Have You Had Great Customer Service in the Pet Industry?
Every now and then something happens that rocks your world in a good way. This column is about one of those all too rare occurrences, the kind that leaves you in jaw-dropping, stunned amazement.
As I did in "Thinking About Getting a Dog? Learn a Few Lessons From a Guy Who Just Bought a Car," we're going to start out with a non-pet story, but hang with me -- we will get to the dog stuff.
One recent afternoon, Tricia and I drove to the old airport above the lake to take a walk. Tricia thought one of the front tires was low, and sure enough, when we got out to look, the tire was well on its way to going flat.
I dashed to a nearby convenience mart to add air, after which I joined Tricia for a delightful walk. An hour later the tire showed noticeable signs of having lost pressure again, so I took Tricia home and then took off toward Cleburne to get it fixed. I passed several closed tire shops and service garages. After five on a Saturday, the options were looking pretty slim.
I was about to give up hope when I spotted the open garage bay doors at Discount Tire. I stopped and walked inside. Floors were being swept and tools stored. I caught the attention of one young man and asked, "Will you be open long enough to check our tire? We have a pretty bad leak."
The young mechanic flagged down his manager, who waved us in. I went to the customer service area and watched as the rest of the staff continued to clean while our tire was being repaired.
They were quick, thorough, and efficient at everything. I couldn't help notice this was already about the cleanest garage I had ever seen, but they were still cleaning. While I couldn't help but be impressed, nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.
The assistant manager called me to the register. I reached for my wallet, and that's when this visit turned surreal. "There's no charge, sir."
"What do you mean, no charge?"
"We never charge to fix flat tires."
I was dumbfounded. "Uh, how do you stay in business if you don't charge for the work you do?"
The assistant manager smiled and said, "The owner of Discount Tire has 150 stores around the country and he decided that he wanted us to be different, so we don't charge for a lot of services other places charge for. Merry Christmas." Stunned, I said something along the lines of "Thank you."
Maybe everyone else on the planet knew about Discount Tire's unique, free flat-tire repair policy, but I sure didn't. As I pulled the car out of the bay, the garage doors finally came down to close the shop, but this company's truly outstanding customer service had opened the door to a new customer relationship.
We live in a world where personalized customer service seems to be disappearing. We pump our own gas, scan and bag our own groceries, and feel our blood pressure rise as we deal with automated phone menus and peruse pages of online FAQs.
I'm often struck by the number of emails we get at Dogster Support from people expressing genuine surprise that they got a reply. It's an odd case of where we do something -- answering emails -- that used to be the norm, but which now sets us apart from the rest of the pack.
How many bad restaurant experiences, some complete with court cases for discrimination, did we have to read before we saw "Red Robin receipt has a nice surprise for pregnant woman"? And haven't we all seen countless examples of bad customer service with pet food, pet stores, breeders, kennels, sitters, and pet health services?
It does seem as though exceptional customer service has become more noticeable by its infrequency than its quality. When we have a truly outstanding experience, we're not quite sure how to process it.
I remember how much it meant to have the staff at Jackson County Veterinary Association really go the extra mile when I had to have our family cat, Sterling, put down. The grief of that day will always be with me, but so will the soft voice of the vet telling me to take all the time I needed. And the follow-up card was personal and healing -- a service above and beyond what you'd expect or feel was required.
It's your turn to tell your stories of truly exceptional service related to you and your pets.
Let's fill the comments with positive thoughts and share stories that help us to know that even today, exceptional customer service in the pet world is not just a thing of the past, but part of our present -- and hopefully our future.