Agencies Need to Focus on Customer Service Too

Why I Couldn't Get Bob Garfield Out of My Head

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Doug Zanger Doug Zanger
We just got back from a nice little break in New Zealand. Three weeks of hiking on glaciers and in national parks, kayaking and even sailing for a couple of hours on an America's Cup boat in Auckland. It's an absolutely beautiful country, with very nice people and could be, quite possibly, one of the nicest places on earth.

And all I could think about was Bob Garfield.

As most everyone knows, Bob and Comcast don't seem to get on terribly well. New Zealand may be some rich new territory for Bob.

To be fair, we had ridiculously good service from our flight attendant on Air New Zealand. He spent about 30 minutes with us and gave us an exceptional itinerary that we followed to the letter and were not disappointed. There was equally great service from our concierge at the Westin in Auckland. (This more than makes up for the disaster that was the Westin Boston Waterfront last month.)

We also had some very good restaurant experiences. However, the servers we had in these cases were from the United States. There seemed to be no middle ground. It was wildly inconsistent and it was either great or just awful.

Cafes seemed to be the most egregious offenders with high degrees of impatience and general surliness. I was actually pining for the good-natured, Colbert-esque sass of Portland's independent coffee shops. One cafe in Nelson actually shut its doors because the owner felt as though thr staff was being treated poorly by the customers. I understand that the coffee-drinking public can be a pain in the ass and having been in the service industry on and off over the years, I know first-hand the strong desire to tell a customer to go pound sand.

Hell, the client/agency relationship can be tenuous and torturous at times. But can't we agree that, if you're a cafe, this is kind of what you signed up for? I'm not trying to defend anyone, but as an American accustomed to decent service, it just seemed weird. A few restaurants were a close second in sh***y service clocking in with the indifference of a French bistro in the 1970s. A very close third was the car rental agency, but that's what I get for not renting from Hertz.

What I took from this experience was the idea that, as a small agency, service may be one of the top things to consistently look at and evaluate. An agency might do some incredible work, but if the service sucks, it may not matter how good it is. Being fairly new to the game, this hits close to home. I constantly have to check myself to make sure that I'm not off track. This industry is exceedingly competitive and that's one of the things I love most about it. But the question is: Could service be the difference between a good year and a great year?

Let me reiterate that New Zealand is a truly amazing, Kevin Roberts Lovemarks place. And our trip was, without question, the best we have ever had. If the service was a little more consistent, it would have been just perfect.

Now if I could just get Garfield out of my head.
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