I went on a great family vacation over the last couple weeks. My family took a 3,000 mile road trip across IH-10 from San Antonio to Florida and back. We had a great time, visited some great friends and sat on some great beaches. I tried to leave work behind (research shows that workers who take regular vacations perform better than those who don’t - that’s for another blog entry) but I did experience some great customer service in a very unlikely place and I wanted to share it.
While playing with my kids on Pensacola Beach I saw a group of three people walk by wearing matching green shirts and carrying little nets. This was not the first time I had seen them so I decided to stop and ask them what they were doing. It turns out they were workers paid by BP to walk the beaches and look for any remaining tar balls from the oil spill in the gulf. By this time the beaches look great; white soft sand that you would never know had a ten foot ribbon of black tar laid across it just over a year ago.
These workers were stopping and talking to anyone who had questions. Interestingly, they were actually listening before they answered. For all the bad press that BP received for totally missing the mark in their response to the oil spill this small group of people walking the beach made a huge difference. They asked if the condition of the beach met our expectations, wished us a great visit and told us to stop them again if we had any questions.
The biggest difference they made, though, was to humanize BP. They came down to "my level" and not only talked to me but also listened. Those of us in business can learn from this. If a huge multinational company can create a comfortable environment in which to connect with customers we should all be able to do that. A second point we can learn is that it is never too late. I still may not respect BP for their actions in the past but on that day my "respect-o-meter" did go up a few notches for BP.