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December 21. 2013 8:56PM

Christopher Thompson's Closing the Deal: Impact of customer experience


FOR THE LAST three years, I have purchased my Christmas tree from Faulkner's Landcaping and Nursery at 1130 Hooksett Road in Hooksett. I sometimes feel bad for not supporting other organizations selling trees - such as the Boy Scouts - who sell trees to raise money and support various activities throughout the year. But I have found the trees at Faulkner's to be of superior quality compared to other places.

In addition, Faulkner's service is extraordinary.

This year, I had an experience at Faulkner's worthy of sharing. There are several great examples of customer experience every company can take note of, and it comes from a company where you wouldn't expect people to have such a good grasp on what it means to take care of customers.

When I pulled into the parking lot, my wife, daughter and I immediately saw the tree we wanted. As one of the employees came out of the building, we pointed to the tree we wanted, and he proceeded to tell us to go inside while he cut the trunk and tied the tree to the top of our car. He also carefully removed all of the snow that covered the tree from the storm the day before. When we walked inside, we were greeted by the owner, Steve Faulkner.

Steve immediately welcomed us and thanked us for coming by. He then offered us hot chocolate and cookies. My daughter was, of course, thrilled, and he poured her hot chocolate, gave it to her and continued a very pleasant conversation. He was energetic, personable, thankful we were there and really made us feel welcome. It was definitely a unique experience, considering we were simply there to buy a tree.

As we started to leave, this is when it got interesting. The guy that was tying the tree to our car was standing in the doorway holding a piece of plastic. He explained that he grabbed the roof rack as he was tying the tree down and the plastic cover broke off. He apologized profusely, and you could tell he was disappointed in himself for damaging the car. While I was a little dismayed by the broken roof rack, I didn't make a big deal about it. I told him not to worry about it, and we got in the car and left.

The next day I called the dealership and ordered the piece that was broken. While it wasn't a huge amount of money, the piece of plastic cost $70. After spending $75 for a Christmas tree, I really wasn't thrilled at the thought of my trip to Faulkner's costing $145.

The following day, we got hit with yet another snowstorm. As you probably recall, the storm hit Tuesday night, and I was in bed sleeping before it stopped. I didn't have time to snow blow my driveway that morning, so it was looking like I was coming home from work that day and digging out. But then I had an idea.

I called Faulkner's and left a message for Steve. He called me back immediately and I explained that the piece of my car that was broken cost me $70 to replace. I said I didn't want to make a big deal about it, but wanted to call in a favor. I knew that Faulkner's also plows snow in the winter, so I suggested they come plow my driveway, and we could call it even.

Steve was thrilled that I called and enthusiastically said he would send someone to my house right away. He thanked me for calling, apologized for the broken roof rack and said he would be happy take care of the driveway in exchange for the damage to my car. I came home that night to a driveway plowed perfectly. Instead of spending my night snow blowing my driveway, I spent it with my daughter.

Steve didn't have to do that. He could have said no, his crew was too busy. He could have blown me off and not called me back. I'm not a high-value customer. I just went there and bought a tree. Instead, he acknowledged the mistake that was made and was willing to step up to ensure his customer was happy. We all know things go wrong in business regularly. It's less about the problem and more about what you do to fix it.

From a loyal Faulkner's Landscape customer, thanks to Steve and his team for an amazing experience that I never expected buying a Christmas tree.


Christopher Thompson ( writes Closing the Deal weekly for the Sunday News.

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