Customers Rock!

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

Posts Tagged ‘Customer experience’

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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

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: , , , , , , | 17 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 »

Focus on the Customer Experience

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 30, 2008

Lamps at the Grand Bazaar There are so many ways we can focus on our customer.  I wanted to share a very cool post from one of my favorite bloggers, Doug Meacham of NextUp.  Doug is one of the first bloggers I started a conversation with back when I began this blog at the end of 2006 (he has also been one of those trying to get me to start Twittering – I am getting closer, Doug!).

Doug’s post is a great list from another Doug, Doug Fleener at Retail Contrarian, sharing 50 ways to improve the customer experience (note – there are actually 51 – added value).  This is near and dear to my heart!  Most of these apply directly to retail and consumer-based businesses, but they should also be considered for other customer-friendly folks.  Here are a few of the items that I especially liked:

“8. Send handwritten thank-you notes. Come on, do you really do it?”

Come on, really.  Do it!

“15. If you can’t fulfill a customer’s need, suggest another company that may be able to do so.”

Zappos.com does this if they can’t find the shoes you are looking for.  Awesome customer service.

“46. Partner with restaurants and other stores to present exclusive discounts and offers to your customers. (A win-win-win. The other company gets incremental revenue, your customer saves money, and you’re the nice person doing it for both of them.)”

I like this one because, through partnering, your company is able to offer added value (there’s that phrase again!) to customers. This can be a key factor in increasing customer loyalty.  I heard a recent example of this in some interviews I was conducting for a retail client.  The retailer’s store is on a street in a shopping district with several other retailers.  In order to give a reward to loyal customers, the street is holding a drawing for Mother’s Day.  The lucky winner will get one prize from each store or restaurant on the block, including free meals, spa treatments, and clothes.  How fun is that?

Of course, as I mentioned to the Doug(s) in my comments, the best way to take care of your customers is to do the above within the framework of a proactive strategy.   Planning for a great customer experience will make all the difference between “random acts of customer service” and a consistent experience. 

What works for you?  Please share some of your best customer experience ideas with us either by email or in the comments on any of the above blogs.  I will be sure to link to you here at Customers Rock!

(Photo credit: jchambers) (Note – WordPress.com’s photo uploader isn’t working; this photo is coming soon!)  Finally working!

Posted in Customer experience, Customer loyalty, Customer service, Customer strategy, Marketing | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Coffee Experience: Free Coffee at Starbucks

Posted by Becky Carroll on April 8, 2008

 Hat tip to Jay Ehret for this one.  If you have been reading Customers Rock! for awhile, you know that Jay and I are jointly working on a project to see if Starbucks is able to re-invent their customer experience.  (You can go to the Categories list in my sidebar to see all posts on this.)  One of the key areas is, well, the coffee itself.  People have said that Starbucks doesn’t even smell like coffee anymore when you walk in.

Today, Starbucks is hoping to raise their image to change that.  They are introducing their new Pike’s Place Roast, and as part of the introduction, they are giving away free Short (8 oz.) cups today, April 8, at US-based Starbucks cafes.  This is coffee made with their new process, fresh ground beans, brewed at least every 30 minutes.  From their press release:

Customers Spoke.  Starbucks Listened.
The new Pike Place Roast™ was artfully created by Starbucks master blenders and roasters using input from customers and baristas to achieve a bold taste and smooth finish.  Nearly 1,000 customers spent almost 1,500 hours providing input on what’s important to them in a cup of coffee.

“It was an exciting opportunity to find the right roast that would produce the flavor customers told us they wanted in a daily coffee,” said Andrew Linnemann, Starbucks master coffee blender. “We heard our customers and we were determined to deliver the consistent high-quality cup that they expect every time they walk into one of our stores.”

According to some of the discussion at MyStarbucksIdea around offering a sample size of beverages, Starbucks will already give you a sample of a drink for free so you can see if you like it.  Plus, they are standing by their new mantra that a drink should be to your liking, or they will remake it for you, free.  So what is up with the “free” Pikes Place Roast today?

I agree with Jay on this one: they are most likely trying to build some Word of Mouth around their new blend, bringing attention to themselves and their re-focus on coffee.  Good for them for getting the word out.  Now let’s see if it works! 

Go check it out, and let us know what you think about this “celebration of Pikes Place Market”.  Is the customer experience enhanced with the aroma of fresh coffee?  Does it taste better?  While you are having your coffee, go online and learn more about Word of Mouth by joining Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba’s  Society for Word of Mouth (or SWOM).  I did, and it looks to be a great resource!

(Photo credit: muha04)

Posted in Marketing, Starbucks Project | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Customer Service – The Face of the Company

Posted by Becky Carroll on March 6, 2008

happy-sad-faces.jpg I had two very different customer service experiences today, one right after the other.  The first was a great example of what not to do; it took place at an office supplies store.  Directly after that interaction, I went to another store next door and saw an example of a nice service experience; it took place at a pet supplies store.

What Not To Do 

After picking up my merchandise, I went to the cashier and waited for him to finish whatever he was doing on the register/computer screen.  Without looking up, he asked me, “Do you have a rewards card?”  I didn’t, and he completed the transaction.  He then asked me, “Do you want a bag for this?”  I did, and off I went.  The whole thing was done in 13 words, and the cashier never looked at me at all.  I may as well have used a self-checkout machine (if they had only had one!).

What To Do

As I brought my merchandise to the front, the cashier saw me coming and smiled at me.  She said hello and asked me how I was doing today.  She then proceeded to chit-chat about the weather (warm and sunny), asked me for my rewards card (everyone is doing these, huh?), and finished up the transaction.  We had a real, human-to-human interaction, with real conversation.

A Quick Analysis

It should be fairly easy to see the differences between these two experiences.  I don’t think I will return to the first store; I will find somewhere else to buy my office supplies (online, perhaps?).  The personnel seemed more interested in their own internal activities than in serving the customer.  The second experience was friendly, courteous, and professional.  The personnel there were attentive and interested in serving the customer.

As I have said before, it all comes down to the personal touch.  In the competitive retail space, the personal touch is critical – we don’t make relationships with brands, we make them with people.  Every interaction with the customer is another brand experience, and each person who touches a customer is marketing that brand through their customer service.

A Third Example

One can go too far with “friendly and chit-chatty.”  I was at a clothing store a few weekends ago, and one cashier (a young man) was very talkative.  He really seemed to care about the customers and talked about everything like he was an old friend.  Nice, but it was a little excessive – some of the people in line behind us asked him to hurry up and not spend so much time chatting.   We really have to look at our customer experiences through the eyes of our customers… and to most customers, he may have been a little too friendly and talkative.

Little Things

I heard an interesting quote on the radio today which sums this all up: “The little things aren’t a lot – they are everything.”  Little things like looking a customer in the eye, greeting them, smiling, and carrying on a human conversation go a long way towards marketing a company/store as friendly and welcoming.  And it is cheaper than all those advertisements, right?!

(Photo credit: www.stockxpert.com)

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

 
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