For anyone who’s read this page for the last few years, y’all know I’m a sucker for a good customer service story. This particular one goes well beyond “good.” It’s extraordinary.

Carter Smith, a three-year-old boy from Tomball, Texas, had a stuffed dog that was his constant companion. Toby was a gift from Carter’s grandmother, a purchase she’d made at an HEB grocery store in College Station, Texas. Toby and Carter were inseparable, according to a Facebook post by Lindsay Smith, the child’s mom. But one sad day, Toby disappeared. The family is not sure how Toby was lost, but they retraced steps and made phone calls trying to retrieve Carter’s precious stuffed animal.

We’ll just buy another one at HEB, Smith thought, but she couldn’t find one. In what she thought was a long shot, Smith tagged Scott McClelland, the president of HEB, in a tweet. It read, “@HEBScott, Help! You are out last resort! Our 3 year old got a Valentines Day stuffed dog in College Station at few years ago at HEB. We lost him a couple weeks ago and he is devastated! He asks us everyday if we found ‘Toby.’ How can we #BringTobyHome? #HEB”

McClelland tweeted them back the next day. He learned that the dog was no longer sold in HEB stores, and according to local news outlets, McClelland asked the manufacturer for help. Unfortunately, the dog wasn’t in production at the China-based factory. But McClelland and the manufacturer struck a deal, and a one-of-a-kind handmade replica of the stuffed dog was created for Carter.

McClelland invited the family to their local store and presented Carter with a new Toby.

Watch the video here: http://bit.ly/HEB-Toby

Hats off to HEB’s social media managers and the company president, Scott McClelland. I don’t know if McClelland monitors his Twitter feed or if it’s someone on his staff, but either way, they acted swiftly. While some companies would consider this small or silly, it was huge to the Smith family. I understand the importance of such a thing – if we had lost my son’s favorite bear, Tarby, I’m not sure we’d have gotten a full night’s sleep. Ever.

HEB’s actions made a customer (customers) for life. The Smiths will tell friends, who will tell friends. The story made the local news. The HEB Facebook video has been viewed more than 3 million times.

Are you closely monitoring your social media feed? Are you answering questions promptly and courteously? Are you trying to walk a mile in the customers’ shoes and relate to their issues? It may seem trivial to you, but it’s likely serious business for them. And I have heard from many of you who field calls, emails and social media posts and messages from consumers, even though you’re a wholesale business. When you get a “Toby” message from someone, make sure you validate their experience and cheefully offer to help.

krodda@gie.net