Great Customer Service Story – The Locksmith

Great customer service stories or memorable experiences are fun to read about, they also serve as a training or motivational tool to inspire customer service teams and businesses to strive to go the extra mile in ensuring their customers are satisfied. This particular customer service story was shared on and is about an event that occurred over ten years ago.

A British family were on holiday in a rented motorhome in the USA. Traveling through California they visited the Magic Mountain amusement park close by Los Angeles. Mid-afternoon, halfway through what was turning out to be a most enjoyable day at the park, Mum, Dad, and the three kids came upon a particularly steep plummeting ride. In the queue, the ride attendants strongly warned everyone about the risks of losing hats, spectacles, coins and keys, etc., and these warnings were echoed by large signs around the ride. During the ride, Dad lost the keys.

Due to the fact that the motor-home was a replacement vehicle resulting from a breakdown earlier in the holiday, there were no spare keys. And there were six keys on the lost bunch: ignition, front doors, side door, fuel tank, propane tank, and storage cupboards.

The park attendants drove the family back to the motor-home, suggesting the least damaging ways to break into it.

Fortunately, a window had been left slightly open, enabling the middle son to be put in and to open the doors from the inside. Inside the motor-home, Mum and Dad discussed what to do. They were stranded.

Middle son (all of six years old) said he'd got a key - said he'd found it - but no-one was listening properly. "Perhaps it will fit, I'll get it." (The optimism of young children, of course knows no bounds.)

Not thinking for one second that little lad's key would fit, Dad tried it. Incredibly the key fitted the ignition - and the driver's door. Middle son is a hero. It seems he'd found the key in a cupboard when packing his clothes soon after the motor-homes were swapped after the first vehicle broke down.

The next day back at the camp site, Dad called a local locksmith to see what could be done.

"I might be able to make new keys from the locks if you bring the vehicle to me," said the locksmith, so the family drove to the locksmith, whose business was in a small shopping center in the California countryside.

The locksmith looked at the motor-home and said he'd try. "If you come back in an hour I'll know better what I can do for you."

The family went to the nearby shops and a coffee bar to pass the time. Dad returned to the locksmith to see how things were going. The locksmith says he thought he could make new keys for all the locks, but it would be a long job.

In fact, the job took the locksmith most of the day. The family hung around the locksmiths, visited the shops again, and generally made a day of being at the little shopping center. While working on the locks and the keys, the locksmith talked with the family about England, about America, about the rides at Las Vegas, about motor-homes, about business, about locks, about families and kids, about lots of things.

Late on in the afternoon, the locksmith said that he'd nearly done - "But you have time to go get something to eat if you want. When you come back I'll be done." So the family went to a burger bar for something to eat.

An hour later the family returned to the locksmith's shop. It was 4pm and they'd been at the shopping center since 10.00 in the morning.

When Dad entered the locksmith's shop the locksmith was smiling. He put two new gleaming bunches of keys on the counter. "Here you go - a new set of keys for all the locks, and a spare set too," said the locksmith, "And I tell you what I'm going to do..."

Dad offered his credit card, gratefully.

"You know, I've had such a great time with you guys today," says the locksmith, "You can have these for free."

The company is Newhall Valencia Lock & Key, in the El Centro Shopping Center, Canyon Country, California. This story shows that it doesn’t take rocket science to create a customer experience that can be talked about and shared by others. The Locksmith was able to give the family an experience that transcended their expectation – that is the key to delightful customer service.

I’m not in any way suggesting that you give your products and services away for free (unless you are into charity). The point is that there are other ways to create memorable experiences that get talked about.
Take, for Instance, the Locksmith was running a promo that involves buying a product or service and then getting another for free. A customer that gets the 2nd free offer would not be as likely to talk about it, as a customer who after selecting the product and is about paying for it at the pay point and is told;

“You are an amazing customer, and today we are giving you these for free”

Instead of running a loyalty giveaway for 1000 customers, consider doing something special & completely unexpected for 500 instead, you don’t need to trumpet it or run ads about it, this takes away the element of surprise. Let the customers be your marketers instead as they tell their family and friends (and even strangers) about the experience on social media, blogs, and online forums.

The internet never forgets, when customer experiences are shared online, it is there to stay whether positive or negative. The best way to ensure a positive brand reputation is by giving customers an experience good enough to be talked about. This story shows that it doesn’t take rocket science to do so. 

Published by

Kelechi Okeke

Kelechi Okeke is a Customer Experience Analyst in a leading financial institution in sub-Saharan African. He helps businesses develop strategies that improve customer loyalty and enhance profitability. He is also a customer service trainer, content developer and graphic designer