Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Unhappy Customers are a Golden Opportunity

In a response to an article I wrote for Gitomer's Sales Caffeine, about how to greet an unhappy customer, I received this great letter from Bill Pennola. It really shows how important having the right attitude is in serving your customers.
"A number of years ago I was a manager for a major electronics retailer in the New York City area when a customer stormed into the store with a portable radio that supposedly did not work.

He demanded at once to speak to a manager and insisted at the top of his lungs someone was going to "take care of him immediately." I walked up to this irate customer and extended my hand to greet him while saying, Hi ! My name is Bill and I am the store manager, I don't believe we have met.  How can I help you today?

This time the customer slammed the radio on the glass counter and insisted it was a piece of, (well you know what) and wanted his money back. I might want to add here, the store's policy is to refund up to 30 days and the manager can make a decision to extend that if need be.

I mentioned to the customer, I would be more that happy to refund his money but did he really want his money or did he want a radio that worked.  I asked if he purchased this radio for a reason and would it be better if the item he purchased performed to his expectations?  He relentlessly agreed.

I asked him what exactly was it that did not work on the unit?  He replied. "It won't even turn on."  I opened the radio battery compartment and found that the batteries were installed incorrectly.  After installing new batteries into the unit and demonstrating the radios' key features, the customer started to get a grin on his face.

I then apologized to the customer once again and provided yet another set of batteries gratis.  He was so happy the radio worked he actually purchased two more with enough batteries to last a lifetime.

He thanked me on the way out and mentioned he would tell his friends about the great customer service and would buy all his electronics from me in the future.

A few months went buy when this same customer once again stormed into the store.  This time a younger fellow by his side.  They came right up to me and he introduced me to his son and said to him , John your in good hands, Bill will take great care of you. John then proceeded to spend over $ 10,000.00 on a new Home Entertainment system complete with flat panel TV and all of the works.

Since that time, over 10 years ago, I have looked at all unhappy customers, as Golden Opportunities and cannot wait to "take care of them immediately."

How are YOU handling these "Golden Opportunities?"

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Rules Are Rules, But Where is the Humanity?

Terri Wessinger wanted a new life in Idaho but a run in with U.S.Air turned that dream into a nightmare.

"She had nothing but an airline ticket and $30 in her pocket," reported Michael Finney of ABC news affiliate KGO. Since she had not flown in awhile she was shocked to find that there was a $60 fee for her baggage. She offered to pay for her bag upon landing, but her offer was declined. She was also told she couldn't leave her bag, so she ended up stranded at the airport for eight days. Finally she was rescued by the Airport Church of Christ who raised money to help her get to Idaho.

Yes, it is the passengers responsibility to pay for her luggage. Those are the rules. But, I am horrified that not a single person at US Air could be human enough to make an exception. It is not that Ms. Wessinger wanted a free ride. She wanted to pay once she got to her location. It would have been easy enough to hold her luggage in Idaho until she paid its ransom, er baggage fees.

When a company stops thinking creatively to help solve a customer's problem you have to wonder if that is an airline you want to do business with. Even if a company has no heart they should at least consider the REALLY REALLY bad publicity that happens when the press gets wind of your inflexible policies. Yes, they got the bag fees plus the $150 in change fees, but what did that cost them in public opinion?

All in all not a smart move any way you look at it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ask the Question

Netflix messed up again. No, I am not talking about their huge price increase, although that was pretty jarring. And I am not talking about their plan to split their once beloved company in two. I am talking about a letter I just received from them.

Along with millions of other users I recently quit Netflix. Basically, I didn’t love them, I didn’t hate them, Netflix was just a monthly expense I was willing to pay. Even though I had underutilized their service for the last year, I hadn’t planned on quitting until they started all this alienating, customer-unfocused nonsense.

But, this last letter made me realize they really need help.

Dear Laurie,
We know you recently canceled your Netflix membership, but we want to share this news with you.
It is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs.
This means no change: one website, one account, one password…in other words, no Qwikster.
While the July price change was necessary, we are now done with price changes.
We're constantly improving our streaming selection. We've recently added hundreds of movies from Paramount, Sony, Universal, Fox, Warner Bros., Lionsgate, MGM and Miramax. Plus, in the last couple of weeks alone, we've added over 3,500 TV episodes from ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, USA, E!, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Discovery Channel, TLC, SyFy, A&E, History, and PBS.
We are committed to making Netflix the best place to get your movies & TV shows.
The Netflix Team

So, what is missing? They never asked the question. “Will you give us a second chance?” Or, “Will you renew your membership?” Or, “With these changes, will you come back?”

To be honest, I am not sure I would have rejoined in any case. But, I certainly would have clicked a link that said, “Click here for more great reasons to be a member.” Or, “We want you back, and we mean it — click here to renew.”

It is easy to see that Netflix messed up by not asking the question, but the real question is “Do YOU ask the question? In the twenty some years I have been coaching sales people, I have found that one common reason they don’t close more sales is that they forget to ask the question. Or, they think that the question is implied. Or, they think that asking is presumptuous.

SERIOUSLY! You are in the sales business, ask the sales question, ask your customer if they want to buy.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Five Quick and Easy Ways To...Lose Your Customer by Sunny Brady

Your business spends a lot of money trying to attract new customers. But after you attract them,how hard do you work to keep them attracted?

Many business owners mistakenly think that when they lose a customer, it is due to reasons beyond the business owner's control. In other words, customers leave only when their needs change and they no longer need the product or service that the business provides. But in actuality, this reason accounts for relatively few customer bounces. In fact, statistics show that it is responsible for fewer than 10 percent of them. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the fault for customer loss rests squarely on the shoulders of the business. Some of the reasons cited include things like disappointment with the quality of product or service, unfair pricing, and equipment that doesn't work. But even these things aren't the major culprits. The real eye-opening statistic is this one: about three out of every four customers leave due to what they perceive as poor customer service.

Any business owner who minimizes the importance of customer service needs to read the above paragraph over and over again. Attracting customers is a waste of money if those same customers end up leaving you. And if they leave you because they feel you are servicing them poorly, then there is surely something you can do to prevent it. But on the other hand, if you are content to see them walking away, then maybe you should just continue to make the same customer service mistakes that I see so many businesses routinely make. What are they? Well here are some of them:

Laziness: I'm constantly surprised at how many employees don't do their homework. How can you tell your customers which of your products will best solve their problems if you haven't bothered to learn the strengths and weaknesses of all of those products? How can you communicate your company's policies and procedures to your customers if you haven't taken the time to learn them thoroughly yourself? How can you know whom in your company to contact if your customer has a question outside your area unless you are completely familiar with your corporate structure and co-worker responsibilities? Nothing impresses customers more than a company rep who knows his or her facts and follows up to find the best solution for them in a timely manner.

  • Over-persistence: The most common cover-up for an employee who has a limited amount of knowledge about his company's products is to talk up the one or two products he does know well and drill home their selling points ad nauseum. And the most common cover-up for an employee who hasn't bothered to learn his customers well enough to understand what they really need is to try to sell them something they don't want - and then to make up for their ignorance by over-selling it. Marketing to your customers is one thing. But doing so to the point of annoyance can be a real turn-off.

  • Surly, disagreeable, or uncommunicative attitude: An agreeable and empathetic demeanor is a great first step in gaining the customer's trust. A smile or a nod of the head can go a long way. So can calmness, especially when you are faced with an agitated client. It's all part of communication - probably the single most important ingredient in good customer relations.

  • Failure to listen: Another huge element of communication is the ability to listen. This is truly the only way you learn about your customer. Yet you'd be surprised at how often I see company reps, intentionally or not, dominate conversations with their customers. Being a good listener is a skill, but it is a skill worth knowing when you deal with customers. You not only learn about them but you also show them your concern.

  • Early surrender: Very often customers present problems that are not easily solved. Maybe they are being blockaded by your company's restrictive policies or red tape. When this happens, the last thing customers want to hear is ìSorry but that's the way we do it.î When presented with tough problems or situations, it's tempting for employees to give up trying to solve them. Yet solving those problems exactly what customers expect and usually what they are entitled to.
    Employees who are not easily swayed and who have an ability to see things through to the end are worth their weight in gold.

  • Customer loss is preventable. The vast majority of the time, you can keep your customers if you can make them feel that your company is doing everything it can to service their needs.Delivering first-class customer service is a conscious choice. And it's a choice you need to make. When you treat your customers well after you attract them, that attraction will last forever.

    Sunny Brady helps businesses and homeowners seeking self storage in Florida find it online, including listings for self storage in Ocoee. In her spare time she likes to get outside, ideally with a bike.

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    Groupon gets “IT,” The Whitney Doesn’t

    I am a huge fan of Groupon. I often use their offers and I am always excited when I get a chance to try out new places and services.

    When The Whitney, an elegant fine dining restaurant in Detroit, had a Groupon offer I snapped it up. I was once a loyal customer of The Whitney but it had been some time since I dined there. I was thrilled to get a chance to go back to one of my favorite places.

    Well, my schedule became insane and I found myself approaching the expiration date of the offer. About a week before, I called and asked for an extension.
    I was turned down. Although I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to use the offer, I gave it to some good friends of mine. When they tried to use it on the final weekend, they were told that there were no reservations available. Their request for an extension was also turned down.

    As a result of this, The Whitney now has two very disappointed couples. I wrote The Whitney to tell them how unhappy we all were but I got no response.

    About a month later I saw that they had a new offer up on Groupon. I called the Whitney again.

    This time I spoke with Matt, the manager. Matt couldn’t have cared less that I was unhappy or that my friends were unhappy. He even told me I should have contacted him sooner. When I told him that I had called, that my friends had called and that I sent an email, he was unfazed and unconcerned. He told me that it was the Whitney’s policy that they do not offer any extensions. When I asked, was it his policy, Matt said no, it was the owner’s policy. When I asked to speak to the owner, I was told that the owner does not speak to customers. WOW.

    This would have been the right time to apologize profusely and offer something, however small, to win me back. But NO. Confronted with his attitude and rigidity, it was clear that being “right”, at least in his mind, was of the utmost importance. He simply didn’t care if I was his customer.

    In my mind, the ENTIRE purpose of a Groupon is to create an opportunity to get new loyal customers. Businesses never make money on the Groupon, rather it’s a good-will gesture to introduce or reintroduce your product or service. Wouldn’t it make sense to do everything you could to keep your potential customers happy? Why would you solicit customers and then, not only deny them the chance to experience your food and service, but anger them in the process?

    So now I have a personal grudge against The Whitney, and I will be happy to give a reverse endorsement if asked, “Go anywhere BUT The Whitney.” At this point I can only expect that the service at the restaurant would match the service I got from the manager — arrogant, cold and indifferent — not what you want from an upscale dining establishment.

    Now to be fair, he did say, “If you have a problem, contact Groupon.” So I did.

    I visited Groupon’s website planning to send an email with the hope that I would get a response. Boy, was I surprised. Yes, there was a place and an email address to send a message, but there was also a phone number.

    I called and spoke to Cameron. I told him my tale of woe about The Whitney. He immediately gave me a refund. He was warm, friendly and concerned.

    Now that was great customer service. In fact he exceeded my expectations in every way.

    So, what is the “It” I mentioned in the headline? Well, “It” could translate as “giving exceptional service”. With that definition in mind, Groupon certainly gets what giving exceptional service is all about — and The Whitney certainly does not.

    But more importantly, is what the “It” is to me. The “It” is my loyalty. Groupon has won my loyalty and The Whitney has lost it.

    Sunday, March 20, 2011

    United Gate Agent WOWS With a Simple Act of Kindness

    I fly a lot. When I say a lot, I mean a LOT. This is not a plea for sympathy or an act of bragging. It’s just to give context to what happened to me — a simple act of kindness that I have never experienced in all the times I have flown.

    I was sitting at a United Airlines gate waiting for my plane from Chicago to Detroit, when the gate agent called my name. This alone surprised me. Although I am an “elite” flyer on many airlines I am “nothing” to United Airlines. Usually you’re only called to the gate if you are going to be upgraded, which I knew was impossible.

    I walked up to the gate agent, Liz Williams, who said to me, “I noticed that you were sitting at the back of the plane and I wondered if you wanted to move closer to the front? I have a window seat that you might find more comfortable.”

    WOW! I was totally taken aback.

    No one in all the miles I have flown has ever asked if I wanted to move my seat for my own comfort. There have been hundreds of times when I have begged a gate agent for a more comfortable seat. Mostly, I am treated as a bother. “Sigh” they usually respond, “Let me see what I can do.”

    Sometimes I am upgraded when the computer spits out my name. And as much as I appreciate being upgraded, I appreciated this event even more.

    I realized that it meant that I was no longer only a “filled seat”, no longer a bother. Ms. Williams thought of me as a human being with needs, wants and desires.

    This act of one person helping out another person wowed me.

    Wowing the customer didn’t cost Ms. Williams or the airlines a single cent. But it had a huge effect. It made me think, “Wow, maybe I should fly United more often?”

    I translated her one act of kindness as an example of how United will treat me in the future.

    What simple act of thoughtfulness can you do to wow your customer?

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    Concierge Shuttle Service

    “Now, don’t worry. Every afternoon, sometime between two and seven, we will have a thunderstorm. If you are in one of the parks, just find shelter, but don’t leave. It will pass over quickly. Most people don’t know this and they will leave.” That is what Todd Affricano, our shuttle driver, told us, his passengers, on a recent trip from Orlando International Airport to our hotels.

    He proceeded to give each of us tips for where we were staying or for what we were planning on doing. “Here is the map for Universal Studio” he told three passengers. “Get there early. And start out at the back of the park. People are like sheep. They start to their right and go to each attraction in order. You will save hours by starting at the back.”

    He told a young couple with a child “If you need anything from the drugstore, it is right across the street from your hotel.”

    Every guest in his shuttle was given an “inside tip” that was personalized, relevant and interesting. Throughout the drive, Todd filled us with valuable information that all of us on the shuttle bus could use. As a result, a few things happened. First, the ride from the airport just flew by. Secondly, everybody on the shuttle felt special. Thirdly, Todd distinguished himself. In all the times I have taken that shuttle, NOBODY ever did what he did.

    I know that sometimes, when it is time to tip, I feel resentful. Often the driver will go round and round the airport making sure he gets every last customer (this can add an hour onto our trip) or the driving is so erratic everyone is scared for their lives. But, on this trip, we all couldn’t wait to tip Todd. I saw every passenger pull out more money to compensate him than usual. Todd was the world’s best concierge and he had “earned” every cent (and more).

    How do you give “concierge service” to your customers? Do you provide your customers with “inside information” that they cannot get anywhere else? Do you personalize their experience?

    If not, you need to start today.