Are you able to remember, like I am, what customer service used to look like in the not-so-distant past? I’m not referring to what it looks like these days where you, the customer, end up with all the effort, making all the calls—doing all the work—to clear up a problem that you didn’t create. That’s clearly NOT what I’m talking about. What I’m referring to is the old fashioned, real “let me take care of that for you” kind of customer service that exists only in our dreams or our imagination.

How long has it been since real customer service existed? Was it just a couple of years ago or more like a long distant past that we can barely remember? Most experiences today are atrocious interactions, whether or not they occur face-to-face or over the phone, where some unaware and self-absorbed imbecile focuses on the hassle that you represent and the amount of work it might take to correct your situation instead of how important it is to retain you as a customer. I can’t think of a situation lately where I didn’t immediately get an attitude over the phone from some “agent” who never stops talking long enough to hear you, let alone address your problem.

“Calgon, take me away!” I want to go back to the days when employees truly valued you, the customer, and treated you with the respect and consideration you deserved, the days when your business was “valued and appreciated.” And it was understood that nothing was more important than making it right for you. But I had an experience recently at a beautiful resort hotel that helped to renew my faith not only in people but also in the concept that true “customer service” exists and is not a long forgotten art. It is alive and well in small pockets and microcosms of our guest service society. You must understand, when you stumble upon it, that you are so lucky—no blessed—to be able to experience it.

Well, here’s my true-to-life story. But names have been changed herein to protect the innocent and the idiocracy. In my recent travels, I stayed at a resort hotel in one of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountain regions. It was beautiful, rustic and not too expensive. My stay there had a purpose; however, it was so serene and relaxing that I found that I was able to really enjoy the entire experience with my family because of the ambiance. Upon my departure from this lovely hotel, and as I stopped at the Front Desk and proceeded to check out, I spoke to a very nice young gentleman who took my final payment and asked how my stay was. “It was beautiful and so relaxing,” I said. He responded sincerely with … “we are pleased that you had a pleasant stay. This is fall a beautiful time of year to be here and yet we tend to be less busy than you’d think.” Then he proceeded to charge a small balance due to my credit card of $51 and printed out my receipt. I left with a smile on my face.

Since I live in Nevada, I had a few hundred miles distance to drive to my home, so I knew I’d have to stop for gas before reaching my final destination. At a location down the road I stopped for gas and pulled out the same credit card to pay for the gas that I’d used at the hotel to check out. To my surprise it was declined. I found this to be unusual and quite surprising since I knew that the balance on this card was small and nowhere near the limit. So, I decided to find out what was going on. With today’s amazing technology, it was easy for me to quickly pull up the details of my credit card account on my cell phone and upon viewing the recent transactions, I discovered that the $51 charge had turned into an amazing $5,100 charge against my account by the hotel. Needless to say, I was horrified and got just a little bit excited! My first instinct was to call the credit card company and report the error and start the process of reversing the charge, but I ran into a roadblock from some snotty agent who told me …“Ma’am, there is nothing we can do until the charge clears because it currently shows pending.” Hastily I pulled out my hotel statement and contacted the hotel Front Desk from the gas station to address this frightening scenario. I got ahold of a clerk at the hotel by the name of Gage, and proceeded to tell him what had happened. He not only listened attentively, but also proceeded to ask some key questions about recent charges made by their hotel, as well as inquired as to the bank from which this account was issued. I gave him the phone number for the credit card company and he proceeded to contact a representative and worked with them, on my behalf, to reverse the charges and correct this error! Then, within about 20 minutes he called me back, informed me of what he’d done and gave me not only the name of the person he spoke to at my credit card company but the confirmation number for the reversed charges. He had done the entire job to correct this situation without excuses, complaining, or telling me that I’d have to fix it myself. As a result, the errant charges were removed within hours instead of days. I was so impressed that I not only called his boss the next day but also sent an email outlining my pleasure with how this guy took charge and resolved this egregious situation without hesitation or excuses. I have to say, I was so much more than pleased, I was beaming from ear to ear for an entire day. It has been a long while since I have felt that good about a customer service interaction and outcome.

So, my final words of wisdom to all of you are to: keep your wits about you, be courteous but persistent, and know that there are competent, professionals out there who know the value of honest-to-goodness customer service. Keep the faith because even if it’s rare, you CAN experience true customer service just like I did!

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