A couple of weeks ago, my furnace kicked off sometime in the middle of the night. In the morning, it was cold. Really cold. And I have a baby. We solicited the advice of friends and family, tried those little tricks you should try, and then began the calls to see how soon someone could get to our house to help a stressed family out.

This story has a happy ending. I have heat. It’s nice – I’m grateful. But it took a lot of phone calls, several different companies and visits, and far too long for a furnace to once again warm our home.

I repeat: I have a baby. The baby in question had just turned 9 months old – still very much in infant status, and while lots about being a new parent is hard, getting good service as a result of it is not usually one of those things. When there’s a baby in the home, a baby stranded, a baby sick, you make it work, you stay late, you speed out, you do all the things you need to do for the most vulnerable. Maybe it’s an unspoken rule, but I speak it!

I speak it because I brought a cold baby to work with me that morning while waiting for our furnace to be fixed or replaced. I was disheveled and stressed but warm. So was he. He stayed for the first half of the day until our furnace was once again working.

The first company we called with a stellar reputation and high reviews on Google couldn’t make it work that morning. Nope.

The next company had come out right away to help us – they were old family business friends and came recommended from a source made of pure gold.

By the time I got the baby home toward the end of reasonable lunch hours and was ready to go back to work, the furnace was once again not working. It was Wednesday. When we called back, the gentlemen said to relax and cook a frozen pizza in the meantime – they’d be back on Friday.

I don’t love being the person on the phone. I’m pretty easy to deal with (read: manipulated) and tend to hang up thinking I received good service when I hadn’t. This time I called, emphasized the fact that it was unacceptable for my baby to live in a home without heat for a full day, and asked kindly, firmly, sternly, when they could actually come back. He said he’d see what he could do. We had the start of a contract, a quote we weren’t comfortable with, and an unknown timeframe.

We called someone else. We called a guy, Chris, who came recommended to us by a colleague of mine via text that morning – just Chris – no company. When we spoke to Chris on the phone, he immediately walked back the amount we had been planning on spending and said he’d be there with a new unit that night.

He came, he stayed late, our dogs barked at him, our baby sat in the crispy waves of a space heater, and eventually, heat. He even came back in the morning to make sure things were just right.

This isn’t a lesson about calling the right company or individual the first time. All three could have done a great job for us. This isn’t about asking for special treatment because we have a baby. Whether it’s a vehicle owner without a transmission or a family without heat, it’s a crisis, and being empathetic, timely and if you can’t be timely, communicative (and not condescending – a frozen pizza, really?), that makes the difference between a bad experience, a bad review, and what will always be a comeback. Like transmissions, I hope my furnace will last a long time, but if something happens with it next year, you can bet I’ll call Chris again.

What do you to do keep a customer?