A $5.00 Gift Card & An Apology – Is This a Memorable Customer Experience?

26 Nov

I arrived at the bus stop at 7:20 a.m. – just like I do almost every weekday morning. It’s not a public bus stop. I pay a fixed amount every month to ride a private shuttle from San Francisco to Palo Alto. The shuttle normally arrives between 7:25 a.m. and 7:35 a.m. – but not on this particular morning. As the clock on my phone hit 8:15 a.m., I wondered whether I needed to find an alternative mode of transportation to work.

The shuttle finally arrived at 8:30 a.m. – a full hour later than its scheduled arrival.

Customer Experience Journey 

The private shuttle service is responsible for getting its clients to their destinations on time. This is of paramount importance. It’s the entire premise around its value proposition: Our shuttle service is reliable and it’s better than driving your car or taking other modes of transportation. An hour late arrival is a big deal. One it cannot afford to repeat without losing regular clients (like me).

I understand the unexpected arises from time-to-time, no matter the business. However, it’s how a company responds during the inconvenience.

The Apology

A few days after the mishap, I received the following letter and gift card in the mail:

Ridepal

I truly appreciate the company going out of its way to not only apologize but also include a $5.00 Starbucks gift card. There are many companies that would have simply continued with business as usual – not taking the time to offer a simple apology. While the letter and gift card were appreciated, I wondered whether the company should have done more to apologize?

Is An Apology & $5.00 Gift Card Sufficient?

What’s the lifetime value of a client worth to the company? Let’s say I plan to commute to Palo Alto for the next 12 months. And let’s say the monthly expense for the shuttle is $200.00. My lifetime value to the company is $2400. There are other factors when calculating the LTV, but for simplicity let’s use the above numbers.  If I decide the service is not reliable, I will definitely find an alternative mode of transportation. If I decide to find an alternative mode of transportation during the 3rd month out of 12 months, the company loses $1800 (9 months X $200). That’s a significant amount of lost revenue.

Here are my thoughts bout the Customer Experience 

– Its clients’ time is worth more than a $5.00 gift card. What would happen if the company gave each rider a $25.00 gift card for his or her troubles? Most people understand delays happen, especially in the transportation industry. The company could separate itself from other modes of transportation by increasing its customer experience and recovery efforts.

– Perhaps an apology and $5.00 gift card will suffice if the problem is truly resolved and it does not happen in the future.

– Should the company ask for gift card preferences when onboarding new clients? A checkbox with: Amazon, Itunes, Peets Coffee, Starbucks, or Other gift card options – so that if/when a problem occurs, it can customized its solution. What if I don’t drink coffee? Or it could simply reward its best riders with a gift card every quarter.

– Lastly, it should leverage its database and segment its clients. I ride almost every weekday, while others ride once a week. We all got the same apology and gift card. We are not all worth the same to the company.

I commend the company for taking the time to write an apology and send me a gift card. It’s already way ahead of most other transportation companies in-regards to how it treats clients. I don’t want to criticize the effort. However, it has an opportunity to be even better. To truly separate itself from competitors, it should use data to identify its most profitable clients, and nurture them throughout the year. It has an opportunity to make the customer experience the DNA of its company. 

What do you think? Is an apology and $5.00 gift card sufficient this time, or should the company do more? Should it plan its recovery for the next unexpected delay? I would love to hear your thoughts.

 

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