Who enjoys calling the 1-800 help lines of service providers? Not many people, and certainly not me. I dread having to punch in all of my account details (and be asked for them again by the service representative), only to wait for long periods of time while being reminded that my call ‘is very important.’ It’s not that I’ve had any particularly bad experiences, but I usually also don’t have any that stand out as examples of excellent customer service, either.

Well, I have to say that I think things are improving. Over the past month I’ve experienced a couple of very positive customer service interactions that not only made my day, they also turned me from a jaded consumer into a loyal customer. For that very reason, they deserve to be highlighted and commended. People in any service-oriented industry – be it food, hospitality or even PR-related – need to know that responsive, helpful service will bring most customers back for more. In other words, solid customer service makes good business sense.

You may remember my recent blog post regarding useful travel apps for busy PR professionals. The first of my positive experiences came a few weeks ago when I was travelling to Scotland with my family to attend a cousin’s wedding. The expense and stress of traveling internationally with small children alone can be taxing, but to top it off we found ourselves scrambling to rearrange and reroute tickets in the middle of our journey to accommodate some unexpected delays. Things were only more complicated by the fact that some of our seats were regular tickets and others were bought using frequent flier miles. Having booked everything through Delta, I was afraid that various cancellation policies and complicated fare grades would conspire to make changes either a) very expensive, or b) impossible. In the midst of my pessimism I hadn’t considered that a third option existed, which was that a very understanding and helpful representative, named Jill, would actually listen to what we needed and do her utmost to help. After a marathon phone session, Jill was able to offer us multiple alternatives, routes and dates to help us reschedule our tickets. Although this required some compromises and a small fee, we soon got back on our way and had a hassle-free journey from that point. I can’t adequately explain how relieved I was to encounter someone who truly seemed to care. Without having to break any rules or be badgered by a tired and annoyed customer, Jill did her job – and did it with great professionalism and courtesy.

My second example of excellent customer service actually occurred earlier this month as my family prepared to move to a new house. With any move comes the long list of requisite services that need to be turned on, deposits that need to be paid, and addresses changed. The gas, the electricity, water, trash, ISP, mail forwarding, and more. My wife and I split up the list and set about contacting each service provider one by one. Again, I was genuinely surprised and pleased by how simple the process was, and how prompt and pleasant all of the representatives were to deal with. I even got a couple of ‘congratulations on your new home’ comments, which seemed both genuine and thoughtful.

Aren’t these the kind of customer service experiences we all want to have? Fast, friendly, informative, and helpful. No sales pitch, no upselling, no hassles, and no tip involved. Perhaps this is the new norm, and my expectations were set too low. I certainly hope so. How many times have I heard that ‘this call may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance purposes’? Perhaps organizations have finally started learning from all those recordings. In any case, I want to say a big thank you to the people who made my life a little easier over the past month. To Jill, Gwen, Jeff and Brian. Your assistance meant a lot to me, and I appreciate it.