I was in Brighton for two nights (Thursday and Friday) for my second visit to the excellent BrightonSEO conference when I came across possibly the best customer service experience I’ve ever encountered.
I was meant to stay at a Brighton hotel* called the Artist Residence (@artistresidence). However, when I arrived on Thursday evening, we uncovered an error (my mistake, not theirs) and so the booking unfortunately couldn’t be honoured. More worryingly, they were fully-booked (including the room I’d wanted), as were most of the hotels in Brighton that weekend – I know of some people who could only just manage rooms at the Travelodge when booking just a few days before the conference.
* Yes, I’ve given them exact match anchor text. No, they’re not a client. Yes, they most absolutely deserve it!
It could’ve ended there. They could’ve said “sorry, there’s nothing we can do” and sent me on my way. But they didn’t. Chantelle and Megan of the AR told me not to panic, to sit down, relax, have a cup of coffee and that they’d look into local hotel availability for me. They searched for a few minutes and after a few possibilities, they found out that a local rental apartment was available. The apartment’s owner usually charged £100 per night and preferred minimum stays of one week, but he just so happened to have it empty for two nights and was willing to let it for £140 for both nights (instead of a total of £200). I couldn’t believe my luck. I asked how much I owed them for the coffee and they told me not to worry, it was a freebie for me. I also asked them for directions to various places – including the apartment, the conference venue and a pub where some SEOs were meeting – as well as recommendations on where to eat that evening and they were happy to help, providing a tourist map with directions/routes drawn out and destinations marked for me.
This is bearing in mind that they didn’t have to do any of this. What did they benefit from this? I wasn’t even a paying customer! Well, more on that later…
The apartment was lush. It was still central enough to be accessible to the centre of Brighton while just far away enough to escape the noise of many of the pubs and clubs. I said to the two girls that the least I could do was to visit them for breakfast both mornings.
On the Friday morning (before the conference), they asked me what I thought of the apartment, genuinely wondering how I was getting on. I grabbed breakfast from them – they happily obliged with my awkward dietary requests (I recently found out that I might be wheat and yeast intolerant, so no bread for me!) and in fact, although I asked them for something without the toast, I think they gave me an extra egg to make up for it – again, they didn’t have to. Before leaving, I asked them if I could use their bathroom. It seemed as though the didn’t really have customer/public toilets (guests could use the ones in their own rooms, I guess), so they said I could use their private/staff bathroom. Once again, they could’ve said no/sorry and that’d be that.
I then didn’t see them until the next morning, for another breakfast before leaving Brighton to head back home to Cardiff. A colleague of mine had called them on the Friday to pay for the apartment on my behalf, but not the breakfasts. At first, one of the girls said not to worry about paying for the breakfasts. However I insisted – I wasn’t going to put them out. There’s being helpful and generous, but at the end of the day they’re still a business, not a charity. Still, it was very generous of them to offer to waive the two lots of £7.50 simply because they were worried that I thought they’d been paid for when they hadn’t been.
I just couldn’t believe their generosity and their determination to make sure that I was happy and well looked-after, bearing in mind that I wasn’t even a paying customer (except for the breakfasts). They did all of the above – going to such efforts – for virtually nothing. They didn’t say “sorry, you’re on your own” or “you can’t use our bathroom” or “we can’t give you anything extra to replace the toast.” Many other service providers and/or hotels might’ve been like that though.
Earlier in this post, I said that they didn’t benefit from all this. For me, this post serves three purposes. Firstly, to document an example of what I’d consider to be excellent customer service, some of the best I’ve ever known. Secondly, I probably can’t justify a legitimate TripAdvisor review, seeing as I haven’t actually stayed there, so this post counts as a sort of standalone, unofficial review. And therefore thirdly, to also explain what they have gotten from all this:
- A loyal customer for life – if I ever visit Brighton again (and I’m sure that I will for future BrightonSEO conferences), I know where I’ll be staying, no hesitation.
- A loyal referrer – if I know anyone who’s visiting Brighton and looking for a hotel, I’ll know which hotel to recommend to them.
- A direct link with exact match anchor text (within this post), which’ll help with their SEO. If this post becomes popular, they’ll get second-degree links, making it even stronger from an SEO point of view.
- A number of @mentions via my Twitter profile, including a few tweets mentioning the AR and the #BrightonSEO hashtag within the same tweet, so that conference-goers would see it, too (example).
- When I do go again, I’ll then be able to leave a review on TripAdvisor afterwards, which I’m sure will no doubt be glowingly positive and another 5-starrer to add to their list of satisfied customers.
Recently, Wil Reynolds said that in order to succeed in SEO, companies need to “do real company shit.” Although he spoke in the context of link building, it’s so easily transferable to any and all areas of a company’s existence – to online marketing, marketing, running a business in general or – in this case – customer service.
This, my friends, in my opinion, was real company shit. A lot of companies can (and should) learn by their example. Make the effort to make your customers smile, even if you go out of your way to do so. You will not regret it. You will be rewarded.