Extraordinary customer service mitigates disastrous start to long weekend

Last Friday I left Harvard Square early with plans to get a jump on the traffic to New Hampshire with my 9 year old son Myles and “5 going on 2” yellow lab Ginger. We left Brookline a little behind schedule around 4pm and by the time we reached Storrow Drive, the East Bound lane was backed up.  So, we opted to go West and pick up the Mass Pike in Alston. The ramp was narrowed due to construction and I bumped into the curb, thinking, “thank God that didn’t pop my tire.” Devine intervention was either non-existent or ephemeral as a few minutes later we were entering the ramp to the Mass Pike and it was clear I had a flat.

Fortunately, I was able to pull over in a safe place and started digging in the glove box for the owner’s manual to my beloved X3. As I sat up, I noticed a Massachusetts State Trooper pulling up behind me. ( In all candor, that did cause me to break a bead as a few years ago I collected 3 tickets within 6 months which satisfied the admissions criteria for 8 hours of driving safety school.) But this interaction ended up being a very different and pleasant experience. In hindsight, I assume that someone in the toll both called the Trooper.

Trooper Danny Jefferson was incredibly helpful as he got out of his car and told Myles and I he had already called someone to help. He offered to help me get the “donut” spare tire out of the back of the car, but suggested I wait for the Mass Pike emergency service vehicle who would have a much better/safer/easier jack to lift the car. Within a few minutes, Anthony Pellegrine arrived in his bright yellow truck with the aforementioned superjack and we were back on the road in less than 30 minutes from pulling over.

The “donut” was clearly labeled as a temporary device, with large letters warning not to drive over 50 miles per hour. As the main event for the weekend included traveling over the Sandwich Road from Waterville Valley to the Sandwich, NH Fair – a dirt and gravel road that is so rough it is closed in the winter (but incredibly beautiful; see my photos on smugmug) – I knew we had to make an additional stop to repair or replace the blown tire. Fortunately, we were only one exit away from Direct Tire’s Watertown facility and I called ahead while waiting for Anthony’s arrival.  Susan assured me that they would be ready when I arrived, even if they had to stay after closing time.  Direct Tire is one of my all time favorite businesses and owner Barry Steinberg a leading implementer of all we learned about customer loyalty at Bain; he has been featured in numerous business articles, including Inc Magazines 26 Most Fascinating Entrepreneurs.

By the time Myles and I arrived at Direct Tire, they had a bay open for us and were waiting with a new high performance snow tire to replace the blown one. They welcomed Myles, Ginger and I into their waiting room and we were on our way within 30 minutes. Susan and her colleagues even told us a way to avoid the Mass Pike and most of the 128 North traffic by taking the local’s short cuts.

So here’s what happened:

– Great customer service turned what could have been a disastrous start of a long weekend into an incredibly positive experience; one which I have shared and will continue to share many many times over
– My son got to meet some really nice people who are great at their jobs and deliver extraordinary service
– I found positive content for my first customer service blog; a goal I had from the initial idea of including Customer Service as a major Collaboration Evangelist category.

Total elapsed time for all of this: less than 60 minutes and we were on our way.

Thanks to Trooper Jefferson, Anthony, Barry and the pit crew at Direct Tire and a special shout out to the Mylesman who was hugely patient and kept reading his favorite book Bone throughout the episode.

If extraordinary customer service can turn something as bad as a flat tire into an experience worthy of sharing with others, how many opportunities did your business capture or miss today that could have done the same?