Yeah, yeah, I know. Everyone already did their Thanksgiving-themed posts last week. I wanted to spend time with my family instead. Sue me. Anyway, in honor of our recent holiday celebrations, I thought I would take a moment to give some much-deserved shout-outs to several businesses that have really impressed me in some way this year.
Working for ReputationDefender these past two years, I’ve come to appreciate the critical role that positive online reviews play in a company’s long term success. But good online reviews should only come from good service. The following companies have kicked ass in one way or another in 2010, and I’m happy to recommend them to you here today.
Catalyst Ranch – Catalyst Ranch is an eclectic meeting venue in downtown Chicago. I have been there for events on two separate occasions. Once, I was hanging out with the cool kids from Social Media Club Chicago. The other time, I was having my wedding reception. Not only is Catalyst Ranch an awesome place to throw an event, the staff is great and very accommodating. I would use them again in an instant if I actually had a reason to bring 100+ people together. Anybody feel like partying?
Bank of America – I recently had the displeasure of having my debit card scammed to the tune of $100. I noticed a couple of unauthorized payments and, with the fire of a thousand burning suns, visited BankofAmerica.com to dispute the charges and find justice.
Initially, I expected to run into some hassle. Mind you, I didn’t think I’d have problems because of Bank of America, but because of the problems inherent to all ginormous organizations: bureaucracy. Luckily, everyone I worked with was super friendly and Bank of America’s fraud response team helped me clear up the charges and issued me a new debit card within a week. Needless to say, I was impressed, which is why Bank of America earns my hearty well wishes.
Southwest Airlines – I don’t fly too often for business (or pleasure for that matter), but when I do I like to use Southwest for two reasons. One, they have a hub at Midway that makes flying anywhere in the country fairly easy. Two, their rates are typically much lower than the competition (not to mention the fact that they don’t charge baggage fees.) When I flew out to San Diego this past summer for Comic-Con however, my satisfaction with Southwest really jumped up a notch. Why? Customer service, pure and simple.
The flight crew on my trip out to San Diego was the best I’ve ever experienced. The lead flight attendant in particular was funny, engaging, and friendly throughout the flight. I’m actually kind of disappointed I didn’t get his name so I could send a note to Southwest singling him out. Yes, the flight was that good. Anyway, kudos to you Southwest for a job well done.
Travelocity.com – I don’t typically book travel on websites like Orbitz or Priceline (see above paragraph re: Southwest), but my mom frequently uses Travelocity.com. This fall, my mom was booking a flight out to Las Vegas to help my grandmother move. She used Travelocity, as she has done numerous times before, and I watched her punch in her credit card information and receive a confirmation e-mail within minutes. Unfortunately, the following day she received a voicemail from a Travelocity rep saying the transaction didn’t go through and that she would have to repurchase the tickets.
At this point, the tickets she bought were no longer available and the comparable option was several hundred dollars more expensive. After much time on the phone trying to ask reasonably why one would receive a confirmation e-mail for an unconfirmed transaction, my mom gave up and bought slightly higher priced tickets at a much more inconvenient time. It was a frustrating process, and my mom expressed disappointment in Travelocity for the mistake. So, being the good son that I am, I aired her grievance on Twitter, knowing that Travelocity (if they were any good at reputation management) would be listening.
Within a couple of days, I received a response on Twitter directing me to a customer service agent’s e-mail. I sent an e-mail explaining the issue and, lo and behold, my mom got a call the following day offering an apology and a voucher for her troubles. Now, I’m not one to hold companies at ransom online. The squeaky wheel shouldn’t always get the grease. However, if a company accidentally or deliberately screws up, they should make amends in some way. In this case, Travelocity more than made up for its initial faux pas, restoring my mom’s confidence and impressing me enough to inspire the retelling of our saga on this blog. Way to go Travelocity!
Ace Limousine – Since we were going to be gone for six days over Thanksgiving, Nicole and I wanted to take our dog along with us to visit family. This raised a few issues. One, I had to pay extra to fly with the little guy. Two, it was his first time flying, which made us all nervous. And three, I had to get him to the airport.
As city-dwellers, Nicole and I are both used to taking public transportation. However, (correct me if I’m wrong) you can’t take dogs on the CTA. We do currently have access to a car, so we could have driven to the airport and done the long-term parking deal, but that’s always a pain and it would still require a shuttle to the airport (not an ideal prospect early in the morning). So instead, I decided to hire a car service. It couldn’t be much more expensive than a taxi, right?
After doing some research, I found Ace Limo. They had decent ratings on Yelp and when I e-mailed for info, they offered a fair rate. At this point, it should be noted that I requested a sedan. Well, as luck would have it, when we left our apartment to meet the driver the morning of our trip, the man is standing in front of a white stretch limousine. With an incredulous grin on my face, I told the driver I asked for a sedan and he replied that the limo was “what they had available.” Sweet! I didn’t have to pay any extra, and we rolled up to the airport in style. Way to go Ace Limo! Even better than the free limo upgrade was what happened on our return trip. (No, we didn’t get upgraded to a helicopter.)
Our flight came in late because of some delays out of Atlanta. Some car services will charge extra money if a passenger does not show up at their scheduled arrival time. That’s patently unfair since it’s impossible for a customer to know if their plane will be delayed. Ace Limousine has no such charge and was easily accessible even though our plane came in an hour and a half late and well past midnight. Now that’s good customer service.
My only quibble with Ace Limousine is their website. Come on guys, it’s 2010! Spruce things up a bit. At the very least, use SSL for processing your payments. I’m sure I could point you in the direction of some people who could help.
I’m sure there were many other companies that kicked ass during 2010, but I can’t think of any more off the top of my head. Maybe in 2011, instead of waiting until the end of the year, I’ll give businesses love every time they do something good. In fact, I think I’ll make that my mini-resolution.
If you’ve had a great experience with a business this year, please feel free to share it in the comments. Alternatively, if you’ve had a negative experience with one of the companies I mentioned, please feel free to share that as well. An open dialogue is important to help businesses learn from their mistakes and grow.
[Header image via Flickr User Jen Collins used under a Creative Commons License]