My 2011 Honda Element was parked outside Overit when an uninsured driver took a turn too wide, sideswiped the left side and left me to clean up the mess. After my awesome coworker let me know what had happened, I walked outside to see plastic, headlight, and parts of my beloved car scattered all over the road.

That sucked.

It sucked not only because my car was damaged, but because I knew the next sequence of events would be just as painful as the car repair bill itself. And, for the most part, I wasn’t wrong.

When the police officer came to take the report, he didn’t bring a smile. Or any inclination that he cared about what had happened, me, or people as a whole. Instead he told me to sit in the car while he ran my license. When he was done, he handed me a piece of paper and let me know the accident report would be ready in a few days. Then he walked away. I yelled out to make him come back and he reassured me my insurance company would handle it. And that if they didn’t, I should get a new insurance company. Then he walked away again.

Once I stopped crying alone in my car, I contacted my insurance company. The agent read off his script, robotically saying he was sorry to hear about my accident but was glad I was okay. We went through a long list of questions to collect the information he was interested in and let me know my claims rep would call me within 24 hours. Thirty-six hours later she called. She talked to me for a short time before giving me my claim number, letting me know someone would be out to assess the damage. We played a lot of phone tag over the next few days. I’d leave voicemails with questions and she’d email me responses instead of calling me back. Five days later I got an email saying my car was assessed with an attached copy. Again, an email.

What I really wanted was human contact and someone to make me feel like they had my back.

More than a week after the original accident, I was finally able to drop my car off repairs and had arranged for Enterprise to come pick me up.

This is where the story changes.

When Enterprise picked me up, the driver greeted me a big smile. He shook my hand, introduced himself, and let me know Enterprise was going to take really good care of me. They would make sure I loved my rental and that I was comfortable while my car was being fixed. The driver chatted with me about where I worked, where I lived, whether or not I loved my Element. By the time we got to the Enterprise location a few miles away, we were buds.

When we got to Enterprise, he connected me to another representative. This man had an even bigger smile, apologized for my accident, and reassured me I was in good hands. He gave me my choice of vehicles.

When I got into rental car (I opted for a Yaris) and put the key in the ignition, there were tears all over again. Not because I had a bad experience, but because Enterprise had finally made a bad situation right. They understood this sucked. That I didn’t want to need a rental car. That I wanted to be at work, not dealing with this. But because I did need one, they were there to make it as easy as possible.

That’s customer service.

 

Customer service is your job. It’s your most important job. To be there when someone feels wronged and when they’re looking at you to help them and to make it right. Whether it’s a smashed taillight or smashed expectations, how you handle the situation will forever influence your brand DNA in their eyes.

The way you make them feel in that moment is how they will feel every time they think about your brand.

So do something with it.

Be a real person. Let your customer tell you, in their words, what happened and what they need. Let them be upset if they’re upset. Train your staff to listen to people, to really listen, not just take information. Teach them how to deal with complaints and empower them to go above and beyond for your customers. Encourage them to take the extra step. Make that part of how you do business.

Because what most businesses don’t realize is that customer service defines the company you are. How you treat your customers in their worst moments shows them who you are.

What are you doing to make that emotional aftertaste as positive as you can?