How far should you go to take care of the customer’s interests? My friend Girish came up with one possible answer: 8 kilometres. Intrigued? Befuddled? Read on to find out more!

January 20 2017. Chennai came to a standstill. There were city-wide protests to bring back Jallikattu, a traditional South Indian event where human participants attempt to tame a raging bull. The Supreme Court had banned Jallikattu based on a lawsuit filed by PETA, citing cruelty to bulls. Various activists took exception to the ruling and indulged in protests. These protests had the effect of trains being halted, roads being closed. I remember this date clearly because a friend of mine was to travel to Chennai to play with me in a bridge tournament. He canceled his trip. Wisely so, for his train would have been one of those which was stopped for several hours.

Since 2014, my friend Girish has been running businesses that rent luxury motorcycles and conduct bike tours throughout the country. His clientele includes several foreigners. As a part of their operating procedures, when they rent out bikes, they hold on to the ID of the customers, and they return it upon receipt of the motorbike. On the evening of January 20th, the city had come to a standstill thanks to the Jallikattu protests. Road closures at various intersections meant that it was impossible to travel anywhere in the town.

One of Girish’s customers had rented a motorcycle and was supposed to return it on the evening of the 20th. The protests, however, made it impossible for him to do so. More relevantly, he was flying out of Chennai the next day and needed to collect his passport from Girish. The road closures meant that Girish too could not travel via a motorbike or any other means of public transportation to go to the house where his customer was staying. What should he do?

Girish decided to walk the extra mile. Literally. Walk several extra miles, in fact. He walked from his house in Thiruvanmiyur to the house where his customer was staying, located in Velachery. A distance of 4 kilometres. It took him 1 hour to get there. After handing the passport to the surprised and grateful customer, he walked the same 4 kilometres back home. As far as Girish was concerned, there was really no other choice – this decision was a no-brainer. The customer needed his passport and Girish had to find a way to deliver it to him – it was as simple as that.

“Just having satisfied customers isn’t good enough anymore. If you really want a booming business, you have to create raving fans.” – Ken Blanchard

Girish had unwittingly delighted a customer. He created a raving fan, to borrow Ken Blanchard’s words. The customer wrote rave reviews on TripAdvisor, Facebook and similar portals. He brought several of his friends to rent bikes from Girish’s company. He himself returned again several times to provide a lot of repeat business.

I’ve written about good customer services here and here. The first article talks about major food chains doing their part to delight a customer (me). The second article is about small business owners who treated their customers as guests, and this gesture brought them back repeat business without their knowledge. Girish’s 8-kilometre walk, however, is in a league of its own in terms of caring for the customer. It stands apart by a mile (no pun intended). And I am rather fortunate to hear about this great story from the person who was behind this customer delighting act, and more importantly, did not think that it was a big deal.

I thank Girish for giving me the permission to write this story as well as for supplying me with the featured image.

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Prahalad Rajkumar

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