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Creating Differentiation with Simply Excellent Customer Service

April 28, 2014


I had to write this post about my recent experience with the folks at Southtree. I was introduced to this company through a groupon.  The offer was for $250 in video transfer services for $75, and I, like a lot of folks, have tons of old video and old pictures that I’d like to be able to use on my computer.

But transferring video to digital is a painfully slow process.  And for some forms (like slides), you have to have the right equipment.  So I figured this was a good opportunity to get some of the work done.

So I cashed in my groupon and boxed up my tapes according to their instructions, and sent them off. Now, trusting the postal service with your only copy of a memory is a little nerve wracking. Yes, they usually deliver, but you never know.  So I was quite relieved when I got this message two days later:


Hello, the team here at Southtree wanted to let you know your memories were delivered safely to our secure processing studio. We know these are very important so we keep every order under lock and key. Our studio is equipped with the latest surveillance, firesafe walls, and security systems.

Nice!  They had anticipated my anxiety, and relieved it immediately. Our relationship was off to a great start. But I sent 19 tapes and 61 slides.  Would I get my stuff back?  How do they keep track of all those little pieces?  Then this message came in my email: 


Hello again. Today we barcoded every item that you sent. We put a little tag on each and every item so we know exactly where they are at all times. Just another way we keep your memories safe while we are digitizing them.” 

So now they’ve built my trust that they know what they are doing.  And over the course of the next three weeks, I got the following messages letting me know how my memories were progressing through the process.  As you read through them (and I encourage you to – there is more from me at the end – you’ll notice that they are light, to the point, a bit entertaining and educational) 


Hi Daniel. Just letting you know we've reviewed your order. This means we've personally inspected, cleaned, and reviewed every item you've sent. We do this for accuracy, and so that your cleaned media can be processed easier with better quality.


Hello. Your order has been sorted. We have to sort each format so they can be processed at the proper station within in our studio. You wouldn't believe the number of formats and types of media we receive! Sorting makes everything go smoothly.


Good news! Your order has finished all pre-production, reviews, and safety measures. Your order has now been placed in queue for production.


Hi Daniel, we're excited to let you know your order is in production! In preparation for digitizing, we have printed all of your DVD discs (or CDs if you submitted an audio format). We use a superior printing method that prints directly to your DVDs - no cheap stick-on labels here. Also, every DVD we create is rated to last 100 years so you can enjoy them for a long time.


Hello, today is a good day. Why? Your tapes are currently being digitized here at our studio. This is a delicate, challenging, and fun task. Every tape is monitored to ensure the best playback possible by a trained technician. We have state-of-the-art technology, and even fiber optics for fast digital storage. We could go on... By the way, if your tapes are a little fussy and require extra attention or a repair, our technicians will take care of that for you.


Hi Daniel, your order has been placed in our render queue. This means we've started the final output process to create your digital files, in the MPEG-4 format - perfect for use on your computer. The average home movie contains over 250,000 individual frames of video, and we're digitally processing each one of those frames. We don't even want to think of how many frames in total we're processing right now - that would make our brains hurt. Once our render farm has completed processing your files, our disc burning robots (you think we're joking) will create the DataDVDs. From analog to digital - what a great transition!


Hi, today we have started the careful process of digitizing your film. We're one of the few companies in the country to digitize home movies using the same technology and process as the Academy of Motion Pictures. One of our trained technicians will scan every frame, then compile the footage, remove flicker, and correct the frame-rate so your film looks smooth and natural. Then, they'll render and master your DVDs. Preserving old film can be a delicate process, and the quality depends on the condition of your originals, but we know these films are important so we're take every step possible to make them look great!


Hello from the Southtree team. We're sure you're excited and anxious to receive your digitized memories. We're almost set to ship your order, but there's one final, important step. We are reviewing every item, and every finished DVD to make sure everything looks perfect. Sometimes digitizing old media is more of an art than a science, so if something that needs a second look, we'll be sending your order item back to be reviewed and corrected by a technician. If everything looks great, we'll be shipping your order soon!


Great News Daniel! We wanted to let you know that your order shipped today through FedEx, our trusted partner. Your tracking number is 343xxxxxxxxx and you can track your order here. Tracking information sometimes takes up to 24 hours to appear on FedEx's site. Most packages are delivered within 5 - 8 business days, so get ready as your memories will be arriving soon! Of course, we always return your originals along with your new DVDs. Soon you'll be walking down memory lane. Thank you for your order with Southtree!

I have to say they hit the right note all the way through.  They kept me informed. They entertained me. They educated me. All while working with something that was irreplaceable.  And the final quality I got was great. 

The amazing thing about the process – its not that hard to do.  The technology is likely off the shelf barcoding equipment.  What Southtree did is to expose me – their external customer – to their internal processes.  And by doing so, kept me as part of the process, rather than just someone who send off an order and got something back.

Many businesses can do the exact same thing with their processes, and create a closer relationship to their customer. Think about it…

Your dry cleaner – “ Your shirts were pressed and bagged today and they thanked you for treating them in our all natural, environmentally friendly process”

The car dealership – “ Your car has gone up on the lift and was happy to get a load off those tires. The new brakes will stop you in your track.  We’ll write you again when it is ready for you to stop by”

I could go on with the puns and wordplay, but you get the point.  Transparency of your processes, when shared with your customer creates a shared experience and a talkable experience.  It means getting outside of yourself and communicating.

Have you had an experience like this? We’d love to hear about it. Do you do something like this in your business? Tell us.


Dan Kraus
Written by Dan Kraus

With more than two decades of experience in sales, marketing, and go-to-market strategies, Dan Kraus has developed a deep portfolio of experiences that he now uses to help small businesses profitably grow their businesses. As an entrepreneur, Dan understands the challenges of growing a business with limited capital and human resources. As a line of business manager in larger companies such as SAP America and Great Plains Software (now part of Microsoft), his experience launching new business ventures inside reputable organizations established his reputation as a creative and effective executive that could both plan and execute within corporate confines.

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