Customer Service Is Key

Date Published: 02 June 2008

Customer Service Is Key

A few months ago I went to MIX08, which was I must say an excellent conference with a very different focus from DevConnections, TechEd, and PDC. However, the weather was against me, and I’ve been meaning to write about it for some time. Now that I’m about to head to 95 degree Orlando, I think it’s time. But the weather is really just the enabler for the real point, which is that customer service can create fans from customers, and fans will get you more customers than thousands of dollars of advertising.

Getting to MIX

We’ll keep this brief since it’s old news, but while trying to fly out of Cleveland on a Tuesday evening to arrive in Vegas that night, ice storms kept us from departing. We sat on the runway for over an hour, were de-iced three times (and I say we because I was traveling with my Creative Director for Lake Quincy Media, Craig Palenshus), and each time the ice caked right back on immediately. They shut down the whole airport and we drove home and got on a plane the next morning from another nearby airport in Akron. Missed half of the first keynote but at least made it to the conference.

Getting from MIX

We stay through Friday, then take the overnight flight Friday evening back home. We’re flying over Ohio to Philadelphia because that’s how the fares worked out, then hopping on a regional flight back to Akron. We get into Philly Saturday morning amidst news of a huge storm approaching Akron and make it to our connecting gate, board the plane, almost pull back from the jetway when Akron closes. We’re sent packing.

We spend the next several hours trying to get to Akron on some kind of flight and are told our next opportunity will be Monday. That doesn’t sit well with us as we’ve been on the road for a few days already and what with the storms back home we’d really rather be home with our families, so I go into problem solving mode and with much-appreciated help of my wife, we get a flight into Pittsburgh and a rental car that we can take from there to Akron (about a 2 hour drive in non-blizzard conditions).

We make it to Pittsburgh and are assured that our bags will go to Akron and thus won’t be at Pittsburgh with us by one of the flight agents (so we go get our car and get out of there because we’re racing a blizzard – in retrospect it seems our bags really were in Pittsburgh). It’s snowing out but not awful and we start driving. After about an hour we’re not quite out of Pennsylvania yet and things are getting quite ugly so we find a hotel nearby, call them, and get directions from the highway. They give us poor directions and we end up driving an extra hour almost before finally getting there (after several more calls and a very long detour). At this point it’s late, we’ve not been in a bed since Thursday night, and we really want something to just go right. We ask for a recommendation for dinner from woman at the front desk (whom I’d been harboring ill will toward while trying to get to the hotel, but had forgiven completely once we arrived as I was happy to have found the place). She suggested Barry’s Starwood restaurant up the road, a steak place. We head for it and find it without incident despite awful roads at this point.

Once at Barry’s Starwood, everything just went right. Our server was excellent. The food was superb. The place was quiet, cozy, welcoming. It’s been several months now and I still fondly remember that dinner as the high point of a very unpleasant travel experience. I left a very large tip and a note to the server. And on the way out I took one of the cards they had in the hopes that I could be able to pass on my experience to them. Unfortunately, Barry’s Starwood restaurant in New Castle, PA doesn’t seem to have any online presence. I can tell you their phone number is 724-658-6113 and that the Comfort Inn up the road recommends them. And now I’m a big fan. If I’m ever in the area again, I will definitely go out of my way to eat there again. I will tell my friends. I will even post it to my blog, which in all likelihood has very few readers in the New Castle, PA area. And if Barry ever gets a web site, I will happily link to it to help send him some more customers. Because their service totally made my day.

One of the tricks here is that, to them, I was just another customer and this was just another day (albeit a snowy one). In order to create more fans than haters, it’s important to consistently make every customer’s experience as close to their ideal as possible. I have little doubt that if I return to Barry’s restaurant I’ll have a good experience (though it’s possible it was just a fluke), and while it’s unlikely I’d be blogging about it if it had been one more disaster that trip, you can bet I wouldn’t be the fan I am now.

Steve Smith

About Ardalis

Software Architect

Steve is an experienced software architect and trainer, focusing on code quality and Domain-Driven Design with .NET.