After reading Tony’s blog entry of last week, it led me to try and think of an absolutely flawless customer service experience I’ve had. Mind you, I had to search through to the depths of my memory; however I uncovered one experience that certainly ‘takes the cake’.

I recently went on a holiday to the Whitsundays in Queensland. All of my research, bookings, enquiries etc. occurred on-line. Thus many of my purchase decisions were made based on the quality of that particular service’s website. I asked myself – do these guys look like they know what they’re doing? Can I get all of the information I need without ringing or emailing? I booked a day-trip to the Great Barrier Reef with a cruise company called Fantasea. Their website was excellent – informative, colourful, engaging, full of pictures, and their e-commerce was flawless. They were a bit pricey compared to the others – but I wasn’t sacrificing quality for a few dollars.

Lesson number 1 – When someone can’t see your business in action – your website is all they have to go on.

There is always a risk in booking anything on-line, as your expectations can be inaccurate. But, I was completely surprised. Fantasea were probably the best example of consistent branding and marketing I’ve ever seen.

Just to illustrate this, I’ll describe how our day cruise went:
We were picked up by a bus with their branding all over it.
We then checked into a ferry terminal with their branding all over it, with a gift shop where you could buy souvenirs with their branding all over it.
We then boarded the boat (which also had their branding all over it) which entailed being giving a lei (flowery necklace) to signify that you had checked in.
We then drank from branded cups while we cruised to the Reef, watched Fantasea-produced safety and entertainment DVDs.
We also listened to a nice soundtrack over the boat’s sound system, which included a Fantasea song.
We were then instructed by their staff on all the relevant safety issues, who were all wearing the same branded shirts, shorts, jackets, socks, and even shoes.
We then arrived at the Reef pontoon, also branded to the max, and wore branded wetsuits and life jackets.

The most important thing about their branding was (despite it not being overly remarkable) it looked the same everywhere it appeared. Their buses and cars were always driving around town; their staff were always wearing their uniforms; everywhere you went – there they were. They had signs on the side of the road coming into town; they had banners and billboards all over the Whitsundaytourism websites. These guys were just everywhere! If you hadn’t booked your Island or Reef cruise with Fantasea, you would have felt like a complete idiot.

Lesson 2 – Put your brand everywhere, and keep it consistent!

We then boarded for the trip home from the Reef, which, very unfortunately for me, was extremely rough. They provided every passenger with multiple waste bags, water, ice, blankets, sea sickness tablets (unfortunately I thought I wouldn’t need any) and anything else we needed. They even sprayed a nice scent around the boat once things got a bit, well, uncomfortable. Despite being totally embarrassed, the situation was bearable because their staff looked after me, from start to finish. Mind you, I wouldn’t have expected any less, as everything up to that point was done so well.

Lesson 3 – A great website and brand means nothing when the promise can’t be delivered to the customer.

Moral of the story – If you set high expectations in your website and brand – you’d better meet them.