business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

If there’s one thing guaranteed to follow the holiday season it’s the endless tales of customer service issues. And because we are all essentially in the customer service business, these stories are important reminders of the right or wrong ways to do this.

With that in mind, read on and remember this: this story is completely true.

I received a call in mid-December from a woman named Lisa, who had some bad news - a shipping label had fallen off a package we'd sent to our nephew in Westport, Connecticut. All that remained on the package was the return address - the package was in Westport, but they had no idea where to deliver it.

So Lisa looked up my number and called me. She explained the situation and said that if I gave her the address to which the package was supposed to be delivered, she'd put it on the box and send it on its way. Otherwise, they'd have to return the package to me.

I think it is fair to say that we almost fainted. That kind of customer service seemed way beyond the call of duty, especially during the busy holiday season.

I thanked Lisa profusely and gave her my nephew’s address. One day later, my sister told me that her son's present had arrived; she said she planned to bring Lisa a gift once the holiday rush was over.

Now, here's the kicker. Lisa doesn't work for UPS or FedEx.

She works for the US Postal Service (USPS).

Now, Lisa's extraordinary act of customer service probably won't result in anything tangible. It's not like I'm going to abandon email and start mailing letters because of what she did. She's not going to get a raise, she won't be the next Postmaster General, and beyond this column, she's unlikely to receive any kudos for her deeds.

But I am reminded of something that Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest Airlines, once said: “Culture is what you do when nobody is looking.”

Sure, the US Postal Service has its problems. But it still has the power to rock our world. And Lisa, a person I am unlikely ever to meet and who had no reason to extend herself on our behalf, proved it.

If the USPS is to have any prospects in the future, it has to hope that Lisa isn't an anomaly, and that there is a culture of customer service that is contagious and sustainable.

Because while maybe nobody is looking, this kind of service can result in a lot of people paying attention.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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