The greatest customer service I’ve ever received.
It was 1am on Monday night, and myself and my beautiful girlfriend were due to fly to London the next morning.
The bags were packed, I was feeling like a legend, and were just about to go to bed when my girlfriend asked me to check out tickets.
As I scrolled through my email I saw the fine print. My heart stopped. These tickets need to be printed.
Now look, my girlfriend is one of the most kind, caring, understanding women I’ve ever met but I knew my life would be over within 8 hours if I didn’t find a way to print these tickets!
“What are you doing,” she asked. “Are you tweeting.”
It’s fair to say she hasn’t embraced my love of the 140 characters, but right now I ignored the dig and frantically began searching for who on earth may be able to print these tickets.
It was useless. After 45 minutes I’d accepted my fate, and having revealed the current challenge we were facing it was fair to say Nichole was busy sharpening the guillotine.
Then it hit me! A moment of brilliance, like a quarterback seeing an opening and one final chance to throw a hail-mary! A pub — and not just any pub, the Honey Bar!
It was definitely my last shot and it was about 1.50am by now.
I quickly sent a DM to both Steve Vallas and the Honey Bar. I didn’t really know what to expect, but it was basically my final call before I would be marched to the gallows.
Then I heard the ding!
“I’ve contacted the bar, just go down there, they are expecting you. Email the tickets and they will be ready for you to collect.” — @SteveVallas.
I could have cried with happiness. It was raining outside, but I didn’t care. I raced outside, yelling what had had happened to my confused girlfriend and sped across the city to the bar which was now closed, to find the bartender standing there with the tickets ready to go.
We were going on our Euro Adventure!
Now the cynical individuals will be reading this and have just twigged…hold on aren’t you mates with Steve?
To which I will counter with a question.
If ever in your life you meet someone who bails you out of a situation like this and you know would do it time and time again, wouldn’t you do everything possible to make sure you are mates with them? The answer is obviously HELL YES!
And so we continue…
So what is it that Steve is seeing that so many other small businesses are missing?
He simply understands that there is so much more to his brand, than simply the products he sells.
He is not in the business of selling drinks, he is in the business of building a community and what attracts people to be part of this community is that they feel that they have a place they belong, a place they meet other people who are just like them, and when they are within this community they are treated as if they are family. In that moment, I experienced every one of these feelings and continue to feel like it’s a second home every time I visit.
There was no request for a reward, there was no judgement around why I didn’t print these earlier, it was simply a way of recognising that they could help and going miles above, beyond, and outside of anything they would be expected to do as the business to help me out of a jam.
Whilst other bars are fighting over tacky 3 for 1 offers to get traffic through their doors, these guys are focused on servicing the community who’ve helped them get where they are today.
So if it’s so simple, why are so many small businesses missing this?
The industrial revolution led us towards the mass adoption of the production line, and the rise of e-commerce has taken this even further. As businesses focus on streamlining their operations, they need to remember that their greatest competitive advantage may actually be their human connection.
It’s expensive to deliver great customer service, and I understand why so many businesses are tempted to strip it away, but if you’re competing purely on price you’re rarely going to beat the big guys, and more and more they’ve got you covered for quality as well.
So you need to ask yourself, what is it that’s going to keep your customers coming through the door even when they know they can get a better price and quality down the road?
The answer is that it is your brand — it’s what you stand for. It’s the experience you provide that shows people why you are doing what you’re doing and it’s all because you care about them.
Big brands like Apple and Virgin do this better than most, and this is why they are able to move sectors and introduce completely new categories and we don’t even blink an eye. They’ve built their branded house and we know when we interact with anything inside it there’s a consistent experience anywhere across the world.
But it’s hard. Big brands know how easy it is to make big mistakes, which is why they’ve got so many strict rules to keep their little ants in line and this is where I believe you have a chance to leverage your competitive advantage.
Compete on delivering a more human experience. Empower your staff to show empathy, common sense and do the right thing.
This is all that Steve did in this tiny gesture, but it was a magical moment for me and I hope your act of generosity will have the same impact on others.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this story, and I thankyou for listening. Please connect and share those moments that have had an impact on you, and for those who still want a jolly good giggle enjoy the hilarious story below about a recent trip to McDonalds.
Whilst you’ll never beat them on scale and efficiency, if you empower your staff you’re sure to dominate them when it comes to good old common sense.
My experience at McDonald’s drive-through when I asked if they could put my previous McDonald’s coffee cup in the bin.
Me: Would you mind putting this in your bin please?
Staff: Sorry we can’t take rubbish.
Me: You gave it to me, I purchased it from you yesterday.
Staff: Yes, but it could be a bomb.
Me: Yes, and that risk was just as high when you handed it to me through the window yesterday, but this relationship relies on a level of trust, and therefore I took it from you into my car.
Staff: It’s policy. It could be a bomb.
Me: I assure you it’s not a bomb. Nor is this same diligence present on your front door. I’m simply returning it to the place I purchased it. I’m surprised you consider your own product rubbish.
Staff: (lots of staff chirping in that it’s policy because again it could be a bomb).
Staff: I’m sorry.
Me: Me too. I’ll park my car and place it in your bin. Have a nice day.
When businesses are run like machines, without empowering staff to make decisions, they fail to recognise the role that human relationships play in delivering an experience.
All this proved was that my experience was poor, and the redundancy of this girl’s role cannot come soon enough because without common sense, she’s just a highly inefficient robot.
This is where you can expose your competitive advantage!