Customers Rock!

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

Archive for the ‘Customers Rock!’ Category

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 »

Defining “Customer-Focused Strategy”

Posted by Becky Carroll on May 14, 2008

Focus on the customer My blogging friend Glenn Ross has put forth the following challenge to some of his fellow Customer Service bloggers (including me): How do you define “Customer-Focused Strategy?”  Great question, Glenn!  Glenn has posted his definition of a customer-focused strategy, and has included ideas and definitions from other excellent customer service bloggers, including ServiceUntitled, CustomersAreAlways, and CustServ.  There are many good ideas there, and I encourage you to check them out.

Customer strategy is the main focus of this blog as well as what I do (and have been doing) for a living.  I still like the paragraph I wrote on customer strategy last year at about this time; here is the excerpt from the post Rockin’ Our Customer’s Experience Online:

Customer Strategy

Does your organization have a customer strategy?  Most companies have a product strategy and a marketing strategy.  Customer-centric organizations also have a customer strategy.  Put simply, a customer strategy is a proactive plan for how we want to acquire, retain, and grow our customers!  Too many organizations leave it to chance when it comes to retention and growth of customers, focusing most of their resources on customer acquisition.  Why would we want to leave the management of our most valuable asset, our customers, to chance?

In order to align our customer experience with our customer strategy, we need to consider how we have created that strategy.  A strong customer strategy is built around the interactions we have with our customers, and we are able to maximize the value of every customer touch.  In other words,  we make each impression with the customer count.  Customer service and support may have several opportunities to make customer impressions, and it is often where the rubber meets the road.  How do we handle our customers when there is a problem or a question?  The goal of all these interactions is to increase customer retention and loyalty, which ultimately leads to repeat business and referrals.  Done right, a customer strategy will also build customer trust, strengthen the relationship, and add value to both the customer and the company.

In other words, a customer-focused strategy is a planned approach to how we handle our customers at every touch point.  It is more than just giving great customer service.  It is more than marketing with certain customer buzzwords.  It is more than a great customer experience.  It requires a strategic plan to be put in place to address all of those areas, plus the metrics to ensure the success of the strategy. 

I have been part of creating a customer-focused strategy for several clients, and this is no small undertaking.  It requires agreement and consistency across all functional areas in order to be most effective.  No silos allowed!  The customer doesn’t look at a company as individual departments, so we need to be “one brand” to the customer.  The customer-focused strategy helps make that happen.

Great Examples

Glenn also asked for examples of companies who do this well.  There are a few competitions out there for this type of award; a great one is coming up from the team at Peppers and Rogers Group and Gartner.  Called the Gartner and 1to1 Customer Excellence Awards, it will be showcasing those companies that “get” customer strategy – and how to execute it.  (By the way, the contest is open until May 23, so if you are reading this and want to submit your company, you can go here and enter.)

At this blog, I have listed several examples of companies that are doing customer strategy well.  They include FreshBooks and their customer roadtrip, Bungie and the way they are fans of their customers, Element Fusion and their web concierge, Disney and customer delight, and Xerox and their dedication to customer experience, among others.  I don’t think any one of them is perfect, but each of them do many things well across several areas. 

OK, out to you, readers!  How would you define “customer-focused strategy”?  Do you agree with me or am I missing something?  Who is doing it well?

(Photo credit: redbaron)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer service, Customer strategy, Customers Rock!, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Coldwater Creek Gives Customers the Royal Treatment

Posted by Becky Carroll on May 6, 2008

Tiara I love the way Coldwater Creek keeps their customers engaged through their marketing.  Of course, there are the regular catalog and emails that come out; nothing too special about those.  However, I just got an offer from them to be treated like royalty, and it made me smile.

I received a note card from Coldwater Creek with this on the front:

“Fashion and relaxation fit for a queen.  Without those annoying hats.”

The graphic shows pictures of crowns and tiaras, along with their brand.  Inside, I find that my friends and I are invited to Coldwater Creek’s version of High Tea, along with a product demo and drawings.  This particular store is well suited to this, as they also have a Coldwater Creek – The Spa at the same location.  The copy inside the card is “royal”, talking about “courtly prizes” for you and “your entourage”.  Very nicely done.

Of course, I called the store to find out more.  Between the hours of 4 and 7 pm, they are basically holding an open house for customers with lots of goodies to eat (pastries, cakes) and drink (tea mostly!), along with the chance to show-off both clothing and spa products.  It is not just for those who received the invitation; anyone shopping that evening can also partake.  But only existing local customers received the invitation.

Royal Treatment

This particular mailing was refreshingly different.  It made me feel special.  It made me feel noticed.  Too many direct mailings are to push products or send invoices.  Coldwater Creek did a great job of standing out with a fun direct mail piece that caters to their customers.  Yes, “old school” techniques still work in this social media world!

You rock, Coldwater Creek.  Cheers!

(Photo credit: Scanty)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customers Rock!, Marketing | Tagged: , , , | 9 Comments »

Customers Engage with TurboTax

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 15, 2008

by Amit Gupta Today is the day many Americans dread: the day when their income taxes are due to the government.  TurboTax decided to make it fun for their customers with some cool contests which promote customer engagement.

TurboTax is made by Intuit and is a tax preparation software program.  TurboTax’s focus is on making taxes easy.  Intuit’s focus is squarely on the customer. 

I recently spoke with Brian who does online marketing for Intuit.  Brian shared information with me about the two customer contests run by TurboTax, TurboTax Rap (2007) and Tax Laugh (2008). 

TurboTax Rap was a contest to promote customer engagement, with rapper Vanilla Ice as their celebrity spokesman.  Consumer submitted their own original “rap” video about TurboTax.  The contest site included all the rules/tips for submission.  Here is an example:

“Props are always good.  We are not just talking about a leaf blower or a hairbrush microphone.  But actual shoutout’s to TurboTax or Vanilla Ice.  Let them know how special they are.”

The entries were then also posted on YouTube.  The results were unexpected.  It generated lots of interest, curiousity, as well as some awesome content!  There were 450 entries, and although most were not stellar, about 30 of them were really quite good.  Per Brian,

“These customers were passionate.  They included the core reasons to believe in their videos.  I am not sure an agency could have done some of this!”

The winning entry has had over 330,000 views on YouTube (and the winner took home $25,000 to boot).  It didn’t cost Intuit much money to put on this contest, and they had a lot of customer engagement as a result.  For your viewing pleasure, here is the winning video:

Of course, just like any social media activity, customers have the opportunity to share their thoughts.  Some viewers didn’t like the winner (“Too many special effects”) and preferred the low-tech video which won 2nd place.  A learning for TurboTax was to have customers and other viewers rate the videos or vote on them.

This year, TurboTax created a TaxLaugh contest, with the tagline, “Comedy is hard.  TurboTax is easy.”  The top 20 videos/finalists were chosen through voting on YouTube.  Fewer entries this year (hey, comedy is hard), but again, great quality and passion that can only come from customers.  I especially liked this one, which wasn’t really comedy but was very clever and still promoted TurboTax – using ping pong balls!  You’ve gotta watch this (which has had over 500,000 views):

This year, TurboTax also sponsored a Promoter Contest.  Those viewers who were the best at promoting a video won prizes like a trip to Southern California to see the TaxLaugh celebrity comedian spokesman Jay Mohr or a Flip video camera.  Winners included the most viral TurboTax promoter and the most viral TurboTax choice.  The winning promoter had over 100,000 views!  Talk about using word of mouth to get things buzzing.   Also, check out the interesting viral map put together by Brickfish, who helped with the viral promotion.

While taxes may not be a laughing matter, TurboTax has found a cool way to connect with their customers, to promote themselve to non-customers, and to increase engagement in both categories.  Plus, they are part of a very customer-focused company.  You rock, er rap, TurboTax and Intuit!

(Photo credit: Amit Gupta)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customers Rock!, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Focus on WOW for Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 10, 2008

 I just got back from my local branch of Wells Fargo, and something caught my eye behind the friendly teller, Jennifer.  Another employee was preparing a chart to go on the wall entitled, “11 Ways to WOW the Customer.”  Of course, being the customer-focused professional that I am, I had to ask about the chart.

Great Customer Service

Jennifer told me it was to help remind the team about customer service, with the main goal being that customers feel welcome each time they come into the bank.  They want the experience to be such a good one that customers will seek them out for their future banking activities, even if this is not their home branch.  Most of the items on the chart are simple, such as welcoming customers into the bank verbally when they come in the door.  Smiling.  Or, as she said, “Keeping your grump to yourself!”

This is consistent with Wells Fargo’s corporate focus on customers.  Here is an excerpt from the Customer Service page on their website, describing the 11 Ways to WOW.

“Welcoming”

  • you make me feel at home.
  • you care about me.
  • you make me feel special.

“Delivering value”

  • you give me the right advice.
  • you provide me value.
  • you keep your promises.

“Following up and building relationships”

  • you help me when I really need it.
  • you know me.
  • when you make a mistake you make things even better.
  • you thank me.
  • you reach out to me.

Employee Retention

Jennifer said this customer focus makes the branch experience not only better for customers, but also better for her and the other employees that work there.  She enjoys her job more when she is able to truly help customers with their needs.  She spends time talking to them about the task at hand, but she also spends time listening to them talk about their lives.  Customers have become her regulars, and one of them even brought in not one, but two cakes for the team.  The pace at this branch is a little more leisurely, so the employees there have time to chat with customers, their kids, and even their dogs!

I love this line, again from the Wells Fargo website: “We’re only as good as our first impression and last connection. This is all about culture and attitude.”

That, my friends, is what this blog is all about. 

 

WOW Your Customers

I encourage each of you to think of how you can WOW your customers.  Don’t leave it to chance or count on just hiring great employees.  That is not enough.  Customers Rock! companies set a goal for WOW customer interactions, then they make a specific plan to meet that goal.  Finally, they check back with their customers to see whether they made a difference from the customer’s perspective.

Jennifer, you guys rock!  Thanks for making it special, and I will work on baking you some cookies for the next time I come in…

(Photo credit: ChrisL_AK)

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customer service, Customer strategy, Customers Rock!, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

FreshBooks Rocks: Getting Personal with Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 2, 2008

wagon.png One of the best ways to get to know your customers is to spend time with them face-to-face.  This method of doing business is a hallmark of a Customers Rock! company and is usually supplemented with other types of customer conversation, including traditional and social media marketing.  For FreshBooks, based in Toronto, Canada, this is not an unusual way to do business – it is business as usual!

Unique Customer Outreach

FreshBooks provides online invoicing and time-tracking for service professionals.  I had the chance to speak with CEO Mike McDerment, and he shared with me his story about their unique and effective customer outreach campaign.  Mike and a few other folks from FreshBooks were attending two different conferences here in the USA last month, including speaking at this year’s SXSW conference in Austin, Texas.  Coming from Toronto, the easiest way to get there would have been to fly – but not for this team.  They decided to take the fun path and rent an RV (see photo above), meeting and talking with customers along the way!  By the end of their Roadburn roadtrip, Mike and his employees Saul (who put the trip together) and Sunir (marketing and community development) had 11 meals over a period of 4 days, meeting with more than 100 customers over breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The Roadburn blog above chronicles the trip, and several customers came out to it, requesting stops in their towns.

vinyl_rev01.png This was not a product roadshow.  This was a listening tour.  Mike and his team didn’t lead the conversations at all.  They merely asked a few simple questions to get them started, such as, “Hey, how are you?  What do you do?”  Rather than peppering their customers with questions, they encouraged the customers to network with each other.  By the end of these meals, many of these customers were swapping business cards and planning to do business with each other.  According to Mike, the result was “almost a mini eco-system!”  Listening in this type of environment provides fresh (get it?) customer insights that you can’t get on a survey!

I loved the way the FreshBooks team described the intent of the road trip on their site:

“The FreshBooks RoadBurn may seem like a stunt or a marketing ploy but in reality it is pretty much what FreshBooks is all about….listening to it’s beautiful customer base and getting to know them on a level that other companies wouldn’t make the effort to do so.”

Getting to Know You

FreshBooks wants to get to know customers and wants to be easy to talk to as well.  They have actually been holding these “customer meals” for about four years now.  According to Mike, every time he goes to a city he gets a list of FreshBooks customers in that city, and he invites them out for dinner to see what is going on with their business.  As you can imagine, this is pretty effective for building customer relationships, as well as for great word-of-mouth.  Mike says,

“We are conscious that there is always someone on the other end of the computer screen who is using our products.  We keep asking ourselves, how can we get closer to our customers?”

FreshBooks does it not only with face-to-face meetings, but they believe that social media really helps, too.  First of all, there is their blog, FreshThinking.  FreshBooks uses it as a way to communicate updates to their customers, as well as business tips and other tidbits.  It must be working – the blog regularly gets comments and has over 1100 readers (per Feedburner).  In addition, FreshBooks is a big fan of Twitter.  They twittered the road trip as they went across the country; Mike described it as “random and quirky” writings.  They Twitter from inside of FreshBooks as well to share with customers what is going on at the company.  It is also part of their customer support mix.  For example, the aforementioned Saul, at home on a weekday evening, sees someone using Twitter to ask how to do something in FreshBooks, and he replies and gives the answer. 

Good customer service, right?  Yes.  FreshBooks is paying attention to customer conversation and helping where needed.  Per Mike, “…we are not instigating these conversations; rather, we are being where they are.”

Caring – A Core Value

Customers are embedded in the corporate culture at FreshBooks; it is in their DNA.  Mike supports this in a few ways.  One, he hires for fit.  He describes this as hiring people who feel good about helping people out.  In addition, everyone at FreshBooks does a rotation into customer support.  This gives all employees the opportunity to hear from customers directly and to understand their pain points.

Mike says one of their core values is caring.  As CEO, Mike is always taking care of employees, making sure they have what they need for their jobs as well as looking out for their happiness and health.  Here is his formula for success:

Take care of staff –> Staff takes care of customers –> Customers take care of referrals

This works!  From customer satisfaction surveys last year, FreshBooks had a customer referral rate of 98%.  This year, the rate went up to 99%!  This rocks.  Per Mike: “There is really nothing better.  Happy customers are a great pool of positive WOM.”

I couldn’t have said it better, Mike.  FreshBooks rocks!

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer loyalty, Customer service, Customer strategy, Customers Rock!, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

Bungie Rocks! Fixing (someone else’s) Customer Service Error

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 12, 2008

nathaniels-xbox-360.jpg When a person sends in a device to customer service for a repair, there is a certain amount of trust that is given by the customer. They trust it will be fixed.  They trust it will come back in one piece.  And in the case of a loyal Halo video game fanatic, he trusted it would be returned to him will all his memorabilia still intact! (Hat tip to bs angel at Hawty McBloggy , who gets full credit for the info on the story details and these images.)

The Problem

Nathaniel is a fan of the Halo video game franchise created by Bungie.  When he purchased his XBox 360 (pre-ordered it!), he started taking it with him to get autographs from the folks involved with creating his favorite game.  He had accumulated quite a few autographs from the gaming studio and the XBox 360 team, in addition to some artwork from notable gaming artists, which were written in black permanent ink directly onto his gaming console (see photo at top for a view of some of the goodies he had on there).  Notice I keep using the word “had”.  Nathaniel’s beloved XBox 360 console stopped working, and although he debated about it, Nathaniel sent it in to Microsoft to have it repaired. 

To ensure his valuable console would be returned unscathed, he called customer support at Microsoft to see if they could promise to protect this decorated casing.  They said they wouldn’t harm it and would return it the same way it came to them.  Not convinced, Nathaniel also included a letter with his XBox 360 when he sent it in asking that the technicians be careful not to smudge the artwork.  He additionally requested that if the inside of the console needed to be replaced, would they please be so kind as to return his original case with new innards.

Crushed! 

Well, Nathaniel did get back his original case (the serial numbers match his original one), but it was wiped completely clean.  No autographs.  No cool artwork.  Only a few hints of permanent marker remained where previously there had been treasured memorabilia.  To read the full story, you can go over to Hawty McBloggy, who documented the letter that Nathaniel sent and the results in this first post on the subject.

Now hang in there with me, Customers Rock! readers, because even though this story took a negative turn, the ending totally rocks!

Nathaniel was crushed, as you can imagine.  The Hawty McBloggy blog decided to help him share his story with the gaming community to make sure none of them got stuck like he did.   At the time, all of Nathaniel’s questions to Microsoft were going unanswered.  The gaming community, however, rallied around Nathaniel – there are over 700 comments to bs angel’s original story on this!

Heroes to the Rescue

halo-helmet.jpg Bungie Studios, the creators of Halo (and their most recent version, Halo 3), also heard about what happened.  Even though they weren’t remotely responsible for this error made in console tech support, they wanted to do something about it to help make it right.  Only a few days later, a huge box arrived on Nathaniel’s doorstep – absolutely stuffed with cool Bungie “swag”.   Bungie is well known by the gaming community for treating their fans like royalty, but this one must be a record, even for them!  Here is a list of what he received (documented by bs angel):

Included in the Halo swag bag were :

  • Legendary Edition Helmet signed by most–if not all–of the studio staff (see photo)
  • Halo 3 Soundtrack (two disc) signed by Marty O’Donnel (with “DO NOT ERASE!” written under his name)
  • Bungie Jacket
  • Bungie T-Shirt
  • Halo 3 Messenger Bag
  • Two Halo 3 Limited Edition Wireless Controllers (one covenant, one human)
  • Halo 3 Faceplate and Skins for Xbox 360
  • Four McFarlane Action Figures (MC, EVA Spartan, Brute Chieftan, Jackal Sniper)
  • Halo Actionclix Preview pack (Target exclusive sticker on the front)
  • Halo Actionclix Game Pack 4
  • Halo 3 Wall Graffix
  • Halo 3: Ghosts of Onyx Novel
  • Halo Graphic Novel
  • Halo 3 Wristband
  • Halo 3 Hackeysack

Nathaniel was overwhelmed by their generosity and the support of the whole gaming community.  Here is his reaction:

“And finally, to the staff of Bungie Studios: I cannot thank you enough for the outpouring of support that you have lavished upon me in the aftermath of the release of my story. Long have I known of your dedication to your fans and community, but I find this single act of kindness mind boggling. Apart from the fact that a few of you had signatures adorning my console, you had no involvement in what occurred. As such, you have far surpassed any response I could have anticipated. I don’t think I could ever repay you for this.”

This unexpected response from Bungie totally rocks!

The Community’s Response

Yes, Bungie Studios now has a fan for life in Nathaniel, and in his friends I’m sure, as he will be spreading the word far and wide.  bs angel’s blog has also helped to spread the word – both the sad saga as well as the happy ending.  There are over 200 comments to the second post detailing the “swag” sent by Bungie, and most of them are Bungie fans saying how cool the company is for doing this!  Here are some sample (verbatim) comments:

  • bungie rocks. i’ve never seen a company so in touch with their fan-base before.
  • Just more confirmation why we all love Bungie so much.
  • It would be a massive boon to society as a whole, if somehow most of the corporate world would follow Bungie’s lead. They seem to always give back that huge amount of extra.
  • Good Job Bungie.
    Handled like a company that appreciates its customers.
  • Class all the way.
    It’s little gestures like this that make a good business truly great.
  • More companies need to do more things like this. The world is losing sight that back in the day “mom and pop” shops would do things like this all the time.

And these comments, folks, are only a few from this gaming community.  Bungie just created a huge list of raving fans by how they responded to this incident. 

How did Bungie do it?

- They were listening to their customers, using social media.

- They had previously built up a strong community (see their website for forums, insider information, and an open and honest attitude including Bungie podcasts, photos, and webcams!)

- They decided to “do the right thing”, even though they were not the ones in the wrong (the console manufacturer made the error, not the video game studio)

- Bungie has prioritized customers as a critical success factor for their business – and has acted on it.

Clearly, Customers Rock! for Bungie Studios.  Way to go, Bungie!

Posted in Community, Customer loyalty, Customer service, Customers Rock!, Gaming, social media | Tagged: , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Thanking Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on January 24, 2008

thank-you-2.jpg I read a great example of interaction between a business and its customers – a pizza restaurant!  Ben McConnell at Church of the Customer blogged about HomeMade Pizza in Chicago and the experience of one of his friends there.  In response to filling out the (optional) customer contact card, Ben’s friend received an email from the store manager thanking her for her business.  She sent back a quick reply (that she loved the pizza) and then received another message, this time from a company VP, thanking her for her feedback!  (Be sure to go read Ben’s blog post for the text of the emails – they are very sincere and not at all canned.)

No where in these messages was any selling taking place.  There was simply an air of customer appreciation and open lines of communication.  HomeMade Pizza has started a conversation with their customer, and I predict that a long customer relationship will be a result of this interaction.

Why did this have such an impact on Ben’s friend?  The simple fact is, very few businesses stop and take the time to thank their customers.  When they do, it exceeds our expectations and stands out above other experiences. 

Have you thanked a customer lately?  The best companies don’t do it randomly; they make thanking and interacting with customers a regular part of how they do business.  It is baked into their marketing plans.  It is taught in their customer service training sessions.  It is modeled by managers that thank employees.  It becomes part of a company’s DNA.

What’s in your organization’s DNA?

(Photo credit: karenr)

Posted in B2B Marketing, Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customers Rock!, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Starbucks: Getting Customers Engaged

Posted by Becky Carroll on January 21, 2008

custom-latte.jpg Here at Customers Rock!, I talk a lot about getting your customers more engaged in your organization.  One way that some consumer organizations do it is by having customers submit their own photos or ideas for corporate use.  For example, at Jones Soda, their bottle labels are actually photos submitted by their customers.

How can an organization do this more locally in order to connect with regular customers?  I saw this sign up at my local Starbucks in front of the espresso machine.  It usually has info about an upcoming event at the store or a new drink flavor.  On this day, the “drink of the day” was actually the Customer Latte of the Week: Mary’s Latte.  There was no contest for this recipe; it came from the information this Starbucks has about its customers.

This signs does two things.  One, it acknowledges Mary and her repeat business, making her feel great!  Two, it tells other customers that the baristas here know their customers well, so well that they can recommend the best drink combos they see on a daily basis.

When you have information about your customers that your competitors don’t have, that is a potential competitive advantage.  When you use that information to do something for your customers, now you are creating a stronger customer relationship.  This is the foundation for loyalty.

Kudos to my local Starbucks for reaching out to customers and making them feel special.  You rock!

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

Making Customers Feel At Home

Posted by Becky Carroll on January 16, 2008

dinner-friends.jpg At Hometown Buffet restaurant, they serve an all-you-can-eat buffet with a smile.  One of my readers, Linda, shared a great story about their local restaurant in Citrus Heights, California.  Linda goes to Hometown every Monday, and the staff has gotten to know her and her husband very well. 

For the holidays, this Hometown Buffet was offering pecan pie for dessert, her husband’s  favorite.  As the holidays began to wind down, less and less pecan pie was available (they only offer it during the holidays – “while supplies last”).  In January, the pie was only being served on the weekends and was usually gone by the time my reader went in on Mondays.

On this particular Monday, the pie was, indeed, already gone.  Disappointed, Linda and her husband sat down to eat their meal.  A few minutes later, Al, one of the managers, came out to their table – with a huge piece of pecan pie!  He said to them, “I know how much you love the pecan pie, so I set a piece aside just for you yesterday afternoon, before we ran out.”  These two customers were amazed, and thrilled!  The pie was a larger-than-usual piece on a plate which was different from the typical buffet plates.  The manager obviously knew the key to his customers’ hearts (and stomachs).  She said to me, “Al made our experience great.”

Here are some of the other things Linda told me about this restaurant:

  • Both of the managers, Al and “Bambos”, sit down to talk with their customers and see how things are going.  She said to me, “People don’t seem to do that anymore!”
  • If a customer needs anything, the wait staff usually figures out a way to come up with it.
  • The service makes customers want to come back to the same restaurant location over and over again.
  • “They don’t treat us like customers; they treat us like we are coming to dinner at their house.”

What do you do to ensure your regular customers are happy?  If you are like most businesses, not much.  The task usually falls to a few people who are very good at customer service and who implement “random acts of great customer service.”  On the other hand, treating customers like family – what a great compliment!  Companies that can create a positive experience which is consistent across customer touches (different touch points, different days) and exceeds expectations will win a customer’s heart.  Old Country Buffet, the parent company of Hometown Buffet, also owns the restaurant chain Tahoe Joe’s, and I like how they describe their customer service:

“Tahoe Joe’s provides legendary service – the unique and powerful sort of personal care and attention that guests tell stories about.” 

Organizations striving for that kind of customer service will surely achieve it; it’s in their DNA.  Nice job, Hometown Buffet in Citrus Heights.  You guys rock!

(Photo credit: Paha L)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer service, Customers Rock! | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

 
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