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I once knew a woman named Priscilla who embodied great customer service. Over the years I’ve attended many workshops on customer service. I’ve also read countless books, yet when I think about GREAT customer service, I think of Priscilla.
I met Priscilla in 2000. A friend of mine had recommended a certain type of make-up to me. It was a brand you could only buy at a department store. One day I was in the mall and decided to visit the make-up counter at Macy’s. This is where I met Priscilla. She greeted me right away with a smile. This in itself was surprising to me because up until this point I usually had to seek out a make-up counter person. I told her that a friend had recommended this brand of make-up, but I was concerned about trying anything new because my skin is very sensitive. I also told her that I was on a limited budget and didn’t want to spend a lot of money on make-up that I wasn’t sure would work with my skin.
Priscilla offered me a seat, introduced herself, and took a look at my skin. She explained to me how the products worked and why she believed in them. We talked for a few minutes while she experimented with some of the products on my skin. In the end, I purchased a light foundation and she gave me several samples of toner and moisturizer. She also told me that if I wasn’t happy with the product for any reason to please bring it back for a refund.
Now, the real amazing things about Priscilla happened later on, actually, over the next several years. I was very happy with the foundation and went back about a month later to purchase more as well as some moisturizer. Priscilla was helping another customer when I arrived. She immediately noticed me when I walked up and said, “Hello Andrea, please make yourself comfortable and I’ll be right with you.” Let me say that again, she said, “Hello Andrea…” She remembered my name! Now, I’m not saying that in order to offer GREAT customer service you have to remember everyone’s name that walks in your door, but it sure made me feel special. When she was done with her customer, she came over to greet me. In her hand was an index card with all of my information (name, contact info, what products I purchased, and what samples she had given me). She had a large box of these cards. She also recorded how I liked each product. I purchased my products and went on my way.
Two weeks later I received a phone call from Priscilla. She wanted to make sure I was still happy with my purchase and to see if I needed anything else. She also wanted to tell me that she put me on her mailing list. I thanked her and told her I was still happy with my purchases and did not need anything at this time. A few days later I received her newsletter. It contained some information about the product line and her hours for the next month. My address was handwritten. I could just picture her addressing newsletters each month to all of the people in her index card box during slow times.
A few weeks later I was in the mall and needed to pick-up more foundation. Priscilla wasn’t there. Why hadn’t I checked her schedule before I came to the mall? After getting the salesperson attention, I soon learned that her skills didn’t go much beyond “ringing me up.” I told her I needed foundation, but couldn’t remember what shade. I asked her to check the index card box. She was aware of the box, but couldn’t remember where Priscilla put it. I got frustrated while she looked and finally just purchased a shade I thought might work. I was wrong. The shade didn’t work with my skin type at all. What did Priscilla do when I told her the next time I saw her? She refunded my money and gently recommended I come during her hours if I can. She also showed me where she kept the index box.
Over the next several years I continued to purchase my make-up from Priscilla. She became a constant in my life. I received regular phone calls and newsletters. I even brought a guy I was dating one time to meet her because he heard me talk about her all the time. After that, she always asked about him. Then one day she told me she was taking a few months off. She said it was for medical reasons, but that she would be fine. She sent out a letter to all of her customers stating the time she would be out and that she informed her replacement about the index card box. I was a little worried because she looked a little pale, but she returned in three months and seemed to be in top form.
A few months later, Priscilla called me to tell me she was changing stores. It was not her choice. Macy’s was no longer going to carry her brand of make-up. I followed her to Nordstrom, as I’m sure most of her customers did. I felt that Nordstrom was a good fit for Priscilla, as they are known for their customer service. Less than a year later, I received a call from a woman at Nordstrom. She left a message saying it was regarding Priscilla. I thought that was weird, but I returned the call. Priscilla had passed away. All of these years she had been very sick, but she never let it show to her customers. She never even seemed like she ever had a bad day. The woman said that when they were cleaning out Priscilla’s things, they found the index card box. In the box, they found cards on customers who have been with Priscilla for years, many like me, for over five years. Nordstrom felt they owed it to those customers and to Priscilla to notify them of Priscilla’s passing.
I was very sad to hear this. Priscilla had become important to me and I was going to miss her. Soon after I stopped using the brand of make-up Priscilla sold. I realized I wasn’t that happy with the product and I had only continued using it because I enjoyed seeing Priscilla and giving her my business. After all, she worked very hard to make me feel special, as I know she did for all of her customers.
When was the last time someone at a business made you feel so special, you became loyal to what they were selling? Is there a restaurant you frequent or a brand you buy because of the customer service you receive? Maybe there is a place you never go back to because of the low level of service they provided. What can we learn from Priscilla when working with our frontline staff?