Creating Loyalty through Customer Service at Gordon Biersch

I am the Vice President of CRM Product Marketing at Oracle and do I have a story for you.

On a recent trip to Brazil, I had a 3 hour layover at Dulles International Airport. I decided to have dinner at Gordon Biersch, a microbrewery restaurant started in Palo Alto, now with locations around the US. I had recently joined their Passport loyalty program, earning points for discounts and other rewards. This was the first time I was going to use it.

After a nice dinner, I gave my server my Passport card. He told me they couldn't enter my passport number. I sat in stunned silence for a second. He then said they were a franchisee. Frustrated with this non-answer, I gave him my business card and asked him to please have the manager contact me about this matter.

I wanted a satisfactory explanation. But as past experience has taught me, I did not expect one. I have given my business card to many a place before when things like this have happened, awaiting the phone call that never comes.

No, I didn't get a call from the manager of the Dulles Gordon Biersch...I got an email the next morning from the Gordon Biersch Passport Loyalty program manager!! She wrote that they had heard about what happened to me last night, they were very sorry, that it should never have happened and told me what to do to get my points, not just regular points, but double points.

WOW, my jaw almost hit the floor. Somebody actually responded...and from corporate to boot. Her email explained that my server was right in saying that they can't enter my passport number because as a franchisee, they don't have the proper system to ensure that it gets credited (why I am still not sure...), but that they were supposed to give me a certificate that I could enter on their website to get my points.

She went on to say how important my business was to them and how they have trained their franchisees on how to handle this, but that somehow they needed to do more. She closed by saying that she would escalate this matter so that a communication would go out to their franchisees about this incident and reminding them about how to handle passport loyalty program customers because they represent the Gordon Biersch brand, franchisee or not.

Gordon Biersch gets it...I didn't care whether they are a franchisee or not, they are Gordon Biersch to me and represent the brand just like the company owned stores. They demonstrated perfectly what creating loyalty through customer service is all about.

Since that time, I have told this story at least 30 times. Ironically, I was even able to use this story as part of my keynote presentation in Brazil which was titled "Creating Loyalty Through Customer Service". By handling this so well, they turned me from a soon-to-be ex-customer into an even more loyal advocate who will do more business with them in the future than I would have before.

The moral of the story...

1) Never miss an opportunity to show your customers that you care about their concerns, especially when you mess up.
2) Make it okay for your front line people to escalate an issue when somebody is dissatisfied and wants some resolution.
3) Always have someone to catch the ball at the other end and a system that ensures that things get followed up quickly and with the appropriate humility.
4) Don't lose the learning - pass it on so that you can avoid this kind of situation in the future.
5) Finally, proactively protect your brand reputation at all costs - one bad experience, badly handled and publicized online can hurt your business for years to come

Bravo Gordon Biersch for getting it and showing that you care!!!

Comments:

I once worked for a company that had everyone's bonus linked to customer satisfaction, it changed behavior from the CEO to the receptionist. Interesting though is they no longer use this metric as part of their bonus calculation and as a result they have seen a steady decline in revenue? linkage?

Posted by John Burke on July 28, 2010 at 07:08 AM PDT #

I agree, it has to matter. When companies really pay attention to customer satisfaction, their customers notice it. And conversely, when they don't, they notice it too. Unfortunately for the latter group, most customers won't tell them directly, they will just quietly leave. And the old adage is still true today - it costs a lot less to keep a customer than to find a new one. I spoke directly to the Passport program manager about their approach. She told me that everyone at the Gordon Biersch HQ, including the CEO and executive team, sees the new customer issues every morning. Her goal is to respond to their loyalty program customers' issues with a personalized response, not a canned reply, within 24 hours, 48 hours max. Now, that is customer service that generates loyalty!!

Posted by kirk.mosher@oracle.com on July 28, 2010 at 07:26 AM PDT #

Great story. The goal of fixing a problem should be more than just fixing the problem. It should also be about restoring the customer's confidence. This story is a perfect example of that. Thank you for sharing. Shep Hyken, http://www.TheCustomerFocus.com

Posted by Shep Hyken on July 28, 2010 at 09:50 PM PDT #

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