John DiJulius | Customer Experience Blog

A company policy ends up costing a Customerโ€™s life

Company crutch – By now you know my stance on company policy. They are an old paradigm and Customer’s biggest point of frustration. Management creates policies to punish 98% of Customers for what 2% may try to get away with.


When company policy went too far – You are not going to believe what you are about to read.  A registered nurse from a senior living center calls 911 and tells the operator that one of their residents is lying on the ground and not breathing.  The operator dispatches an ambulance, but tells the nurse to perform CPR. The nurse says it is against company policy. The operator warns her that the person will die if she doesn’t do CPR or find someone-anyone-who will. The nurse refuses to, and just keeps saying, “I am not allowed.”  The person dies.  You have to listen to this call!  RN refuses to give CPR.


Who’s to blame? Would you want your loved ones living there? Employees end up using policy as a crutch, and it removes common sense and better judgment. It is not the employees’ fault; it is management’s fault for creating the policy and instilling fear in employees if they don’t follow it.


Airline breaks policy! This is the second eServices in a row that I am using a best practice from the airline industry. I am really not running out of material. This is just a great story.  Recently a flight arrived late, which is not uncommon. What was uncommon was what a United Airline flight attendant did.  The employee recognized a passenger visibly upset, proceeded to find out that the Customer was about to miss a connecting flight, that would have gotten him home to see his mother before she died.  The flight attendant, with the help of other employees at United, delayed that passenger’s connecting flight and the passenger was able to make the connection and see his mother in time.  Check it out: United Airlines delays flight for man to see dying mother.


Charitable Assumption – Companies are so worried that if they make an exception for one Customer, every Customer will expect the same thing. All the world-class Customer-service companies have zero risk policies, i.e. Nordstrom and Zappos have no return policy. Return your purchase whenever, no questions asked. The traditional management mindset protests, “They can’t do that! Customers will use their product and when they are tired of it, they will bring it back.” Nope! World-class companies have “charitable assumption,” which is trusting and giving the benefit of the doubt to their Customers.


Free drinks for everyone – One of the most overused Customer service examples comes from Southwest Airlines. Well, here is another one.  I recently was on a Southwest flight and the flight attendant was coming down the isle with the beverage cart.  Three rows ahead of me a woman ordered a mixed drink.  The flight attendant asked for $5.00, the Customer handed him a $5.00 bill. He says, “I am sorry, we no longer accept cash, only credit cards.” She says, “I don’t have any credit cards on me.” He replied, loud enough that I can hear him three rows back, “That’s ok, this one’s on me.”  Of course you can guess what the passenger directly behind him said, right? (“I only have cash, too!”) No! The passenger behind ordered a mixed drink as well, gave the flight attendant his credit card and said, “I will pay for her drink as well.” Could that be one of the reasons why Southwest has been the most profitable airline in the US for over 30 years?






Your company is either creating brand evangelists,
or brand terrorists doing brand assassination.


John R. DiJulius III best-selling author, consultant, and keynote speaker, is the President of The DiJulius Group, the leading customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on customer experience trends and best practices. Learn more about The DiJulius Group or The Secret Service Summit, America’s #1 Customer Service Conference.

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Insulate your VIPโ€™s; what we can learn from the airlines

Protect and preserve your core Customers – “The cost of losing your core Customers and trying to get them backwill be much greater than the cost of investing in them and trying to keep them,” says Howard Schultz president of Starbucks Coffee.  Starbucks Gold card program is one of the best VIP/loyalty programs I have seen and it has had amazing results at Starbucks. Schultz explains, “They enhance the brand, becoming part of the Starbucks Experience via the actual Customer-barista transaction and, because the card lives in wallets, part of people’s lives. The cards also bring us closer to Customers.”


Love the benefits – The Customer gets many perks that can be used, like a free drink after every 12 purchases, and discounts or freebies on little amenities such as no extra cost for Soymilk. However, think what Starbucks gets. They get to build a database on their Customers, see who spends how much on what, have hard data on their top Customers all over the world, and they get prepaid millions of dollars.  People have to pre-load these cards to use them. I, for example, have my Starbucks Gold card set to automatically reload to $100 from my American Express, once my Gold card goes under $10.00.  This is brilliant! Many times they get their Customers’ money two or four weeks prior to redemption.  To receive rewards, a person registers online by providing his or her e-mail address. As a result, Starbucks builds a rich database that they can use to better understand their Customers’ behaviors and reward them accordingly. The database also allows them to reach out to Customers in meaningful, cost-effective ways.


CUSTOMER SERVICE TIPS FROM THE AIRLINES – I, like most, think the airlines are pretty lame at customer service.  However, I have found myself recognizing some pretty good systems they do provide that I have taken back to my businesses and implemented. Back in the early days of my speaking career, my main goal when making airline reservations was to find the cheapest and easiest.  However, since my hometown, Cleveland, is a hub for United Airlines, I naturally flew them a little more.  Then one day I got a letter from them saying that I became a Silver Elite Member.  Big deal, right?  Actually, as I read what Silver received, I became excited.  Not only did they show me the benefits that Silver received, they also explained Gold (the next level up) and Platinum (the highest level).  I became obsessed with not only re-qualifying the next year, but I also wanted to see if I could get to Platinum status. Now, instead of finding the cheapest and quickest, it had to be booked on United only.  It got worse. Every month I was checking my status online, seeing if I was on pace to make it before the year was over.  Think of the beauty of this. United made me become obsessed with spending more money with them, and only with them. 


That is when I thought to myself how we, the customers of John Robert’s Spa, could behave like that.  We rolled out our VIP program, where we sent our top 2,000 Customers(out of over 200,000) VIP cards. 80% were Silver, 15% were Gold, and 5% were Platinum.  We congratulated them on earning their status and gave them a print out of all the benefits each level received.  Immediately our phone started ringing with Customers asking questions like, did we take into consideration that they go to multiple John Robert’s locations, were we giving them credit for each, and do they get credit when they purchase gift cards, etc.  It was one of the best marketing and customer loyalty programs I had ever thought of.  Okay, I didn’t really think of it, but I did copy it really well.  There is a saying, “If you borrow one idea from someone, it is called plagiarism, if you borrow 25, it is called research.” So I guess that makes me a great researcher.


Action Plan – Stop and consider how loyal you have made your top customers to your brand.  Would they entertain better offers, discounts, or would they stop doing business with you if your company dropped the ball?  What would your competitors be willing to do to get them away from you? Have you insulated them from your competition? Have you made your customers obsessed with trying to spend more with your business and earn a higher status and more benefits?


John R. DiJulius III best-selling author, consultant, and keynote speaker, is the President of The DiJulius Group, the leading customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on customer experience trends and best practices. Learn more about The DiJulius Group or The Secret Service Summit, America’s #1 Customer Service Conference.

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