Creating Memories is the Holy Grail of Customer Service

Fourteen years ago, my daughter Alex was seven years old and in the second grade. One day she had an after school activity. She was supposed to call me on the pay phone at the school when she wanted to be picked up. Alex brought 75¢ with her—three quarters. At 35¢ a call, we figured that would be enough—even if she messed up once and had to redial.

Well, at about 4:30 p.m. she tried to call me, but dialed the wrong number (as we planned for). That should have been no big deal since she had enough to make another call. Wrong!

Problem was, Pac Bell pay phones didn’t give change. The wrong number swallowed up two quarters, leaving her with just one—not enough to make another call. After about 20 minutes, she found another quarter and finally got hold of me. She was visually upset, though, when I picked her up.

Now this is really no big deal in the grand scheme of things, but I just had problems with the fact the pay phone didn’t give her change on the initial 50¢. So I went on a rant and called Pac Bell, getting all the way up the ladder to the head of customer service in Northern California (we lived in the Bay Area). Carlos, the manager, was sympathetic to my cause and agreed with me. In fact, he was going to bring it up at the next managers meeting (not like anything would change, but nice gesture anyway).

What happened afterwards, though, ended up being one of those stories I’ve told at least 50 times. Carlos hand wrote and sent Alex an apology note with two quarters taped inside, along with his business card. Fourteen years later, my daughter still has that card…with the quarters still taped to it. He created a memorable experience for us, clearly when he didn’t have to. He respected the attention and time we invested in his firm, and did something about it.

Clay's recruiting and strategic consulting efforts over the past 20 years have provided firms in the printing and communications industries the talent and perspective that has enabled them to navigate the constant change they’ve faced. His current company, the bleedingEDGE, provides digital printing firms with 1:1 marketing solutions that enable their small- and medium-sized clients to compete with larger competitors using a cooperative strategy and production model. In addition to the normal 1:1 marketing techniques of personalization and customization, the bleedingEDGE incorporates timing strategies, generational analysis and sociological factors in producing results well above the norm.
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  • Ron Eghbali

    A ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

  • Randy Jamerson

    Great Article! I’ll be sharing the Pac Bell story.

  • Denis

    Good post Clay. And some great ideas. Having them fall ‘in love’ with your company and people is a great way to be remembered too.