What happens when you request customer service on a Saturday from the biggest company in the world?

Several weeks ago, I got an invitation to join Google Shopping Express, a new form of Google Shopping, designed, I assume, to compete directly with Amazon. You can order pretty much anything from almost any store, and they send it to you within hours via courier.

I gave it a shot, since a lot of what I buy now centers around my child. Not me. Heck, check out my buying patterns, and my electronics purchases have definitely taken a back seat to “Baby wipes.” I also have no room left in my apartment for anything I own, and am down to two shirts and one pair of jeans, but that’s not important right now.

So I logged on and ordered a bunch of stuff from Target and other stores. Diapers, baby wipes, toilet paper… The exciting life I lead, don’t you wish you were me.

Anyhow, three hours later, a bunch of packages arrived for me, including the baby wipes, toilet paper, etc… And not one box of size 6 diapers, but six boxes of size 1 diapers.

Uh oh.

How does one return something to Google? How does one even start? It’s awesome that you can order so many things with one click, but not so much when you have to return it. That poses a problem.

So I went onto the shopping site, and all I saw was an email address – shoppingexpress@google.com.

I should mention, it was Saturday. Even if they replied, they probably wouldn’t do it until Monday.  I sent an email, asking how I went about returning something, and then focused my attention on figuring out where in my small apartment I’d be able to put six boxes of diapers. Perhaps as furniture, replacing the living room chair?

About two minutes later, I got an email back – Automated, telling me to simply print out a shipping label from the link they were giving me, and box up the wrong packages, and take them to UPS.

Which, if I lived in the middle of Montana, would have been easy, because the diapers would have been shipped to me by UPS to begin with. But this was NYC, where they were dropped off by Messenger, not in boxes, but as six individual packs of diapers.

So now I’m wondering how to find a UPS store, realizing that I’m going to have to buy boxes… Essentially, this was now going to be the first four hours of my Monday, getting this stuff to UPS.

So just for kicks, I sent back a reply to the automated email, explaining my predicament. Then I went and called my building manager, asking if he had any extra boxes.

Within five minutes, I got a personal email from Stuart at Google, apologizing for the mistake, apologizing for the automated message, and informing me that they’d ALREADY DISPATCHED A MESSENGER WITH THE RIGHT DIAPERS, WHO WOULD ALSO PICK UP DIAPERS WAITING TO BE RETURNED.

He also credited my account with the return, all before he even emailed me.

I. Was. Flabbergasted.

Think about it this way: Google emailed me personally.

It was like being emailed by God. Google emailed me personally and took care of my problem!

“Dear Peter:  We’re handling your issue. And also, you now have the ability to levitate your cat. Love, God.”

This was Google. This wasn’t the bodega next door. This was GOOGLE. It was SATURDAY. And yet Stuart was there emailing me, working, and handling my issue. Thirty minutes after he emailed me, the bad diapers were gone, replaced by the good diapers. I didn’t have to do a THING.

Again this was done by Google, the biggest company in the world. I can’t stress that enough.

How is it possible that Google can do this? How is it possible that a company so big, with so many thousands upon thousands upon thousands of moving parts can answer little old me, in real time, on a Saturday?

The answer is simple: Customer service is important to them. Google Shopping Express put a premium on customer service, and it paid off.

Why can’t your company? Why can’t an airline? Why can’t Verizon? Why can’t Hertz? Can you imagine how much money I’m going to spend with Google Shopping Express between now and the time my daughter graduates High School? I think the scientific answer is “a crap-ton.”

They had a chance to cement a customer for life. And they did it.

Customer service needs to permeate everything you do in your company, in every single way, all the time. It’s what guarantees a return customer, who will also bring new customers with you each time.

If customer service is an afterthought, your customers will make you an afterthought, as well. (Tweet this!)

I never thought I’d be thanking Google for amazing customer service. I can’t tell you how happy I am that I was wrong.

Join the discussion 38 Comments

  • dotcalm says:

    Wow – my hubby just had to cancel an order from Amazon last month as they wouldn’t/couldn’t send any part of his mother’s birthday presents until way after her birthday (and he had several emails along the way telling him that they would – until they said they wouldn’t).
    He was not thrilled about having spent the time researching, ordering, then canceling and have to go to different stores to get items at the last minute.
    I’ll have to have him try Google Shopping next time – thanks for sharing your experience!

  • Brenda Spandrio says:

    What a great customer service story! Not only responding personally, but making it right. Every once in a while we get a disgruntled client. Even though about 80% of the time the client made the error, my husband (and business partner) always diffuses the issue by asking what it would take to make it right with the upset client. That normally calms them down enough that they acknowledge their error. It’s too bad that consumers have been “trained” to be on the offensive…Oh, and glad you got the right diapers — crisis averted!!

  • Brenda Spandrio says:

    What a great customer service story! Not only responding personally, but making it right. Every once in a while we get a disgruntled client. Even though about 80% of the time the client made the error, my husband (and business partner) always diffuses the issue by asking what it would take to make it right with the upset client. That normally calms them down enough that they acknowledge their error. It’s too bad that consumers have been “trained” to be on the offensive…Oh, and glad you got the right diapers — crisis averted!!

  • Brenda Spandrio says:

    What a great customer service story! Not only responding personally, but making it right. Every once in a while we get a disgruntled client. Even though about 80% of the time the client made the error, my husband (and business partner) always diffuses the issue by asking what it would take to make it right with the upset client. That normally calms them down enough that they acknowledge their error. It’s too bad that consumers have been “trained” to be on the offensive…Oh, and glad you got the right diapers — crisis averted!!

  • Brenda Spandrio says:

    What a great customer service story! Not only responding personally, but making it right. Every once in a while we get a disgruntled client. Even though about 80% of the time the client made the error, my husband (and business partner) always diffuses the issue by asking what it would take to make it right with the upset client. That normally calms them down enough that they acknowledge their error. It’s too bad that consumers have been “trained” to be on the offensive…Oh, and glad you got the right diapers — crisis averted!!

  • Susan says:

    Wouldn’t it be amazing if doctors offices did this?

  • Susan says:

    Wouldn’t it be amazing if doctors offices did this?

  • Susan says:

    Wouldn’t it be amazing if doctors offices did this?

  • Susan says:

    Wouldn’t it be amazing if doctors offices did this?

  • John Michael Cassetta says:

    That’s a great “endpoint” to your experience, but the lack of transparency along the way is still troubling. If google has the resources to provide personalized customer service on a Saturday, why not indicate that on their “contact” page (e.g., with hours)? And why not indicate in the canned response that you can and should reply if your question wasn’t resolved?

    More to the point: how many customers drop-off after they get the first unhelpful automatic response, and hit the “dissatisfied and diaper-laden” endpoint instead? Good customer service really shouldn’t require any human to do something “just for kicks”.

  • Christine says:

    This is awesome. Love reading the good stories just as much as the ones where you are brutally honest!

  • I had a similar experience w/ the folks at the ABC app (both email and 800 #); it’s a free app and yet, an actual human person answered the phone, went off script to talk w/ me. Got lucky w/ Groupon, got a refund on a misleading buy – managed to get that turned around pretty quick. Only catch in both cases, per @johnmichaelcassetta:disqus, I did have to work to find out where to email, the number to call.

    Now in this case, I think it’s because Google is so big they can do this; it’s because they have some many moving parts, w/ the scale and efficiency to manage them. It’s b/c they are putting that size head-to-head w/ major competition that they’re trying this hard as they launch the business. It’s new, the demand of returners vs. the supply of support staff tipped in your favor that Saturday. That said, props to Google.

    As to why others can’t (or don’t, or won’t), you’re exactly right – it’s b/c they haven’t put customer service first. Many times I prefer one brand over another b/c of the service, b/c I see the value in one versus the other. But therein lies the rub as while service is a difference maker for many, at the end of the day.. the brand I’m most loyal to is my wallet. Even if I’ve had a bad experience w/ that car company or that hotel chain, if that’s what gets my Priceline bid.. they win. FWIW.

  • acardwell says:

    Google Shopping Express has ay-mazing customer service. In my case, they delivered something to my house outside my gate, and everything they delivered was stolen by passers-by. Sent them an email, and got a reply within minutes offering to replace the items with a new order. I had my stuff the next day the time of my choosing. Super impressed!

  • Alex G. says:

    That same exact company gave me hell recently. You got lucky you had a good experience with them, but for a simple refund from Google Offers, I have about 200 emails back and forward with Google Offers and Google Wallet. Took them 7 months to actually finish the refund, everyone blames the previous person or they blame a different department (the so called “finance team”). It even became a discrimination thing against me a few times, even before this issue, they (Google Payment Inc.) gave me hell before to verify my identity to the point that I felt that my government issued id and social card scans are a laughing stock for Google. The thing is, when the shopping express program is out of beta, and they start to source their support to overseas non-English spoken people, it will become a mess just like any other product they outsource the help for.

  • AnnTIG says:

    This is the way things SHOULD work. All the time. Every time. That’we’re surprised by it is a testament to how inured we’ve become to companies wanting us customers to play by their rules instead of the other way around. Any business out there needs to take note. if you can’t match this sort of service you’re not even in the game.

    • shankman says:

      Agree – But it also is a HUGE opportunity for companies willing to just be a little better than average, no? 🙂

      • AnnTIG says:

        Yes. And some companies are (other wise there would be no average). What is interesting here is the scale. Many small companies offer superb service because they know their customers personally. It’s the big ones, the one that have systems, tickets, processes, the ones that expect customers to dance to their tune that really need to take notice of this. I’m talking about utility companies, web host providers, phone companies, insurance companies and banks – especially banks. The banking system is already being disrupted by other funders yet they seem to think they can re-capture how they were before the crash. There has been no real change in thinking, only window dressing. Customers are numbers, not people and thankfully, that just won’t work any more. What Google is really doing is showing how personal service can be scaled and those other big companies had better take heed.

  • AnnTIG says:

    This is the way things SHOULD work. All the time. Every time. That’we’re surprised by it is a testament to how inured we’ve become to companies wanting us customers to play by their rules instead of the other way around. Any business out there needs to take note. if you can’t match this sort of service you’re not even in the game.

  • Gordon Freeman says:

    Peter apparently doesn’t regularly use Youtube, a “service” Google “provides” with such “features” as randomly logging you out, making people with 6-8 year old accounts suddenly have to either drop those accounts and start using G+ or just stop using Youtube altogether, wrecking the comments section, and so on. I guess they’re too busy levitating my cat and so forth to bother making Youtube worth using, like it was before they bought it and ruined it.

    • shankman says:

      You seem angry. I think all companies have issues, whether they’re stand-alone or bought. I remember working for AOL in the mid-90s, and the problems abounded. Companies work to fix them, or the companies go away. Since Google doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, I’d say they’r working to fix the problems. But that aside, you do seem more angry should be warranted for a basic blog post. So is there anything I can do help? If so, let me know – I’m happy to.

      Best,

      -Peter shankman

    • shankman says:

      You seem angry. I think all companies have issues, whether they’re stand-alone or bought. I remember working for AOL in the mid-90s, and the problems abounded. Companies work to fix them, or the companies go away. Since Google doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, I’d say they’r working to fix the problems. But that aside, you do seem more angry should be warranted for a basic blog post. So is there anything I can do help? If so, let me know – I’m happy to.

      Best,

      -Peter shankman

    • shankman says:

      You seem angry. I think all companies have issues, whether they’re stand-alone or bought. I remember working for AOL in the mid-90s, and the problems abounded. Companies work to fix them, or the companies go away. Since Google doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, I’d say they’r working to fix the problems. But that aside, you do seem more angry should be warranted for a basic blog post. So is there anything I can do help? If so, let me know – I’m happy to.

      Best,

      -Peter shankman

    • shankman says:

      You seem angry. I think all companies have issues, whether they’re stand-alone or bought. I remember working for AOL in the mid-90s, and the problems abounded. Companies work to fix them, or the companies go away. Since Google doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, I’d say they’r working to fix the problems. But that aside, you do seem more angry should be warranted for a basic blog post. So is there anything I can do help? If so, let me know – I’m happy to.

      Best,

      -Peter shankman

  • Jaime Izaks says:

    Haha love it. That’s definitely something worth sharing, indeed, the god of the internet just emailed your personally. See, that is the power of public relations , with that, they cemented a customer for life, as you say.

  • Jaime Izaks says:

    Haha love it. That’s definitely something worth sharing, indeed, the god of the internet just emailed your personally. See, that is the power of public relations , with that, they cemented a customer for life, as you say.

  • Jaime Izaks says:

    Haha love it. That’s definitely something worth sharing, indeed, the god of the internet just emailed your personally. See, that is the power of public relations , with that, they cemented a customer for life, as you say.

  • Jaime Izaks says:

    Haha love it. That’s definitely something worth sharing, indeed, the god of the internet just emailed your personally. See, that is the power of public relations , with that, they cemented a customer for life, as you say.

  • XDude says:

    Awesome! 😀

  • XDude says:

    Awesome! 😀

  • XDude says:

    Awesome! 😀

  • XDude says:

    Awesome! 😀

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  • Beth A. says:

    The real question is – how is your daughter already in a size six? My almost 5 year old wears a size six (to bed on occasion).
    🙂

  • Beth A. says:

    The real question is – how is your daughter already in a size six? My almost 5 year old wears a size six (to bed on occasion).
    🙂

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    factor for Success. I Think without SEO no business can be much successful. We
    in Wtleads has started an Standard SEO too. We tried to use best Meta tags and
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    specially Google. The links that we zoom on them are as below:

    http://www.wtleads.com/request-freight-quote/

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  • SEO in this Business World is the main
    factor for Success. I Think without SEO no business can be much successful. We
    in Wtleads has started an Standard SEO too. We tried to use best Meta tags and
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    factor for Success. I Think without SEO no business can be much successful. We
    in Wtleads has started an Standard SEO too. We tried to use best Meta tags and
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    specially Google. The links that we zoom on them are as below:

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    http://www.wtleads.com/post-product/

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