Surprises in Customer Service

Focus on Your Customers – they are the very reason you exist! It is with that thought in mind that I wanted to share a brief article written by Stacia Aylward, CEO of Zelos, LLC. in addition to the link to the new “GovLoop Agency of the Future Guide: Customer Service, Closing the Gap Between Citizens and Officials”, which provides tips and best practices for improving your current customer service program. Zelos was proud to partner with GovLoop on this publication.http://

“Yesterday, I was meeting with a colleague for coffee in DC. It was Friday at the end of week two of the Federal government shutdown, and it was raining hard—flood-warning rain. It was pretty quiet in the coffee shop, but there was quite a bit of traffic out on the streets. My colleague and I were sharing stories about planning for retirement, running a small business, and embracing the different “personalities” in our workplaces. And I was also watching the rain outside the window. Then I saw something that looked odd, maybe even a little nuts. A UPS truck had just passed through the 4-way-stop intersection, and I saw this petite lady waving her arms and shouting at the truck, looking agitated, walking as fast as she could toward the open door on the passenger side of the truck. I saw the truck stop. I saw the driver come to the doorway. I thought: Oh no, he must have cut her off. Oh geez, he must have splashed her at the crosswalk with the giant puddles. Oh boy, she’s really mad and yelling. It didn’t look like this encounter was going to go well at all. I thought: “If I’m the driver, what would I do with this seemingly nutty lady yelling outside my door?” I wondered, too, how often this happens to UPS delivery drivers and how they are trained to handle it. (Given my profession, I have sort of an obsessive interest in customer service exchanges so I kept watching, waiting, wondering….)

And here’s the surprise. This UPS driver came down out of his truck (in the pouring rain, mind you), talked to the lady for a minute with a slight smile on his face, went back into his truck while she continued to stand at the door talking away. He emerged with his electronic clipboard and a package, and had her sign the clipboard. And—as she was signing—I thought: Wow, she just tracked him down to get her package and he’s giving it to her. I didn’t know you could do that! I bet he’s pretty annoyed. But as I continued watching, there was an even bigger surprise: the UPS driver came completely out of the truck with the package in hand, walked the lady all the way back to her car at the corner, waited while she unlocked her doors and popped the trunk, and then he gently put her package into her trunk for her, and said something seemingly kind as he walked back to his truck. Did I mention it was raining—flood-warning rain?

I don’t know the UPS policy on delivering packages to people in cars, or on responding to customers who show up at your truck door. It didn’t matter. This particular service employee did exactly what you and I would hope for. He served her well, when he could have easily made a different choice. He was a human being and a partner to her, his customer, not just a guy dropping off random boxes at doors, ringing the bell and running off. I didn’t know what was in that package, but I imagined it to have been important. And I thought the driver saw that package as important too, something other than a just a random box. I thought he saw it as a need that he could meet, and he met it. That true-connection-to-customer is always a surprise when I see it, because it is rare. A lot of boxes are delivered on time, to the right place, every day; that’s good, basic customer service. What I saw yesterday, that level of customer service caused me to say “WOW.” And it made me wonder, what kind of customer service do I deliver? What kind of customer service does each of us deliver? And shouldn’t we always aim for the “WOW”?”

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