When you think of great customer service, what companies come to mind? Really. I’m interested to know. See that comment box at the bottom of this page – I hope you take time to tell me a story about great customer service in your life.
In recent years the best customer service that I’ve found was at the front desk of SunGard Higher Education – the place I work.
SunGard Higher Education was a client of mine, and early 2008 made me an offer to come to work for them full time. I had spent 14 years as a freelance artist, but it was time for a change. Getting up and having a place to go everyday was really good for me, and I would like to think I’ve brought a few skills with me that made it worth the company’s while too.
But to walk into an office for the first time after fourteen years was just a little unnerving. I received an email that I was supposed to have a meeting with the VP of marketing as part of the interview process. So I put on a tie and drove downtown. Little did I know in this corporate culture a meeting means a phone call. Michelle was in Philly, and there I was dressed to impress in SLC.
Sarah is the one that had to break it to me that I had put on a tie for a phone call. I felt so out of place, but she took the time to help me regain some composure, and loaned me an empty office so I could take the phone call and have my meeting. That kindness in a “strange land” meant a lot to me.
When I started working here I came to rely on her for lots of information. LIke how to get to the mall for lunch, or how do I make a local call on this phone system. I felt like a kindergarten kid, but she was always very cool and understanding.
I didn’t ever know what her title was. She sat at the front desk, but she was no receptionist. She helped me send my FedEx shipments, but she was not merely a shipping clerk. She had this air of, well, she just seemed in charge in so many situations. She was confident, friendly, and willing to help no matter what.
After working here for a few months I had a project where we were interviewing kids about technology. I arranged for kids to come by the office for interviews on camera – and of course they wanted to come after school, after their parents got off work. So I obliged. After I had them scheduled I realized I had made a huge mistake. I was the only one running this whole show. So I would have to get paperwork filled out, get the kid seated, interview the kid, run the camera, worry about audio, and somehow get back out to greet the next set of kids. I had no idea what to do.
I mentioned to Sarah “I have no idea what I’m going to do”.
She said “Why don’t I stay and help you?”.
And that’s what she did. I had interviews scheduled until almost 9:00 pm, and she stayed, greeted the kids and their parents, got the paper work filled out, handled bathroom breaks, issued parking validations, and was in many other ways completely indispensable that night. She wasn’t in marketing, this wasn’t even close to her job! She simply saw someone who needed help, so she helped. Remarkable.
As we walked out that night she told me that the first time she was on this floor there were no walls on the building yet. She stood here on the fifth floor with a hard hat looking out over the city supervising the build out of the entire floor.
Nope, this was no receptionist. This was someone who shouldered great responsibility for the company, yet was willing to stay and help me out.
She left us. It was time. She had been here for a long time. Her new job is closer to home, more of what she likes to do. For those of us here in the office it was like someone cut off our arm. We didn’t even know where the AA batteries were.
She’s been gone close to a year now – we still stand around the office and talk about how great Sarah was, and how much we miss having her around.
I think the coolest thing I learned from Sarah is the fact that you don’t have to be face to face with a customer to give great service. I understand now that one person can really proactively look for ways to give great customer service to coworkers and make a huge impact on how it feels to come to work for an entire company.
The world would be a better place if we were a little more like Sarah in that way.