Is there a limit to giving great customer service?

Customer service gurus

Customer service gurus

Think of a company who gives great customer service and you probably immediately think of Zappos. The famous, insane and often heroic customer service stories are the things of legend. The 10 hour customer service call, how they refused to accept the wrong pair of shoes (donate them to charity they said) and sent the correct ones to the customer and how Zappos can even find local pizza delivery shops still open at 12am. These stories are feel good. They give hope that there are companies out there that really do care about their customers. The goal, of course, for all of these efforts is to create customers for life.

Over the years, I’ve read endlessly about how customer service can impact our ratings and reviews and resident retention and how we should go above and beyond because customers have strong voices today due to social media. Whew. I remind myself, though, that all things aren’t created equal. We’d love to have customers for life but the fact is, that rarely happens. People move back west, they buy a home, they move back in with their parents, they elope, they go back in time to see how their parents first met and change the future. Let’s face it, a large part of our yearly turnover is filled with people who will leave no matter what you do; life happens. Is it possible or practical to offer this type of service to our residents?

Sure, we can wow them. Fix those things that need fixin’ fast. Keep the community clean. Help that neighbor get across the street. Smile. Clean up dog poop.

There has to be a limit to how far we’ll go, doesn’t there? We had a resident who was planning on moving out because they were buying a home. From all viewpoints, we’d done a great job. No complaints. No anonymous reviews. Two months before they were due to move out, they paid their rent online using the wrong checking account information. Obviously, their payment came back. Not only did the resident demand that we waive her late fees but also that we give her the last month’s rent free. Unreasonable? Ridiculous? Necessary compensation?

In addition to meeting all of your demands - here are some roses. Thanks for being a resident!

In addition to meeting all of your demands – here are some roses. Thanks for being a resident!

If we were Zappos, we would do those things and also give her a dozen roses for her trouble. Later, after the resident moved out with her wilted flowers, the best we could hope for was them telling a friend to commit 60% of their monthly salary to live in the same neighborhood that they did. That sure is a lot different than buying a pair of shoes. Shopping for an apartment isn’t compulsory. Should we have to respond the same?

Is having a customer for life something you strive for? Is there a line we have to draw that other industries can’t or won’t? What do you think…? What stories can you share?

Happy renting everyone.

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