Customer Service = Customer Engagement

Customer Service = Customer Engagement

October 8, 2015

You know how it goes… You’ve got a problem or a question and you call that 800 number with dread. Or you need help and step up to the customer service desk, hoping that you’ll find the information you need. Most of the time it goes OK. But often, when we actually notice how an organization engages with customers, it’s because of the incredible lack of service.

Recently, however, I was fortunate to have three unusually great customer experiences, which reminded me just how important this connection between company reps and customers really is.

When a company gets service right, they engage customers. And that creates loyalty.

Here’s what happened:

Brussels Airlines

It was my fault. After 20+ years in incentive travel, I made a mistake booking my daughter’s ticket on Brussels Airlines and I didn’t notice until it was too late to change it. I called the 800# on the website.

As expected, the airline wasn’t able to fix my mistake due to policies that don’t allow changes. This is standard these days and I had been pretty sure there was no hope.

What I didn’t expect was the great service by the two reservations agents I spoke with. They had to deliver a tough message: “No. I’m sorry.” But instead of leaving it there, they both offered help. They walked me through the options and stayed on the line with me, as I went through a long online process separating my daughter’s record from her dad’s, requesting refunds, and rebooking the ticket.

The Brussels Airlines agents stayed positive and professional and made a bad situation a good experience.

Fairmont Hotels

We’ve written about a great experience I had as a Fairmont guest in an earlier blog, but recently they exceeded expectations again. This time, the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle did the right thing.

We received an alert that an individual travel award winner had missed his flight over the weekend. He had not shown up for the flight and hotel because of a serious family emergency. Since he didn’t cancel, the value of the airline tickets was lost and typically we could expect hotel penalties.

We reached out to the hotel to see what that cost would be. Whoever answered the phone at the front desk heard what happened and said, “Don’t worry about it.” They didn’t need to ask a supervisor. They didn’t need to call accounting. They simply removed the charge. The guest was welcome to use his Fairmont Ovation Rewards certificates for a future stay, without worrying about the cancellation of the first trip. “It’s alright. We know things happen,” the front desk agent told me.

Indianapolis Art Museum

An art museum? Is there really customer engagement after the ticket desk? There is at the Indianapolis Art Museum.

During a visit there last week, we were a little surprised when a museum staff member asked us what we were there to see and suggested out that we might like a modern American painting in the next room. Then, on another floor, a guard told us about the sculpture outside, who the artist was, and how it was lit up at night. Another guard heard us wondering aloud about how to get to the garden and stopped to give us directions.

Everywhere we turned, museum staff engaged us in meaningful conversation about our experience in the museum. They were knowledgeable about the collection and personal about their recommendations.

I’m a frequent museum-goer, but for those who aren’t, museums can be austere, off-putting places. The staff at the Indianapolis Art Museum broke that barrier by making each encounter relaxed and friendly. I’m betting their repeat visitor numbers are on the rise.

I’m Engaged

What do these three experiences have in common? People acting like…  well… people. In each case, the encounter was thoughtful and helpful. The dialogue was not scripted. There was no us-versus-them dynamic in place. Each person at Brussels Airlines, at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, and at the Indianapolis Art Museum was able to relate to us individually and give their best service. That’s the mark of an organization that truly cares about the customer experience and provides opportunities and guidelines for their team to live up to that promise.

I’ll be back. We’ll fly Brussels Air. I’ll think of Fairmont when booking my next trip. And I’d love to spend another day at the Indianapolis Art Museum. Their brand ambassadors have made me one. And isn’t that the point?