Customer Service Lessons from an Old Pro

The longer I live, the more ironic life seems to become. In my role as a consultant, speaker, and seminar facilitator, I travel all over North America expounding the virtues of good customer service.

It’s one of dozens of programs we’ve provided for our clients for decades. Over those years, we’ve witnessed true customer service diminish in most every industry from coast to coast.

Last week I traveled to Charlottesville to present a keynote presentation and break-out session. It was in this quaint, college town nestled in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains that I witnessed a perfect example of the kind of customer service that is so very rare today.

Immediately upon retrieving my luggage, I stepped out of the small terminal to hail a cab. There were only two cabs available so I quickly entered the one at the front of the boarding line. After loading my luggage, the jovial driver with a giant smile on his face jumped into his seat and turned to introduce himself as he handed me a cold bottle of water and a copy of the local newspaper. On the short trip into town, Charles explained that I was riding in “Chuck’s Cab,” and he would appreciate the honor of returning me to the airport at the end of my visit. He came to Charlottesville four years ago from South Africa and used his life savings to purchase this single cab to become the proud owner of his own business. A quick survey of the cab convinced me that he must have purchased a used vehicle. The two bucket seats and console were held together with duct tape. However, the car was very clean and seemed to run well.

While Chuck gave me some local history, I couldn’t help but notice a typed note taped to the rear of the seat in front of me. Chuck informed his riders to expect a 5% surcharge for any trips occurring between midnight and 6:00 a.m. or during unusual weather conditions. There would also be an additional charge of $300 to anyone who couldn’t control their behavior while in his cab. I must admit that I’ve never seen anything like that in all of my years of travel. However, I had to admit that I had been fairly warned as to what to expect.

During our trip to the beautiful Omni Hotel, Chuck told me that Charlottesville was the proud home of Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. It was also the home of the University of Virginia (started by Jefferson) which, along with Monticello is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Monticello, Jefferson’s mountain-top home, attracts approximately half a million tourists every year. Chuck obviously knew his adopted home town.

Upon arrival at the Omni, Chuck provided me with a very professional business card which informed me that he was also a local soccer coach. He told me that if I would call him for the return trip to the airport and had an extra half-hour to kill, he would be more than happy to give me a tour of his historic city prior to arriving at the airport and would simply charge me the same price he did today.

Chuck’s service, personality, charm, pride, initiative, creativity, knowledge of the area, and big smile wiped out any memory of duct tape and led me to enjoy a very informative and enjoyable tour of the city before returning to the airport a few days later.

I can think of a very long list of individuals and organizations that could learn a very valuable lesson from a short ride with my new friend Chuck! I may even be willing to pay the tab if they promised to control their behavior and agreed to make the trip during good weather before midnight!

About Harry K. Jones

Harry K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars, keynote presentations, and consulting services. Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer service, creativity, employee retention, goal setting, leadership, stress management, teamwork, and time management. For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629 or fill out our contact form.

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