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Cheers to Cheerio

Think your organization knows customer experience? Top this.

I’ve never been much of a cat person.  We got our first one when my youngest daughter was in first grade. We named him Cheerio, and he and I didn’t really hit it off. I have a loud voice that startled him, so he kept his distance for years. But we gradually grew closer and closer. In recent years, he would regularly come flying over the back of the couch to land in my lap and curl up for the night or lay on the keyboard in my home office so I would spend time with him.

Cheerio was with us for fifteen years. Recently he became very sick, and we had to put him to sleep. Horrible decision to have to make, and I was obviously distraught and not thinking clearly afterwards. That’s when we ran across local pet crematory Paws, Whiskers, and Wags. I’ve been involved in customer experience for years, but they redefined the term for me.

The experience began with the phone consultation. The representative was extremely kind and sensitive to the situation. She never made us feel like Cheerio was “just a cat.” She referred to him by name or as “your baby.” That might sound corny or over the top, but at the time it meant a lot to us. They offered a number of options for remembrance — a locket of his hair to preserve, a paw print, a wide selection of urns, etc.

It continued with the process. They handled the transportation. The vet where he passed away is an hour’s drive from the crematory, but they made arrangements to pick him up and return him there “when his services were complete” (what a great way to phrase that). And they did an excellent job of explaining the tracking process so we knew when and where he was at all times. Of course, these things came with fees –they are a business– but the costs were extremely reasonable at a time we were susceptible to gouging. When a company could take advantage of you but doesn’t, it builds trust and sets the table for a loyal relationship.

The follow up was amazing as well. We got a hand-written card from them expressing their sorrow at Cheerio’s loss, and we were notified that they were making a donation in his name to a local animal charity. Then a month later they emailed us to see how we were doing and offered to connect us to a pet loss support group or publish an obituary.

If you’ve never had a pet, I’m sure your eyes have been rolling for about three paragraphs by now. But here’s the point that applies to business: Cheerio mattered to us. Paws, Whiskers, and Wags not only demonstrated that they knew that, but they also convinced us that he mattered to them as well. Everyone says they want loyal customers. How many of yours would take time to write a 500-word blog about how well you take care of them?

I’ll paws for effect.

Ralph Smith

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