Maybe you remember. Or, more likely you don’t. Unless you happen to be waist-deep in the customer experience profession and follow the variety of hashtags on the topic on twitter. Or, you might have come across the story on Flipboard or other such aggregator app. In any case, I’m referring to what was at the time being promoted as The Greatest Customer Service Story Ever Told. The tale of how a high profile customer experience consultant and author tweeted to Morton’s Steakhouse to bring him a steak at an airport. And…they did.
And it was a really cool story, no doubt. But, the opinion I held two years ago, that this was not even close to the greatest customer service experience, is still my opinion today. A great PR stunt? Absolutely. But, there are a multitude of reasons why it was in no way an example by which other brands could or should model their customer experience design. Why? Hold that thought.
Flash forward two years to last week. Along came Westjet, a Canadian airline, to trump Morton’s and Mr Shankman in spades. Westjet pulled off a Christmas surprise for passengers on one of its flights that was off the charts. So, while I don’t necessarily believe Westjet earned the title of Greatest Customer Service Story either, here’s five reasons why it is so much more worthy of praise and a special place in the Customer Service Hall of Fame.
5. Westjet’s gift was unsolicited: Unlike the Morton’s story, nobody on that Westjet flight made any request remotely resembling what they received from the airline. Surprise, or as my friend Stan Phelps has spent years documenting Lagniappe, has such a profound and long-lasting impact on the recipients that the financial return is equally profound. Also, because Westjet’s gesture was unprovoked, there was almost zero downside. If they did nothing, no foul. If Morton’s didn’t respond, who knows what fall out could have transpired from the wrath of a disrespected social media star.
4. Westjet wasn’t catering to a famous, influential personality: I have no idea who made up the manifest of that Westjet flight. But, since I haven’t seen any blog posts or tweets from any social media customer service rock stars that they were a party to it, its safe to assume that the hundred and change passengers were just regular joes trying to get from point A to point B. As for downside, see #5 above.
3. Westjet directly touched about a hundred or so more lives than Morton’s: While we can argue the merits of catering to digital influencers and the positive network ripple effect that can have for a brand. there is no denying that, online or off, there is a multiplier effect at play here. Word of mouth is undeniable. And in a time when consumers are as cynical as ever, word of mouth from your neighbor or co-worker still carries more weight than from the dude with the Klout score of 80. Who is going to realize a greater return on its investment?
2. Westjet’s “stunt” required significantly greater investment in time, money and resources: None of this post is meant in anyway as a slight against Morton’s. I happen to be a fan. And, what they did for Mr Shankman was awesome. However, it was largely conceived and executed by a very savvy group of local employees at one restaurant in New Jersey. Westjet’s gift required far-reaching resources, investment in technology (the bar code scan match of the passenger manifest was at the core of the plan), and planning and commitment from so many more people within the organization, including I assume from some very senior executives that had to put their necks on the line to pull this off.
1. And none of what I’ve described in 5 through 2 above would be possible without a pre-existing, broad culture and commitment to delighting customers, regardless of who those customers are. As I said in #2, while both stories are more PR stunts than anything, the breadth and reach of resources required to pull off Westjet’s stunt demonstrates the core, baseline culture required for any organization to sustain customer centricity over the long haul.