and I didn’t even know it!

    I am especially impressed by your story because you wrote that the amounts were small. American Express must have had an eye on the dates of your travels…WOW. Big brother on the one hand but thank goodness on the other!

  7. Hester Craddock Said:

    Malcolm Gladwell in his interesting take on intuition and perception, “Blink,” makes a point that illustrates an unexpected, at least for me, benefit that can accrue to those who chose to provide good service to their customers.

    A major American insurance company providing malpractice insurance to the medical industry decided to find out why some of the doctors it insured were far more prone to being sued for malpractice than others.

    After extensive research including the recording of snippets of doctor-patient conversations, they discovered the reason. Was it that some doctors were more skilled than others? No. Was it that it was more difficult for doctors in some specialties to avoid making mistakes? No. Oddly enough, patients who thought their doctors truly cared whether they got well of not, didn’t sue. The key was a doctor’s attitude, not his competence.

    I’ve been going to the same doctor for twenty-five years, and my mother-in-law went to him for years before that. I suppose he is competent, but I have no way of really knowing. What I do know is that every time I see him, I’m convinced that he is really concerned about keeping me healthy. Interestingly, in almost fifty years of practicing medicine, he’s been sued only once for malpractice – and he won the suit!

  8. Judy S Said:

    I tried to order something from Boden (I love their children’s clothes) over the Internet last night. My catalog offered free shipping and 12 percent off since I’m a good customer.

    When I got to the end of my order, I discovered that the back of my catalog had no “quick service number” which I needed to get both. I gave up and called today.

    The gentleman at the other end apologized, saying that it had happened to several people, and he not only took my order, he gave me 15 percent off instead of 12 percent. I was very impressed. I’ve had to call other vendors for similar reasons and never had this kind of response.

  9. DB Said:

    I thought of you many times after using the self checkout in the supermarket.

    The frustration this creates for me is beyond measure. However,it is faster than the long lines forming where the single human is checking out customers.

    One day the machine told me to take my purchases off. I stood there with five items in my arms wondering what it was all about when an attendant arrived to help. She checked me out.

    I just found a way to have help in the future thanks to the automated voice on the machine. I was elated! Believe me, when I am frustrated I just pile my swiped purchases in my arms until help arrives. I know the bag scale is waiting to weigh it but it gives me pleasure to help create jobs.

    Where were the unions when checker jobs were eliminated?

    One day I swore to management that the machine still owed me $1.00. After telling me that the machine does not make mistakes I was handed $1.00….hmmm! At least management did not insult me by suggesting I could not count. I now always use a credit card.

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