Two Positive Customer Service Experiences

After we finished his interview Service Untitled on Tuesday (it’ll be published in early May), Christoph Guttentag, Duke University’s Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, and I talked about customer service in more general terms.

I scheduled an interview with Mr. Guttentag because I personally find the college admissions process to be fascinating. There are so many aspects of it that make it incredibly interesting and worth talking about.

One of the most interesting things I learned from the interview is that the challenges that one of the busiest admissions offices in the country faces are essentially the same challenges that many for profit companies find themselves facing on a daily basis. Educational and corporate America seem to tackle the problems in similar ways, too. It’s extremely interesting to say the least, and in the interview, Mr. Guttentag discusses the logistical as well as the more philosophical aspects of admissions in quite a bit of detail.

Putting that aside (you’ll read about it more next month), Mr. Guttentag told me about two recent customer service experiences he has had, both positive. Always eager to hear about great customer service, I asked him to tell me about the two experiences.

The first one was with Land’s End. Mr. Guttentag, like many Land’s End customers, was impressed with the fact that the company answers the phone right away (often, on the first ring) and then to top that off, has friendly and intelligent people answering the phone. He was also pleasantly surprised that the woman who answered the phone was able to help him with everything he needed. The experience was simple. It lacked the unnecessary complications that tend to characterize the negative customer service experiences. A simple experience with helpful representatives usually makes for a positive experience and in this case, it did.

The other experience was with Duke University’s own human resources department. The experience was just like the experience with Land’s End; the representative answered the phone right away and was able to answer all of Mr. Guttentag’s questions without any difficulty. The person who answered the phone had no trouble directing Mr. Guttentag to the correct forms, telling him exactly how to fill them out, and providing Mr. Guttentag with the information needed to send the forms in. Again, it was the simplicity and ease of the customer service experience that made it notable.

Because customer service is so bad so often, customers tend to remember experiences like the ones described above. With today’s dreadfully low standards of customer service, companies that have intelligent people answering the phone, and the questions that are a natural result of those phone calls, are the exception. The norm is an endless jungle of phone menus, ruthless bureaucracies and departmental divisions, and incompetent customer service representatives. When those standards are reversed, customers can’t help being pleasantly surprised. And when customers are pleasantly surprised, they tend to tell their friends.

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One Response to “Two Positive Customer Service Experiences”

  1. Service Untitled » Scanning Documents Makes for Better Service - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    May 05, 08 at 11:03 pm

    […] Remember my post about The College Board on Friday? They utilize document scanning as well. The essays that the millions of test takers do every couple of weeks for the SAT? They are scanned in and read by readers throughout the country. It’s infinitely more efficient than sending the essays to readers or than bringing everyone together to read the essays. Duke University (which I wrote about not that long ago as well) is investing in document scanning to make their admissions process more manageable. Both of these organizations have to deal with a lot of paper, so document scanning makes a lot of sense. Educational institutions, hospitals, HR departments, law firms, etc. all deal with a lot of paper and can benefit from document scanning. […]