A couple of years ago, someone said to me, “It must be great to travel so much for business.”
“I hate the travelling,” I replied. “But I like the being there.”
Perhaps that’s because I’m always flying economy class. I’m hoping that my new business plan is going to change that, but I digress.
Travelling is a necessary evil of working with businesses around the world and attending different events. And a necessary evil of travelling is having a decent suitcase.
If I come out to the US from London for the summer, just like I’m hanging out in South Carolina right now, then I need to plan out the right combination of clothes to cover me for everything, from formal occasions to sitting on the beach. And of course, shoes to match.
Then I have to try and make that fit into a suitcase and have it weigh less than 50 lbs., unless I want to pay a ridiculous sum for checking a second suitcase. Any expensive and heavy equipment goes in my carry-on. And being one of the economy passengers, by the time I’m allowed to board the plane, I’ll often struggle to squeeze my carry-on into the overhead locker anywhere near my seat, because all the other cheapskates refuse to check any luggage at all.
The Great Equalizer
Flying is the great equalizer. Especially when it comes to your luggage. It doesn’t matter how fancy or how expensive your suitcase is, the baggage handlers treat every bag the same way when they’re loading the airplane – terribly!
Did you ever notice that when you check your bags at the airport, the airline employee would drop it onto the conveyer belt upside down?
Did you ever watch the airline employee toss your carry-on down the chute when it’s too big for the small plane you’re about to board?
Like I said, the great equalizer. It’s why you need decent luggage. It’s going to get treated like a punching bag.
Last year, I realized how important my luggage was to me, and bought myself an expensive Samsonite suitcase. I was reassured by the 10-year guarantee. These are supposed to be the best suitcases in the world, right?
Well, it wasn’t long before the zippers started to bust. Which meant that I had to ask someone at the airport to look for my bag of toiletries that had fallen right out after one of the zippers was busted completely by their conveyor belt.
I knew I had to ask Samsonite to honor their warranty and repair my suitcase.
So… the Zombie Suitcase…
I’m staying with my good friend, Ken Hardison, for the summer, and he too had a busted Samsonite suitcase. The main zipper was useless and the top handle had broken off.
As Ken was clearing out his closet earlier this month, he found his busted suitcase, and wheeled it to the front door, to toss out with the other garbage.
“Don’t toss it out,” I told him. “There’s a 10-year warranty. They’ll fix it. Just take it to the Samsonite outlet in town.” I asked him to take my suitcase for repair too when he made the trip a few days later.
“We’ll get our cases back in 2 weeks,” he told me when he got back.
Under Promise Over Deliver
So I was impressed when they were delivered back to his house just a week later. “Under Promise, Over Deliver” is the title of one of Ken’s books – it’s one of the driving principles we both try to live by when it comes to looking after clients and customers. I call it the “Scotty Principle” And I thought – at first – that Samsonite had under-promised and over-delivered.
That was until I inspected the repair. It wasn’t great. It looked like it had been to the butcher’s shop, not to an experienced luggage repairer.
So last Friday, I thought I’d see how responsive Samsonite would be on social media. I tweeted a photo of the butchery, along with my assessment of the work.
— Simon Aronowitz (@supportlounge) August 7, 2015
The first thing I learned was that there’s no-one taking care of Samsonite’s social media after 5.30pm on a Friday or all through the weekend. Monday morning they replied to me. It looked like they took their high standards seriously.
“Great,” I thought. “Now we’ll get this sorted.”
I found more damage that hadn’t been fixed and of course let Samsonite know.
— Simon Aronowitz (@supportlounge) August 10, 2015
They invited me to provide all my contact info and told me someone would be in touch from customer relations.
48 hours later, I received an official email from them, asking me to get in touch with the same people who handled the botched repair!
This wasn’t going well….
When customer service goes from bad to worse, all sorts of things begin to go through my mind. Hell hath no fury like a pedantic customer scorned.
“Perhaps I’ll make a documentary about how Samsonite have screwed this up,” I thought. There are no limits to my creativity when I feel like I’ve been screwed over.
But there was a light at the end of the tunnel and her name was Mari. After I left a message with one of her colleagues at Samsonite, Mari called me back and patiently listened as I questioned Samsonite’s dedication to high quality luggage, their own reputation and whether I deserved to have a suitcase to match.
“I’ve Never Seen Anything Like That Before”
“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” she said about the unnecessary cut and poor stitch-up of my case.
“I have,” I said. “I’ve seen that when troops on the battlefield have to sew up their own injuries in a hurry.”
We both laughed at the ridiculousness. No, this was not their usual standard. Mari was going to put it right.
So now I’m waiting for FedEx to deliver one of the most expensive suitcases that Samsonite sells, as a free-of charge replacement for the hatchet job repair. I don’t get to keep the old suitcase, they want it sent back so they can examine exactly how one of their trusted and approved repair centers can screw it up so badly.
When FedEx deliver on Mari’s promise, I will be a very happy customer. Getting a quality suitcase delivered to me is only what should have happened in the first place, of course.
Nothing Is Perfect
But nothing is perfect, and customer service certainly isn’t.
When it comes to trust, as I explain to the audiences I address, I would rather trust a business that makes mistakes than one that believes they never make a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. There are NO exceptions. So it means more to me when you accept that you’ve made a mistake before fixing it and making it up to me, the customer. It shows me that you care.
Right now I’m reading Peter Shankman’s latest book, Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans. A few weeks ago, I was telling an audience of lawyers how Shankman explains that as customers, we’ve got so used to crap service, that all you need to do to grow a band of Zombie Loyalist customers is to be “one level above crap!”
If my level was just above crap, I wouldn’t have bought a Samsonite suitcase.
Assuming the FedEx man doesn’t screw it up – mind you, anything is possible – then Samsonite will demonstrate they’re more than one level above crap.
I’m expecting my Zombie suitcase any day now. Sadly it won’t be in time for my trip to New Orleans tomorrow afternoon. I’ve owed myself a vacation for 4 years, and I’ve given myself 4 days in The Big Easy, one day for each year I went without time off.
It’s not enough, but I’ll take it. I’ve got lots of work to do and I don’t want to take my foot off the pedal right now, but everyone needs some time to decompress.
As Peter Shankman explains, delivering great service is the key to cultivating Zombie Loyalty in your customers. Samsonite may well have won themselves another customer for life. No doubt it will come up in conversation when Peter and I meet up in New York next month.
But Zombie Loyalty isn’t everything. I’m working with businesses that know how to build that loyalty and still get thrashed by their inferior competition when it comes to online reviews.
Just because you’ve blown away your clients and customers by Bringing Random Amazement Into Normal Situations (B.R.A.I.N.S. – read Shankman’s book!), it doesn’t automatically mean your clients will go and post 5-star online review for your business.
That’s where I’ve been helping businesses bridge the gap. I figured out how to get customers and clients to post glowing, in-depth 5-star online reviews.
So now I’m putting the finishing touches to my new product and coaching program so that you can do the same in your own business.
And folks, it takes more than just a piece of automated software. Trust me.
As a customer, you know it’s all about the relationship you have with a particular person or group of people at the businesses you love. But for some reason, when it comes to the businesses you own and run, some of you completely ‘check out’ and think you can just throw software at the problem.
When my solution for online reviews is ready, I’ll let you know. In the mean time, I suggest you get a copy of Peter Shankman’s book, Zombie Loyalists – and devour it!