Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

Archive for September, 2007

How Not to do Customer Service

Posted by Becky Carroll on September 27, 2007

grocery-store.jpg This week, I spoke on customer service tips and best practices at CasinoFest IV in San Diego with Phil Wesel of MEI.  We shared this fun “how not to do customer service” video with the audience, and it is great for a laugh.  The setting is a grocery store employee training friends on how to get out of work.

Please let me know how you like having videos like this here at Customers Rock!, and leave me a comment to tell me what you think.  Thanks!

(Photo credit: mikdam)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer service, Videos | Tagged: , | 6 Comments »

Customer Engagement Online

Posted by Becky Carroll on September 26, 2007

conversation.jpg I have talked with many companies who tell me they aren’t sure if they want to start an online conversation with their customers.  Cord Silverstein asks this question in his post Engage customers or die. He says,

Is it a good thing for companies to try to engage their customers online? Does the good outweigh the possible repercussions that could come from it? And finally what are some of your ideas on how companies can engage online with their customers?

Cord’s post and comments start a great discussion on this topic!  I think part of the concern companies have about engaging their customers in conversation online is that they have not already been engaging in ANY conversations with customers.  Rather, marketing and PR have often created one-way communication vehicles (advertisements, press releases, articles/white papers).  Ongoing, two-way interaction with customers is how we build customer relationships.  The online channel, ideally, is just one more channel by which to reach out and build relationships with customers.  It is a great channel to use because it enables immediate, two-way conversation!  Therefore, if your customers are interacting online, you need to be out there talking with them and learning from them in the online space.

With or Without You

Customers are having conversations about companies, with or without the company’s involvement with those discussions.  Someone in Cord’s comments suggested the way to engage with customers online is to have your PR department be new media-savvy and do the correspondence.  Having the PR person be the one to respond concerns me, as I believe customers are looking for authentic responses, not carefully crafted company statements. 

Creating a place on your own site, such as a blog, is a great way to keep the conversation in your backyard – as long as you allow comments and take the time to respond.  Southwest Airlines has done a good job of engaging with customers online, and they use their blog as a feedback channel for ideas, concerns, and questions.  Everyone at SWA takes the time to write and respond, including pilots and the CEO.  For example, their recent business decision on whether or not to assign seats was put to their customers in a few different blog posts; the most recent one elicited over 360 comments!

Check out Toby Bloomberg’s Diva Marketing blog or Mack Collier’s The Viral Garden for more on corporate blogging tips and best practices.

Conversation is Key to Customer Relationships

Think about it.  Can you get to know a new person you meet without having some kind of conversation?  Whether it be in person, over email, or on a Facebook wall, there has to be some type of interaction in order to progress the relationship.

Customer relationships are no different!  It is important to go where your customers are (be that online, at a retail store, in their own place of business), get to know them, find out their needs, and start doing something different based on what you learn.  Customer trust and relationships will build, and the best ones will lead to more customers as they tell others about you.

Start the conversation!

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer experience, Marketing, Voice of the customer | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

The Role of Marketing

Posted by Becky Carroll on September 20, 2007

megaphone-girl.jpg Marketing’s role in an organization is changing. It is no longer enough to push a product or service at a customer, thinking it will meet that customer’s need because they fit into a certain demographic. I may purchase a printer for my PC so I can print off email messages and documents; another person may purchase it to print their digital photos for a scrapbook.  Both of us are between the ages of 18-36 and have a good income plus a college education.  But that information is not enough to ascertain how that printer will be used.

Knowing which magazines I subscribe to, which TV shows I watch, and what kinds of products I purchase does not really tell you my story, either.  It is marketing’s role to truly understand the customer’s need from a psycho-graphic and behavioral aspect.  In order to do that, marketers are finding it necessary to view their company, its products and services, and even each place a customer touches that company from the customer’s perspective.   Only then can we begin to understand the underlying needs of a customer.

Becoming a Customer Needs Expert

Marketers can no longer solely rely on their previous methods to understand customer needs.  For example, focus groups will give us an idea of customer direction or a general understanding of behaviors, but we may not really understand what each customer segment needs without asking them.  Why is this customer purchasing a printer?  Have they ever purchased one before?  What would they say they need from a printer?  Better yet, what would they say they need to do with their computer?  How much of that would be facilitated by the printer?  Digging deeper into customer needs and behaviors is a new, yet critical marketing function that not many marketers are performing.

Marketing teams are becoming customer needs experts as part of their role in the new customer-centric business world.  It is imperative that companies work with marketing to put into place a repeatable system for collecting customer information, create a method for sharing that information throughout the organization, and finally, act on the information.  Learning from our customers, then doing something with what we learn, is a solid way to create a barrier to exit for our customers.  When we learn about our customer, then use that learning to do something different for that customer,  we have created a unique value proposition for them that our competitors can’t match.  This is because we now have customer insight that they don’t have.  When we continue to learn from each interaction, then change our behaviors to benefit our customer, we build a relationship with them, and ultimately, we build loyalty.

Gathering Info a Little at a Time

We can begin learning from our customers with each interaction they have with us, at any touch point.  When we remember and record those interactions, we can fill out the profiles we have on individual customers and share them with the rest of the organization.  The use of Web 2.0 techniques is a great way to have conversations with our customers in such a way that we can get immediate feedback from them on specific areas.  As we track these conversations with individuals over time and across our company, we begin to understand what they need from us. 

Growing the Business

As marketers begin to truly understand their customers’ needs, they can then create campaigns which are more relevant, more customized, and more likely to spur engagement with the brand.  This should result in increased action on the part of the customer. 

When the organization remembers the customer’s previous interactions and uses that corporate memory to improve the customer’s experience for the next time, trust is built with customers.  Trust, corporate memory, and relevant marketing are critical ingredients to building solid relationships with and getting loyalty from existing customers. 

And of course, growing business from existing customers is one of the most cost-effective approaches there is!

Posted in Customer experience | 3 Comments »

Customer service report card: car dealer service

Posted by Becky Carroll on September 18, 2007

experience-sign.jpg In last month’s BrandingWire installment, I discussed car dealers and the service experience.  This month, we had the opportunity to test the service department at the dealer where we just bought our new truck, and unfortunately, the dealership failed on most of the criteria for great customer service.

In the previous post, I mentioned the critical factors that J.D. Powers uses in their annual car dealer service satisfaction survey.  Those factors include the following: 

  • Service initiation
  • User-friendly service
  • Service delivery and quality
  • In-dealership experience. 

Let’s look at the service experience my husband just had and rate it against the J.D. Powers satisfaction criteria.

Problem: New truck (2 months old) had water leaking onto the floor mats on the passenger side (so much water that the floor mats were dripping wet and starting to smell bad).

Resolution: The air conditioning duct was plugged up; it was determined to have been delivered that way from the factory.  It was unplugged, and the water leakage stopped.  We asked to have the carpet and floor mat vacuumed to help get rid of the smell of mold and mildew.  The dealer refused.  We had to badger the service manager in order to get a fungicide applied to the carpet.

Service experience:

Service initiation – He pulled the truck into the service department at the designated time for an appointment.  No less than three service personnel walked by, yet no one acknowledged my husband.  He finally had to leave the vehicle and go into the service office in order to get attention. 

The experience in the office was no better, as no one had any record of the appointment (which had been made online on the dealer’s website).  He finally got the truck checked-in.

Improvement opportunity: When my husband arrived, he should have been immediately acknowledged, perhaps by signing a check-in list which indicated his previously-arranged appointment.  The internet appointment system should be coordinated with the service manager’s records or be discontinued.

User-friendly service -Multiple phone conversations to try and convince the dealership they should replace, or at least clean the wet and mildewed carpet and floor mats are not considered user-friendly.  Comment from the dealership when my husband first made this request: “I don’t smell any mildew.  We aren’t going to clean the carpet.” 

They finally cleaned the carpet and floor mat on the passenger side of the truck after much discussion.

Improvement opportunity: A customer just spent thousands of dollars to purchase a new vehicle at your dealership.   Interactions during early service appointments will set the stage for future interactions.  The time/cost to clean the carpet is negligible compared to the potential value of future service opportunities. 

Service Delivery and Quality – The problem was fixed, so this area seems acceptable.  Not a “wow”, but acceptable.

Improvement opportunity: Take a few moments to explain to the customer what the problem was and how it was resolved.   This helps build trust and confidence in the dealer’s service department.

In-Dealership Experience – The service department arranged to have the keys available inside the dealership for truck pick-up after the service department closed for the day.

The ultimate test, really, is whether we would bring the truck back to this dealership for service.  Since it is still under warranty, the answer is yes (we are hostage to the selling dealership until warranty expires).  Would we bring it back for post-warranty repairs?  This is where the dealer makes most of their service profit.  Answer: Probably not, as our first experience was very poor!  Here is the sentiment: If I’m going to get lousy service, I may as well get lousy service from my local mechanic, who charges less!

King for a Day

When we went into the dealership to buy the truck, we were treated like royalty.  We were offered sodas from the vending machine, fresh popcorn was popping and brought to us, the salesman was joking around with us and having fun.  The “guys in the white shirts and ties” were great.

The sales contract is signed.  The salesman promises to send us one of those really nice keychains labelled with the car brand.  We drive off the lot.

Dethroned

The keychain never arrived (we found out when we picked up the keys from service that the salesman left the dealership).  We are ignored in the service department, even though we have an appointment.  The service personnel seem more interested in saving money than in pleasing the customer.  The “guys in the coveralls” don’t seem to care about our business.

Service needs an extreme makeover.  They are often treated as second-class citizens inside of companies; it is any surprise they treat customers the same way?  This shouldn’t be the case!  Customer service is the face of the company to most customers.  It is the area where most customer-facing interactions take place.  It is time for companies to stop viewing it as a “cost of doing business” and instead, view it as a key to building strong customer relationships and, ultimately, referrals. 

Organizations that can take this long-term view will find themselves ahead of their competition, with customers who will be loyal for many years.

Posted in Customer experience, Customer service | 12 Comments »

The Becky Carroll Jingle

Posted by Becky Carroll on September 17, 2007

bigbizshow.jpg Here is something fun!  As many of my readers are aware, I am a weekly guest on the national business radio program The Big Biz Show.  I am on every Monday to discuss marketing and customer service topics, ranging from oil and gas prices to Carl’s Jr. ads.  I highly encourage any of you to go out, find your local affiliate for the program, and have a listen any weekday from 5-6pm Eastern time.

Well, the two hosts of the show, Bob “Sully” Sullivan and Russ Stolnack “Russ T Nailz”, decided to write a short “Becky Carroll” jingle about me, my business, and Customers Rock!  You can hear it at the end of this YouTube video.  Feel free to watch the antics of these two fun guys; fast forward to approximately the time :50 or so on the video to experience the jingle! 

The song was written and performed by Russ’s son Tyler, along with his cute Jack Russell you see on the couch in the video.  Thanks so much, guys!

(Note: If any of my readers can help me figure out how to pull out just the “jingle” from this video – I was sent the .avi file – I would much appreciate your assistance.)

Posted in Customer experience | 5 Comments »

Desperately Seeking Customer Feedback

Posted by Becky Carroll on September 14, 2007

all_ears.jpg  I applaud any company that seeks feedback from its customers.  It is becoming more and more common to see a receipt from a restaurant or retail store asking me to call and take a “short survey”.  Customer surveys and research have always played a role in business.  However, they are only effective if they are done right, from the customer’s perspective.

Feedback Forms

Paul Schwartz of Congruity has a great post on customer feedback forms.  He gives two examples of requests he recently received for customer feedback, one from Black and Decker, the other from Blockbuster.  These requests were either confusing (due to corporate lingo) or inaccurate (didn’t reflect the actual transaction).  Paul points out the need for quality control as he summarizes the post:

But please, make it easy for customers.  Speak in their language and be sure to have at least a few people test your feedback form and process from the customer’s point of view.

Phone Surveys

I had a similar experience yesterday afternoon with a phone survey.  As a marketer, I am always interested in how companies are running their surveys.  In this case, it was for an appliance manufacturer.  As the interviewer went through the questions, it was easily apparent that the sponsoring company had written the survey from their perspective.  Here is an example:

Interviewer: When you think of dishwashers, which brands do you think of?

Me: GE, Maytag, Kenmore.

Interviewer: For GE, which dishwasher brands come to mind?

Me: Dishwasher brands for GE???

As the survey continued, I learned the GE brands they were trying to inquire about had names like Monogram, Profile, and Triton.  As a consumer, I was not aware of those sub-brands.  I was barely aware of which kind of dishwasher I had (GE, Nautilus as it turns out!), as it was in the house when we bought it.  I was starting to feel a little bit uncomfortable.

I then had to go through an agonizing list with the interviewer of which magazines I read and which TV programs I watch (hint to marketers: this might be helpful for ad placement but doesn’t help you understand my needs, which is generally a more effective way to market to me).  My answers to 90% of the list of magazines was a NO (didn’t read them).  I was only able to say YES to one TV program he listed (Jeopardy, if you must know!).  It would have been easier for me to list which magazines I regularly subscribe to, and they could then be checked off the list.

Survey Results?

There is a strategy to creating surveys, especially phone surveys, so they are not leading the responder to answer in a certain way.  However, I am not sure how much this appliance company really learned about me from this survey, other than the fact that I don’t really know my GE sub-brands and I don’t watch much TV!  Testing the survey on a few different individuals might have helped streamline it a bit as well as provide ways it could be tweaked to be more customer-friendly.

Here are 6 tips for effective customer feedback gathering:

  • Make it easy to answer your survey.  If it is about a product I have already purchased, be clear as to which product that is (I may have many of your products, if all is well!).  If it is about a recent transaction, be as specific as possible about that transaction, to help jog my memory.  Above all, ask me as soon after the transaction as possible; if it has been more than a few days, I probably won’t remember well enough to make the survey worthwhile.
  • Use my language, not yours.  Please put the questions in language that I use rather than in your company’s lingo, if you want me to be able to answer them!
  • Don’t limit customer feedback to surveys.  Get out with your customers whenever possible, and talk to them in their own setting.  At HP, we used to do something called “Day in the Life”, where we would go out and videotape a customer going about their business for the day.  It would help us figure out how to fit in with their processes, rather than forcing them to fit in with us.  When you go out to be with customers in their own setting, be sure to listen more than you speak!
  • Follow customer conversations.  Go to the places online where your customers are talking about you and your company.  This could be in forums, blogs, Facebook, or other places such as the new service Satisfaction (which I have referenced before ; you can read more about their launch at Service Untitled).
  • Engage in ongoing conversations with your customers.  Each customer touchpoint, whether in customer service, marketing, or sales, should be part of an ongoing conversation with your customer.  Ideally, it will pick up where it left off last time (this requires you remember the customer!).  Each piece of the conversation helps to build a more solid picture of the customer, their needs, and their desires.
  • Get customer service involved!  They are usually the place where most customer conversation takes place.  Smart organizations realize this and ensure that customer service personnel are an integral part of planning customer marketing, as well as an input to product development.  They are your organization’s eyes and ears, and they hear more about the customer than most.  Their insight is valuable; don’t miss out on it!

Related post: Listening and learning

(Photo: stevecole)

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer experience, Customer service, Marketing | 7 Comments »

Tuesday Tidbits

Posted by Becky Carroll on September 11, 2007

global-hello.jpg Here are a few quick links to keep you busy today!

NextUp

Doug Meacham writes about improving the customer experience by improving the employee experience.  This is critical, as employees are the face of the company to the customer.  I like this part especially:

Companies invest every day in customer retention. What would happen if the big box or specialty retailer spent some of that $175 Million a year on employee retention? What if store managers could spend less time recruiting new employees and more time developing better relationships with the ones they have?

Thanks for the reminder about employees, Doug!  I just wish more companies were investing not only in employee retention but also in customer retention.

Flooring the Consumer

C.B. Whittemore has a great essay on what it means to meet, or miss, customer expectations.  Here is a snippet:

Nonetheless, high customer expectations separate mediocrity from greatness. They lead to loyalty and a strong likelihood of long term viability. They lead to satisfaction, which sure beats dissatisfaction!

Very thought-provoking piece, C.B.!

My 2 Cents

Finally, David Reich reminds us not to forget what happened on this day six years ago with a great photo on his blog.  Thanks, David.

Posted in Customer experience | 2 Comments »

It’s Cool to be a Geek

Posted by Becky Carroll on September 9, 2007

laptop-gold.jpg In this month’s installment of BrandingWire, the BrandingWire team focuses on a small IT services company.  Here is a snippet of this company’s cry for help:

Would you say branding coffee and shoes and beer and other “lifestyle” products is easier than branding… say, a small high tech services company? I’ve been working in marketing for this sort of company for a short while, and have found it to be quite a challenge to really get a grasp of our brand.

How can providing IT services be cool, let alone sexy? 

Background: This company is a small IT company based in Canada.  They offer IT services which range from proactive work, such as maintaining a network, emergency services (when things go down), and consulting services (various projects, such as help upgrading all office PCs to Macs).  They are also beginning to offer a new service called Green IT.  This service helps companies learn how to cut down on both energy use and waste through the optimization of IT. 

The company asked for BrandingWire’s assistance in two key areas:

  1. Ideas to get current clients to see them as more than just “fix-it” services, perhaps even partners for business.
  2. Ideas to help bring in new clients who already understand the value of IT services and who will choose them over competitors.

(Note: You can find the full branding brief at BrandingWire.)

Branding Services

Branding and marketing services can be difficult, as the buyer doesn’t have a product to touch or to see.  IT services in particular are somewhat complex and difficult to explain.  Most aspects of IT services can only be assessed after the service has been performed, and even then, explaining what was fixed may not be straightforward.

Let’s go back to one important aspect of branding for a minute: associations.  I like the way it was described in this post from CIO Magazine about branding IT departments internally:

When automakers brand their product, they’re hoping to sell fun, sex and adventure, along with their cars. Similarly, if your end users’ only image of your IT staff is as the people to call when their printer isn’t working, then they’re not thinking of you to help solve strategic business problems.

For a long time, IT services have been viewed as a necessary evil rather than as a key component of successful business.  Companies see IT services as a place to go get help when something breaks with their computers or systems.  Sometimes the IT services professional is seen as just a part of the facilities – no different from the electrician or telephone guy.

Helping Customers See the Light

There is a lot of potential for marketing and branding this Canadian IT services company.   I would recommend focusing first on existing customers and their needs.  

Understand your customers’ needs and pain points.  Which part of their operations are critical?  Which depend on IT being available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?  How many minutes of system down-time can be tolerated, if any?  Where could an improvement in IT make their operations more efficient?  Once these needs are understood, it is easier to frame the IT services offerings in the context of the business needs.

Take out the jargon.  Explain it simply. Enough said.

Tie results to business goals.  Rather than a report card of each minute served on the customer’s behalf, tie it back to their business issues and goals.  How does each service help them achieve their end goals (which you now understand from your customer needs research)?  Put yourself in their shoes as you write your annual report card, and then present it personally if possible.  You will appear to be more of a partner than a “service provider”.

Go for the Green.  Introducing “Green IT” to existing customers is a strong cross-sell for two reasons.  First, it is a great way for customers who want to be seen as part of something larger than just IT.  Green IT can help customers meet their stated/unstated goals of social responsibility, which is becoming very popular in the business world. 

Second, the understanding of the total cost of owning and operating a company’s technology (called Total Cost of Ownership or TCO) may get organizations to start thinking about energy consumption differently.  This is a good conversation to have with a company’s CFO or CEO.  Getting in at this level will also begin to raise the visibility of IT services, and discussions can start on the strategic nature of IT services (rather than just being “fix-it” services).

Make sure you have the right customers.  If some of your customers will never see you as anything more than emergency, fix-it now services, you may want to reconsider keeping them as customers.  If they are willing to pay the fees for this type of service and are satisfied, keep them – and see if you can grow to be a trusted advisor over time.  If there is a lot of complaining and grumbling when the bill arrives, and there is not a chance they will ever “see the light”, you might suggest they go with one of your competitors.  This strategy is not for the faint, but by aligning yourself with customers who value your services, you enable potential referrals to the right kind of customers in the future.

Grow the Business

Once you have focused on existing customers in this manner, you should be growing some true evangelists for your company.  Enlist them to help you bring in new, like-minded clients through referrals.  This could be done through an official referral program or by engaging them in relationship-building conversations such as a blog about your services, with some of  your best customers as guest authors.

You should also have a pretty good idea what your ideal customer looks and acts like by now.  Go out and prospect in the areas where you can find more customers like them! 

IT is Critical

Keep it as simple as possible.  Thanks go to Paul Wallis at CIO Magazine for a thought-provoking piece on his blog; the post is entitled IT Exists for One Reason.  This almost makes it cool to be an IT geek!  An excerpt is below:

Data flow is critical today

Today, business resources and IT assets are either providers of data, consumers of data or provide the conduit through which the data can flow.

The flow of data between business assets is the life-blood of every modern organisation.

People provide and consume data daily, as do applications and systems. Hardware and cables act as conduits through which data flows: between desks, through office and corporate networks, across the internet, through deep sea cables and via satellites.

Across all businesses, the equivalents of the pipes, valves, pumps, meters and sensors of the oil and gas industry are the people, hubs, cables, routers, servers, and desktops through which data flows.

Data flow is at the heart of 21st century business. Supporting, processing and optimising the flow of data are critical to maximising business performance.

The sole reason for IT’s existence is to manage the flow of data.

Get more high-voltage ideas at BrandingWire. 

Our posse of authors include the following regular contributors:

Martin Jelsema

Lewis Green

Kevin Dugan

Valeria Maltoni

Steve Woodruff

Drew McLellan

Patrick Schaber

Derrick Daye

Gavin Heaton

Olivier Blanchard

This month, we have three guest authors as well!  They are the following bloggers:

Matt Dickman

Chris Brown

Cam Beck

(Photo credit: LuMaxArt2D)

Posted in B2B Marketing, BrandingWire, Customer experience, Customer service, Marketing, Technical support | 7 Comments »

More little things that make a difference

Posted by Becky Carroll on September 6, 2007

coffee.jpg It is so important to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers.  How do they feel when something doesn’t go as planned?  What can we do to make it better?

I have seen two different occurrences of random acts of kindness by retail employees recently.  Both were in the food business: Starbucks and Baskin-Robbins.  They both addressed recovery from food spills. 

Good Stories

At my local Baskin-Robbins, a little girl took one lick of her ice cream cone, and it fell on the floor (note to parents: getting ice cream put into a cup, with a cone on top, helps prevent this!).  The mom asked the gal behind the counter for a new cone, which she gave the little girl at no charge.

At one of my local Starbucks, a woman had been doing some work on her laptop at the nice workstation set-up at the store.  It consists of a long table with a power-strip set on top at one end.  As she reached across to unplug her laptop, the woman spilled all of her coffee onto the table!  (Fortunately, the laptop itself was already put away.)  A Starbucks employee came over with a towel to help her mop up and offered her a new cup of coffee, on the house.  Embarassed but pleased, the woman accepted the offer.

Are the Little Things Enough?

I like the Starbucks story better.  Why?  The employee proactively offered the replacement food.  Although the Baskin-Robbins employee did the right thing, I can’t imagine someone turning down a little girl who dropped her ice cream if the mom asked for a new one.  Kudos to both stores for hiring the right kind of employees – those that are customer focused.

It takes more than these random acts of good customer service to become a customer-focused company.  Customer service needs to be proactively planned, with contingencies for issues and empowerment to employees to make it right.  This kind of “customer strategy” is just as, if not more powerful than, any marketing or product strategy your company may already have in place.

A Sad Story 

To see an example of an employee/company who got it wrong, see Peter Kim’s story of his recent cable company interaction.  Upselling when there is a problem is a no-no!  See the comments on his post for my take on how they could have done a better job.

Putting yourself in your customer’s shoes is one step towards crafting an effective customer experience.  The coordination of marketing, customer service, and sales into one cohesive experience is where the fun, and the hard work, begins!

(Photo: alxm)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer service | 1 Comment »

Chipotle Rocks with an Eye on Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on September 5, 2007

chipotle.jpg I love it when companies put themselves in their customers’ shoes.  Chipotle Mexican Grill has a flexible approach that helps them meet the needs of their customers in a very cost-effective manner.

I recently tried Chipotle for the first time.  Chipotle is a fast food restaurant using gourmet ingredients to create a delicious meal.  They serve up what they call “food with integrity”.  Per their website,

“It’s a philosophy that we can always do better in terms of the food we buy. And when we say better, we mean better in every sense of the word- better tasting, coming from better sources, better for the environment, better for the animals, and better for the farmers who raise the animals and grow the produce.”

Fast Food?? 

When someone goes out to a restaurant to eat lunch or dinner at a “fast food” restaurant, they have certain needs (which aren’t usually met, by the way!).  These include freshness of food (should be maximized), wait time for food (should be minimized), ability to place “special orders”, and something the kids will eat!  Let’s look at how Chipotle looks at this part of the customer experience.

The food is very fresh, and it is definitely a “have it your way” kind of place.  They offer a limited number of items on their menu, and you can then pick and choose what kind of meat, veggies, sauces, and other items you want to add to your burrito/taco/salad.  You do this in a very easy way – by going down the line of ingredients and telling the server what you want put in your burrito, and how much of each ingredient you want.  This makes it very cost effective for Chipotle, as well as quick for the customer (no more long waits for “special orders”).  It is great for customer satisfaction!

By using this type of approach, one can also have their food made fresh, on the spot.  No more eating a burrito that has been sitting under the heat lamps.

Parents’ Menu

Another advantage of this “build it yourself” approach is the ability to cater to kids.  Chipotle doesn’t have a kids menu but has what they call a “parents’ menu”.  This works because it is easy for Chipotle to put together whatever looks good to your kids!  They just go down the ordering line and say what they want or don’t want.  Chipotle does list a few ideas on the slip of paper which is the parents’ menu.  It also has an official heat guide to the salsas and meats they offer (“kid-approved by Evan Tarry, age 9″).  Way to go!

Word of Mouth Marketing

When Chipotle first opened in Denver in 1993, they didn’t have a lot of money to spend on marketing.  Owner and Steve Ells decided to give away burritos to attract customers (it worked!).  Chipotle still uses this technique to great effect.  According to this Business Week article, when Chipotle opened a store in midtown Manhattan last summer, they gave away 6,000 burritos at a cost of $35,000.  They now had 6,000 new evangelists gained at a much cheaper cost than taking out an article in The New York Times

In fact, Chipotle spends less on advertising per year than McDonald’s does in 48 hours.  They want their customers to spread the news about the restaurant in order to build trust.  (Thanks to Womnibus Blog for the article tip!)  There is also a fan-based blog called Chipotle Log (a blog with multiple contributors) with cool Chipotle tidbits.  I especially liked this 2-part post of an interview with a Chipotle employee, now a college student, who has his own blog Chipotle Star.  

Improvement Area

One area where Chipotle could improve is customer conversation.  They have a place on their website called Speak, where you can send in comments.  I sent one in asking to speak with someone about writing this post.  The initial response was very slow, and I was pointed to someone but never heard back from that person. 

Asking for customer feeback is a good start.  Chipotle has a great opportunity to continue the buzz from their word-of-mouth marketing by engaging in ongoing customer conversations.  I hope they consider it!  (Are you listening, Chipotle?)

Customers Rock!

Chipotle is tuned in to their customers in many ways.  They have been able to take the fast food concept and turn it into something delicious and even somewhat meaningful.  They have created a large fan base through their word of mouth marketing campaigns.  They have delivered a fun, festive dining experience at their restaurants with original artwork, cool surroundings, and eclectic music (which can be streamed from their website).  Chipotle seems to be a Customers Rock! company. 

I look forward to hearing from someone at their Corporate offices to see how they are supporting that concept internally; of course, I will write about that if/when I learn more.

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customer service, Customers Rock!, Marketing | 4 Comments »

 
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