Customers Rock!

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

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 »

Re-Experiencing Starbucks, Update 7 – Listening to Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 26, 2008

reExperiencing StarbucksPart 7 of the ongoing ReExperiencing Starbucks project with Jay Ehret from The Marketing SpotSurvey at the end of the post - please tell us what you think about the changes at Starbucks!

Slowly but surely, Starbucks seems to be listening.  I blogged about MyStarbucksIdea when it first came out, and there were a lot of improvements to make.  I believe Starbucks has made a real effort over the past few months that they have been up and running with MyStarbucksIdea.   I have seen improvements on both the IdeaSite (new term?) as well as in person.  Read on…

IdeaSite Improvements

MyStarbucksIdea was heavily criticized when it first came out.  The Customers Rock! perspective on it was this – it is good to see Starbucks out there engaging their customers this way.  And boy, have they been engaged!  Thousands of customer ideas have gone on the site, with the majority of the ideas being about the coffee drinks themselves (no surprise here) and then the atmosphere and locations.  What should these ideas tell Starbucks?  First, it should tell them that customers are coming for the coffee, so make sure to get that right.  Second, customers are still in search of what they used to have at Starbucks, that “3rd place” to hang out and relax with friends.

Maybe customers don’t come up with a lot of new or innovative ideas, but the dialogue is a great way for Starbucks to get inside their customers’ heads and see how they think. 

In addition, I am glad to see Starbucks beginning to participate more in the conversation on the site, as well as soliciting direct feedback on how to improve the site.  Be sure to click into that post and read the comments; you can watch a little mini-community forming as you go.  :)

Interaction with Corporate – In Person!

I also had the good fortune of interacting with two gentlemen from Starbucks Corporate recently.  Apparently, part of their role is to go out and visit the Starbucks in their area to see how things are going.  They stopped me on my way out of the line to ask me about “my experience”.  I was happy to share my thoughts with them – about bathroom cleanliness (spotty), about the atmosphere (I like it), about my favorite drink (Passion Iced Tea, sweetened), about how the service seems on weekdays vs the weekends (better when they are busy, I think).  I then revealed that I blog here at Customers Rock! and shared about this ongoing Starbucks Project with them.  They asked me a few more questions before moving on to their meeting with the local supervisory team.

After they left, the employees there thanked me for my kind words and gave me a free drink.  Thanks, guys!

Although I would have loved to see the visitors from Corporate commenting here on my blog, I am pleased to see a team out inspecting the stores and asking customers about their experience.  Kudos to you, Starbucks, for getting out there and interacting face to face with customers.  It is more valuable than you think!

Please Fill Out Our Starbucks 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 sure to report the results here soon.

Also see Jay Ehret’s blog The Marketing Spotfor more Starbucks insight on “The Perfect Frappuccino”, as well as Meikah Delid who is keeping her related Starbucks series going with The Sixth Step for Starbucks.  Thanks, Meikah!

Related Customers Rock! posts in the Re-Experiencing Starbucks project series:

Re-Experiencing Starbucks

Part 2: Transformation Starting

Part 3: The Training

Part 4: Little Things

Part 5: MyStarbucksIdea

Part 6: The Card

Posted in Community, Customer experience, Customer strategy, Marketing, social media, Starbucks Project | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Tracking Your Domino’s Pizza

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 23, 2008

Dominos pizza tracker Maybe it’s because I am a geek at heart (I do have a degree in Electrical Engineering/Computer Science and worked for NASA during my college summers – really!).  Maybe it’s because I was hungry.  Either way, I really liked the Domino’s Pizza Tracker tool I used the other day (and my kids liked the pizza, so it all worked out).

It was fairly simple.  I went online to order my pizza (like I have done many times for another pizza company, where I have had mixed results).  Ordering was easy, as it should be.  When I completed paying for my order, the site took me to the screen you saw above and started tracking my pizza order.  Jeff was the lucky guy to prep, make, and bake my pizza.  The site even asked me how Jeff was as my “delivery expert”.  I had a lot of fun watching the progress, which was pretty rapid (and it was a Saturday night, too!).

Questions:

Does someone at Domino’s actually sit there and enter this info, or is is all automated?  Does it assume how long it takes to make a pizza?  Does Jeff hit a “done” button as he completes each phase so it will update?  Inquiring minds want to know, so if any one has an idea of how the technology works, please share.  :)

Customers Rock! Implications

It is always good to set customer expectations.  The more customers can stay in the loop, the less there will be complaints or criticisms.  For my pizza order, this all worked very nicely, and within 10 minutes of the “your pizza just left the building” update, the doorbell rang (yes, it was the pizza).  I was impressed. 

However, I have read other posts that share frustration that the pizza was very late after it “went out for delivery”. Apparently, Domino’s doesn’t have a good way to track that part of the process.  A flat tire, traffic, or a lot of other pizzas to deliver can mar the experience.  This is not all that different from what FedEx or UPS does with their package tracking.  Once the package is on the truck for delivery, it is anyone’s guess as to when it will arrive.  If this part of the experience can be fixed (can anyone say GPS?), then we would have a real winner!

How can you help set your customers’ expectations?  Are they kept in the dark about their purchase or usage experience?  Talk to your customers, find out which part of your process they find difficult or frustrating, then see what you can do to fix it.  Domino’s did.  I am looking forward to ordering my next pizza from them.

Has anyone else experienced this?  What did you think – cool, or a gimmick?

Posted in Customer experience, Customer service | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Airline Customer Service Makes All the Difference

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 19, 2008

The Airline ExperienceThe airline industry is in quite a mess.  Extra fees being charged for bags have passengers feeling even more “nickle and dimed” than ever.  Fuel costs are driving more people to take their vacations at home.  Cut-backs at airlines mean fewer employees doing more work = grumpy people.  What is an airline to do?

Would you be surprised if I said “Improve the Customer Experience”!  Well, it is not just me saying it this time.  J.D. Power and Associates just released the results of their 2008 North American Airline Satisfaction Study.  Declining customer satisfaction is linked with the level of customer service provided by airline staff, even more than it is linked with concerns over extra fees and prices.  Per the press release:

The study finds that satisfaction with “people” factors—including knowledge, courtesy and helpfulness of reservation and gate agents, check-in staff and flight crew—has declined dramatically since 2007, and is the leading contributing factor to the overall decline in customer satisfaction with airlines in 2008. The decrease in satisfaction with people factors is more than twice as large as the decline in satisfaction with price factors.

The press release goes on to quote Sam Thanawalla, director of their global hospitality and travel practice, who urges airlines to invest in their employees in order to improve the customer experience.

Here is the Customers Rock! take on the situation:

In a tough economy like this one, customers will be very choosy about where they spend their hard-earned money.  If a customer has decided to take a trip, they want to it to be great!  Airlines need to get with the program and look at the experience from the customer’s perspective.  It won’t take much “mystery shopping” to figure out where to find the pain points.  It could be just a few simple things that make the difference, but airlines need to get into a conversation with their customers in order to figure this out.  Southwest Airlines has done an exceptionally good job of this with their Nuts About Southwest blog, even changing some of their policies as a result of customer feedback.  (Fun aside – Southwest just blogged about MyStarbucksIdea, and now their customers are starting to ask for MySouthwestIdea… think it will catch on?)

Yes, the customer experience really does matter to customers, and it matters more every day.  Marketing, customer service, HR, sales – all departments need to put their heads together and figure out how to create better customer relationships via the experience.  Quick – do it before your competition does! 

(Photo credit: egdigital)

Posted in Customer experience, Customer strategy, social media | Tagged: , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

Recognizing Customers

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 16, 2008

Wall of Customers I have seen restaurants with their “customer wall of fame” before, but I think this one takes the cake!  Lighthouse Ice Cream and Yogurt is located in Ocean Beach, CA, just down the street from the Ocean Beach pier in San Diego.  I just happened to wander towards the back of their cute shop and noticed several sheets of white poster board hanging from ribbons, plastered with photos.  As the boards were unlabeled, I asked the lady behind the counter what they were.  She explained they have been taking photos of their customers for the last 10 years and posting them on the boards for all to see.  Then she took our photo and told us where it would be placed later in the month!

This is a quick and simple low-tech idea (she used a disposable camera – not digital).  It gives the impression that this ice cream shop has many, many fans.  In addition, it is a “feel good” for customers to have their photo added to the display.  As San Diego is such a dog-friendly community, there is even a “pet board” with photos of customer pets who have come in (the ice cream shop keeps a doggie water bowl outside the door for thirsty pups).

I love this display of customer recognition.  One way they could take it further would be to use a digital camera (or have the film developed onto a CD) and create a flickr or Facebook group of fans.  That way, anyone who visited there could interact, and it would raise their visibility on the web.  Maybe one of their local customers could even do it for them!

Either way, this is a fun way to let people know that you love your customers.  People want to frequent establishments that care about customers, and every little bit helps these days!

You rock, Lighthouse Ice Cream!

(Photo credit: B Carroll)

 

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Marketing | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Defining 5-Star Service

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 11, 2008

 I recently conducted a customer service workshop for a high-end salon and spa.  We discussed the importance of 5-Star Service in a tough economy.  But what does 5-Star Service really mean?  In order to give that level of service, it is important to understand what customers think it means.

I did a poll via LinkedIn, Twitter, and my blog so I could review the breadth of viewpoints on this subject.  I would like to share some of those responses with you for today’s post.

  • Impeccable customer service.

  • Helpful staff at your beck and call.

  • An Unparalleled Experience that you feel good about, even entertained with, and you find value in the service or product rendered.

 

  • (In the restaurant industry) Top-notch servers don’t just respond to what you asked for. They unobtrusively understand you on an intimate level, and they adapt their service to reflect that understanding so that it seems at times that they are reading our minds.

 

  • 1 star for making you feel special [personal attention]
    1 star for resolving any issues immediately
    1 star for genuine friendliness, smiles and personality
    1 star for getting your money’s worth
    1 star for rewarding your customer loyalty

 

  • I believe it is to go above and beyond what the most finicky person might expect. It is to know your client well enough to anticipate their needs and deliver before they have the chance to ask. Every individual is different, therefore everyone’s expectations are different.  When giving such a high quality of service, you have to anticipate them all. Always deliver the unexpected.

 

  • The fundamental key in providing the best service is the ability to read the guest accurately. You can solve all the problems, offer everything possible, be personable and attentive, but some patrons will not like you because they found you bothersome and in their space.

 

  • Here is a scale for service:

5 – Delighted, Amazed, Extraordinary, “Walks on Water” etc.
4 – Very satisfied, Above Average, Exceeded Expectations, etc.
3 – Average, Fair, “The Usual”, Satisfied, Expected, etc.
2 – Below average, Poor, Dissatisfied, etc.
1 – Extremely displeasurable, Hurtful, Harmful, Bad, “The Pits!” “Etc.”

Also, in “The Loyalty Factor” and in research at Harvard, only reaching Extraordinary developed loyalty and an increase in profits.   Only at or near 5.0 did customers become loyal and even advocates … impacting profits 25% to 90%. Referrals, repeat sales, and more sales from the same customers grew wonderfully at 5-Star locations/organizations.

  • The most important thing to remember is you have to understand the guest so that you can serve them. You have to recognize their need, be attentive to what they say, and note how they act toward you so you can provide an appropriate response.

 

  • Trying to give to one’s clients a meaningful experience and not just a product. It’s about being special.

 

  • Five Star Service…

1) Treats me (the customer) as a human being, and not just as a number (reservation)
2) Anticipates my needs and have them available for me – for example, printing of boarding passes in the Hilton lobby falls into this category, electronically sending my prescription to the pharmacy of my choice so that I don’t have to wait when I get there. Sometimes surprises me by giving me an upgrade – nicer room, business class seat etc. without me asking for it at all.
3) Fixes problems without any fuss that occur even though I maybe at fault – for example, I may have to cancel my trip because of unforeseen reason and even though the hotel (or a doctor’s office for that matter) has a 24 hour cancellation policy, they waive it understanding why I am unable to make the trip – trust/impress me once and I will return the favor next time – I am not trying to fleece you.
4) Remembers me once I have told you my preferences – king size bed, non smoking, room not near the elevator, aisle seat, frequent flyer numbers etc. – without asking me for this information all the time.
5) Provides what was promised.  For example, dry cleaning ready when promised, car ready for pickup as promised, flights on time, contractor showing up on time – or if things go wrong – call me instead of me calling you.  Things happen, but keep me in the loop, provide me options, show me you care about me.

 

  • Pick the things you would expect, then show me not only their flawless delivery, but surprise me with one thing you might not expect.

 

  • 1) Exceed your customer’s expectations — BIG TIME!  2) If your procedures do not meet the needs of your customers, CHANGE YOUR PROCEDURES!

 

  • To earn 5 stars, you have to be pro-active, not re-active. No matter what the situation, remain calm, collected, and keep a professional demeanor.

 

  • Doing everything possible to delight the customer.

 

  • Personalized (but non-intrusive) customer service with extra attention to the smallest of details, continuously served straight from the heart (genuine).

 

  • Per Scott Ginsberg, “All the policies, processes and tactics won’t mean a hill of beans if those in any kind of customer contact position aren’t *approachable.”

 

  • An important thing to remember for any company is that “5-Star Service” is not limited to luxury or high cost goods.It is similar to great speakers:
    1. Illustrate/Tell your clients and prospects what they can expect from you.
    2. Deliver at or ABOVE what you have promised.
    3. Report back to your client how you delivered.An addition to this as “3a” would be to ask/survey your client to see if their perception of your service is the same as yours. Use that feedback as a teaching tool for future relationships.     

     

This one is my favorite, as every customer/client/member/donor/patient is different:

 
 
 
 

 

  • Client service excellence, just as with beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. For that reason, 5-star service is more of a frame of mind aimed at the individual than a goal for the masses. It’s not about being all things to all people; it is about being specific things to specific people.

In order to really deliver 5-Star Service to our customers, whether business or consumer, we need to understand them first.  What are their expectations?  What is their perspective, based on where they are today?  What would make this interaction perfect for them?  Whenever we take the customer’s viewpoint, we are that much closer to success in building up that customer’s relationship – and ultimately their loyalty and positive word of mouth.

Who gives 5-Star Service?

I also had several suggestions of companies who deliver 5-Star Service:

Ritz Carlton

Singapore Airlines

The Inn at Little Washington

Concorde

Burj-Al-Arab Hotel

Oberoi Udaivilas

Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this exercise. 

There were answers from people with various backgrounds and from all around the world – even Santa!  I loved the different perspectives – because customers all have different perspectives.  Please join in the discussion!

Here are the contributors:

BlogTillYouDrop

Eric Brown

Gary Clarke

Kimm Viebrock

Pam Brown

Kellie Stotsky

Kristin Norris

R. Scott Frothingham

Rick Beets

Marietta Baglieri

John Chilson (Santa!)

Krishnan Venkatram

Steve Garvin

Lance Cooper

Steve Woodruff

Leo Bottary

Ajay Merchant

Gopal Shenoy

Christy Brewer

Jason Moore

(Photo credit: Hamster3d)

Posted in Customer experience | 3 Comments »

Book Review and Author Interview: Taking Care of Employees

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 6, 2008

Book review Today I am reviewing the book Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most by Sybil Stershic.  The main premise of the book is this: take care of your employees, and they will take care of your customers!  In seven easy-to-read chapters, Sybil describes how to do this using an “internal marketing” approach.  She helps companies see how to really engage employees so they become committed to the cause, not compliant (doing it because they have to).  Believe me, customers can tell the difference!

Here is a great quote from the first chapter:

“Think about it: most products and services can easily become commoditized, but competitors cannot duplicate the relationship an organization’s employees have with its customers.”

The book goes on to describe how to improve relationships, including employee-employee, employee-management, and employee-customer.  People will make the difference, and Sybil gives us a lot of great ideas on both why and how to make them a priority.  Coming from my customer-centric perspective, I especially liked Chapter 4 on strengthening the internal service culture.  It is so important for each employee to understand why they make a difference in the organization and how that is ultimately reflected out to customers.  A strong internal service culture, Sybil suggests, will help improve both employee and customer loyalty.  I wholeheartedly agree!

For those of skeptics out there, Sybil includes answers to some “tough questions” in Chapter 6, such as this one: “Do happy employees ensure happy customers?”  They are great for arming oneself before attempting to start an employee-loyalty initiative at a business.  The book also has several helpful worksheets and charts to assist in planning out the changes that need to be made within a company.  Thank you, Sybil, for making it easy to follow!

Q&A

Speaking of questions, Sybil was kind enough to answer a few of my own.  Here is the Q&A I had with her about the book. 

  •  Whose job is it to do “internal marketing”? How does it relate to those doing “external marketing”?

 Let me start by explaining marketing in both contexts. You can use it to basically communicate with, educate, and motivate employees, just like it’s used to communicate with, educate and motivate consumers. But while external marketing is usually the responsibility of marketing and/or communications staff, internal marketing is an intrinsic part of management’s job – taking care of the employees so they can take care of the customers. So it’s not really a pure marketing function, which is why I tell people you don’t have to be a marketer to apply internal marketing.

  • Disney has “cast members”. Starbucks has “partners”. Does what we call our employees really matter? Why would customers care?

Interesting question, Becky.  The reality is regardless of how you refer to employees – be it “Associates” … “Team members” … or some other company or brand-relevant name – it doesn’t matter to customers. (And customers will likely call them “employees” anyway.) However, it DOES matter to employees as it sets expectations about the organization’s culture and values. Employees, as well as customers, are quick to see through the rhetoric of employee labels that are merely window dressing.

  • It has been said you should inspect what you expect. How do you measure the success of internal marketing – both from the employee as well as from the customer perspective?

Since internal marketing involves engaging employees and customers, you can evaluate it with the same metrics that measure overall satisfaction and retention for both groups. You can also measure specific internal marketing activities (such as recognition programs, new staff orientation, special events, etc.) through quantitative and qualitative means; i.e., who/how many participated, how did it impact their perceptions and/or behavior?

For companies just getting started with internal marketing, it may be the first time the folks from HR and Marketing Research get together to discuss what benchmarks are available from employee and customer surveys. (Note: For companies that have not done any such surveys, please know there are research providers who measure employee engagement and those who also do “linkage research” which looks at operational practices and employee perceptions and links this information to drivers of customer satisfaction.)

  • How can a strong service culture help grow customer loyalty and improve the customer experience?

Internal service drives external service – when employees take care of each other’s business needs, everyone is better prepared to take care of the external customer.

Here’s another way to look at it – since customers’ perceptions and intentions are affected by what employees experience on-the-job, the way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers!

  • For my final question… what is the best customer experience you have ever had?

I was accompanying my husband on a business trip when I suddenly became ill on the plane – a situation that required emergency surgery. When our plane landed in Boston, we were met by ambulance and rushed to a nearby hospital. In between the admissions process and surgery, my husband and I looked at each other and wondered what had happened to our luggage. Since we had gone from the plane to the ambulance, we hadn’t time to get to baggage claim.

While I was undergoing surgery, my husband checked into our hotel and explained the situation. The hotel staff immediately called the airport to find our luggage and have it set aside for us. They had a hotel limo drive my husband back to the airport to get our luggage, after which my husband was dropped off at the hospital to wait for me after surgery, and our luggage was placed in our hotel room prior to my husband’s return that evening. We experienced truly extraordinary service provided by the hotel in a situation that had nothing to do with the hotel.

Here’s what I learned from that experience: customers expect a company to be responsive and “recover” any problems created by service delivery failure … but we can’t always expect the same when the problem is out of the company’s control. Nonetheless, hotel staff went out of their way to help their guests who found themselves in a difficult situation.

The hotel was the Marriott at Boston’s Copley Plaza, and it provided one of my most memorable customer experiences. I’ve shared this story in countless presentations since this experience happened more than 20 years ago! (How’s that for word-of-mouth? Amazing how customers have long memories for positive and negative experiences.)

Thanks for asking, Becky.  And thanks for a great interview.

  • Thank you, Sybil, for your time!

Blog Book Tour Continues 

Sybil’s book tour has already had a few stops this week and finishes up the beginning of next week.  Here is her full itinerary; be sure to linger at each stop, since each blog author is coming from a different perspective!

 

Posted in Book reviews, Customer service, Customer strategy | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

Starbucks and Empowering Employees

Posted by Becky Carroll on June 2, 2008

 Those two topics go together, as Starbucks is a company that works to empower its employees (which they call “partners”) in order to improve the customer experience.  Their recent “We’ll Make Your Beverage Right” focus is a good example of this strategy.  More on Starbucks below, as well as in a post coming soon.

I am busy getting ready for a customer service workshop tomorrow, entitled “The Importance of 5-Star Service in a  Tough Economy”.  If you have a minute to send me your definition of 5-Star Service, I would love to include it!  You can send me email (becky at petraconsultinggroup dot com) or just leave a comment in this post.  I posted the question on Twitter as well as LinkedIn and have received nearly 20 responses from around the world.  I will summarize in a future post.

In the meantime, here are a few additional items to help start off your week. 

Re-Experiencing Starbucks Podcast

Jay Ehret and I spent some time together recently (about 24 minutes, actually) on a podcast, where we discussed the latest happenings at Starbucks as part of our Re-Experiencing Starbucks Project.  We are watching Starbucks from a customer’s perspective to see what kind of difference the changes are making (or not) to the customer experience. 

Here are some of the topics from the show:

  1. Improving the U.S. business with training, tools and new products.
  2. Re-igniting the emotional attachment with customers through the experience.
  3. Re-aligning and streamlining organizational structure for the benefit of the experience.
  4. International expansion.

You can find the podcast itself at Jay’s blog. Don’t forget to tell Jay that I sent ‘ya!

Blog Book Tour

I am honored to be one of the reviewers of Sybil Stershic’s new book, Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most, which is about taking care of employees so they take care of your customers.  Sybil’s publisher, WME Books, is hosting a Blog Book Tour; here are the scheduled stops:

And next week:

I will be giving a review of the book as well as conducting an interview with Sybil.  Let me know if you have any questions for me to include!

(Side note: I have other book reviews coming up soon; this may turn out to be book week!  Reviews are pending for Michael Port, Darren Rowse, Tsufit, and Lewis Green… stay tuned, as they all have great books in different areas which include blogging, PR, sales, and employee/customer focus.)

Posted in Blogging, Customer experience, Marketing, Starbucks Project | Tagged: , , , | 11 Comments »

When Things Don’t Work: Tolerate or Leave?

Posted by Becky Carroll on May 28, 2008

Stay or go? All of us have days when things don’t go the way they should.  Companies have those days, too.  Service goes down.  Planes don’t take off when they should.  A chef doesn’t show up for work.  Someone slams a product on a blog. 

When things get tough, the company’s response to the problem can make or break their reputation – and their customer base.

The outcome often depends on what kind of relationships have already been built with customers before the problem occurs.  Has the company had a history of listening to customers and reaching out to them in their own language?  Does the company empower employees to take care of things when they go wrong?  Does the company respond to blog posts and other social media conversations?  Does the company build customer loyalty by understanding their customers, then communicating with them the way they want to be communicated with?  These are all part of a strong customer strategy which will help organizations weather the storms which inevitably come.

If a company does have strong relationships with its customers and has built a loyal customer base, customers may cry foul but will most likely tolerate the issues.  They may be very forgiving, even sticking up for the company when others are trying to pull them down.  The customer base will remain with the company – critical in slow economic times!

On the flip side, if a company is only focused on trying to squelch negative comments, if they only talk about themselves, if they forget to take the customer’s perspective – then any falter or trip can result in disaster.  Grumpy customers and their comments come raining down.  Customers spray their problems all over the place, then leave – and take others with them.

Which kind of company do you want to work for? 

If you work for the first type of company, kudos to you!  Let’s hear some of your great stories!

If you work for the second type of company, I know a good customer strategy consultant that can help you… ;)

(Thank you to Brian Solis for the inspiration on this post!  Photo credit: ccaetano)

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

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 55 other followers