Today we are pleased to feature another post by guest blogger Sarah Simon. Sarah shares a recent experience with Home Depot to showcase how a potential customer service disaster can be transformed into a positive customer experience. When the right skills and behaviors are deployed you can become customer service rock star!
Residential flooring replacement can be stressful. Writing a check with a lot of zeros in it for the privilege of having the entire home turned upside down in total chaos is hardly a recipe for home owner relaxation and consumer fun.
It is with a mix of excitement and dread that I watch the date approach for new carpeting and tile to be installed throughout much of my home. Monday morning arrives and an installer calls. He asks if I’m “ready.” Something about this question caused me to pause. “Sure, we’re ready to see you!” I reply, hesitantly, and hang up. What does he mean “ready”? The scheduling team has not described to me what “ready” means. Zero expectation has been set. I glance at the installation paperwork – remove all breakables (check!), empty bookshelves (check!) Nowhere is anything mentioned about furniture. I figure the installers will handle the heavy work, and get back to my day.
A work van appears, there’s a knock at the door, and I let two workmen inside. Imagine the look on the installers’ faces when they enter my home and the furniture is right where it’s always been. The heavy oak l-shaped desk in my office, the beds, the nightstands, everything is in situ. Hesitantly, the lead installer approaches me: “Ma’am, do you know if you paid for furniture moving? I don’t see it listed in the work order.”
Uh oh. There is a disconnect, and it isn’t going to be resolved in my hallway.
I call the Home Depot where I placed my flooring order. I resolve to maintain my patience and good manners, but quietly I am anticipating arguments, confusion and frustration. After explaining the scenario to the flooring department rep on the phone, I am put on hold. “And so it begins,” I mumble wearily to myself.
What happens next surprises me – and likely has secured me as a Home Depot services customer for life. Suddenly a cheerful, professional woman’s voice comes on the line.
Ms. Simon, I’m Jennifer O’Brien. My colleague explained to me the situation. Nothing like starting the morning off with a little adrenaline rush, eh? This is NOT what we want for our customers! (Laughter.) Let’s get this all squared away.
Jennifer listens to me, asks me some questions, and briefly Jennifer and I discuss where the disconnects occurred. Despite having a standard operating procedure in place, the installation scheduler neglected to talk to me about expectations of the condition of my home prior to flooring installation and did not present to me the option of having my furniture professionally moved or moving the furniture myself. We promptly agree that Home Depot had dropped the ball and the furniture needs to be moved before flooring installation begins.
Jennifer agrees to meet me halfway on a reasonable furniture moving fee. Unbeknown to me, before I even hang up the phone, the installers receive an electronic work order to begin moving my furniture. I thank Jennifer, hang up the phone, and one of the installers is at the door of my office announcing, “Ms. Simon, we’ve received approval to move the furniture. We’ll get started right away.”
In the Customer Experience industry, we are fond of saying: Things will go wrong in the company/customer relationship, it’s how a company responds to problems and mistakes that matters. Something most assuredly went wrong here. The Home Depot scheduling team dropped the ball in setting my expectations for preparation of my home and my options for furniture removal, and I failed to apply my homeowner knowledge that furniture doesn’t just move itself, and flooring cannot magically be installed with heavy oak desks and king-sized beds in place.
Most importantly, however, a lot went right in the resolution of this issue, and this is where the customer experience lessons emerge. Ms. Jennifer O’Brien literally saved my day. She turned what could have been a nightmare for the customer and the installers into a non-issue. How did she do it?
Customer Experience Lessons
Jennifer armed herself with information: She was briefed about the situation prior to picking up the phone to talk with me and did not annoy me by asking me to restate what I had already explained to the first rep I spoke to.
Jennifer had a sense of humor: She made a judgment call to make me laugh about the situation early in our conversation, and it worked! Yes, this was an exciting way to start the day, but she defused any shock and anger I was experiencing by helping me laugh at the situation.
Jennifer was upbeat: Jennifer jumped right on the call with an upbeat, friendly voice, setting an optimistic, can-do tone for our discussion. When I said “I’m confident we will work this out” she responded “Yes, we will!”
Jennifer was empowered: There was no “Let me talk to my manager’s manager” BS with Jennifer. She immediately proposed a solution – having Home Depot and Sarah Simon split the cost of a last-minute furniture move. Done. No haggling, no posturing, just a proposed solution that worked for both parties.
Jennifer was objective: There were zero accusations made and no accusative tone. There was no finger-pointing, not at me, not at the installation scheduling team. Something had gone wrong, and it was Jennifer’s job to solve it, not to waste time and energy finding a home for blame.
The quarterback threw Jennifer O’Brien a lousy pass, but she reached long, caught the ball, and ran it for a touchdown. She turned what could have been a customer experience nightmare into a moment of customer delight. This situation could have resulted in arguments, finger-pointing, anger, frustration, lost time for the installers, a burned bridge with a customer – but not under Jennifer’s watch. She stayed focused on issue resolution and customer satisfaction and earned my respect and appreciation. Kudos to you, Jennifer. You are a customer service rock star! Thank you for saving my day!