A Helium-filled Customer Service Experience

A friend of mine had a special birthday recently that really called for the works.  You know…surprises, cake and of course, balloons.

So in preparation for the big night, I ordered a bouquet of balloons from my local Publix to be picked up on my way to the birthday dinner.

I arrived and requested the pick-up but unfortunately, there were no balloons waiting for me.  Not really that big of a deal, balloons can be blown up in minutes.  But it was my conversation with Gary that made all the difference in this service disappointment.

Meet Gary. He has been an employee at this particular Publix for almost 3 years.

As helium filled each balloon, Gary and I began to chat. He shared with me what he loves about working at Publix, about the vision of founder George Jenkins, and the way the company helped him through some rough times.

I left Publix with a smile on my face. What could have been a disappointing experience was completely turned around by one person… one employee… one example.

Every company could learn from Gary.  Here are three principles he showed me.

#1 Service recovery always begins with an apology.
The first words Gary said to me were, “I’m sorry”.  There were no excuses or finger-pointing.  He simply apologized and immediately created a solution.

#2 There is no such thing as too much service.
After Gary insisted on not charging me for the balloons, he said, “You can’t out-give Publix, that’s our philosophy.”  He went on to explain that their error was delaying my day and paying for the balloons was the least he could do.  Now sure, balloons, helium and ribbon aren’t high-priced goods.  That’s not the point. He ensured he made my experience “right”.  And he did.

#3 Real customer service occurs with an individual experience.
At any given time I suspect Publix has 20-30 employees working throughout the store. And my interaction with Gary is an example of what happens [or could happen] over and over each day.  I wonder if my experience would have been the same if I had met Bob or Cindy or any other employee that day. You see, Gary got it.  And it was my interaction with him [individually] that made the difference.

By the way, my friend loved the balloons. And now, I love Publix.  Here’s to Gary and hoping you have others just like him in your organization.

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