A blog post last week by Peter Shankman titled, The World’s Greatest Customer Service Story Ever Told, Starring Morton’s Steakhouse has generated some debate as to whether Morton’s Steakhouse demonstrated amazing customer service or capitalized on an opportunity to grab some great press when it delivered a porterhouse steak and sides to Mr. Shankman upon arrival at Newark airport.
While I don’t refute Shankman’s claim that Morton’s delivers exceptional customer service (a quick scan of his post’s comments reveals dozens of testimonials to the superior customer service experienced at Morton’s), I do believe this story is more about public relations than it is about customer service.
Compare the Morton’s story above with an experience I had at Tiffany & Co.:
I was in New York City for a business trip a week or so before my 10-year wedding anniversary. One afternoon, I stopped by the Tiffany & Co. flagship store on 6th Avenue to look at anniversary rings.
A thoughtful representative named Duncan showed me several rings as he explained some of the nuances of color, cut, clarity, and carat weight.
The rings looked magnificent beneath the showroom lights. I recall that of the half dozen or so rings that I looked at, there was one that I kept going back to. Duncan noticed it too. And, of course, it cost 25 percent more than the others.
After about 30 minutes together, I thanked him for his time and told him that I wouldn’t be buying the ring today. I mentioned that I had an appointment in two days with a representative at the Denver location of Tiffany & Co. He congratulated me on my 10-year anniversary and wished me luck in finding the perfect ring.
Two days later I arrived at the Denver location of Tiffany & Co. and met with a representative named Cynthia. Cynthia brought me into a private room to show me a set of anniversary rings that she had selected based on my criteria. As she revealed each successive ring, she would say something like, “Now, this ring combines the color you are hoping for with the mounting we discussed.”
After introducing several rings in this way, Cynthia produced the final ring saying, “Now, this is the ring that you were especially taken by when Duncan was showing you rings at the 6th Avenue store on Tuesday.”
I was absolutely floored! I said something like, “Huh? What? How did you…?”
Cynthia sensed my astonishment, smiled, and then explained that she had received a call from Duncan shortly after I’d left the 6th Avenue store and that together they had made arrangements for the ring to be shipped overnight from New York City to the Denver location of Tiffany & Co. in time for my appointment.
Duncan and Cynthia worked together to deliver customer service that was completely beyond the realm of customer expectation. I had no reason to expect that the ring I’d looked at in New York would be among the options made available to me in Denver.
Does this level of customer service influence sales? Guess which ring I bought?
Although this story, as a blog post, has brought unexpected positive social media attention to the Tiffany & Co. brand (albeit, a fraction of the attention enjoyed by Morton’s), it is ultimately about exceptional customer service.
Recently I wrote in a blog post that due to the effect of social media, customer service and public relations are now inextricably linked. As customers increasingly broadcast their experiences over the web, this will benefit companies like Morton’s and Tiffany & Co., that consistently deliver superior customer service, and will punish those with lackluster customer service.
So whether these companies are serving Peter Shankman or a less influential customer, if they do it right every time, they’ll be doing it right at the right time.
What’s your view?