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In my mind, “good customer service” is…

  • Something we, as consumers, hope to receive.
  • Something we, as business owners and employees, try to deliver.
  • Something that can make or break a business relationship.

I had what might possibly be the most absurd customer service experience in my life a couple weeks ago when I left to pick up my dogs from the dog camp they stayed at while we were out of town. The scene that unfolded was one that felt so surreal I began to wonder, “Which one of us is the customer in this transaction?”

We’ve used this dog camp for several years and have never had even the slightest irritation with them. I knew that the girl I met at the pickup location was an employee and not the owner, so on my drive back home with the kids and dogs, I decided to give the owner a call.

I calmly began with, “We’ve been using your camp for nearly 8 years, and always been very happy. Which is why I wanted to call and share my experience with you because I felt you’d want to know.

The owner listened and was responsive in every way that I would have expected. I knew that the treatment I received was not something she would have condoned nor supported, and I do believe that she followed up with her employee after our phone call.

As I hung up, I started to think about how many customers wouldn’t have bothered to call. They all, most certainly, would have been angry. Some would have vowed to never use that dog camp again. Some would have bad-mouthed the business to their friends and family. And I can’t imagine that any customers using her dog camp for the first time would ever plan to board their dogs there again.

No manager or business owner enjoys fielding complaints nor being on the receiving end of an angry phone call. And in the current business environment of social sharing, the fear of a bad service experience spreading throughout your area can be downright terrifying.

But what managers and business owners should instead do is embrace the opportunity – social or otherwise – to “right a wrong”. How the owner of the dog camp listened to me, responded and planned to move forward following our call, is exactly what was needed to bring my elevated blood pressure down to a normal range and make me feel like my opinions and experiences actually mattered to her. Businesses hesitant to step foot in the social space should shift their views on the “dangers” of bad press, and instead embrace social media as the perfect opportunity for timely and responsive follow-up.

It’s amazing what good listening skills and a “That is not acceptable to me. I will speak with my employee when she returns” can do.