Going Above and Beyond

I’ve never worked at an amusement park, but I imagine that most of the time it’s a pretty low-stress job.  I’m sure there are exceptions, like when Chevy Chase shot John Candy in the backside with a B B gun because the park was closed (National Lampoon’s Vacation).  Or, if you work in the sales department on the last day to buy season tickets at the early-bird discount.

Sdc
Silver Dollar City
is an amusement park just outside of Branson, MO.  My wife and I go there a few times every year, so we usually buy season passes.  The deadline for the special price was this past Saturday.  Naturally, being the prince of procrastination, I waited until Friday to place my order.  (Actually, my lovely bride had tried to place a phone order on Thursday, but the line was busy all day.)

I got up early Friday and tried to place an on-line order before I left for work.  Everything was fine until I pushed the "buy" button and got an error message that said there was a problem with my order.  That was it.  No other explanation.  Now what?  If I order again will I end up with two sets of expensive tickets?  If I don’t order again will I miss out on the special?  I decided that I would call them directly.

As Mrs. B found out on Thursday, there was no getting through on the phone.  I tried several times during the day with nothing to show for my effort except a busy signal.  I finally gave up and sent the park an e-mail.  I explained the problem hoping they would take pity on the procrastinator and either extend the special price or let me know that the original order went through.

The story got interesting when I received an email from the SDC sales office Sunday afternoon at 1:00.  The office was working on Sunday.  Unfortunately I wasn’t so I didn’t see the email.  At 4:00 Sunday afternoon they called me.  Again, because I wasn’t home, I missed the call but they left a message.

To make a long story short (too late?) my order hadn’t gone through.  The huge number of customers who had waited until the last meeting had swamped the company’s web site and their phone system.  They worked all weekend to catch up.

Parks like Silver Dollar City are in the business of making people happy, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at such a high level of customer service.  But I’m sure the reservation agents were under a lot of stress during the last few days through no fault of their own.   Debbie, the lady I talked to when I called back was cheerful and helpful and apologetic that I had been inconvenienced. 

Had the park ignored my email, or told me that I shouldn’t have waited until the last minute to order, I would still have bought the tickets, even without the discount.  I would have written it off as being my own fault for putting things off and wouldn’t have thought any less of the park.  The park would have actually made a few extra dollars not giving me the discount.  I would still have been a satisfied customer.

By going above and beyond, putting on extra people over the weekend to take care of the overflow of customers, the park made sure I was more than satisfied.  They gave me more than I expected (they usually do) and kept me as a LOYAL customer.  That’s how you build up positive word-of-mouth.

Some years ago, my department did something really stupid that made a key customer very angry.  I was out of the office at a trade show and wouldn’t be back for a few days.  But, knowing how ticked off this dealer and his salespeople were, I knew it couldn’t wait.  I got on the phone and dictated an individual apology to each member of the dealer’s sales team along with a gift.  I called the owner on the phone, accepted responsibility for the mistake, and assured him that it would never happen again.  The dealer turned out to be one of the best customers I ever had.

It’s not very hard to keep satisfied customers satisfied.  But when you can turn an unsatisfied customer into a loyal one, you know you’re doing something right.

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