Tag Archives: service

Above & Beyond

I don't say this often, but in this instance, Cox rocks!

I called our cable TV and internet provider, Cox Communications, because I needed to have an additional telephone line installed. They sent Geoff (known to his colleagues as Tech 66458) to my home to do the work.

First off, he arrived well within the designated 2 hour time frame that was promised to me when I made the initial request for service.  So, Geoff gets points there.  That started our relationship off on the right foot.

Before getting down to business, Geoff needed to scope out the situation, so he'd know if he could utilize existing cable installations or have to install new ones.  In the process of his assessment, he found that he could use the existing set.  But he also found some odd connections that were having a negative impact on our service.

  1. He identified a cable from our main cable box that fed our TV and Internet service to the first floor of our house.  A second cable with a splitter allegedly fed the three rooms upstairs.  But the cable TV only worked in one of the rooms, and it was a room where we did not want TV.  In my office, where I did want the TV, no signal came through.
  2. He also realized that having the cable come upstairs, split three ways, and none of them being used, was actually sucking some of the life out of our wireless Internet service.  The unused cables were acting as "antennas" and were pulling in part of the wireless signal.

With a few adjustments, he was able to hook up my telephone service, change the splitter, kill the cable TV in the guest room, and install the cable TV service in my office.  So, in addition to the phone line that I requested in my office, I now also have working TV – just in time for the Red Sox playoff run! – and we have faster, more stable wireless Internet.  Thanks to my man, Geoff, going above and beyond the call of duty.

Moral of the story: great customer service doesn't have to be a big deal.  In fact, simply being friendly and helpful goes a LONG way in the delivery of world class service.  Geoff understands this; I hope Cox realizes the positive impact he made on a customer's experience.

  — Chuck Dennis

Service So Good it Changed the Game

Readers of this space know that we are, to say the least, passionate about customer service.  REAL customer service, not the pre-defined, pre-packaged, beware-of-the-fine-print kind of customer service.  For that reason, certain businesses have warm spots in our hearts.  Zappos is one of those businesses. 

I will freely admit that I have never purchased anything from Zappos.  But I have read and heard and seen so much about them.  And I think I love them.  Two things always stand out: outstanding customer service, and a wacky, fun work environment.  I don't think these two things are unrelated.

AdAge recently published an article called Is Customer Service a Media Channel? Ask Zappos.  In the article, author Pete Blackshaw states

"Zappos is a game changer, and it found value — and ferocious
word-of-mouth and brand advocacy — in a place most of us leave for
dead and certainly don't consider even close to being a media channel:
customer service. They took this "cost center" input and turned it into
an unassailable asset, fortified by the founder-CEO's sometimes
"cult-like" (arguably irrational, by the typical marketing book)
obsession with serving the consumer at all costs."

The game-changing aspect that Blackshaw points to is Zappos' challenging the long-standing tradition of viewing "customer service" as a cost center, a necessary evil where calls can be quickly dispatched to barely-trained entry-level employees who would rather be doing anything else in the world.

By providing a fun and engaging work environment, Zappos has attracted a certain level of enthusiastic employees.  Their enthusiasm is barely containable when they interact with customers, and the customers are energized by the experience. 

Zappos is not the most inexpensive shoe seller in the world, not by a long shot.  You don't go there looking for bargains.  And they are an online-only shop.  They sell shoes, for heaven's sake!  Something that my mother used to have me try on dozens of pairs of, in order to fine the one pair that felt right, and didn't look totally dorky.  And Zappos is raking in the bucks.  Why?

Because their service is legendary.  And they are leveraging it, and not by actively marketing it.  They let their customers do that for them. 

Now we see that another pillar of service, Amazon.com, has purchased Zappos for a billion bucks.  This is interesting.  Amazon has been a real pioneer in self-service… their philosophy is that a great customer experience does not require human interaction if the systems are set up correctly and functioning properly.  I find it difficult to challenge their premise, as I have never had a negative experience with Amazon.  Based on past purchases and recent viewing, they helpfully yet unobtrusively suggest other items of interest.  But they just laid out a big chunk of change for a company known for brilliant service on the other side of the dial – the human interactive service.

It is no great shock that Amazon has bought a shoe store; they've dipped into a lot of product lines since their bookstore days.  But could this expenditure portend an evolution in Amazon's automated service delivery?  It's like a team with great pitching just acquired a bunch of the top hitters in the league.  This could get interesting, very quickly.

   — Chuck Dennis

Customer Service for Those in Need

Just had an epiphany about customer service, that might just give all merchants & vendors something to think about.

This one is hot off the presses… of my life.

We had a futon in storage, and we retrieved it today.  Six months ago, when I broke it down for storage, I carefully put all the bolts and other hardware in a zip-lock plastic bag.  Because I knew I would need them again.

So, six months later, where is that bag?  No, really, where is that bag???  This is not a rhetorical question – this is serious!  I’ve got a futon in parts, and no hardware to hold the sucker together!  In addition to being a bit aggrevating and embarrassing, it also has me in a spot of hot water with the missus. 

So when the going gets tough, the tough go online.  Oh great Google, does anyone sell futon hardware (without having to buy the whole futon)?  It turns out that many organizations do. 

BUT… the fly in the ointment is, each site makes it clear you must order the correct size hardware, because hardware purchases are not returnable.  A reasonable request, I can understand, but my problem is, having lost the bag of hardware, I have no freakin’ idea as to what size bolts, etc. that I need.

This, I think, is good opportunity to test the customer service skills of one of these businesses purporting to sell the needed hardware.  So I call Futon Planet, and explain my predicament to their friendly customer service rep.  He understood, and immediately assured me that it was pretty easy to get the measurements I needed in order to buy the correct product.  He didn’t try to sell me anything, he didn’t hustle for my order, he just told me the info I would need, and how to obtain that info, and that I could then be assured of buying the correct product.  Geez, I love this guy! 

Now, this seems like a sort of baseline quality customer service kind of experience, and perhaps it is.  BUT… what ratched up the significance with me is that I had made a dumb mistake by misplacing the bag of hardware, and I was mad at myself, and my better half was not exactly overjoyed with me at the moment.  When suddenly, there is light at the end of the tunnel.  A way out of this dilemma! 

And that is why a basic well-executed customer service interaction has me so fired up.  And that is my message to you (ah, you wondered if I would get around to that!):

You never know the mood or the circumstances surrounding anyone you serve, at any given time.  Therefore, the slightest kindnesses can sometimes be magnified because they came at exactly the right time.  "Customer service" is not just about taking orders and answering questions – it’s about SERVING your customer, and helping them.  You might just make a much larger impact than you ever expected. 

  — Chuck Dennis

Hammer Time – Angry Customer Style

A recent article in the Washington Post titled Taking a Whack Against Comcast tells the story of a 75 year old Virginia woman, who, after receiving poor and indifferent service over the course of four separate incidents, decided to draw some attention ftom her cable provider’s service department by taking a hammer to a service rep’s PC and telephone. 

While I am sensitive to the plight of angry customers everywhere, and believe that businesses can learn a lot from listening to their angry customers, and while I believe that being ignored and mistreated by businesses can rightfully elicit anger from customers, I must draw the line at violent reactions to the service.

And I am a little bit disturbed at the smirking, cavalier tone of the Post’s article.  In this day and age, violent outbursts are not really a laughing matter.  The fact that this woman is 75 years old does not mean she was incapable of inflicting pain or injury to Comcast personnel.  OK, she busted up a keyboard, monitor, and telephone, as a way of getting "attention."  Cute.  What if some of the splintering equipment hit a Comcast employee in the eye?  What if Granny’s backswing of the hammer caught someone in the face?  What if she hurt herself while wreaking havoc on the Comcast office?  Would she then sue Comcast for the pain and suffering? (Fact is, her blood pressure did go up to a dangerous level, and she began hyperventilating, and required an ambulance.)

And the Washington Post, who really should know better, chose to highlight this woman as a great American outlaw, going outside the boundaries of the law, yet striking a blow for "justice."

Let’s get this straight.  I love angry customers.  My consulting practice and the articles I write are all about getting businesses to take heed of their angry customers, and learn how to improve their service, products and operations by hearing, and then addressing, customer complaints.  But their are limits to the appropriateness of customer anger.  I tend to draw the line after the first use of profanity.  Violent actions?  Forget about it!  You just lost your complainin’ priviledges, is what ya did.

  — Chuck Dennis

Patients are Customers, Too

Oftentimes, medical facilities seem to forget that they, like all other businesses, are in the people business.  Maybe it’s because the majority of the payment comes via insurance companies.  Maybe it’s because the healthcare providers see their focus as the sickness, more than the patient.  But whatever the reason, the customer experience is frequently overlooked.

Last week, my father, almost 87 years old, was in the hospital in Memphis, TN.  He had surgery for some recent health issues, but brought some of his existing health issues with him, namely, diabetes.  During his post-surgery stay, the meals that were brought to him routinely included foods that had significant amounts of sugar.  Thankfully, my dad had the awareness and good sense to simply leave those foods alone.  But he was not too pleased that the hospital could not understand something that even airlines get, which is that diabetics require a special diet.

The delivery of his food also left much to be desired.  A well-dressed chap (black pants and vest, white shirt, black bow tie) came in each day, reading what "the chef" had prepared for upcoming meals.  Unfortunately, it was all scripted, and this fellow was not able to answer any questions that deviated from what was printed on his cheat sheet.  He also delivered the meals to the room, and placed it on the movable tray.  Unfortunately, wherever the movable tray was located at the time of his arrival, that is where the food was placed, irregardless of whether it was within reaching distance of my father.  Since Dad was bedridden, it was of no help to him to have the food on the other side of his room.  If my sister or I was visiting, we could move the tray into place.  If we were not, Dad would have to call a nurse for help. 

Another time, they brought Dad a snack of crackers and a small container of peanut butter.  Unfortunately, they did not bring him a utensil to put the peanut butter on the crackers.  Another time, they brought him grits with no spoon!  Now, oversights do happen, and if this occurs when you go out to a restaurant, you simply ask the waiter to bring you what you need.  But in a hospital…

a) you’re not feeling well
b) you’re not terribly mobile
c) you’re being cared for by nurses, who have other medical matters to tend to

It’s not asking too much that your meals be coordinated with you overall health concerns (not just the matters you are being treated for), and that they are served to you where you can reach them, and you are given the proper utensils to eat with.  The philosophy of seeing the world through your customer’s eyes has never been more applicable than when dealing with those who can not adequately care for themselves. 

  — Chuck Dennis

Something for Everyone

That’s the tag-line for The Cheesecake Factory in Burlington, MA where I had dinner with a business colleague last week.  In my ongoing quest for the points where marketing, sales and service connect, I had a really interesting experience that I’d like to share.

As anyone knows who goes to The Cheesecake Factory, there is usually a wait to get in.  I’m not one of those folks who minds that wait – and they handle it all pretty professionally there, moving things pretty quickly.  We got called for our table which was a small table for two, right across from an empty booth that was just being re-set up.  My dinner partner asked if we could sit over there instead.

Our hostess hesitated and then informed us that we’d have to go back to the lobby and get reseated by “the computer.”  I asked her what that meant and she told me that all seating was done by a computer, and that we’d have to be re-entered and would probably have to wait another 15 – 20 minutes for a booth.  “Would you like to do that, or would you like to sit here?” she asked.  We looked at each other, and then sat down.  Needless to say – we had quite a bit to say about this between ourselves.  A computer.  To sit at a table that was empty and not 3 feet away from us!  Interesting approach: customer service dictated by technology.

We quit talking about it when our waitress arrived – but she sensed something and asked if there was anything wrong.  I demurred – but she asked again because maybe she could help us.  So I related our exchange with the hostess. Our waitress quickly said she’d bring back a manager to talk with us.  I said it wasn’t necessary – but she said he’d really want to talk with us, so would it be okay with us if she got him?  Okay, we said.

He came back, knelt down next to my seat so we were looking eye-to-eye, and asked if there was anything he could do to help us. He seemed genuinely interested. I related the exchange to him, and he was very quick to apologize.  He explained that the hostess was new, and that he was surprised by her comments.  “Of course, it’s perfectly reasonable to want a booth,”  he said.  “I’d be happy to give you that booth in just a moment.”  He went off to make the arrangement.  Our waitress offered us a drink before we were reseated.  We thanked her and said we’d wait until the switch.  “Are you going to be our waitress over there?” I asked.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, but she brought us our new waiter and introduced us.  Then we got moved the the table we wanted.

Sounds like a happy ending, right?  Our request was honored.  Everyone was happy.  But did the manager, Jason Spieler, stop there?  No.  He took it upon himself to exceed our expectations going forward. So here is what also happened in turning around our initial negative first impression:

  • Our drink orders where taken immediately by our new waiter.
  • Jason the manager served our drinks.
  • Our waiter took the time to make great meal recommendations.
  • Jason also served our meals himself.
  • Our former waitress stopped by to check on how things were going.
  • Our new waiter was solicitous, on top of things, and really funny to boot.
  • We didn’t lack for anything – we were completely taken care of.

By the end of dinner, we agreed that this was one of the best service experiences either of us had had in some time.  In fact, I’m hard pressed to get this kind of service from other “high-end” restaurants.  Now, let’s think about this. It started out less than stellar. It was packed in there.  Most restaurants would have either stuck by their “policy” or just reseated us and left it at that.  The Burlington staff “got it” right away – from our first waitress, to the manager, to the new waiter. They worked together flawlessly to reset our impressions and to make up for a rocky start.  Fantastic job!

I told Jason what a great meal we had and how impressed we were with their response to our little problem.  I shared with him a little information about customer loyalty.  A study by Technical Assistance Research Programs ( a customer experience research consultancy) shows that customers who have had a problem resolved successfully and amicably tend to be more loyal than customers who have never experienced a problem with a particular business.  Jason thought that was interesting and noted that he had never heard that before.

Here was another really interesting thing.  Jason shared with me that when he goes away on vacation to see his family, he goes to the local Cheesecake Factory for dinner purely as a customer.  He says being a customer while he is away helps him focus on delivering service to his own customers, and he gets new ideas he can use when he gets back home.

How many of us would visit work on our vacation, if we really didn’t have to?  Now I know why Jason and his team “get it.”  He’s not delivering just meals or good service – he knows he is delivering an experience. And he is a student of that experience.  His company should clone him and promote him.  Thanks Jason!  It was great being a guest in your restaurant.

And by the way, when you go to the Cheesecake Factory, get the Pineapple Upside Down Cheesecake. Cheesecake

Oh my god….I almost caused a scene eating it!

— Lisa Dennis

Stroke of Genius

I just read an article about how, in Australia, Mercedes has opened repair centers right next to major airports, so that their customers can kill two birds with one stone while travelling.  If your car needs repair, why not schedule the work while you are out of town and not using it?  And wouldn’t you rather leave your car in the care of the watchful Mercedes service team, than to pay the outrageous fees of long-term airport parking, where who knows what is happening to your car in your absence?

Hats off to Mercedes for coming up with this brilliant idea.  Some ideas are worth copying, and this is one of them!

Read the article: http://www.gizmag.com/go/4209/

— Chuck Dennis

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