image In my role as Partner Experience Lead here at Microsoft, driving towards the highest partner satisfaction is always a top priority. (and believe me, “driving satisfaction” is literally a daily activity.)  At Microsoft, CPE (Customer & Partner Experience) is something we work very hard at every day here to help ensure it is part of everything we do.  Yes, there are always opportunities for improvement and things do go wrong from time to time, and it is in those times especially where working for great customer experience is so important. 

Because of this focus, I often find myself looking at customer service in everyday life and evaluating how others do it (or fail to in some cases).  Recently I found myself in one of these situations with another company and the experience amazed me, so I thought I would share it here for a few reasons::

  1. I think it is a great example of going above and beyond and something all can learn from
  2. I always enjoy the small notes of appreciation I receive from various people when they’ve had a good experience, so I like to do the same for others

For those of you that follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you may recall my post back on July 10th around 7:00 am PDT while on my way to the airport to catch my plane to Worldwide Partner Conference 2010 in Washington D.C. when it all started…  My wife’s 2008 hybrid threw up the following message on the dash, “Stop Safely Now",” while simultaneously turning off the gas portion of the engine and shifting into hybrid mode (regardless of the fact that we were driving 65 mph on the highway).  Needless to say, the vehicle was not going to get me to the airport, which meant it looked like I was missing my flight.

Because I was in the car with my wife and kids, there was no way I was going to leave them stranded on the side of the road, contrary to my wife’s proposal of, “Just call a cab and catch your plane.  We’ll be fine".  (Looking back now, I can’t help but smile thinking of those scenes you see in movies where the injured person looks up and says, “I’m not going to make it.  Save yourself!”  :-) )  Anyway, knowing I was going to miss my plane, I called American Airlines to see what, if any, my options might be.  It was at this point where I had the extreme fortune of being connected with an American Airlines service manager that took customer service to the extreme.

I explained my situation to her and that I was going to miss my flight and the importance of getting to D.C. for WPC.  Over the next 30 minutes or so, she went through what had to be every possible option available (and most were in the $1,200 and higher range!) and every rule/regulation/loophole she could find.  What made it really complex is that my outbound ticket was tied to several other flights that could not be messed up because they were timed to not only get me to D.C., but also to Atlanta for our internal meeting after WPC10 (literally landing 45 minutes before I had to be at my meeting that Monday morning) and my connecting flights from Atlanta through Chicago to Seattle afterwards.  Cancelling the front end flight would mean starting over on all of the flights and paying all of the higher rates! 

Needless to say, not only did the service manager manage to get me a confirmed seat on the only remaining possible flight out of Sea-Tac, she also managed to have the system work in the background so that when I landed in Chicago to connect to D.C., the agents there told me, “Yes, we see you have been flagged for priority standby and have been able to secure you a confirmed seat on the flight to D.C.” (by the way, the flight out of Chicago to D.C. was shown as oversold when I left Sea-Tac).  In the end, she managed to get me to where I needed to be, when I needed to get there, while still preserving all of my remaining flights after WPC, all for a $50 change fee (and we’re talking same day flight changes!), even though the initial problem that caused me to call them (the car breaking down) had nothing to do with American Airlines and was in no way something they were responsible for.  Now THAT is PHENOMENAL customer service!  I will always remember that when booking my travel in the future about how this one person went completely out of their way to help me be successful in my moment of need.

Could this have gone much differently had I reached someone else on the phone?  Absolutely!  But this one person’s actions now shine brightly on the reputation of an entire company for me.  I’m sure many of you have experiences with an individual that works for a company and that experience has shaped your opinion of that company either positively or negatively in a dramatic manner as well.  Now think about the fact that every day, you have the potential to be that individual that can dramatically change how someone else views things based on their interaction with you and the power you hold in that interaction.  How will that interaction be remembered (and possibly retold) by them?  I know that personally, I can only hope that I can be that positive influence for someone else, like the American Airlines service manager was for me.

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Thank you and have a wonderful day,

Eric LigmanFollow me on TWITTER, LinkedIn, and RSS and see “What I’m thinking
Global Partner Experience Lead
Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group
This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights

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