The World’s Best Customer Service (And The Worst) Were On Display In Texas

Across the great state of Texas, some achingly beautiful acts of customer service have been on display, inspired and necessitated by the once-in-a-century (we can only hope) deep freeze and power failure earlier this month.

Consider the following two:

When the power, and with it, the credit card machines, went out at the H-E-B grocery store in Leander (just outside of Austin), the store’s employees, with management’s blessing, invited customers in the store to leave with their much-needed groceries and staples, without paying. Several hundred customers, as reported by The Washington Post. Think about that.

AUSTIN, TEXAS – FEBRUARY 18: People stock up on necessities at the H-E-B grocery store on February … [+]

Across the state in Houston, Gallery Furniture offered its stores as shelters (“warming stations”) to those who would otherwise be freezing at home. Not only that, the company, helmed by Jim Mclngvale (who previously emerged as a hero during Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Harvey, and, most recently, Tropical Storm Imelda) fed them (bringing in fantastic catering, in fact) and let them use the limited sanitary facilities. And, when the store’s own water went out, jury rigged a solution that kept it flowing to serve all those sheltered human beings for whom it had, unprompted, accepted responsibility for.


HOUSTON, TX – FEBRUARY 18: Deloris Sanchez, 56, and Mallissa Lee, 52, sit on a couch while taking … [+]

Contrast this heroism with the words and inactions of the most prominent of Texas’s elected officials, the ones who blamed the freezing, life-threatened victims of the state’s wild and woolly approach to energy provision (which, to be fair, works more or less okay when times are good, just catastrophically not when they aren’t).

But I don’t want to focus there. I want to stay with what a shining model these mega-mensches in Texas offer for all of us in business. They lived what I’d argue is one of the key principles of customer service: Exceptional customer service at times demands that you serve in ways you weren’t expecting when you woke up this morning and made your to-do list.

Now, those of us in business who revert reflexively to the bean counterish part of our makeups (and, yes, keeping an eye on the counting of beans is an essential part of staying in balance as an entrepreneur) may be thinking: Did H-E-B ever get paid for all those carts of groceries that “walked”? And were all those people sheltering, sleeping, eating, and answering nature’s call at Gallery Furniture actually customers-–past, present, or future?

Reasonable questions. But please think it through. Wouldn’t you want your customers to feel gratitude for the staples they were able to bring home in their time of extreme stress? And wouldn’t you want your community (among them a mix of both prospective customers and to feel the appreciation they no doubt feel, whether they experienced the Gallery Furniture “warming station” directly or heard of it from friends?

These marketing concerns are not, I’m confident, not the reason that H-E-B and Gallery Furniture rose to the challenge of the time. But it’s nice to consider, nonetheless, that the price paid momentarily by these great companies and their leadership is only that: a temporary expense, in the face of what they can be confident is a long-term gain, for everyone involved.

Customer experience consultant • customer service keynote speaker & webinar host • training • executive content creator and ghostwriter • influencer • company culture •