Tuesday, September 15, 2009
ARE YOU READY FOR THE HYPERSENSITIVE CUSTOMER?
As if businesses weren’t struggling enough these days, a recent study out of the U.K. has revealed the emergence of the “hypersensitive customer,” a consumer that has less cash, more information and less tolerance for poor customer service than ever before. The study, conducted by UK accounting and business consulting firm BDO Stoy Hayward, found that in the last 18 months, customers have become less loyal, as they realize how privileged retailers are to have their business. In fact, 48% of consumers admitted increasing their expectations over the past two years.
Customers are plugged in, with easy access to consumer reviews, detailed technical information and competitive product information. They have tighter budgets, so they’ve become more discerning in both the products they buy and the service they expect. 74% of respondents in the study said they wouldn’t purchase products and would leave the store if they encountered what they deemed to be poor service.
Are you and your business ready for the arrival of the hypersensitive customer? If not, now is the time to examine your customer service practices and get them in line with the needs of today’s consumer.
There’s a new customer service book on stores shelves and online resellers that can help you manage this new breed of consumer. When you order “Who’s Your Gladys?” today, you get a special package of 40+ electronic bonus gifts in customer service, sales, marketing and professional development. Buy your copy today at www.whosyourgladys.com Watch the WYG book trailer here: www.youtube.com/whosyourgladys
Friday, September 11, 2009
It seems that more and more passengers on planes are being stuck for hours on the tarmac without, food, water or working bathrooms. I asked Linked In members to answer the question: “What is adequate compensation for being stuck for hours on the tarmac?” The following are some of the answers:
“Honestly I don't think there can be any perfect compensation. You can't replace time.... and time is essentially what all of the passengers lost. Time spent with children, parents, grandparents, clients, bosses... take your pick. None of which can be gotten back. What is more bothersome is that lack of true compensation is only intensified by an airline, regulating authority, and any other number of persons who weren't willing to go beyond "the book" and come up with a solution to the problem.
How do you compensate for 5 hours? Starting with an apology and responsibility would be a good start.....” B. Smith
“I would want 2 complimentary First Class tickets with open ended dates to whatever location I choose. And free drinks whilst on the tarmac.” S. Andrade
“Free travel for life on that airline, should I ever wish to use it again (highly unlikely). At least $1,000 per hour for each and every passenger, plus extra compensation for any business lost as a result, plus a harassment fee of $10,000 per person.” F. Feather
“The thing to realize about compensation (or free blankets or free scotch or anything else) is this: There isn't some great pot of money lying around at an airline that they can use for stuff like this.
If an airline had to compensate passengers there would be only one way they could fund it: By raising fares - And that would impact you and me.
What I would much prefer would be a clear mechanism whereby passengers could buy insurance options which are presented 'in their face' at the time of ticket purchase that would cover them for the duration of their itinerary. The insurance would provide compensation due to delay or would get you on another carrier (if available) if you're delayed more than X hours or whatever.” G. Glave
“At a minimum: a free round-trip ticket and a handwritten letter of apology from the CEO.” J. Chernin
"Ultimately the people need to be shown that the problem is being fixed so it does not happen so often. I read the blog of the leadership of FAA, DOT. There were tons of people complaining about similar incidents that did not make it into the news media. The airline industry is entirely too cavalier about the inconveniences for their customers.
I accept that when there is a snow storm, or earthquake, or other severe emergency, it is not unreasonable that people might be stuck in a transportation facility for many hours without access to working toilets, food, medical services etc. and some people die in such conditions. Children are much more vulnerable to this semi-torture than adults. The transportation service should pick up their medical support for several years, in case of complications.
However, there have been several recent incidents where a plane was diverted from primary city due to thunderstorm, landed at an airport where the weather was fine, the toilets were fine, the security was fine, there was no logical reason why the passengers could not have had access to food, comfort, toilets, phones, etc. except that the personnel running the facility were brain dead on what could be done outside their normal routine, overworked, did not want to phone their supervisors at 3 am for guidance. Then next morning, when higher authority showed up for all relevant agencies ... airlines, airport, security ... it was a massive buck passing operation, no one was in charge, no one was responsible, the only stuff they had to do was obey some laws prohibiting plane crews from flying when they so tired from being awake & working for over 24 hours, so they had to be replaced, but there was no law to protect the customers, so tough luck, they get to continue to their destination arriving 24 hours after departure, on a plane whose toilets still not working, because while there is some law that a plane is supposed to have toilets working, that law does not get enforced.
There needs to be like a 911 for the news media, to inform them where there are planes, etc. that have been where how long, so that the news media can then descend on the homes & offices of the relevant airlines and other folks in charge, to ask how come. I would like to see people who are at ticket counter of airline X, or going to buy tickets at airline X, being asked by news media people what they think about airline X causing passengers to be stuck on runway for so many hours, and does that mean they might switch to airline Y?
There needs to be a 911 for this kind of situation to government authorities, after the passengers have had to wait more than some reasonable time interval, where the CEOs and other top managers of the transportation facilities involved are taken by police to a jail where there is no working toilet, no food, nothing to drink, not even water, no access to medicines, no comfortable place to sit, provided with phones & informed that they get to stay in that jail until
(a) their customers have got quality relief and compensation
(b) they (the CEOs etc.) have been in the jail for 2-3 times the time duration their customers were without working toilet, food, etc.
(c) when they get out, they go straight to hearing with a judge, where they need to give satisfactory explanation how this happened & what they have done to prevent it happening ever again.” A. Mcintyre
“If you compensate the 'victims', and such conclusion and characterization ought to be validated, you stand to repeat the issue and create more victims. If you penalize the root of the problem, the people whose chain of decision making leads to these situations, and I am not pointing to anyone here as I have no basis to do so, then you may give those folks the right incentive to go out of their way to deplane that next batch of victims. A win-win situation for all.” H. Benamar
What do you think is adequate compensation? Write and share your opinion!
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
It is not that you don’t have a busy enough life. You work, you have family and friends that need attention. However busy you may be, at some point everything comes to a screeching halt — your cable has stopped working. You now find yourself at the mercy of the cable company.
“We can have a repair person to your home between 8-12 tomorrow.” You have no choice but to stay put. You think to yourself, “Well maybe I can just run to the store to grab some milk”, but then you remember the last time you did that the repair person came and went and you had to start all over again. To make matters worse, the cable repair person ends up running late. At 12:15 you call the cable company and learn that they will be there within an hour. You have now wasted more than half a day.
You have most likely experienced a similar scenario. Why can’t there be a simple way to solve this problem and set us free?
As it turns out, there is a solution. Yuval Brisker, co-founder of TOA Technologies, experienced the same problem, but luckily for us, he figured out how to solve it. Brisker — a true renaissance man — designed a predictive web-based system, ETAdirect solution, that benefits both the customer and the company that uses it
As a customer, you will no longer be tied to your home waiting. Through text messages, automated voice call, email and/or online tracking, you will be informed when the repair person will arrive.
Generally, you the customer, will be “on call” for a two hour window. You let the company know your preferred mode of contact, and will be told when to expect the repai person within a one hour window.
For the company, TOA’s ETAdirect system helps manage a mobile workforce with planning and routing and dispatch and scheduling. Furthermore, it can help retain customers through better customer service.
One of my favorite features of the system is that it will offer to reschedule an appointment if the customer is not able to keep it. Too many companies neglect to reschedule their customer’s appointments. This simple step is good for the company and the customer.
I don’t know about you, but I sure want my cable company, phone company, plumber, etc to get this! (You know who you are!)
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Last week I was working in Orlando. I was staying at the Disney Contemporary Resort. Of course I am aware that Disney prides itself on superior customer service, so my expectations were pretty high. Even with those high expectations I still found myself amazed by a specific event.
After my class was finished I walked up to the reservation counter for the California Grill. Apparently it is a very popular restaurant so reservations are not easy to get. I was dining by myself so I thought I would check to see if I could eat later. A lovely woman behind the desk greeted me and told me that there should be no problem. It was a short unremarkable encounter and I walked away.
Later that night, after changing into more comfortable clothes, I decided to try and eat at the California Grill. I had no problem getting in (even though the place was packed.)
I was enjoying my meal at the sushi bar (the food was amazing,) when the woman who greeted me walked up to me and said “Wow, I am so glad you decided to come back.”
This blew me away. As I said, we had an unremarkable conversation, it lasted only seconds and I wasn’t even wearing the same clothes. But Ashley Call, the restaurants Guest Service Manager remembered me. And by the simple act of remembering me and telling me she was glad I came back she transformed my evening.
I felt important. I felt valued. I felt appreciated. She took a good evening and made it great. I eat at a lot of good restaurants, but I would go out of my way to go back to this one because of Call and her staff.
Call told me her goal was to make sure every guest leaves happy.
What do you do to make sure every customer leaves happy? How do you make your customer feel important, valued and appreciated?
Try doing something today to transform your customer’s experience.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
In a recent post, I wrote about my friend’s experience at Beau Jacks, a suburban Detroit restaurant. Their experience was exceptional; so, I decided to interview the owner, Gary Cochran. I wanted to learn what he does to keep his customers coming back 3 or 4 nights a week. His restaurant is so successful that patrons are willing to endure long waits, because it’s worth it, even in Detroit’s depressed times. Beau Jack’s is also one of Jay Leno’s favorite Detroit restaurants.
Here are Cochran’s tips for a successful business:
Don’t do traditional advertising.
Cochran doesn’t buy traditional advertising. He puts his money into supporting his loyal customers’ causes. When his customers ask him to buy ads in yearbooks, pay for sponsorships, or supports charitable golf outings, he does it. “I do my advertising with the people who eat with me.”
Keep your staff pumped up.
Cochran creates a weekly newsletter for his employees. The bottom of the newsletter has a motivational quote intended to keep his people thinking positively. He tells them, “ We don’t have to take part in this recession if the food and service is great.”
Have high standards.
“In this economy we have to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’.” Cochran makes sure that his parking lot is repaved and painted every year whether it needs it or not. He has an iron and ironing board outside of the staff’s dressing room so that everyone looks impeccable. He believes that good is not good enough. “I don’t want you to pay for good, you pay for great.”
Treat your customers like members of a private club.
Cochran encourages his staff to learn customers’ names and preferences. “I always tell my staff that if they worked in a country club they would remember their names and that they like five olives in their martinis.”
He also provides his staff with business cards that they give out when they hand the customer the bill. He encourages the staff to tell the customers, “Ask for me next time you come in.”
Treat special needs customers differently.
Even though his customers may have to wait up to 45 minutes to be seated, he understands that it can be a hardship. When a customer is using a walker, he tries to seat them sooner. If customers have small children with them, the wait staff may place an order for chicken strips (on the house) so that the minute the family sits down there is food for the kids.
Don’t ask your employees to do anything you wouldn’t do.
Cochran hasn’t had a day off in the last 18 months. He can often be found with a coffee pot in his hand, bussing tables or picking up a dropped napkin. The treatment of his staff is so good that he has kept his employees for decades. His newest employee has been with him for six years.
Empower your employees.
His servers know that if they are overwhelmed with customers and are not providing great service, they can buy the customer a dessert with apologies. If there is a problem with food, they know that they can go to the chef or a manager and get the issue resolved.
If you take Cochran’s tips and translate them for your business, you too can do what Cochran does and “not take part in this recession.”
Monday, June 08, 2009
Yes you did. You probably don't care. At least that is how it appeared to me. I came into your store. Oh, I bet you don't think of it as YOUR store. I imagine you just think of it as the place you work. Which is probably part of the problem. But, I think of it as your store. And you ignored me. I walked in looking confused but interested. You were talking to your friend. I know you saw me. You just thought your friend and your friend's boyfriend were more interesting. You looked at me without acknowledging me or greeting me. You never stopped talking to your friend for a minute.
So, I walked out. The fact that I walked out without buying anything didn't seem to bother you one bit. Well, why should it? It's not YOUR store after all is it?
But wait, you get a paycheck right? Who do you think funds that check? Yes, it is me. And all the other people who buy things from your store. If you keep ignoring customers, the "owners" of the store won't be able to afford you. And in these tough economic times, that time may be sooner than you imagine.
So, please, the next time a customer enters your store greet them. Ask how you can be of assistance. Treat that customer as if your job depended on it...because it does.
Friday, June 05, 2009
The Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, was looking for creative ways to provide customer service to his citizens without costing the city a lot of money. In a press conference, that was replayed on Youtube, he announced a new and innovative way for his citizens to communicate with the city's government agencies through Twitter.
A few years ago the city took 2300 phone numbers and a very difficult to navigate phone tree and merged them into a 311 call center. This call center is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is also available in 179 languages.
The Mayor said that they were looking into a text-messaging component to this call center but the price was prohibitive. He found that integrating Twitter into the system was the perfect answer. Twitter and the city's Dept of Technology worked together on this project.
Citizens can now press d sf311 on their Blackberry, I phone or non-smart phone as well as through their computer in order to send a question or complaint to the 311 call center. Once the tweet has been sent, the call center routes it to the correct department. Citizens can send photos (graffiti tags, abandoned mattresses or potholes) along with their tweet.
Bix Stone, co-founder of Twitter, said " People are moving their communication to a more open medium using tools like Twitter and Social Networking and Youtube." Clearly Mayor Newsom understands this better than anyone. His speeches are broadcast on Youtube and he is the first Mayor to integrate Twitter into his 311 call center.
Newsom said that he wanted to empower his citizens. He wants "800,000 eyes and ears on our streets."
Whether or not your local government can use technology as creatively as San Francisco, you do need to make exceptional customer service a priority.
Find ways to make it easy for your citizens to talk to you. If nothing else make sure you have a simple phone system that has no more than a few prompts. Respond to emails and letters quickly. Return your phone calls promptly. Follow the spirit of Mayor Newsom's goals.
Monday, May 04, 2009
I need your help. I want to hear your stories. Tell me about the many ways that businesses tell you that they don't want your business. Please post your stories here or email them to me at lauriebrown@thedifference dot net.
Here is a favorite of mine:
My sister-in-law was recently visiting NYC and wanted to buy a pair of comfortable walking shoes. Her husband googled "Comfort shoes New York." He found a number of shoes stores, one of which was Treadeasy shoes.
She called the number and this is the conversation:
Treadeasy shoes (TS): Hello
Sister-in-law (SIL): Hello, is this comfort shoes?
TS: (Deep sigh) NO! This is TREADEASY comfort shoes.
SIL: Well I am looking for comfort shoes and my husband looked on the internet and your number came up.
TS: (Sigh) This happens ALL the time. You need to return some shoes? They are on the internet and we are not. We are referral only. DId someone refer you?
SIL: No, I am just looking for comfortable shoes.
TS: Well our shoes start at $250 dollars and I am not sure THAT is what you are looking for.
SIL: Well, you are a shoe store, right? And I am looking to BUY some shoes.
TS: (Laugh) Well, OK.
SIL: Where are you located?
TS: Well, we can meet you on 42nd st.
By this time my sister-in-law was tired of trying to give this business her money. She thanked the woman and ended the conversation.
Now to be fair, maybe there is a great deal of confusion about the differences in the stores. But imagine if the conversation went this way instead.
TS: Hello. Treadeasy shoes. My name is______________. How may I help you?
SIL: I am looking for comfortable shoes.
TS: Well, that is great. We specialize in high end comfort shoes through referrals. May I inquire who referred you?
SIL: Actually we found you on the internet. Is there anyway that I can still buy from you?
TS: Of course. Let me tell you a little about our business and how we can show you our shoes.
Now, I don't know their business model. But, I truly believe that a warm greeting and not showing frustration is a good start no matter what your business model is.
I would like you to think about the way that you make it difficult for people to give you their money. Try instead to be warm, helpful and gracious. I can't imagine ANY business in this economy that doesn't need each and every one of their customers.
Friday, April 03, 2009
So, I got a call today. It was from Jason at the Salvation Army. I knew what he wanted. It is what EVERY charity I give to wants. I was sure he was going to ask me for more money. They all do.
But, boy was I wrong. He didn’t want money. He only wanted to thank me.
Jason told me how grateful he was that I had donated to their Bed and Breakfast Club, a fundraiser that Dick Purtan puts on every year. And you know, I believed Jason. I think he really was grateful to me, and the others who helped Salvation Army meet their goals.
He told me that he always thanks his donors with a call or a written note of thanks. He told me about all the wonderful things Salvation Army does with our money. I was touched by his enthusiasm and his sincerity.
You can bet the NEXT time Jason contacts me I will be happy to talk to him again and to give to the Salvation Army. Why? Because, he took the time to begin building a relationship with me. He called simply to say thanks.
So, what can we learn from this charity and more importantly from Jason? Gratitude goes a long way to making your customer feel valued and important. I continually harp on the fact that your customers have an almost unlimited amount of choices on whom to give their money. The same is true for charities, especially in these tough times, charities have to compete for your money. Saying thanks, being truly grateful, goes a long way to creating the kind of relationship that makes your customer happy to do business with you.
Today, call your customer to just say thanks. Write them a personal note. Stop by their home and drop off a small token of your gratitude. Then let me know their reaction.
Also, if you can, give some money to the Salvation Army or the charity of your choice. The world will be a better place for it.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Prakash Sadagopan, Director of Product Strategy at Converges recently spoke at the OSS/BSS Asia Pacific Summit. His report was ground breaking. Through research he found that the customer’s experience was as important as the product being sold, and more important than brand or price.
So, what does that mean to you? If you are trying to compete as the lowest price competitor you may very well may be missing the mark. So many businesses try to compete with lower prices. If you are one of those lowest price competitors, my guess is that you have to trim expenses. Often, when trimming expenses the first thing that goes is trained , engaged employees. After all if you think that your customer just wants the lowest price why would you bother with having a full service staff. Instead you should consider ways to simplify services and processes.
Customers who are always looking for the lowest price are not loyal. They skip from one company to the next looking for the next best deal. To really build a business you need and want a customer base who is loyal to you. Those loyal customers form the backbone of a successful business, because they not only come back time and again, they tell their friends and family about you.
What do these potentially loyal customers want from you? According to Sadagopan, 64% of the customers want knowledgeable employees, who address their needs on the first contact and treats them like a valued customer.
He ends his presentation with four steps that you need to take to start building your loyal customer base.
1. Proactive Care actively seek out opportunities to help your customers
2. Lifetime value Use every contact to increase the value of your relationships
3. Agent efficiency Help your agents resolve customer issues quickly
4. Automation effectiveness Improve automation to the point where customers prefer it.
In future columns we will explore each of these steps. For now, look for ways to make your customers feel valued and respected by greeting them warmly the minute they walk in your door.
Monday, March 09, 2009
I just read an interesting article in the Bay City Times, about retailers in Bay City Michigan. I am sure you are aware of how tough things are in Michigan. But the retailers in this small town have figured out what to do to keep their customers. Not surprisingly, their secret is, as they say, "good old fashioned customer service and building relationships"
In the article, Susan Yaklin-Everson, a co-owner at Violets Blue, said that "she is going the extra mile on customer service." Water Front Market owner Greg Schultz said "he's surviving a tough economy by putting himself in the customer's shoes."
These simple ideas can make a huge difference in YOUR business. I recommend that you (or a friend or family member) pretend that they are a customer and try to do business with you. They should look at your policies and processes. Your phone system, can they get to who they need easily (no far cheating on this one?) Have them pretend that they don't have the secret direct number. Have them try to return something, or make an appointment or reservation.
Most businesses that I have worked with have found that they made it hard for their customers to do business with them, in one way or another. You might be surprised at how hard you have made it for your customers.
Do what they are doing with great success in Bay City, go back to providing good old fashioned customer service and start today.
Saturday, March 07, 2009
Okay, perhaps the better question is "Can you afford not to?
Recently, J.D. Power and Associates reported that exceptional service satisfaction enhances automotive dealer and manufacturer profitability by improving customer retention even as sales decline.
I have one comment on their finding. "Duh!"
OK, seriously, they are absolutely correct. NO business can afford to NOT provide exceptional service 100 % of the time.
You have experienced it yourself. You walk into a business, whether it is your physician’s office, a fast food franchise, a department store or the offices of a large corporation, and you are welcomed like a valued guest. The greeting you receive is warm, sincere and immediate. The rest of your experience is made better by this simple act. But, you have also experienced the completely opposite experience—probably more often. You walk in and you are treated badly or maybe worse—totally ignored. No matter how positive the rest of your experience with this business may be, you are much less likely to be a satisfied customer.
Great customer service has always been important. But, in these tough economic times, businesses can’t afford not to get their customer service absolutely right. And yet, more often than not, this best practice eludes most service providers.
An online survey showed that 77 percent of customers will never return to a business simply because of how they were greeted. Most of them leave without ever saying why. With that huge of a loss in business, it’s clear all businesses need to greet their customers properly.
Today, create goodwill and great experiences at your business by providing exceptional customer service. Write and share what you did.
Friday, February 13, 2009
There is something special that happens when someone takes the time to put pen to paper and leave a thank you for your kindness or business. I was recently a guest at Crowne Plaza in Philadelphia and I left a tip for the housekeeper. (Note: I really am a good hotel guest, I don't leave a mess and my towels are always hung up.) Even though I always leave a tip for the housekeeper something different happened. This time I got a note back from her. I was delighted.
By simply putting writing that note she created the begining of a relationship with me. Do you think I made sure I left another tip the next day? You betcha. I would guarantee that this woman receieves more tips than her counterparts.
But, unless you are in a similar position you might wonder how this might help you and your business. In March I blogged about a Dentist who used handwritten notes to help his business.
No matter what business you are in, your customer will notice when you take the time to write them a note. It doesn't matter if it is on the bottom of the invoice you send, a postcard, a thank you note or a letter. Just take the few extra seconds it takes to write a note.
We have become adept at using technology to communicate in a variety of ways. Twitter, Facebook, E-mails, IM's, text messages allow us to instantly communicate to our friends and our customers. That's great. Instant communication can keep our customers in the loop. But for making a real impact on our customer nothing can beat a handwritten note.
Write someone a note today. See what happens.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
In a comment on a recent post Mr Q stated "The standardized greeting is a nice idea, one from which many businesses could learn. The other element, of course, is HOW the greeting is delivered... is it forced or insincere? If so, the WHAT will be completely lost in the HOW. So, as with all good managers, the mayor and/or city council must pay attention in an ongoing fashion to both the message and the delivery."
It was such a great comment I decided to write more about it. MrQ is absolutely correct. The HOW the greeting is delivered is absolutely essential. The following is from my soon to be published book "The Greet Your Customer Manual"
The most important element of your greeting is your attitude. No matter how hard you try to fool people, a negative attitude will be apparent. You give it away through your facial expressions, body language and vocal tone. Sometimes you reveal a negative attitude through what you doan't say or do.
A good attitude is one that is appropriate for your position of business. Clearly a funeral director needs to project a more somber attitude then a balloon store clerk. But both should be connected to their customers and concerned with their needs. Yes even the balloon clerk.
For most businesses, a good attitude means that youa re positive and upbeat, but in a genuine way. A phony cheery greeting has never once been mistaken for a good attitude. You can't successfully paste an insincere smile on your face in order to mask your true feelings. ou need to smile warmly and show enthusiasm for your customers.
So check your attitude. How would you feel if you were greeted in a similar fashion to the way you are greeting your customers?
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Chet Phillips, Boardman Oregon's new mayor understands the importance of a great greeting.
In an article in the East Oregonian, Erin Mills reports about Phillips first city council meeting. At this meeting Phillips announced his "Welcome to Boardman" campaign. He has asked all business owners to greet every new customer with "Welcome to Boardman."
Having the entire city greet visitors with this very welcoming greeting will have many benefits for both the city and for the merchants. First of all it is a great way to brand the city. After a few experiences hearing "Welcome to Boardman" visitors will think "WOW! That is different!" and they will tell friends and family about how welcome they felt. The best form of advertising is always going to be word of mouth. I can imagine Boardman getting known from this simple step.
The other benefit is that it will encourage all businesses to offer a warm greeting. Too often businesses can forget this important step. We get busy or distracted and forget to just say
"Hi" or "thanks for coming in" or any other greeting that shows that you are grateful to have this customer choose you.
In my soon to be published book "The Greet Your Customer Manual" I talk about how to greet your customers in a way that makes them feel like valued guests. I am so glad that the Mayor see how important a greeting can be for businesses and cities.
Why not start greeting your customers so that they feel like they are important to you. Tell me ways that you greet your customers!
Sunday, January 11, 2009
It has been my believe that what customers really want is EASY. Make it easy for them to do business with you and you will have a customer for life. Even in tough economic times most people still value convenience over price.