Clear Beyond Words   The More Carrot Blog

How paying a parking ticket became my all-time best customer experience.

by Josiah Fisk, July 30, 2015

Not long ago, in the tiny French town of Marmoutier, I got a 13 euro parking ticket. There wasn’t even a no-parking sign.

Since it was a rental car, and I don’t live in France, my first thought was to tear up the ticket. But rental car companies can hunt you down for unpaid tickets, and when they do, the cost is far higher. So I decided to pay.

There was just one problem. Marmoutier wanted a check for euro. My checking account is in US dollars. And getting a check in euro would cost more than the amount of the check.

It so happened I came hoScreen Shot 2015-12-30 at 2.21.29 PMme with exactly 13 euro in my pocket. I took this as a sign from the universe that I should do what everyone knows you should never do: mail cash.

Did I really think this would work? Of course not. If the cash even survived its overseas journey, some chiseling clerk was sure to pocket it on arrival and destroy the evidence. I was confident I’d be hearing from the car rental company about my unpaid ticket.

Confident, but wrong.

About 6 weeks later, a large envelope with French stamps arrived in my mailbox. Inside was an official-looking form documenting payment of the ticket and a thank-you note from the parking commissioner.

But what got my attention was the third document: a letter from the mayor of Marmoutier himself, complete with seal and signature. In the magnificent flowery style of high French officialdom, he praised me for my honesty, perseverance, and virtue. He fervently hoped I might visit his town again. He practically made me feel as if I’d be greeted by a brass band.

So why do I count this my all-time best customer experience? Because it so far exceeded my expectations.

We usually think of negative expectations as bad, but when you’re communicating, they can be a huge opportunity. My advice? Always take advantage of that opportunity, especially because low expectations are so easy to exceed.

I also have this advice: never park in the town square in Marmoutier.

Click to see this column in the July 2015 issue of Discover Benelux.

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