Customers Rock!

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

Archive for the ‘Customer experience’ Category

Guest Blogger: Esteban Kolsky on Customer Service and Email

Posted by Becky Carroll on August 18, 2008

Today we have a special guest with us, Esteban Kolsky.  Esteban is a VP at KANA where he is very focused on great customer experiences, especially in the area of customer service.  He is also an active commenter here on Customers Rock!, so please welcome him and enjoy the post!

Five Winning Strategies to Excel at Customer Service via Email

Back in the “early” days of the internet (read 1990s) we all thought that email was going to revolutionize the way we do customer service.  Customers were going to send us all their questions and inquiries via email, which in turn was going to be answered within a few minutes – either automatically through a software package or manually by knowledgebase-assisted engineers. This setup was going to do away with the need to use telephones and call centers (after all, emails can be answered from anywhere), and reduce the cost for customer service.

Fast forward 15-20 years and it seems to be not where we thought it would be.  Alas, we did try using email as much as possible yet the results were not as expected: automation was harder than we expected, customers did not like the speed of response (which was down to days in some cases, and non-existent in others), and transactions completed via email were not similar to transactions completed via the phone.  This slow realization of the problems of using email for customer service made the adoption slow down almost to a trickle – pushing customer service automation via email to the point of extinction.

So where are we today?  After 2-3 years of very painful experimentation and working in the lab, we are beginning to discover how to use email properly for customer service.  There are over two dozen best practices and lessons learned that anyone starting to implement email for customer service would do well to read and understand before starting.  However, the following five are the top sure-fire ways to get customer service email to work well in your organization:

1. Classification – customers tend to ramble in free-form emails, posing questions somewhere in the middle of long sentences or paragraphs. That makes it almost impossible for parsing engines to identify the inquiry within the email. Eliminate free-form emails in favor of web-based forms with drop-down menus to allow customers to send emails. You can create a unique answer for each unique combination possible, or a workflow to gather more information or open a ticket if needed. Knowing what customers are asking, what are the variables or terms more often used also assist in improving the knowledge-base.

2. Automation – customer service emails, as with phone-based inquiries, follow an 80-20 rule: 80 percent of the questions can be answered with 20% of the content available. However, with the constraints of email as a communication medium (complex, oddly-written messages, lack of interactivity for clarification or expansion of data), the 20% gets reduced very rapidly to around 5% of content that can be properly expressed through email. Alas, still it can answer a large number of incoming interactions automatically, greatly reducing the dependency on agents to answer those emails, and improving the speed of response for customers. Identifying that 5% of content and questions, creating the specific rules and deploying it can greatly improve the experience for customers, and create a fertile lab for organizations to discover more and more interactions that can be automated.

3. Integration – the best way to add value to an email response is to provide the customer with personalized, custom information that matches the customer intent when writing in. If they want to know the status of their order, don’t send them a link to the page where they can get it – send them the information. This is impossible to do unless the ERMS and the data stores and applications are integrated. In some cases, this integration is done directly and the data flows are controlled via business rules. In others, the integration happens through an existing application feeding data back to the ERMS. In either situation, the customer feels as if the system has been custom-made for their needs increasing satisfaction.

4. Maintenance – the quintessential secret to having a powerful customer service solution via email is the maintenance of the solution. This is nothing new; we learned how to do this while deploying our knowledge management solutions. Yet, email has a complicated set of business rules and workflows that must be maintained. Even if you support a centralized model for knowledge management, the email-specific components still carry a heavy load of maintenance. You could streamline the maintenance by deploying a centralized rules server across channels. Alas, as it is with knowledge, business rules and workflows get outdated as soon as they are deployed – making maintenance THE way to manage the content properly. The mid-life of an improperly maintained ERMS is very short, usually not passing a couple of months before customers stop using due to poor results.

5. Marketing – similarly, marketing is the secret to growing the adoption of email among your customers and within your organization. Customers don’t know you offer a specific solution unless you tell them about it, and they understand the benefits they can get out of it. Your organization does not understand the great job your email solution has done for you unless you tell them about it. Advertise your solution. Extol its benefits. Announce the availability of new and upgraded features. Create a killer marketing plan, target the right people to know about it, and distribute the information.

Where are you with the use of email in your organization?  Are you an early and satisfied adopter? Or are you intrigued by the promise?

About the Author

Esteban Kolsky has over 20 years of customer service, market research, and technology experience. As Vice President and Practice Leader for KANA,  Mr. Kolsky delivers strategic consulting, systems integration and managed services programs designed to help KANA customers deliver exceptional service experiences. Prior to joining KANA Software Mr. Kolsky was with Gartner where he built and managed both the eService and Enterprise Feedback Management practices. He has been featured in television and radio, and quoted in over 400 publications around the globe as an industry watcher and commentator.

(Photo credit: © Yannis Ntousiopoulos | Dreamstime.com)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer service, Customer strategy, Guest bloggers | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Ikea Rocks with its Retail Customer Experience

Posted by Becky Carroll on August 9, 2008

In the current economy, consumers are holding on to their money more tightly and making hard choices about if, and where, to spend it.  Having a great customer experience greatly increases the chances that a) customers will come back to shop there again and b) they will tell their friends and family about how great it was!   Word of mouth is very powerful marketing; studies show that consumers trust friend recommendations more than information from vendors.

Ikea is one of those stores with a great shopping experience that evokes word of mouth.  In addition to the fun one can have by sitting on all those couches or envisioning how that bedroom would look in your own house, Ikea does things to make a difference even to the smallest customers.

Ikea has a play area for the littlest ones, where they can romp while their parents are enjoying the shopping.  However, Ikea actually encourages families to bring their children with them through the showroom experience, starting right from the entrance.  At our local Ikea store, a staircase leads shoppers up to the showroom floor.  I was very impressed when I noticed they had put in a hand rail at kid-level, just right for those youngsters to hold onto while navigating the steps (see photo).  The sign on the hand rail says the following:

“We care about the little ones, too.  Look for the hand rails mounted lower, specially for your children.”

This does two things for the customer.  One, the rail itself helps the kiddos feel like grown-ups (look, Mom, I can reach the hand rail!).  Two, it specifically tells customers that Ikea has thought about their experience in advance and has done something to make it better.

Understanding Customers

Whether your customers are consumers or businesses, having a solid understanding of them makes all the difference in the sales and marketing process.  How do your customers shop your business?  What would make it easier to buy from you?  Craft your own customer buying experience around the answers to those questions, and you will find an increase in not only sales, but also in new customers as the word spreads that you are a fabulous place to meet their needs.

For more great insight into the retail customer experience, see the these smart blogs: Doug Fleener’s Retail Contrarian, CB Whittemore’s Flooring the Consumer, Stephanie Weaver’s Experienceology.

(Photo credit top: rmarmion; photo credit bottom: bcarroll)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer strategy, Customers Rock!, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Rockin’ Customer Feedback: SuggestionBox.com

Posted by Becky Carroll on August 4, 2008

There are many, many times here at Customers Rock! where I highly recommend that companies listen to their customers as often as possible.  The best way is to take note of the verbatim words customers use, rather than read from aggregated “survey results”.  This becomes even more important as organizations try to decide the best way to implement social media marketing tools.

I had the opportunity to spend some time with BJ Cook, CMO of SuggestionBox.com (they are based very close to where I am!).  SuggestionBox.com is a place where customers can easily send ideas, complaints, or feedback to companies via the web.  Customers can then sign up to track those ideas, while companies can respond and connect directly with customers.  This is a very cool and easy way to not only listen to customers but also show them you are taking action! 

I asked BJ to share with my readers a little bit about SuggestionBox and how other companies can improve their customer listening plans.  Enjoy!

Interview with BJ Cook of SuggestionBox

Becky: Tell us how the idea for SuggestionBox came about.  And why now?

BJ: SuggestionBox is the result of an online search for a place where our founder, Jeff Whitton, could leave feedback for a company he had an experience with. He couldn’t believe that a Google search for “suggestionbox” would take him to a parked domain. So the light bulb went off and he had a vision for the place that you could submit your ideas to any company around the world and then track them. Think of it as your own Idea portfolio and communication tool for all of the companies you interact with each day. For companies it would be a place to capture feedback, connect with customers and build better relationships. Right now as a customer you’re presented with 6 page surveys, URLs’ on receipts, online surveys and other ways that are intrusive and force you into answering questions that may not be relevant to the experience you just had with that company. So enter SuggestionBox. We’ve simplified the feedback process, by focusing on the field in the feedback form that means the most to the customer; the open textbox. This is what can we improve and why? The company wants to know what and the customer may want to give them some of the background on their suggestion. That’s all. This keeps the incoming feedback focused for companies to easily categorize it and open enough for customers to feel like they can share their story.

Becky: The economy right now is difficult for many.  How can SuggestionBox help companies weather the storm?

BJ: With the state of customer satisfaction and being in an economic downturn, placing emphasis on your customers is crucial. SuggestionBox is that bridge between a company and its customers. We want to be the tool that helps you Build Better Relationships with ____. The reason there’s a blank is that feedback and ideas go beyond your internal and external customers. The blank can be vendors, partners, investors, friends, family and so on. It’s a relationship building tool that just so happens to be able to make capturing insights simple and responding to those Suggesters efficient. Focusing on your existing community and asking them what you can improve lets them know you’re listening and you care. What’s better than feeling like it’s a two-way street? What’s even better is that you can avoid missed opportunities by having a tool setup to listen and be able to get back in touch to support goals like loyalty, retention and word of mouth. SuggestionBox gives companies, nonprofits and events a way to respond to people, keep them in the loop and directly have a positive effect on multiple areas of their business like sales, marketing, customer service, PR and even HR.

Becky: How would you suggest that a company/organization fit SuggestionBox into their existing customer listening plans?

BJ: Depending on what stage a company is in with their current customer listening plans, SuggestionBox can be a value-add tool if you’re just starting out or are already using forums, online surveys, focus groups or your blog. The thing to keep in mind is the communication benefits of “keeping people in the loop”. I’d like to cite a line from the book Raving Fans:

“Listening to customers is powerful, responding to them is dynamite.”

There are so many tools out there to listen to customers, but how many of those tools are just one-way? If you’re given the ability to let a customer know 1 month, 6 months or 2 years out that their idea was actually implemented, you may have them for life - and their kids and their kids. The relationship and bond that is created at this level can last through generations. By changing the current expectation, that I’m going to submit this piece of paper or email to this company knowing they won’t respond, can be the spark you need to becoming dynamite.

Becky: Are you using social media to help promote SuggestionBox, and if so, how?

BJ: Yes. It’s all top secret. I would say that SuggestionBox falls into the whole social media realm. We’re essentially helping companies and brands create online customer communities that they can then engage and communicate with. We are heavy users of community-based platforms like Twitter, Facebook, 12seconds and others. We’ve found that by really embedding our team in various conversations around customer feedback, customer relationships, social media marketing, we begin to build these relationships and lifelines with real people. By focusing on reaching into these various communities, we’ve met some amazing people who not only share their insights with us, but we’re able to share and add value as well. It’s taking the time to really engage with each community that’s so important about social media. I would say that the community is helping us to shape our company from the product roadmap to our outreach to even our hiring. The idea of being social plays a part in every role in our organization and something that we’re all passionate about. SuggestionBox is being defined by our community of Suggesters and customers.

Becky: Anything else you want to share with the readers of Customers Rock!  ?

BJ: With so many great tools out there in this space, you need to start off by asking yourself, “Is our organization customer-centric?” And then evaluate each area of your business to see if that is really being applied from a holistic point of view. Then go out and choose the tool or tools to show customers you’re listening.

Think about all of the businesses you interact with each day and when you have an idea, come see if they are on SuggestionBox. If they are not, you can create their SuggestionBox page simply by being the first to suggest.  We also love feedback, so submit away!

Becky: Thanks, BJ!

To my readers – You can set up an account on SuggestionBox.com for free and submit ideas to any company; SuggestionBox will deliver them for you!  BJ has also set up a code (twomos) where you can get a complimentary two months of a corporate SuggestionBox.  You might want to give it a try and see how you and your customers like it.  Here are some companies that are doing it already: TurboTax (part of Intuit), Southwest Airlines, Addison Avenue Credit UnionTrackur, and Zappos (among many others). 

Look for one here at Customers Rock! soon, too.  I would love to get your suggestions, in addition to your comments!

Posted in Customer experience, Customer service, Voice of the customer | Tagged: , , , , | 9 Comments »

Re-Experience Starbucks, Update 9: Customer Loyalty

Posted by Becky Carroll on July 29, 2008

Part 9 of the ongoing ReExperience Starbucks project with Jay Ehret from The Marketing SpotDon’t forget our survey, which is still open, at the end of the post. Please tell us what you think about the changes at Starbucks!

How does Starbucks create customer loyalty?  John Moore at BrandAutopsy said this a few years back:

“For years, Starbucks Coffee has used high-touch methods to build and maintain a loyal customer base. In his book, “Pour Your Heart in It,” Howard Schultz, in supremely succinct fashion said, “If we greet customers, exchange a few words with them and then custom-make a drink exactly to their taste, they will be eager to come back.” That is the true description of a high-touch way retailers can connect with customers to build enduring loyalty.

John was writing this post to contrast the approach of high-tech methods of building loyalty with high-touch methods of building loyalty.  Which approach is Starbucks using today?  Let’s look at what they have been doing lately to improve customer loyalty and the customer experience.

Customer Service

Starbucks closed all of their US-based stores for a few hours earlier this year to conduct partner (employee) training.  Right after the training, it was observed that Starbucks partners were making it a point of asking for customer names again (something they had moved away from) when taking drink orders. They also seemed pretty cheerful and upbeat.

Fast-forward to July 2008.  At my most recent experience in a Starbucks I regularly frequent, there was no recognition or asking for names.  My mother-in-law was with me, and she pointed out how “grumpy” one of the partners seemed to be.  I had noticed this before with the same person.  I did notice signs on the wall, directed at partners, which pointed out how to manage fresh bananas (a key ingredient in their new Vivanno smoothies).  

I have also noticed a quieter, more subdued attitude from employees at other Starbucks I have been to lately (including my most commonly visited store near my house).  I wonder if a combination of store closing news and the introduction of new, time-consuming drinks has weighed-down our barista friends.

Customers Rock! Take: Keep focusing on your employees, especially when things are difficult.  They are your brand ambassadors to the outside world.  Customers will notice the change in customer service right away!

New outside seating!

New outside seating!

Customer Experience

 

 

 

 

 

I am not sure if this is happening at other Starbucks, but one of our local stores has put in nice, comfy seating – outdoors!  Now if they can just 1) keep the tables cleared of trash and 2) put some more cushioned chairs inside, we might have a winner.  (Note – that is my Passion Iced Tea on the arm of the chair…)

 

Introducing… New Products

Starbucks has really been focusing on the introduction of new products in their stores these past few months.  First came Pike’s Place Roast, a new blend of coffee meant to hearken back to early days when Starbucks was a true coffee experience.  Although it has had mixed reviews, the idea of grinding in the store has helped boost the coffee aroma (which was sorely missing before).

Most recently has come Vivanno smoothies (mentioned earlier), the Orange-Mango Banana and the Banana Chocolate.  These two new smoothies are high in protein and fiber, and not horrible with respect to calories (compared to the Frappuccino).   Reviews of the Vivanno so far have been mixed.  One interesting thing I noticed in the comments to the blog post Starbucks’ Vivanno vs Jamba Juice was how customers felt like it was out of place to order “smoothies” at a coffee store!  Others who are comfortable with the use of protein powders really seemed to like these drinks (see comments in this BusinessWeek post on Vivanno).  Personally, I would rather stick with my iced tea and get smoothies somewhere else.

Customers Rock! Take: The Pike’s Place Roast has been a good way to try and re-focus on being a coffee store.  It still needs some work, but they are on the right track.  The smoothies are a good option for someone coming to Starbucks looking for something nutritious to drink.  However, is this really why people come to Starbucks? 

Does It Make a Difference?

Here are the real questions to be answered.  Do these new smoothies help Starbucks get back to the “third place” experience?  Does the Pikes Place Roast bring in new customers?  Does the Starbucks Loyalty Card bring back loyal customers?  So far, the reviews are conflicting.  It takes more than new drinks, free WiFi, and comfy chairs to retain customers.  It is not just about high-tech vs high-touch approaches.  It takes building relationships, one customer at a time. 

Starbucks has the opportunity to do so through many channels, both high-tech and high-touch: the daily interactions with customers, the registered Starbucks Reward cards (they have yet to try to interact with me, and I have three cards registered), and their site MyStarbucksIdea (which is heading in the right direction but lacks a true dialogue between customers and partners).   However, it just hasn’t really happened yet.

Starbucks, I would like to see you be successful in re-inventing yourselves through the customer experience.  It would set new standards for other companies who know they should be more customer-focused.  It would make your existing customers happier.  It would help insulate you from your competition, and they are charging up fast. 

There is just one thing you still need to do: look at your stores truly from the customers’ perspective.

What do you think?  Fill Out Our Survey!

Jay and I have put together a short survey to see what you, our readers, think about Starbucks and its “re-Experience” project.  Please take just a minute to click on this survey link and fill it out.  You could even win, what else, a gift card to Starbucks!  We will be report results on our blogs shortly.

(Photo credit: TAlex)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customer service, Starbucks Project | Tagged: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Is Retail Customer-Focused?

Posted by Becky Carroll on July 24, 2008

I heard a very interesting observation from a 14 year old young man the other day.

Why don’t they sell swim trunks in July?  That’s when I need them.  Seems like stores aren’t very focused on what their customers need!”

Now, I know all you folks out there in retail-land have your reasons for why this occurs.  Seasons for the industry are not the same as the seasons for consumers.  Inventory needs to be cleared out for next season’s merchandise.  I am sure you can share more.

However, let’s look at this from a customer’s perspective.  It took driving to 6 stores and over 50 miles (total) to find a pair of swim trunks that fit.  This is due to the fact that most swim trunks are no longer in stock.  If we had wanted to find a winter outfit, or something for back-to-school, we would have been set!

Putting Customers First

There needs to be some type of balance between the needs of the business and the needs of the customer.  Sure, it is difficult when a whole industry is set up to operate on a certain schedule.  However, our next generation is looking for a new, practical approach to business.  They want to feel important, like they matter to companies.  This will be key in building relationships with them.

We can build all the cool social media sites we want, connect with our customers on Facebook and MySpace, and even get them to spread our message virally.  But if they come into our shops and retail spaces and we don’t have what they need, that creates shaky ground for any relationship already built. 

Organizations need to stay in tune with what their customers need, want, and desire.  One of the best ways to do this is with ongoing customer conversation.  Keep in touch, remind them you are there, and meet their needs.  These steps will help strengthen any shaky foundations that may have developed due to thinking more about ourselves than our customers.

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Marketing | Tagged: , , | 7 Comments »

Who Speaks Louder: Marketing or Customer Service?

Posted by Becky Carroll on July 15, 2008

Overheard the other day from a cashier at my local grocery store (a large chain, by the way): “Can I get a bagger over here?  You aren’t paying me enough to have me bag the groceries, too!”  I heard this as I was coming up to the check-out counter with my purchases (which were only a few items).

Wow, what does that do to the brand’s marketing messages?

The issue here is this: the customer doesn’t differentiate between what marketing is saying and what they hear from customer service personnel.  All messages, regardless of medium or origin, add up to communicate the brand’s image to the customer.  Yet too often, marketing and customer service are managed separately in a company or organization, they don’t speak to each other, and they don’t have common metrics (you know, those things that drive the behaviors?).

When we look at it from the company’s perspective, we see silo-thinking, each department focused on their own area.  When we look at it from the customer’s perspective, what do we see?  One brand, with everyone working together for a great customer experience?  Or many experiences, looking like many brands, with the experience differing based on how customer service personnel are asked to behave?

Customers Rock! was started to focus on highlighting companies that understand these concepts.  Customers Rock! doesn’t mean the customer is always right.  It means we should view our customers as one of the most important assets that we have; therefore, we should plan each step of how we are going to get, keep, and grow these assets.

Who is speaking more loudly to customers at your organization?  Do you need to bring those messages into alignment?  What do customers think about your brand, from all perspectives?  These are critical questions to answer as companies consider how to weather the current economic storms.

“The relationship that is formed when marketing and customer service meet is like saying that you’re making good on your promises.”  Meikah

Posted in Customer experience, Customer service, Customer strategy, Marketing | Tagged: , , , | 8 Comments »

Teaching Social Media

Posted by Becky Carroll on July 11, 2008

As the astute reader will have noticed, I recently began teaching at University of California San Diego Extension.  I am teaching the class Marketing via New Media.  So far, it is very interesting to hear what the students think about social media, how they view it with a fresh set of eyes, and what the perspective is around the world (several of the students are international).  

In the first class, we discussed what social media is, what it could mean to companies, and what the potential pitfalls could be.  We have had some great debates in class, and through the assignments, about what social media can, and cannot, accomplish.

I decided to start up another blog, Teaching Social Media, to chronicle the experience of teaching this class, in the hopes that others who also teach could learn something from my journey.  I am also using the new blog as a method to communicate with my students, and they with me.  For example, I gave them a homework assignment to create a blog, and I am including their student blogs in my blogroll at the new blog.

I am still going to continue with Customers Rock!, so don’t worry.  There will just be another place to find me if you want to hear more about social media from the student (and teacher) perspective.  Come check it out!

On another note, I have joined Plurk.  Here is my Plurk, and here is my Twitter (for those who prefer the latter).

(Photo credit:kjpargeter)

Posted in Customer experience, social media | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Tell 3000: The Voice of the Customer

Posted by Becky Carroll on July 9, 2008

I always encourage my clients to listen to their customers using a variety of mechanisms.  One of the best ways, however, is to listen to or read customer verbatims.  In other words, listen to customers tell stories about your company in their own words.

So of course, I am very interested in this new project put together by Pete Blackshaw.  He is doing it to help promote his new book, “Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000″.  Over at his book’s blog, you can find a series he is starting up showcasing consumer interviews .  These feature various consumers talking about both good and bad experiences from companies.  I listened in on a few, and here is a line I liked from a recent consumer interview about Southwest Airlines.  Mike, the consumer, said this about one of the reasons he likes Southwest:  I feel as though they see me as a person, not just as a ticket and a way to make cash.  Prompted by the interviewer, Mike then goes on to share a story about a Southwest employee that went out of her way to help him feel better about a certain situation at the airport.

Pete, this is a great idea!  I would love to see this sorted by good vs bad experiences, as you are doing with your feedback.  We all need to hear more good experiences -that’s why this blog was started over 1.5 years ago!

Check it out, and let Pete know what you think (and tell him I sent ‘ya).  Readers, talk to me, too.  How do you best listen to your customer’s pure, unfiltered voice?  Monitoring the internet?  Social media?  Reviewing feedback letters?  Surveys?  Focus groups?  Tell us how you do it either via comments or by sending me email to becky at petraconsultinggroup dot com.

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Voice of the customer | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Mighty Fine Customer Experience

Posted by Becky Carroll on July 7, 2008

Here is a tasty tidbit for a Monday.  John Moore at BrandAutopsy Twittered me about a store with a great customer experience, Mighty Fine Burgers in Austin, Texas.  Here were some of John’s comments about them: “…friendly front-line faces, all food prep in full-sight (incl. grinding/hand-forming patties), simple decor, upbeat vibe.”

Here is what I like about them, in addition to their simplicity and their friendliness: FISH.  No, not the seafood, but the customer service philosophy of Mighty Fine Burgers.  They have taken advice from the book called Fish! (if you have never read it, you should check it out), which suggests that the way the Pike’s Place fishmongers deal with customers is a good lesson in how to have the right attitude at work (and in life):

  • Make Their Day – Look for ways to create memories for guests and co-workers.
  • Be Present – Make every guest feel they are the most important person when you talk to them.
  • Choose Your Attitude – Learn to love what you do, even if you aren’t doing what you love.

Living in California, I can’t easily experience this attitude at Mighty Fine for myself, but I will take John’s word for it!

This reminds me of another burger joint out here in the West, IN-N-OUT Burger, which, according to their website, created California’s first drive-thru hamburger stand in 1948.  The menu at Mighty Fine is very similar (simple, meaning basically fries, hamburgers, and shakes), and Mighty Fine has the same “everything is fresh, and you can even watch us making it” behind-the-scenes window to watch food prep that they have at IN-N-OUT.  Let’s hope Mighty Fine are as wildly successful as their Western counterparts have been!  My guess is they will be if they keep up the simply good food and service.

Drop a comment if you have been to either one of these establishments here in the USA, and let us know what you thought about the experience!

Update: I just found a great blog post on Doug Meacham’s NextUp about Five Guys Burgers and Fries; check out the Thank You Customers sign he included.  You rock, Doug!

(Photo credit: khz)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty | Leave a Comment »

Starbucks and Store Closings: How will it affect the experience? Update 8

Posted by Becky Carroll on July 3, 2008

Custom latte photo from Starbucks
Custom latte photo from Starbucks

Starbucks recently announced they will be closing 600 domestic stores, which will mean Starbucks partners at those stores will be “placed” at other stores or let go.  Reactions to this announcement are varied, and they include John Moore’s post on the need for Starbucks to “prune” (which he wrote last year and is still relevant today), Jay Ehret (my partner in the Re-Experiencing Starbucks project) and his post on the commoditization of Starbucks, as well as partner discussion over at the Starbucks Gossip blog about who will stay and who will go.

Here is the official word to customers from Starbucks as part of their press release on the closures: 

Starbucks will reach out to customers who are impacted by the store closures in a variety of ways including directing them to the Starbucks Store Locator at http://www.starbucks.com. Customers who have questions or comments on any store or their Starbucks Experience may contact Starbucks Customer Relations via the web at www.starbucks.com/customer/contact.asp.

Until the store closings are announced to the partners, the Store Locator won’t help (I checked for my area, and nothing has changed yet).  In the meantime, customers appear to be reaching out to Starbucks about their favorite locations.

Customers Want to Help

Per feedback from some Starbucks baristas in the comments at the SB Gossip blog, there are customers who are asking what they can do to help [clarifications in brackets added by me]:

“Every customer who asked today wanted to know what they could do to ensure my store wouldn’t close. (That’s like 50% of the cafe, and 80% or the DT [drive thru] customers).

My DM [manager] was in house, working on his computer when a couple of the folks asked, so I pointed them to him. He, and they, were more than happy to have the discussion.”

Customers are even reminiscing about the Starbucks they have visited and are offering suggestions of which stores to close/open on MyStarbucksIdea, the Starbucks customer community:

On memories:

“I have traveled much of the US for work and pleasure and have visited many of your locations. I have many fond memories at your locations in Seattle, San Fran, Atlanta, and NYC and interested in knowing if they closed without having to go through the list (as they are long and remembering some addresses is difficult.)”

On which Starbucks to cut:

“Close the stores in Safeway and Target and open another drive up store on West Main – Close the drive up store in Bloomfield, NM the drinks there are sub standard and so is the service. “

The Customer Perspective

From the customer perspective, the Starbucks experience is as much about the people as it is about the coffee.  As I have said before, the people make the difference.  Will customers follow their favorite baristas to their new assignments?  What if they go to a competitor?  Relationships built up with people count for a lot – we build trust with other human beings, not with a company.

It remains to be seen whether these closures will impact the customer experience in a negative way.  If going back to the customer experience is really what the Starbucks “Transformation Agenda” is about, then one wonders where increasing the number of store closures fits in.  If the stores that remain open are staffed to the proper levels so customer service doesn’t suffer, this may help the experience in the long run.

Per John Moore, pruning is important for the health of a plant (or a business).  It allows for new growth.  I agree with you, John, and I am glad to see Starbucks focusing on their key business, including those stores that offer the most success to the company. 

However, too much pruning, or cuts in the wrong places, can severely damage the plant.  What remains can be ugly.  I am trusting that Starbucks is not going into “cost cutting” mode (and I hope you are right, John, that they are not) but is truly using the shears as part of a long-term strategy for business health and happiness.

Posted in Customer experience, Starbucks Project | Tagged: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

 
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