People talk about customer service like it’s this beautiful, shiny thing. Pleasant and friendly, with an accommodating smile on it’s face.
Real customer service – the kind that makes a difference – is ugly and hard-working and a get-er-done sort. It’s resourceful and unyielding and never stops trying. It’s not pleasant at all on the company side. It takes pulling minor miracles every single day.
Being known for customer service and really excelling at it is one of the hardest things I’ve learned to do. It’s also the thing I just assumed would be natural and easy to do because it’s one of the things I believe in most fundamentally – never stopping until the problem is solved for the customer and then keeping our promises made.
But when it’s Saturday morning and a caregiver calls in sick 30 minutes before a booking you have a couple of choices. Option 1 is that you let the parents know that unfortunately, “due to reasons beyond our control”, the sitter wont be coming.
We’ve all been bailed on by sick sitters so it’s understandable.
But not for us.
Option 2 is to let the parents know and say we’re going to try to fill it with another caregiver as best we can. But when that caregiver inevitably can’t be found to fill in, in less than 20 minutes, you let the parents know “we tried everything we could, but I’m sorry we just couldn’t get anyone”.
This one can be the reality sometimes, but it’s still not good enough.
Option 3 is to spend those 30 furious minutes with your whole team throwing their Saturday mornings aside, trying to find a suitable replacement in time. But when you find a someone who could do it but can’t make it there for 40 minutes and unless you cover an Uber there and back, you see the opening for that minor miracle.
That was this very morning. While one of our team continued to communicate with the parent, another gave the caregiver a call to prep them and yet another volunteered to head to the family’s home to fill in the 30 minute gap between when the parents need to leave the caregiver can make it.
It’s a furious 40 minutes of action but the whole team is focused on making that miracle happen. And when it comes together, everyone is exhausted but exhilarated. It wasn’t pretty by a long shot but it allowed us to live up to our standards of customer service – do everything we humanly can to uphold our promise. Having someone literally tell their family on their Saturday morning, I have to go fill in for the next hour and a half and then go and make it happen, that is no easy thing no matter how “Hollywood-esqe” that might sound. To build a team that actively volunteers to do these things, that’s also no small thing.
And I’m not going to lie – not every situation ends like this. We try desperately and frantically every single time. But sometimes we don’t have someone from HQ that can go or a caregiver than can fill in. Sometimes every effort ends in failure and disappointment and frustration.
But our one salvation is to always know we tried everything possible.
In this moment, when I am incredibly proud of our team and what we’ve built customer service to mean at Poppy, it needs to be recognized how this is not some sleek, strategic air game, but a brutal, grinding ground game.
It takes an open mind and a never say never belief.
It takes the ugly and the impossible to keep promises.
We try never to forget that.