Who Owns Customer Service?

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Customer service is often defined as the experience of your customers, before, during and after a purchase of a product or service.  It is part of the promise made by your brand.  Successful businesses recognize every interaction contributes to forming a customer’s perception of the company. For this reason, businesses often create dedicated teams whose sole focus is to create a positive customer experience.

I recently had an encounter that prompted me to reflect on who really owns customer service.

Allow me to share my experience.

After dropping my son off at soccer practice, I received a call from my husband that our car was stranded due to a dead battery.  We had just replaced the battery 10 months prior.  Despite my growing frustration, I had to quickly devise a plan to resolve our situation.  If I drove home to pick up the dead battery first, would I make it to the store prior to closing?  If I didn’t have the battery with me, would the store believe my story and provide me with a replacement?  To further complicate my dilemma, both my husband and I had unalterable personal commitments before the store opened the next morning.  Within a few minutes, I was resolved to take action that night.

I drove directly to the BJ’s Wholesale Club to plead my case.  I pulled up to the front of the car center and proceeded to the door without the dead battery as supporting evidence.  As I approached, I became aware of the darkness in that part of the store.  My eyes caught the hand-written sign on the door, “Service center closed early due to family illness.”  The color instantly faded from my face as I turned back toward my car.

Before reaching my car, an employee named Jerry approached me in the parking lot and asked if he could be of assistance.  Sensitive to the knowledge that I had promised to drive my mom for her doctor’s appointment in the morning, my voice cracked as I started to share my situation.  Jerry reached out and said, “Please come with me.  I’ll see if I can help you.”

We entered the main part of the store and approached one of the store managers on duty.  Jerry recapped my story.  The store manager responded sharply that the service center was closed and I would need to come back the next day.  Upon seeing the reaction on my face, Jerry asked me to remain at the front of the store.  He proceeded to share my dilemma with another manager.  About ten minutes later, Jerry arrived from the back with the other store manager.  Having already heard my situation, she approached me with willingness to assist in a solution.

As we worked through the battery replacement, Jerry slipped out of sight to return to his “normal” job.  I turned to the store manager to share my sincere appreciation for Jerry and his commitment to helping me that night.  She smiled and whispered, “Thank you.  Jerry is our custodian!”  Blown away by her response, I smiled as exited the store.

I could not get Jerry off my mind the entire night.  Does he always treat customers so kindly?  Not being in a customer service role, how was he alert to the cues of the importance of my dilemma?  Did he understand the profound impact on me of his single interaction?  No one could have known that the next morning my mom would receive the news that her cancer had returned.  Thanks to Jerry’s intervention, she did not have to bear that appointment alone.

I returned to the box-store the following day to return the old battery.  I knew I needed to thank Jerry again.  Words did not seem to be enough.  I brought him a card and a small token of my appreciation.  When I arrived at the store, he was nowhere to be found, so I asked for him to be paged from the customer service desk.  As he approached me at the front desk, he had a smile from ear to ear.  I handed Jerry the card but he refused to accept it.  I insisted and thanked him one last time.  He smiled and asked if he could give me a hug to which I agreed.  In less than 24 hours, we went from strangers to friends!

More than a week has passed since this engagement. The memory still brings a smile to my face every time I think about it.  Imagine the different outcome if I had simply returned to my car or my only interaction was with the original store manager.  Instead, my loyalty to that store has increased tremendously and I share their story simply because of the actions of a single employee!

So, what was my professional AHA moment from this one encounter?

We ALL own customer service.

As Director of Client Relationships, I feel personal responsibility to ensure Andesa’s clients have a positive experience.  But I also have a heightened awareness that everyone can (and should) impact customer service.  Whether directly or indirectly, every employee in any business owns the impact on the customer’s experience!

And, in case you are wondering, my mom is a fighter!  She beat this once before.  With the love, support, and amazing medical treatment she is receiving, I have no doubt she will conquer it again!

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