Tag Archives: customer service

It’s OK, Customer Service (even eService) can be Fun!

My sister, a customer service maven in her day, forwarded to me a wonderful little email she received
from the customer service department from Better World Books :

Hey Carole,  <name obscured by me to protect my sister’s privacy!>

We’re just checking in to see if you received your order (The Golden Door Cookbook ) from Better World Books. If your order hasn’t blessed your mailbox just yet, heads are gonna roll in the Mishawaka warehouse! Seriously though, if you haven’t received your order or are less than 108.8% satisfied, please reply to this message.

Let us know what we can do to flabbergast you with service.

Humbly Yours,

Indaba (our super-cool email robot)
email: help@betterworldbooks.com
Order Number: 53090456101

Fund literacy, care for the environment, and get a fair price on the books you want.
BetterWorldbooks.com (http://www.BetterWorldbooks.com/)
2 Million Used Books. Free shipping in the USA, $3.97 worldwide.

Become a fan of Better World Books… on Facebook!
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Better-World-Books/10669898542

OK, so what did these folks do right?  How about everything?

Let’s list some highlights, shall we?

  • prompt confirmation of order
  • confirmation of order was personalized, with customer’s name and name of item ordered
  • then… HUMOR!  Okay, not knee-slapping, milk-through-the-nose funny, but just a little bit of a hah-hah, a few in a rapid-fire row: “heads will roll,” “108.8% satisfied,” and “flabbergast you with service.”  These all caught our attention, and in a good way – with a smile!
  • then… FULL DISCLOSURE!  After sharing a smile with the email, we then learn that it was sent NOT by a witty and clever service rep, but by an automated email responder.  Wow, they used technology to perform a function AND make a funny?  Is that even legal???
  • then… the closing of the email, and all the info YOU need to know (their email address and customer order #), as well as info that THEY want you to know (their excellent mission, their web address, their amount of inventory, their free shipping, and their Facebook page.  None of it obtrusive.  And the reader is happy to read it, because they’ve already been given a smile or two.

See, great customer service is not that difficult.  I like it when businesses get that.

— Chuck Dennis

The Death of Customer Service?

This is sad, it really is.  As one who has dedicated his professional life to providing, teaching, and coaching customer service excellence, I was frustrated, but not surprised, to read that Customer Service is not getting any better.  It seems to be getting worse.  And most customers don't even hope for good service any more.

Forrester Research recently released a report based on a survey of more than 4,200 consumers in 10 different industries, such as apparel, banking, hotel, insurance, credit
card, wireless phone plan, Internet service, and computers.  The crux of this report is that customers have come to expect lousy service as par for the course. Here are some of the highlights (or shall I say lowlights?):

  • Of the industries involved, only in the apparel industry did a majority (a slim majority – 54%) of customers actually expect to receive good service.
  • Only 30% of customers in the health insurance and in the computer industries expected to have a quality experience.
  • Only 23% of seniors expected good service in the computer and Internet areas.

This blows me away, because I know for a fact that it is not that difficult to create a positive customer experience.  If you care about ANYONE in the world besides yourself, then you simply envision the customer as that person that you care about. And then you treat the customer the way you would treat him or her.  Or at very least, provide that level of effort.

When I see that fewer than a third of customers in major areas of business actually have an expectation of being treated well, of getting what they want when they want it, and having any questions answered, I think, what sinister parallel universe have I happened onto? 

It is 2010 – it is no longer open to debate as to whether it is worth the effort to provide good service.  It is the thing that differentiates business.  It is the thing that retains customers.  In this day and age, in an economy that is still sluggish, one would think that making the effort to provide a meaningful customer experience would be a business imperative.

But apparently, one would be wrong.

Businesses!  I know you can hear me!  Make some damn effort!  I don't care what industry you're in.  I don't care how long you've been in business. Make some real effort to provide a quality service experience for every one of your customers and prospects, and your bottom line will skyrocket.  I mean, what the hell else are you doing that's so important?

  — Chuck Dennis

Yeah! What She Said!

I was pleased to read BL Ochman's post called "Dear Corporations: Nothing Else Matters if Your Customer Service Sucks." 

Among her salient points is this: "Yet day after day, poorly paid employees, who are not empowered to make
even their own simple decisions, handle the most important thing any
company has – customers. It's really time for that policy to change."

It has always seemed to me that a business would want its most enthusiastic, articulate, and knowledgeable people on the front line with customers. Yes, they would have to pay more in salaries, but I am positive that the increase in revenue and repeat business would more than make up for it, and pay for itself many times over.

As it is, customers seem to have an across-the-board disdain for customer service personnel, and the feeling seems to be mutual.  If you have any doubts, run a search on "customer service" on Twitter and read some of the comments people make about their vendors, and what the service reps say about their customers.

Much of this negativity falls away if businesses decide that quality interactions with customers is worth paying enough to make this kind of job attractive to the best and brightest within a company.  And I think that EVERY business should make it a point to have ALL management do a stint on the phones or on the front lines, as to not lose touch with the customers OR the people they pay to serve them.

  — Chuck Dennis

All (Good) Business is About Relationships

I've never met the man in person, but I've known him for several years now.  We met on the social media web site, Ryze.com, and have stayed in contact over the years.  I've always liked this guy, and he has always been very generous with his time in answering any web- or SEO-related questions I might have.  So when a client of mine needed a new web host, I was quick to direct him to Reg Charie of 0Grief.com.

We got the client's new site up on Reg's servers, and all worked well.  But then I needed to add some content to the site for the first time, and needed guidance.  Reg was able to instruct me in this endeavor.  But then a strange problem popped up.

I noticed that the web site looked fine in browsers like Firefox, Chrome, and Flock, but in Internet Explorer, the text was all centered, as opposed to justified left.  I contacted the web site designer, but he had no explanation for why or how that could happen.  I mentioned it to Reg  on a Skype chat, and he spent the next 45 minutes of his own time, trying to figure out and correct the problem.  As Reg is much more familiar with HTML code than I, he scoured it, looking for the root cause of this particular problem.  He managed to correct the home page, but then realized the problem carried over to the entire site.  At this point, he advised me that it might be easier just to reload the entire site.  I contacted the web designer and had him do just that, and the problem was resolved.

The point of this post is to show the value of relationships in business.  Your vendors don't all have to be your best friends, but if you have maintained a good relationship with them, you will find they will provide you with the Platinum level of service, even if you're only a Bronze level customer.  On the other side of that coin, if you are providing service, when you give that Platinum level of service to everyone you come in contact with, you will find yourself being referred to friends and colleagues of all your clients, and will build a reputation as a trusted adviser.  There's a reputation that will serve you well.  It's worked for Reg Charie!

  — Chuck Dennis

“You Can’t Always Git What You Want…

… but if ya try sometime, you just might find, ya git what ya need.”

I doubt that Mick & Keith had customer service in mind when they penned that song.  Nonetheless, it does apply.

I write a lot about customer service issues, and its enormous contribution to an organization’s customer retention.  In this blog, I like to use real life examples to underscore my points.  Like these:

  1. I have a subscription to a music downloading service called eMusic.  I received an email from them, saying they were sorry I had CANCELED my subscription, and that if I would re-activate my account, they would give me 75 FREE downloads.  Wow.  Pretty cool stuff.  But I hadn’t canceled my account.  I realized this about the same time eMusic did, because about six hours later, here comes an email from eMusic instructing me to disregard that last email.Talk about deflated. I had already started plotting out which obscure jazz & blues CDs I would get for FREE.  Now I’m told, ehhhh…you there… not so fast.  As Muddy Waters told us, “ya can’t miss nothin’ ya never had.”  But, with no expectations, I decided to see what, if anything, eMusic would do for me if I acted kind of put out about this.

    My first email (sort of tongue-in-cheek) was strategically turned around on me, and I was cheerfully thanked for my feedback, and assured that it would be passed on to the director of marketing.  But nothing about sorry for getting your hopes up, here have a couple on us.  Nothing like that.

    My second email was met with a sort of shrugging “sorry” response from a different eMusic rep.  Hey it was a technical glitch that resulted in you receiving an errant email, and no freebies for you.  Sorry.

    So, clever man that I am, I responded, asking what if I canceled my account.  And THEN re-activated it, just like the email said?  Would I qualify then?

    One can almost hear the deep sigh and see the rolling eyes of the third member of the eMusic customer service team to have to deal with me.  Lilly told me that she would, “as a one time courtesy” add 10 free downloads to my account, but they were going to expire in 30 days, and only good if I kept my eMusic account activated.

    So, ultimately, after 6 days, they did the right thing.  Kinda.  But look, if they can afford to throw out 75 freebies to every defector in a customer retention campaign, then they can afford to throw out 10 freebies to loyal customers who were sent an offer – an offer that eMusic has no intention of honoring – in error.  Ya know?

    This could have been handled a lot smoother. They could have taken the high road, made some humorous comment about mistakenly delivering bad news, and then thrown in the 10 freebies as a “no harm, no foul” gesture.  THAT’s how you build customer loyalty.  THAT’s how you retain customers.  (Plus, your CSRs wouldn’t have to go back and forth with a nut like me for a week!)

  2. Now, the other side of this coin is a company called Hydropool.  I regularly order the chemicals for our hot tub from them.  They have a regular email campaign, touting their latest specials, and their latest mentioned free shipping for orders over $75.  Well, I placed the order, but neglected to add the special “free shipping” code.  As a result, my invoice had a charge for $8.00 for shipping.Now, this is not the biggest issue in the world, but eight bucks is eight bucks.  So, after placing my order, I get the email confirmation of the order.  Immediately, I respond to that email, saying I messed up and failed to include my free shipping code.

    First thing the following morning, I get an email from Ryan at Hydropool, who assures me that as soon as the order ships, he will credit out the delivery fee.  True to his word, the following day, I received notification that my order had shipped.  The next day, I received an email from Kameel at Hydropool, providing documentation of my $8.00 refund.  SIMPLE.  Beautiful.

    The only thing Hydropool could do to make this better is really embrace this 21st century and the technology it has given us.  What I am referring to is using shopping cart software where rewards for purchase amount-based incentives are applied automatically.  The whole code thing is so 1990’s, ya know?

    — Chuck Dennis

Bank of America Comes Through with Great Customer Service

Great blog post from our colleague, Rob Leavitt:

Bank of America Comes Through with Great Customer Service

US Airways’ Heroic Customer Service

By now, everyone knows about the heroic efforts of the captain and crew of US Airways flight 1549, which had to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River after its engines had been immobilized by a flock of geese.  The captain, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, and his crew became instant celebrities in the aftermath of this incredible event, and rightly so.  We read interviews, and we watched them on morning and late night television.  We saw them in parades and at ballgames.  These were true American heroes.

But one thing we did not hear so much about was the heroic efforts in customer service that the extended team of US Airways personnel to care for the passengers, all of whom survived, following the emergency landing.  This was practically as amazing as the flight crew’s actions.

Recently, BusinessWeek ran an article on how the airline immediately put teams into play, to assist the passengers and their familes.  The article called the airline’s performance “a model for crisis management.”  After reading the article, I must agree.

Here are some of the things that US Airways did right:

  • Activated a special 800 number for families of passengers and crew to call
  • Scott Stewart, managing director for corporate finance, brought a bag of emergency cash for passengers and credit cards for employees
    to buy medicines, toiletries, or personal items that were needed
  • Others arrived with suitcases full of prepaid cell phones and sweatsuits for any passengers who needed dry clothes
  • Staffers escorted each passenger to a new flight or a local New York hotel, where it arranged for round-the-clock buffets
  • Arranged train tickets and/or rental cars for those who did not wish to fly
  • Some passengers lost their driver’s licenses, so US Airways reached out to
    high-level executives at Hertz and Amtrak to ensure they had no
    trouble getting a rental or a ticket
  • Retained the services of locksmiths to help passengers who had lost their keys get back into their cars and homes
  • Sent three letters providing updates to customers, along with a ticket
    refund to each passenger and a $5,000 advance check to help cover the
    cost of replacing their possessions
  • Employed claims adjusters to compensate passengers whose losses were higher
  • Did NOT require recipients to waive their legal rights, “an unprecedented exception to the industry norm.”

US Airways has not been known as a provider of world class service.  In fact, oftentimes, their service has left a lot to be desired.  But this time, during and after this crisis, they shined.  Their employees should be proud, the public should be aware of their efforts, and anyone who has anything to do with customer service should take note.  This is how you care for customers.

— Chuck Dennis

My Neighborhood Knows More about Customer Service than Your Company

If all companies were as concerned about service as my neighbors proved to be, the business world would be in a lot better shape.

Our home is a short distance from the harbor.  This means we have a perpetually damp basement.  So we have a dehumidifier and
a sump pump that are integral parts of our lives.  But in the midst of last week’s snow storm, the sump pump quit working.

While out shoveling the snow and talking with two of my neighbors, I mentioned my predicament.  One neighbor explained a couple of things that could be the problem, and how to address it.  The other neighbor said he had a colleague who did restoration work around town, and probably had a few extra used sump pumps in reserve, and he would try to get hold of one.

So, while Neighbor #2 called his colleague, I went and tried the things that Neighbor #1 suggested.  Neighbor #2 came with me, and brought an arsenal of tools, including a wet/dry vacuum, which cleaned up the overflowing water.  It was a messy job, but unfortunately we did not fix the pump.  Meanwhile, Neighbor #2’s colleague called back and did have some extra pumps, but he could not guarantee that they would work, so he would go and take a look and see if he could get one in working order.  In the meantime, Neighbor #1 called to see if I had any luck fixing the pump.  When I told him it still didn’t work, he called Neighbor #3, who happened to have an old pump that worked, but he no longer used.  He said I could have it if I needed it!

So I went over, got the pump, installed it, and presto!  It worked like a charm!  Dry basement!  Money spent: $0.

Here’s what my neighbors did right, customer service-wise:  First and foremost, they wanted to help.  That, in and of itself, goes a long way.  They made my problem their focus.  They tapped into years of experience in fixing household appliances, and suggested actions that could address the problem.  When that didn’t work, they pursued other means of help.  Calls were made, people were contacted, and a solution was found.  They didn’t leave me hanging.  And all three neighbors checked in with me later, to make sure the pump was still working.

The moral of this story is, the best kind of service you can provide is the kind that a real friend would provide.  While it may be true that you don’t have the same relationships with your customers that you have with your friends, you can certainly emulate the caring and helpful nature of those relationships.  Your customers will recognize that effort as the kind of effort that real friends and family do for one another, and that positive experience will make a profound impact on them.  This is how businesses retain their customers for life.  Loyalty.  If your customers know that you care about them, they will not be inclined to leave you.

— Chuck Dennis

The Apple of Her Eye

"The transaction was done before I even knew it began!"

These were the words of my friend Carole, when discussing a recent purchase at an Apple Store.  She went in to simply look at her options for an iPod speaker dock (i.e., a device to play her iPod so that others may hear the music).  She had gone into the store to assess her options, but left the store shortly thereafter with her purchase in hand. 

So what transformed her from a tire-kicker to a satisfied customer?  Big surprise here: SERVICE!

Even amidst the hustle and bustle of the constantly busy Apple Store, the rep found Carole, determined what she was seeking, led her to the right area, explained the options that she had, and patiently waited for her to make her decision, while standing at the ready to be able to answer any questions she may have had.  Then, here’s the beautiful thing:

Once she had decided on which speaker dock to purchase, the Apple rep whipped out his hand-held credit / debit card processor, and processed her order.  By the time her receipt had printed out for her to sign, another Apple employee was approaching, with her purchase boxed up, and then bagged in a handy-dandy backpack-type bag, that could be carried by hand or strapped to one’s back like a backpack.  This is where Carole realized, "The transaction was done before I even knew it began!"

This anecdote is key, not just because the reps were attentive, and Carole got what she wanted with a minimum of hassle or heavy-lifting, but because the purchase was made at all.  You see, Carole had no intention of actually BUYING the product at the Apple Store.  Everybody knows by now that Apple Stores are cool, fun places to check out the latest technology, but they are not the place one goes to save money.  And Carole’s husband Ron, who loves his toys, is a big fan of saving money on sites like uBid, so she knew she could get a better deal elsewhere.  But, because of the hand-held order processor, she did not have to stand idly in line, and therefore, did not have to opportunity to ponder her purchase, and wonder if she might save money by buying it elsewhere.  Now, the Apple Store employees did not steamroller her into making a purchase.  Rather, they were ready when the customer was ready, and processed the order immediately before she could start considering any other options.

So, once again, this is why SERVICE is more important than product or price.  If your customer feels taken care of, she or he will buy.  End of story. 

   — Chuck Dennis

Whither the Customer Service Excellence?

Blogger Nan C. Loyd recently posted an interesting article on her Joy-Cafe.com blog, about the lack of follow-through and excellent business practices within many businesses today.  She raises some valid points, and asks the question "What on earth happened to the ‘the customer is always right’ attitude?"

While personally, I tend to modify that statement:
The customer may not be always right, but they are always the customer, and therefore should never be made to feel wrong.

But I know where Nan is coming from.  Read her post, simply called Excellence.

  — Chuck Dennis

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