Customer Service

Apr 6, 2011 - 10:21 AM
Photo by Sara Lieser.

A new horse came to me on April 1, a gorgeous mare that—because of the way the sale market is going—the previous trainer had been unsuccessful in selling.

Naturally, as soon as she showed up at my door, one of the previous trainer’s clients called and said, “Oh no, she’s gone? I simply MUST have her! Get her back, and here’s a check.”

The owner called me and asked me what I thought. “Take it!” I told her. “I can have her ready to go in 10 minutes. When are they picking her up?”

What surprises me is how impressed the owner is. She seems stunned that I would actually do my job, which is to do the best thing for the horse and for the rider, whether it benefits me or not. She tells me that she’s so impressed with my ethics. And I can’t help but think, “My goodness, what sort of nasty people has this poor woman been hanging around?”

I’ve been thinking a lot about customer service lately. My navy blue boots were never really right, but they started to really come apart about six months ago, past the one-year mark. The manufacturer told me I was out of luck, but just in case, I got in touch with Dover Saddlery, from whom I ordered the boots originally. To my great pleasure, they said, “Bring ‘em back. We’ll get you new ones, from whatever company you like.” Simple as that.

This is, by the way, the second time Dover’s gone to bat for me. I was floored, and I told the representative so on the phone. Her answer was the same as my response to the mare’s owner: This is our job, to do right by our customers. Taking care of them is our rule, not an exception.

This is not the case at Verizon Wireless, where I was on the fifth version of the same phone because they kept having complete product failures through no fault of my own. Rather than replace each one with a new model—and it’s not like I use an expensive smart phone, I prefer dumb and cheap phones—they kept sending me the same yucky one, and when version 1.5 broke down a few weeks ago, and I came to the store to return it, I was told I was out of luck, as I’d bought the original phone, version 1.1, more than a year ago. I could get a new phone cheap, but it would require extending my contract, and as I’m already quite fed up with Verizon, I’d already decided I wanted to split with them when my contract is up next February, not extend my frustration any further. 

(By the way, after talking to two different people, one on the phone and one in person, both singing the same wretched song, I got a hold of Brooke, who took great care of me, set me up with a new phone at a great price, and then gave me her personal email address in case I had any problems. Brooke, I hope you get a raise and then get an even better job working for AT&T.)

Because I like people, and I like making people happy. I believe customer service is the Right Thing To Do. But it’s also the financially wise thing to do. The lifetime value of a client is much higher than whatever quick buck you might be able to make by peeving them off.

I’ll make far more money off a client by making them happy and making them want to stick around than by burning them once and never seeing them again. I recently had this conversation with a manager at Wells Fargo, the company that put a hold on my credit card five times in Florida because they couldn’t seem to get the memo that I was, in fact, in Florida. I don’t think he understood, which is why I’ll be discontinuing my relationship with Wells Fargo, as soon as I cash out my rewards points to buy something I probably don’t need. Maybe I’ll get the Dover credit card instead.

The horse is on her way to her new home, and that makes me feel great, even though I wasn’t really involved, because I know it was the Right Thing To Do. And I don’t know if I’ll ever see this owner again. But I hope that if she ever needs a dressage horse, a dressage lesson or a dressage clinic, I’ll be high on her list of phone calls. Isn’t that what we all want in business?
Sprieser Sporthorse


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