Lessons from the Road: Giving Great Customer Service

I had a shockingly great customer service experience recently. I mean, it was a “they were going to give my business away to serve me better” good experience.

Kustomer aka Customer Service Lesson From Ellensburg, WA KOA

Recently my family and I were traveling through Idaho and Washington en route back to home from Victoria, BC for a friend’s wedding. My crazy family wanted to camp, and in particular at KOA campgrounds because my husband said it’s not really like camping it’s kamping, and he had a discount kard (with the k – ugh).

Imagine my surprise, after I completed the online booking form, to get a call from the Ellensberg, WA KOA owner, Gail, to tell me their tenting sites that were left were not really ideal… they were close to other tenters and right along the highway. There was a festival that weekend and it was not going to be an awesome experience. Before she ran our credit card through to book our site, she wanted to let us know. She called three times before I had a chance to call her back to make sure I knew what I was paying for.

When I did call her back, and let her know I had 3 children who would like to sleep but other than that weren’t fussy, she was happy to let our reservation go, but also spent time finding us a cozy, wooded RV site to put our tent on instead. She was willing to let our business go on a busy weekend where it would be easy to get a few dollars from us, rather than have us show up and be unhappy.

I have a few theories why the Ellensburg KOA provided exceptional customer service:

  • Good business practice.
  • Upholding the corporate brand as a franchise.
  • No fear (doesn’t that often hold us back?) from not filling the spot anyway
  • Toasty marshmallow ratings. Yes, toasty marshmallows. Look here.

So that got me thinking, what are my toasty marshmallow reasons for keeping up my customer service and what are yours? Many of us don’t have a review system like Yelp, or skewered marshmallows, for our industries that we have to keep obsessively attentive to. But one thing we have in common is that if we don’t pay attention, we’ll end up with more than toasty warm relationships. We’ll be in the burn zone. Not a great place to be in business (or with marshmallows)!

Here is how to have toasty marshmallow ratings when you can’t really measure:

Well as much as I love the 5 toasty marshmallow scale of the KOA Kampsites, it’s just not really my thing (kamping with a k, marshmallows and being measured on 5-point scales). However, it is really critical to have a sense of how your kind of customer service is really serving your clients or customers.

Consider the pulse of your community. What is really going on around your business story (we all have one):

  • Testimonials and kudos – are they easy to come by? (Hint: for many service types of businesses you HAVE to ask. Even your super fans often don’t have time to write you a glowing one unless you ask.)
  • Shares and comments on social media – focus on what they say, not how many are following, sharing or commenting. Are your customers and clients happy? Are they saying what you want them to say that fits your brand and business goals?
  • Is there too much radio silence? Is there nothing being said or shared at all? Is it just that it’s a quiet week (last week our entire city seemed to be on vacation too). Or is there a little burble that something you have going on in your business isn’t sitting right?

Odds are, if you pay very close attention to what is being said to you (in real life, in email, on social sites) you’ll discover toasty marshmallows that make you warm in your belly.

Great customer service stems from being clear about what you do, doing what you say you are going to do and striving to deliver your promises with speed, efficiency and quality.

Confession of My Customer Service Burns & How I Keep Relationships Toasty Warm Anyway

I admit, my customer service at times is not rockstar solid… with 3 wee ones still under 10 real life often trumps real awesome service for clients. But I am able to do, in the weeks when life lands me in the lemon pile, is be honest with my clients and stand by my values of being a parent while growing my business as I have for the past 5 years. That’s a kind of customer service my clients have grown to accept and respect (and I admit, my former corporate self is surprised at how amazing this level of honesty is really accepted).

Focus less on being perfect at customer service, because real life is just really daunting sometimes. Strive to be the best at what you do, and then have a communication plan in place, that is solidly built on your values, to ensure when you mess up or have a bad day (it happens to everyone), you are still building relationships not picking the burnt gross gooey stuff off your previously toasty marshmallowy-loved customer or client relationship.

note: Our plans changed and we didn’t stay in Ellensberg at all, never mind a KOA. We did kamp at other KOAs and the quality of sites, service and experience vary greatly. If you are planning a great KOA adventure, be aware.

Your homework: What do you stand for? What do you do that’s special to gain you the toasty marshmallow ratings? Share below.

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