by Kevin Stirtz
Recently my friends Chip Bell and John Patterson shared with me this story of amazing service. It’s from their friend and client, Katy Wild. Chip and John call it “Boston Style Customer Service.”
“Recently I lost my purse while traveling and then found it, thankfully, but not before missing my plane. So, I had 4 hours to kill in the Tulsa airport waiting for the next flight. While in the airport, the man at the shoe shine stand started a conversation and wanted to know if I needed my shoes shined. What else was I going to do for four hours? He started the process and began visiting. It was a great conversation. We shared stories about where we had both come from, our families, and life in general – his name was “Boston”. He asked if I had read a particular book that he had read recently. I told him ‘no,’ but upon his recommendation I would definitely find it.
“Finishing his job of making my shoes better than when they were brand new, I asked him the cost. ‘Five dollars,’ he told me! I couldn’t believe only $5 after he had worked 25 minutes to make them look so good. But he insisted saying he always charged $5 regardless of the time it took him. I gave him a $20 dollar bill – for the shoe shine and the great conversation. He wanted to give me change, but I insisted he keep it.
“My flight was about to begin boarding, now 3 hours after my shoeshine. I see Boston roaming the terminal corridor and assumed he was looking for another customer. Surprisingly, he came right toward me, handed me a bag, and told me it was a “gift.” Boston had spent the extra $15 buying me a copy of the book he had described! What if we put a little “Boston” in the way we provide service every day!”
What I like most about this story is that “Boston” (the shoe shine guy, not the city) is real. He’s a real guy who has a genuine conversation with with a customer. Not because he has to but because he wants to.
This is a universe away from what most customers experience these days.
Either we get flat, personality-less service from people doing the bare minimum or we get script-driven exchanges that focus more on what the company wants to sell than on what we as customers really want. Both leave me feeling absolutely zero customer loyalty.
The other shining star quality in this customer service story is how Boston delivered on the extra mile. He clearly enjoyed his exchange with new customer. And he wanted to do something for her. So he took his tip and gave it back to her in the form of a gift that was relevant to their conversation.
This is also a perfect example of “tipping back“, something London cabbies do when they have enjoyed working with a customer. It’s a nice way of showing a customer you appreciate not just their business but the entire experience. I like this because it goes beyond money and into relationships, which is the heart of taking care of your customers.