I don’t know about you, but I detest skunks. I’ve been sprayed in the past while walking my dog, an event I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Unfortunately, I live in the skunk capital of Canada–Ottawa, Ontario. So getting used to the little critters and especially keeping a very watchful eye for them comes with the territory of urban living.
Recently Sue and I were out in the garden, relaxing with our Lab, Max. Suddenly, Sue bellowed “Skunk!” The three of us dove inside the kitchen. A skunk had wandered into our garden under the gate, soon disappearing under the wooden deck leading off the kitchen.
“Great,” I muttered to myself. Here we go again with a skunk problem. I figured that given it was the time of season where female skunks are weaning their babies that I had a family living under my back deck.
I needed to take action.
I first checked out Google to find service providers for skunk removal, then got on the phone the next morning to start calling. In addition to repeatedly striking out (some companies no longer did pest removal) several never returned my calls. I was getting frustrated when Erica, who takes Max out to her farm to run with other dogs, came by. She suggested the name of a company whose truck she’d see in her area. The company is Nature’s Way.
I called the company at 11:30 am, speaking to the owner, Todd Babin, who was very nice and knowledgeable. Some 40 minutes later one of his wild life techs rolled into my driveway. Keith’s a tall young guy with substantial experience in the business. I walked him around back where he opened the small door under the deck. He looked in, then dove in to check things out. Yikes!
“No skunk here, or sign of a den,” he said upon exiting. “You’re lucky, Jim.”
We then went to the front door where he examined the foundation and the interlock brick work. “Looks like you’ve had a skunk living here in the past,” Keith said. He then proceeded to give me two options on how to address both the front and back. I ended up sealing the back deck myself for a cost of $15. However, the front needed a pro.
So on Monday (since we were on a Friday), Keith showed up at the promised time and skunk-proofed along 20 feet of the front step and foundation, using steel mesh screen. Considering the advice I was given and the work performed by Nature’s Way, I was very impressed with the value for money and the excellent customer service. Keith was a fountain of knowledge on dealing with pests (such as the ubiquitous raccoons in our neighborhood) and things to keep an eye on.
I have high expectations when it comes to customer service, having cut my teeth in consumer lending in my early twenties, then years later managing a service branch. Most companies provide mediocre service, with too many dishing out horrible service. Those companies that shine at not just meeting but exceeding customers’ expectations are in the minority.
Customer service is not rocket science. Serve others as how YOU want to be served. The challenge is in reaching and maintaining a superior level of service. Consistency is the key. But people screw up, making inadvertent mistakes. This needn’t be the end of the world; indeed, a mistake if corrected immediately, openly acknowledged and if necessary some form of compensation can actually deepen a customer’s loyalty towards a company. I’ve experienced this myself on a few occasions, where a product or service didn’t meet my needs but the company went to extraordinary lengths to ensure I got what I expected.
It’s when a company takes its customers for granted, sometimes treating them even with contempt, that a downward death spiral starts for its future. People are forgiving when it comes to mistakes that others own and take responsibility for; they’re not forgiving when disrespect and incompetence are shown.
So if you’re producing a product or service, are your customers having a skunkadelic experience like I had with Nature’s Way? Make sure they are. Word will waft far and wide about how great you are, bringing in new customers and business.
It’s about personal leadership: accepting responsibility and being accountable for the level of service you provide to others.
The magic formula that successful businesses have discovered is to treat customers like guests and employees like people.
– Tom Peters