The Importance of Being Nice: Customer Service Stories from Brands We Love

BY: ASHLEY THORNHILL  |  NOV 18, 2021 – 8 MIN READ

Key Takeaways (8-minute read)
  • Customer service can be one of the trickiest departments for brands to manage, but it should be integrated seamlessly into internal operations.
  • Listening to and understanding consumers is crucial for great customer experiences—this includes customer service.
  • Brands that personalize customer service will get A+ consumer retention in return.

Before we delve into today’s blog on customer service and how it can make all the difference for a brand’s success—whether your business is in a traditional “service” industry or not—how about a little movie time? (Think of this as the day you walk into your middle school English class and see the TV on the rolling cart at the front of the room.) Today’s programming is brought to you by Saturday Night Live.

The fact one of SNL’s latest episodes had a nearly-seven-minute sketch starring Kieran Culkin as the customer that we have all likely been at some point just drives home our point here: customer service should be about servicing the customer. It seems pretty simple, right? But unfortunately, there are too many “Mr. Hermans” out there with horror stories about trying to contact a brand’s customer service to resolve an issue or—gasp—cancel an account and ending up getting nowhere, being overcharged, or hanging up more confused than ever about their account status. One of our copywriters likened disconnecting their satellite TV service last year to having a breakup conversation with a surly ex. Yikes.

We want to applaud some brands who are doing it right, but first, let’s look at some of the biggest issues with many customer service systems:

A Disconnect among Departments

As we watched Mr. Herman deal with, and as any of us have no doubt experienced in real life, a brand’s customer service department often seems totally separated from the brand itself. Internal departments such as accounts, products, marketing, and customer service should not exist in silos, cut off from each other with no information sharing. To connect with consumers, brands must first connect internally so that if and when it comes time for customer service to step up, they can better understand a customer’s needs, see their account activity, and genuinely communicate with the customer to reach a solution. Read more on this on our blog here.

Breaking Brand Promises

Customer service has to line up with your brand’s promise of excellence. You cannot claim to have an incredible consumer experience if that only holds up for as long as the consumer doesn’t need your help when there’s a problem. Consumers want user-friendly, outstanding experiences on digital and they want friendly in-person experiences with brand team members on all levels, from the sales rep to the CEO. Be your brand promise—and deliver greatness even when your customer is less than happy with something (especially then, actually) by listening to them. This moment is crucial for your business. That customer is either going to be frustrated about a difficult customer service experience and tell all their friends or leave a poor review, or they are going to come away from the experience with a positive outcome and tell people about that. Even those who were looking to cancel an account will be far more likely to stay with your brand if they have a great customer service experience.

No Personal Touch

Automating customer service or hiring an outside company to handle calls and field support tickets might be financially helpful to a brand—but will it help you in the long run? We urge brands to spark connections with consumers whenever possible, on a personal, human level. This one-to-one relationship with your audience is your best asset for long-term success. Consider spending a little more time and money on setting up a stellar customer experience—including customer service—so that consumers feel like they are being treated like the valuable people they are. You will build trust and provide value back to those consumers, who will reward you with their loyalty and, hopefully, recommend you to their friends.

For this look at customer services dos and don’ts, we asked some of our team members to share their best customer service experiences. Which brands are going above and beyond to provide for their customers? (We’re sad to say there are no cable companies on this list, Mr. Herman.)

Going Above & Beyond – Sweetwater

“A couple of years back, I was looking to get my hands on a pretty niche musical instrument,” shared our associate creative director, Doug McDonnal. “It is a digital guitar, with a touch sensitive neck and a touch screen in the body, used to play electronic music. The Sweetwater website just said it was out of stock and should be in stock again soon, but they didn’t know when.

“Sweetwater sets you up with a sales rep point of contact, so I called mine, and asked about the digital guitar. He said he would look into it and get back to me.

 “A couple of hours later, I got a call back saying, ‘Well, the guy that makes them hasn’t sent us any recently, and he’s taking a break. They are hand-made in Australia, so it is really hard to say when we will get more in. We do, however, have an open box that we used to take pictures of the item if you are okay with that.’ I said I would love to have the display model, and he said that he had already put it aside for me just in case.

“I loved the way that my search for some odd little instrument seemed important to him, that he went and looked around the warehouse to find what he could for me. Oh, Sweetwater also puts candy in the boxes they ship to you, which doesn’t hurt the experience!”

The Good Samaritan – Bacon Hot Sauce

Our VP of strategy, Zack Miskel, claims, “Bacon Hot Sauce makes the customer service hall of fame. After the earthquake in Napa, California, in 2014, I placed an order for a bottle of Bacon Hot Sauce—I had probably purchased 10-plus already, so I was a loyal customer. A large package arrived about a week later. Inside, I found five bottles of hot sauce and a personalized note from the brand saying they were sorry to hear of the recent earthquakes in Napa, and that they hoped the extra bottles would be a kind gesture. They saw I lived in Napa and went above and beyond to do something nice and create an overwhelmingly positive customer experience. I am a Bacon Hot Sauce guy for life.”

Big Brands Know There Are No Small Customers – SiriusXM

Every customer is just as important as the next, and we’ve all been at the point when we want to cancel an account. Nearly every new vehicle comes with a free trial to SiriusXM satellite radio these days, so it’s likely you or someone you know has experienced their customer service when calling to cancel service after the trial ended. “I’ve called Sirius more than once to cancel satellite radio services, feeling that it just wasn’t something I used enough to justify a monthly subscription,” shares our co-CEO and chief creative officer, Paris Buchanan. “Each time, I’ve been addressed with respect and a friendly, helpful agent who listened to my reasons for wanting to cancel. And each time, I have been educated on ways to reduce the price of the service, or ways I can take better advantage of all the SiriusXM service has to offer, such as mobile apps and exclusive channels. I was never made to feel condescended to or less than; I just learned more about the brand I had already enjoyed and decided to keep enjoying it in new ways. I am still a SiriusXM customer today.”

Customers just want to know that the brands they support will have their backs in return; it’s Customer Service 101. And a little kindness goes a long way, no matter which part of the customer interaction you are involved in. So take a leaf from the playbooks of the brands above and listen to your consumers, treat them with respect, and offer a personalized approach to their experiences at every step during their customer journey. We’d love to chat about creative, innovative ways to integrate an outstanding customer service plan as part of your brand promise. Get in touch with the A&P team to talk strategy for all things consumer experience—no reciting your account number required.

About A&P

A&P, a brand agency, excels in finding innovative ways for clients to provide exceptional experiences to their customers. Their work includes consumer insight, brand innovation, creative development, mobile and technology solutions for global brands such as AT&T, Mini USA, DIRECTV, Newell Rubbermaid, Tenet Healthcare, and Barco Escape. For more information about A&P, visit them on Facebook, Twitter or antonioandparis.com.

Ashley blog profile image

WRITTEN BY
Ashley Thornhill

Short Bio — Ashley Thornhill came to Antonio & Paris in 2014 following a successful career marketing both off and online art and antique auctions for a major global auction house. After nearly a decade of developing relations and outreach efforts for dealers and private collectors, innovative brand strategy came like second nature. When asked about the “north star” of her passion, she replied, “Every new client inspires me. I believe in their mission and am driven to deliver the strongest strategy for them to reach and convince those who would benefit from their product the most.” From global brands like AT&T, Wrigley Mars, and Thermo Fisher, to start-up companies in biotech and cosmetics, her dedication to each client always shows in the effectiveness and enthusiasm of her work.

Ashley blog profile image

WRITTEN BY
Ashley Thornhill

Short Bio — Ashley Thornhill came to Antonio & Paris in 2014 following a successful career marketing both off and online art and antique auctions for a major global auction house. After nearly a decade of developing relations and outreach efforts for dealers and private collectors, innovative brand strategy came like second nature. When asked about the “north star” of her passion, she replied, “Every new client inspires me. I believe in their mission and am driven to deliver the strongest strategy for them to reach and convince those who would benefit from their product the most.” From global brands like AT&T, Wrigley Mars, and Thermo Fisher, to start-up companies in biotech and cosmetics, her dedication to each client always shows in the effectiveness and enthusiasm of her work.

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