Summer Sun, Spending, and Service

26 08 2011

As the summer winds to a close, I look back on the season as an experience in entertainment, heavily wrapped in commerce and customer service.  We all spend money in the summer.  Trips, bicycles, cold beer, pool equipment, ice cream, and BBQ’s – the summer is about purchasing.  With each transaction there is an opportunity for vendors to turn seasonal customers into return visitors or year-round clients.  This relies heavily on customer experience and overall satisfaction.

Personally, I had one particular customer experience that is worth sharing.  This summer our family rented a boat with our friends from out of town.  We took the kids out on the lake for a day of boating, fishing, and swimming to cool the hot summer day.  We rented a shade-covered pontoon boat from Just for Fun Watercraft Rental in Austin, Texas.  We loaded up our gear and headed out onto the lake.  Docking in a private cove we did cannonballs off the side and caught fish after fish after fish.  It was awesome!  When we tried to start the boat to explore a different part of the lake, we had some mechanical difficulties.

“Why aren’t we moving?” asked the impatient kids, adding frustration to the problem.  After some creative engineering with tools from the fishing box, we were able to start the boat and continue the journey.  A few hours later, it happened again.  We still had a nice time and were able to return the boat after a fun day in the sun and on the water.  Regardless, I was a bit miffed at the stress caused by the equipment flaw, and I was not looking forward to the conversation I would inevitably have when I returned the boat.

The deckhand met us at the dock and asked if we had a good time.  “Yes and no,” I responded, not wanting to be a complainer, but feeling like I had a case for some compensation.  After explaining our trouble, he did the right thing immediately:  “Let me get the manager.”

I hopped off the boat and walked toward the office.  The deckhand was relaying the story to the manager.  As I approached, he walked toward me with a concerned look on his face and an extended hand.

“Mr. White – I hear you had a problem with your boat.”

“Yes, I did.”

“I’m really sorry about that.  We do our best to maintain our equipment, but sometimes things happen.”

“I understand,” I replied, waiting to see how he would resolve the issue.

“I would like to offer you some free time on your next rental.  We would love to have you back, and we want to make it up to you.”

Perfect.  As a guy that has managed sales people and spent much of his life serving customers, I truly appreciated his approach.  In order to give him proper credit for this story, his name is Ted Burger, and here is what he did right when solving the problem:

  • Lead with a relationship approach.  Ted did not try to hold firm in policy or blame me for the problem – he met me with hand outstretched, wanting to be friends first, business associates second.  Instantly, I softened my demeanor and was willing to listen.
  • Provide a quick solution.  I was not required to negotiate with Mr. Burger.  He initiated a resolution and did not force me into the uncomfortable position of fighting for my rights.
  • Generate future business.  Yes, I may have preferred a rebate on my rental.  But ultimately, even though there were mechanical issues, we did have a really good time on the lake – and certainly would love to go again.  Ted gave me a discount on my next rental, and we will definitely return to redeem it – and pay for additional time on the boat.  Ted encouraged future business for his company and transformed me from customer to client.

Three simple steps to good customer service that created an experience worth talking about.  Thank you Ted Burger and Just for Fun.  You accepted accountability, sympathized with our problem, and treated us with respect – we will definitely be back!


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4 responses

26 08 2011
Jennifer

I love that story. And in the digital age, it amazes me that anyone would do anything less than Mr. Burger. Here’s our family vacation story, as I put on yelp and tripadvisor. Now everyone knows not to rent from these people:

Dear Idyllwild Cabins,
I wanted to give you some feedback on our stay at “Luna.” My goodness! That property needs to be seriously renovated or condemmed before you rent it out again. We were shocked at the condition and numerous safety hazzards. We felt that we were not given good information about it’s condition and will not recomend it or your organization.

The carpet was disgusting, the place was very dusty and full of cobwebs. Several bedrooms do not appear to be vented for air conditioning and were stifling hot. The shower curtains are moldy.

From a safety standpoint:
*The deck is rotting. There are several loose boards we feared breaking through. The wood was dry/cracked and some of us got splinters. There were several nails sticking out, and we had to be careful to wear shoes and think back to our last tetnus shots. There is a place on the deck missing some railing, it would be easy for someone to fall through, with a full-story drop. We had to place chairs along the edge for safety.
*Many baseboards and moldings were splintered and loose througout the house, with jagged sharp edges.
*The front entryway bricks are crumbling/missing and a few of us tripped going down. This is a serious safety hazzard, someone could have a terrible fall. The bricks leading out from the entry to the street are unstable. I had a small slip that left both my knees scraped up and left shoulder sore (Note: acutally- it turns out I cracked a rib).
*The bedroom that appears to be a converted garage (three beds) has a dip from tile to carpet with a sharp edge. My daughter cut her foot open pretty badly on it. It needs some sort of base board installed.

We had both elderly and children with us on this trip and were dissapointed to know we were rented a home with such serious safety violations. Putting our family at risk is simply unacceptable.

1 09 2011
Brad White

Thanks for the comment Jenn. Sorry to hear you had a bad experience. We all have them. I almost wrote this article as a comparison, detailing the bad experience I had with Southwest Airlines as a lesson in what NOT to do.

26 08 2011
Sheridan Barnes

I served him at Steiner Ranch one time…he is a VERY nice guy! Glad to hear you have enjoyed your Summer!

31 08 2011
Dale White

Sure wish I could have been on that boat with you guys, problems or not the time you have together is priceless. Maybe we can go boating the next time we visit.

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