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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

All I Want For Christmas

This year, rather than follow my usual practice of waiting until the very last minute, I decided to do the bulk of my Christmas shopping early (which from the average male's perspective, means any time prior to 5:00pm on the 24th).

To be honest, this break in behavior was not so much a function of any new found organizational skills, or strange awakening of my more feminine side, but rather driven by two basic needs, those being:


1. The need to save time and money - The Bay (a large Canadian department store where those of us who dislike shopping can get most of the things on our list in relatively short order) was having a '2 Day Only Storewide Sale'

2. The need to gather some fresh material for what has become a long overdue service experience related blog article. Where did the last month go?

So this past Saturday I left the house early, list in hand and fully expecting to gather most of what was on it as well as at least one or two less than positive customer experiences to rant about. I knew, what with the sale and all, the customer service staff at The Bay would be under a great deal of pressure. Surely, someone would slip up and give me the story I needed.

After only an hour or two, I had managed to get just about everything on my list, but try as I may, I could not come up with a single negative service experience. I had dealt with at least 10 different employees and much to my dismay, every single one of them was annoyingly friendly and helpful, even when I played the role of the difficult, if not stupid male shopper. This by-the-way is something I do very well.

Knowing I was getting absolutely nowhere on the blog material gathering front, I eventually left The Bay and ventured into the adjacent mall where multiple high end specialty stores were competing viciously for the attention and dollars of the far more discriminating and knowledgeable than I, female shoppers. Like most of its kind, this mall is anything but a male friendly environment.

Desperately, I spent the next hour wandering through several shops where I clearly did not belong, asking silly questions and generally being a pain. But even there, I came up short. In fact, one shop owner, when asked one of my particularly silly questions, went as far as to cheerfully educate me on the proper use and care of a product she had on hand, even though I'd admitted to having bought mine elsewhere.

I suspect most people would consider what I went through a pretty good day of shopping, but given that I take great pleasure in spotting, writing about and addressing customer service issues (not to mention the fact that this is part of what I do for a living) I found the whole experience very disconcerting.

Could it be the world has at long last awakened to the magic of friendly service? Is this the end for Wavemaker Blogs?

I dare not go back out and face the mobs to get my answer; so in case you haven't already guessed, all I want for Christmas is some assurance this is not the case. Please, please do tell us about your Christmas shopping experiences, be they good or bad (albeit those of latter variety would be far more comforting).

Here’s wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

To comment, or read the comments on this blog click on 'comments' beside the little envelope below. To read previous articles (this is #39), see the Blog Archive (lower right) and to become a Wavemaker Blogs follower, click on 'Follow' (just above Archive).

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If you would like to know more about how Wavemaker Consulting can help your company improve the customer experience you provide, visit our Website, or email us at wmconsulting@live.com

We Want You Be Happy: The following photo was submitted as part of a comment on this article from Steve Tait (see comment 2 below) but for technical reasons could not be included in the comment.


Gotta love it!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Putting Things Right

 

A few weeks back, my son Adam had a little trouble with a faulty roll of aluminium foil. As he explains it "I could pull out both sides, but try as I might, could not lift the middle without it tearing."



Adam thought about taking it back to the store, but having previously discarded the receipt, knew they'd only give him a hard time; so to avoid further frustration, he tossed the foil in the bin and the box in the recycling.

The following evening, faced with the prospect, not to mention expense of having to go out and get another roll, he decided to call ALCAN, the company that manufactured the faulty foil, and let them know about his experience with their product. Given ALCAN's offices are back east, and it was already late in the day in Vancouver, not surprisingly his call was answered by an automated voice messaging system.

At this point Adam considered simply hanging up and letting sleeping dogs lie, but something in the tone of the message encouraged him to leave a brief description of his complaint as well as his contact details.

The very next morning he received a very well crafted, personalized email from a company rep at NOVELIS FOIL PRODUCTS, the distribution company that represents ALCAN. This email contained a sincere apology, an assurance that they would make good on his purchase, a few questions about the problem and a request that he return the roll (at their expense) so as they could investigate further. This was clearly not a form letter and was worded such that it left Adam feeling they truly appreciated his feedback... and were actually going to act on it!

He replied explaining that unfortunately, he had thrown out the contents, but still had the box in his recycling. While half expecting not to hear back, in very short order he received a 'no problem' response with a further assurance the company would make good on his purchase and a 'if it's not too much trouble' request for the product code off the box, so that the quality control investigation could continue.

Another email or two ensued and, to make a long story short, just the other day Adam received the package pictured above, along with a further thanks for bringing this matter to the company's attention.

Now that's what I would call 'Putting Things Right!'Sidebar: By shear coincidence, around the same time this was going on, I attended a sales and marketing workshop where the facilitator suggested "there isn't a company out there that knows how to effectively deal with customer complaints." I would suggest that the good folks at Novelis would prove him wrong.

And, in fairness to ALCAN, who arguably manufacture the best foil on the market, if you manufacture hundreds of thousands of anything, somewhere along the line, even under the most stringent quality controls, you're going to have a defect slip through. It's what happens when one does, like the response described above, that separates great companies from the also ran.

You may recall, late last year I posted an article entitled "Revenge" which described what happened to one company when they failed to act on a customer complaint. Perhaps United could learn a thing or two from ALCAN and Novelis.

To comment, or read the comments on this blog click on 'comments' beside the little envelope below. To read previous articles (this is #38), see the Blog Archive (lower right) and to become a Wavemaker Blogs follower, click on 'Follow' (just above Archive).

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Canadians are Wanting More, but Getting Less


According to a recent study conducted by American Express, 58% of Canadians indicated the quality of customer service is more important to them in today’s economic environment than it was prior to the recession.

These same consumers also suggested they would be willing to pay a premium upwards of 7% just to get better service.


Of the people polled, 91% consider the level of customer service important when deciding to do business (or keep doing business) with a company; yet 65% believe most companies have either not changed their attitude toward customer service in the face of these economic times, or are now paying even less attention to it!

And only 15% believe companies value their business enough to go the extra mile to keep it.

By my way of thinking, for anyone in business who's feeling the pinch, or just wanting more, this dichotomy screams OPPORTUNITY!

What do you think?


To read more of the findings of this study, click here: Service speaks: Canadians willing to spend 7% more for premium treatment.

To comment, or read the comments on this blog click on 'comments' beside the little envelope below. To read previous articles (this is #37), see the Blog Archive (lower right) and to become a Wavemaker Blogs follower, click on 'Follow' (just above Archive).

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If you would like to know more about how Wavemaker Consulting can help your company improve the customer experience you provide visit our Website, or email us at wmconsulting@live.com

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Advantage - Great Service

I'm feeling a bit guilty about my last blog article (or should I say rant) which as you may recall, was aimed at the 'Stupid' Store.

It's not that they didn't deserve it. In fact, I've had occasion to be in touch since the 'cans' incident and they were no more helpful than they'd been on my last visit.

You see, I was craving Dungeness crab, as one does, and called to see if they had any in stock. I'll admit it - this was less about me giving them second chance and more about my need for a reasonably priced crab fix.

In any event, after the usual call transfer delays, I finally got through to someone in the fish department who informed me they had crabs (so to speak) but refused to tell me the price per pound. Apparently, it's their policy not to give prices over the phone. No doubt this one was written by the same lamebrain who can up with the 24 can return policy.

But I digress. The reason I am feeling guilty is because not because I comparison shop, or because despite the cholesterol count, I love fresh steamed crab dipped in hot butter. The reason I am feeling guilty is because I realize I tend to write more about bad customer experiences than good ones and I know that sharing the occasional example of a great customer experience might be refreshing, if not helpful. The problem is that in my experience great customer experiences are all too rare.

Fortunately, Jim Foster, a good friend of mine was lucky enough to have one and kind enough to allow me to share it with you.

What follows is Jim's story:

We had the misfortune to have our hot water tank pack it in on Tuesday. Our first call was to the company who supplied it, who suggested they could come in about 6 days. Not prepared to wait that long between showers, our second call was to Advantage. They could come between 3 and 5 pm that same day! Needless to say, we booked the appointment.

To make a long story short, I received a call from the office when the van was dispatched, the technician gave a firm quote before doing the job, then did it in less than the estimated time and at what I believe was a reasonable cost.

Today we received a follow up letter from the President of the company, thanking us for the business, asking if we were happy with the service and advising us of what to do if we had any problems in the future. It also contained a copy of their service philosophy, a detailed explanation of their cost structure and an invitation to drop by for a coffee if we happen to be in the neighborhood!

Now that's great service, something so very rare these days!So there you have it. Doesn't it warm your heart to know that while rare, there are still some companies out there delivering great service? And if you happen to live in the Greater Vancouver area, here's a bonus - now you know who to call if your hot water tank ever decides to pack it in.


To comment, or read the comments on this blog click on 'comments' beside the little envelope below. To read previous articles (this is #36), see the Blog Archive (lower right) and to become a Wavemaker Blogs follower, click on 'Follow' (just above Archive).

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Go Figure?


In the name of fairness and to keep the peace in the family, it is important that all members of the household share a bit of the domestic workload; or at least that's what my wife tells me.

At our house, I have as one my chores the all important responsibility of returning the recyclables such as the empty pop cans and the like.


It's not a bad job really. It gets me out of the house and I can either pocket the proceeds, or use them to buy those necessities like ice cream, cookies and potato chips which are all to often 'forgotten' by she who does most of the grocery shopping.

One day, while returning a rather large quantity of empties (I save them up not out of laziness, but rather in the name of efficiency) to a big box store I not so affectionately call 'The Stupid Store', I was 'greeted' at the 'Customer Service' counter by a rather surly clerk who bluntly advised me I could only return 24 cans on any given day.

"You have got to be kidding me!" I replied "No one told me that when I bought several cases of pop a few weeks back."

"Well that's our policy." she said as if that explained everything.

Being a dedicated student of human behaviour, I quickly sensed there was no winning with this 'lady' so I resisted the urge to further protest, diligently counted out 24cans and placed them on the counter. She then selected two of those cans, handed them back and said "We don't sell this brand here, you'll have to take them back where you got them."

While tempted to ask "What difference does it make, don't they all get crushed and go to the same place in the end?" I knew the likelihood of my question yielding any reasonable explanation was just about on par with the likelihood of me getting a genuine smile out of this field hardened battle axe, so I obediently replaced the two cans in question with ones bearing their store brand.

Then something happened that totally blew me away. Before relinquishing my meager proceeds, the clerk, hereafter know as 'Attila the Hen', produced a rather unofficial looking form, filled in the date and asked me for my name, phone number and signature.

"What in the world do you need all that for?" I replied "Are you afraid I might sneak back into the store later in the day and try to return another 24 cans... or are you thinking that perhaps some of my cans could be counterfeit?

"Oh no" She said in a tone that implied I was something short of an imbecile, "We ask for this information not because we don't trust our customers, (I'm not convinced) but because we don't trust our employees. After all, they could simply take money from the till and claim it was paid out for returned recyclables."

At this point, I found myself uncharacteristically at a loss for words: which was probably just as well, but what was I to do?

I had no intention of sticking around to hear any more of this nonsense and pushing a shopping cart still half full of cans around the store in search of the previously mentioned necessities had little appeal.

Besides, I certainly didn't want to risk contact with any of the store's other apparently untrustworthy employees. So I left, without spending a dime, in search of a more accommodating grocer. After all, I still had the two cans that had been rejected, and returning home with them, not to mention without the ice cream, would surely signal that I had been negligent in my domestic duties.

To put this little story in perspective and give it meaning in context of the importance of a positive customer experience - I shudder to think how much our family spends in groceries over the course of a week, let alone a month, a year, or a lifetime... and yet, for the sake of a dime (the refund value of two cans) and some very, very stupid rules, this store intentionally choose to send me and my money, directly into the welcoming arms of one of their competitors.

Go Figure?

To comment, or read the comments on this blog click on 'comments' beside the little envelope below. To read previous articles (this is #35), see the Blog Archive (lower right) and to become a Wavemaker Blogs follower, click on 'Follow' (just above Archive).
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If you would like to know more about how Wavemaker Consulting can help your company improve the customer experience you provide visit our Website, or email us at wmconsulting@live.com

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Deliver What You Promise


Last week my wife and I took a short break and headed back east to visit family and friends and spend a little time touring Boston and New York City.

While walking through the financial district of The Big Apple, something in a second story window caught my eye.

We stopped and took this picture as I couldn't resist the contradiction of an all important lesson in customer service:



Never create expectations against
which you can't deliver!

I wonder just how long the gentleman (top left) has been waiting for his pizza? But enough said about that. As it happens, both New York and Boston far exceeded our expectations.

While a tad on the warm side at 103 Fahrenheit/39 Celsius, we found New York to be clean, friendly and surprising vibrant, what with the recession and all. With the exception of a little attitude from one poor soul who in all fairness was melting in a half price Broadway ticket booth, the service was exceptional! But then who would expect anything less from the city that knows how to handle adversity like no other.

Boston was equally warm on both fronts. If you're ever out that way, I highly recommend the Duck Tour followed by a taste of the local seafood at The Barking Crab... but be prepared to wait in line. Recession or not, the combination of warm, friendly and funky still draws a crowd.

Could it be the Americans are on to something?


To comment, or read the comments on this blog click on 'comments' beside the little envelope below. To read previous articles (this is #34), see the Blog Archive (lower right) and to become a Wavemaker Blogs follower, click on 'Follow' (just above Archive).

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Friday, June 18, 2010

The Small Print

Is it just me, or is the print on just about everything getting smaller?

The other day I had a little problem with my credit card (worn out from over use I suspect) and needed to call someone. I flipped the card over hoping to find a contact number and sure enough, there it was.


Actually, there were three numbers, all of which were in print approximately the size of ant droppings.

I squinted my eyes, then like a trombone player, held the card at various distances... and alas, they came in to focus; but which to call? I suspect this was explained in the few words which preceded each number, but sadly, those were in even smaller print (think baby ant droppings). Thankfully, at least they were not in the center of the card where a number of similar sized words, saying lord knows what, were totally obscured by the recesses caused by the embossing of the card number.

Eventually, I gave up, called the first number and was unceremoniously put in the queue of a rather annoying automated voice response system... which eventually lead me to some 'customer care centre' in India; but I'll save that story for some future day.

In any event, while waiting in the queue, I decided to check the other cards in my wallet to see if the use of micro print was a common practice. Lo and behold, it pretty much was, with the one exception being my American Express card on which the numbers were sufficiently large, but unfortunately the accompanying words were printed in white, on a light blue background.

Needless to say "I was not amused!"

To my younger readers, all this may sound like the rantings of an old grump. But demographic studies would suggest that in many parts of the world, there are actually more of us old grumps than there are of you; and as much as you may not want to hear this, with every passing day, you get one day closer to being one of us.

The use of small print on credit cards, labels and everything else may seem of little consequence to some, but for me they speak volumes of the competence of those who insist on testing our eyesight, not to mention our patience.

Often it's the little things (no pun intended) that make or break the brand.


To comment, or read the comments on this blog click on 'comments' beside the little envelope below. To read previous articles (this is #33), see the Blog Archive (lower right) and to become a Wavemaker Blogs follower, click on 'Follow' (just above Archive).

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Friday, May 28, 2010

They're Watching You

Whenever you're shopping at a major retail store, chances are someone is watching your every move... and not just on their security cameras.

I recently read an article in The Economist which explained how several of the larger retailers the likes of Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Office Depot, Abercrombie & Fitch, Price Chopper and Toys "R" Us to name just a few, are using elaborate electronic monitoring devices to track and influence the buying behaviors of their customers.

A relatively simple example would be Tesco who, through sensors at the doors, track the volume of people entering and leaving their stores with the goal of managing the opening of additional tills to reduce wait times - a good thing.

Higher up the food chain (so to speak) others retailers are using multi-lens video camera's and high tech audio recording devices to track traffic patterns, observe shopping behaviors, even listen in on their customers. Some go as far as to categorize or segment customers into stereotypical groups based on these observations.

What they do with all this information varies, but you can bet it won't be long before you'll have walk through a maze of shelves and displays to the very far corners of the store to get any of the things you really need, not just the bread and the milk.

Privacy concerns aside, if all of this 'retail surveillance' were to result in a better customer experience (as would appear to be the intent in the case of Tesco's) I'd be all for it. I suspect however, that in the majority of cases, the objective is about getting people to buy more stuff rather than to improve the customer journey.

Personally, I'm not convinced this is the best use of all this expensive equipment. Perhaps if they turned the cameras on themselves for a while, many retailers would learn something about why so many of their customers are getting fed up and choosing to shop elsewhere, or online.

I'd love to hear your views on this emerging practice, but whatever they might be, next time you get an itch while out shopping, keep in mind - big brother is watching.

To comment, or read the comments on this blog click on 'comments' beside the little envelope below. To read previous articles (this is #32), see the Blog Archive (lower right) and to become a Wavemaker Blogs follower, click on 'Follow' (just above Archive).

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

America's Most Trusted

According to a just-released study by the Pew Research Center, small businesses are the most trusted institutions in America - more than churches; more than colleges; more than technology companies: more than government agencies and certainly more than financial institutions and large corporations!

Here is a quick recap of some of the high/low lites:



















Small business owners and all those that work for them should take pride in these findings, as well as a some assurance their efforts are being recognized and will be rewarded.

While some may disagree over absolute ranking, there are few who would suggest trust is not one of the primary drivers of consumer and employee behavior, especially on the heals of troubled times.

This being the case, small businesses should rightfully expect to see upticks in market share, customer loyalty, employee attraction, employee retention and a bunch of other good stuff.

As per those of us associated with institutions (either as employees or shareholders) further down the list... let's just say perhaps it's time we either convinced the powers that be to reassessed their practices and start looking for ways to win back the trust... or we move on over to the small side.

So much for the old saying "Go big, or go home!"


To comment, or read the comments on this blog click on 'comments' beside the little envelope below. To read previous articles (this is #31), see the Blog Archive (lower right) and to become a Wavemaker Blogs follower, click on 'Follow' (just above Archive).

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If you would like to know more about how Wavemaker Consulting can help your company improve the customer experience you provide (and win back the trust) visit our Website, or email us at wmconsulting@live.com

Friday, April 16, 2010

Who Cares?

The other day I was asked if there was a model or magic formula for delivering good service. My initial reaction was to say "Of course not! It's a very complicated and multifaceted thing. That's why you have to hire someone like me to help you design and deliver a great customer experience!"

My second reaction was to feel guilty for my first reaction.

It's not that I don't believe there is a lot entailed in delivering an exceptional customer experience. I'd be a fool to be in this business if that were the case. However, that's not what was being asked. My colleague simply wanted to know what one needed to do to deliver 'good' service; and to be honest, it doesn't take a model or formula to define that. It can be captured in a single word:

CARE!

Truth is most companies (read the people that work for them) either don't care, or don't care enough. They are so caught up in their own needs and wants, they've lost sight of the needs and wants of the customer. That's why words like "they just don't care" are so often at the root of the ever growing number of customer complaints and horror stories we hear.

How many companies can you think of that really seem to care?

C is for Customers - they always come first
A is for Appreciate - they are the very life blood of your business R is for Respect - their beliefs and mannerisms may be different than yours
E is for Enthusiasm, Energy, Equality, Excitement, Empathy - and all the other 'E' words that define how you should interact with them.

Now I feel better.

To comment, or read the comments on this blog click on 'comments' beside the little envelope below. To read previous articles (this is #30), see the Blog Archive (lower right) and to become a Wavemaker Blogs follower, click on 'Follow' (just above Archive).

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If you would like to know more about how Wavemaker Consulting can help your company improve the customer experience you provide, visit our Website, or email us at wmconsulting@live.com

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Why we shop where we do

Some time back I posted a simple little survey on my blog site that asked "Why do you shop, or otherwise do business where you do?"

Many thanks to the more than 50 of you who participated! At long last I figured out how to crunch the numbers in Excel and am finally posting the results.

As you may recall, the survey was broken into 4 broad product categories as follows:


Groceries - food items, beverages, detergents, paper products, etc.
Major Items - cars, major appliances, furniture, computer equipment, etc.
Financial Services - loans, deposits, credit cards, insurance, investments, etc.
Small Items - clothing, linens, cosmetics, small appliances, hardware, etc.

Here is what you collectively had to say about why you shop where you do:
















So what does all this tell us?

While I'll let you draw your own conclusions, I found it interesting that in every area but financial services product and selection is the major customer driver by a rather wide margin. I was encouraged by the fact that overall, customer service finished second, but surprised by how little it factored in our decisions related to where we shop for groceries, especially as this something we do so often.

I was also taken back by how rewards (loyalty cards and the like) would seem to have little or no impact on our shopping behaviour, which given how much the administration of such programs must add to the cost of goods sold, does cause one to wonder why bother?

Perhaps the most profound finding of all was just how much customer service factors in our decision as per where to buy financial products. This is something I'm not convinced most financial institutions fully appreciate. Go figure!

To comment, or read the comments on this blog click on 'comments' beside the little envelope below. To read previous articles (this is #29), see the Blog Archive (lower right) and to become a Wavemaker Blogs follower, click on 'Follow' (just above Archive).

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If you would like to know more about how Wavemaker Consulting can help your company improve the customer experience you provide, visit our Website, or email us at wmconsulting@live.com

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Yours or Mine?


Say I was to put a $20 bill (or a £20 note for my UK friends) on the table and offer the highest bidder the chance to win it on the flip of a coin. How much would you be willing to wager on the chance?

Views on gambling aside, logic would suggest a reasonable answer would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 dollars as that evens the odds of you taking my 20 while keeping yours at 50/50.

But say all you had was $20 to carry you to your next paycheck and you needed that money to buy milk for the kids. Would you still make the bet?

Conversely, say you want to buy theater tickets that cost $40, but only have $25 in your pocket. The show runs tonight only and there is no other way for you to get the extra $15. Might you consider bidding a little higher for a chance at not missing the show?

My point is this: It’s not really the price or cost of things that drives consumer behavior, but rather the value they place on those things. Yet driven no doubt by the economic downturn, it would seem both companies and consumers alike are totally obsessed with cost cutting and have completely lost sight of the total value proposition.

While I appreciate that eliminating unnecessary spending often makes sense, becoming obsessed with cost cutting, be that on the provider or consumer side, can only lead to a reduction in quality, and therefore the value of goods and services available.

Inevitably, this decline in value will further stall our economic recovery, increased pressure on our fragile environment and in the end, actually drive up real costs. In other words, it will cause a world of long term pain and little if any short term gain.

By my way of thinking, the sooner we curb our obsession with cutting costs and get back to focusing on value, the more of it we will create and the better off we’ll all be.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one!


For more on this topic, see my colleague, Ade McCormack's blog on Money Verses Value then return to this site by clicking on the back button.

To comment, or read the comments on this blog click on 'comments' beside the little envelope below. To read previous articles (this is #29), see the Blog Archive (lower right) and to become a Wavemaker Blogs follower, click on 'Follow' (just above Archive).

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If you would like to know more about how Wavemaker Consulting can help your company improve the customer experience you provide, visit our Website, or email us at wmconsulting@live.com

Monday, March 1, 2010

In Memory Of An Old Friend

The other day I found myself reading through the obituaries in the local newspaper (sadly, people my age do that sort of thing) and I came across the following entry that I thought might be worth sharing:

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Mr. Com N. Sense, who was with us (on and off) for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in a mountain of bureaucratic red tape.

Mr. Sense will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as: ‘the customer comes first!’ and ‘while good marketing may bring them in the door, it’s a positive customer experience that keeps them coming back!’

Com lived by simple, sales and service ethics (every customer deserves our attention and hospitality; never sell anything to anyone who has no need for it; always deliver what you promise) and grass route strategies (make it easy for the customer to do business with you and make it easy for your people to do business with the customer).

On those rare occasions when things went wrong on the sales & service front, it was Com who was there to show us that it’s not about who is wrong and who is right, but rather that what really matters is putting things right!

Com’s health began to deteriorate the day several service providers failed to acknowledge his existence as he entered the local branch of his bank. In fairness, they refused to make eye contact for fear he might expect them to leave the all-important work on their desks just to serve his needs. It declined further as a number of well intentioned, but somewhat overbearing rules and regulations were set in place. Reports from friends of being turned away from the bank because they had failed to make an appointment; being asked for references from other banks while trying opening an account, being told where and when they could do business, were but a few.

Com finally lost the will to go on after repeatedly trying to reach his bank to express his concerns from his sick bed. Rumor has it he was connected to an automated voice response system which, after numerous seemingly meaningless questions, redirected him to a line that rang and rang, but was never answered.

Com N. Sense was preceded in death by his daughter Responsibility, and his son Reason, but survived by his 3 ugly stepbrothers; It’s Not My Fault, That’s Our Policy and I'm Just Following the Rules. Com is also survived by his loving wife, Good. While understandably weakened by the loss of her husband, Good Sense is expected to make a full recovery and take up the cause where Com left off.

Memorial services for Com N. Sense will be held on Thursday at ‘The Church of Common Courtesy’ and all are invited to pay their respects. In lieu of flowers, Mrs. Sense has requested that going forward, we simply remember her husband each and every time we serve a customer.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Champs, Chimps and Chumps

Recently a friend of mine was struggling with the dreaded task of having to let someone go. The individual in question was not getting along with customers or coworkers and as a result was costing my friend's company money; but being a very caring individual, he was still reluctant to pull the trigger.

When I heard this it brought to mind a little article I'd written some time back which, hoping to ease his pain, I shared with him. Now I'm sharing it with all of you just in case you ever find yourself in the same unenviable position.

Very early in our management careers we are told that no two people are alike and in order to succeed as managers we must learn to recognize the various personality styles and adapt our management practices to acknowledge individual and situational differences.

Most managers and supervisors have received training on, or at least read about personality profiling and style-based or situational leadership. Unfortunately this can be pretty complicated stuff and as a result, not many of us have managed to effectively apply these theories and practices in the workplace. As a simple alternative, I offer the following “Who’s Who at the Zoo” management philosophy: I admit it’s not pretty; but it is effective and far easier to remember and apply.

Despite almost countless variations on personal styles, I would suggest that the vast majority of people fit rather nicely into one of three broad categories. There are those that lead, those that follow, and those that don’t do either… or put another way… those that make things happen, those that watch things happen and those that don’t have a clue what’s happening.

In order of contribution, we’ll call these categories Champs, Chimps and Chumps. If your work group is like most, about 80% of it’s real productivity or value added comes from about 20% of your people (the Champs). The remaining 20% comes from about 70% of your staff (the Chimps) and like it or not, 10% of your employees, consciously or not, are actually working against rather than for you (the Chumps).

Imagine for a moment, a group made up of only high producers, a group made up entirely of Champs! It will never fly you say? Let me guess; You need the Chimps to get the work done right? A Champs only business would be too top heavy … all generals and not enough foot soldiers. If that is what you are thinking, perhaps we have a case of mistaken identity here and need to flesh out and better align our definition of Champs, Chimps and Chumps.

Champs aren’t just those people who run the business. A Champ can be anyone in the business who exhibits enthusiasm, energy and dedication. They exist at all levels and can be found doing just about any job that needs doing, and doing it well. In fact, in some companies, you’re more likely to find a Champ on the front line, in the warehouse, or sweeping up than you are in the executive suite.

Champs are the people who others, especially customers, gravitate to. They genuinely enjoy what they are doing and are a pleasure to be around. Champs are the ones you’re always praising (or at least you better be) and you don’t mind paying. All you need to do to keep them engaged is to give them meaningful, challenging work and continue to acknowledging their contribution.

Jumping to the other end of the spectrum, Chumps can be a little more difficult to recognize and a whole lot more difficult to manage. Chumps often disguise themselves as Chimps, and sometimes, even Champs. Fortunately, Chumps have some common attributes that will no doubt surface over time and give them away.

Chumps are generally defensive, change-adverse and close-minded. They are often found complaining and blaming or criticizing others. Argumentative by nature, they like to interrupt and have a really hard time listening to, let alone accepting, another point of view. They tend to view the customer as an intrusion and seldom engage with them at any level beyond the minimum required. Chumps are almost always self-centered and most feel the world owes them a living. If that’s not bad enough, Chumps also have the particularly annoying habit of trying to inflict others (both coworkers and customers) with their negative views and in doing so, they are working against you and your company.

So what should you do about the Chumps? While far easier said than done, the best possible thing you can do is to be rid of them, and the sooner the better! You owe it to those who do produce to do just that. You also owe it to your customers, your company and yourself. In fact, you even owe to the Chumps. Chumps are generally not happy with their current situation and probably don’t hesitate to point that out. Being change adverse however, they are very unlikely to do anything on their own to make it better. By terminating the relationship you will be helping them get on with their lives. If you can, explain this to them and encourage them to leave on their own accord. If you can’t, document your observations and follow whatever process exists in your organization for more formally (and legally) saying good-bye.

But enough about the Chumps, let’s talk more about the Chimps, or potential Champs, if you will. In most companies they represent the vast majority of employees and can be easily identified in one of two ways depending oddly enough, on age. Young Chimps may exhibit many of the same characteristics and attributes of Champs, but simply lack some of the skills, knowledge and experience required to make them high producers.

Young Chimps are generally pleasant enough, but can come across as awkward and uninformed when dealing with customers. They are frequently found asking lots of needless questions, or just hanging around looking perplexed or confused. Fortunately, Young Chimps are easily influenced and with proper care and attention, can quickly be converted to Champs. Unfortunately, left unattended, they can just as easily be converted into Chumps, especially if, shame on you, there are a number of longer serving Chumps hanging about in your business. Young Chimps don’t stay young for long, so get to them early and give them the direction and feedback they so desperately crave.

Older Chimps, on the other hand, are often recognizable by their very lack of distinguishing characteristics. They are not bad performers, but seldom do anything special. Older Chimps are generally quite, easygoing folk who are very little trouble and just seem to carry on from day-to-day. They tend to be well liked by their colleagues and often have a loyal following of longer term clients, but are unlikely to bring in any new ones. While they have the skills and knowledge to do their present job, they seem hesitant to try new things, preferring to maintain a low profile and follow the rules, even if to a fault. It is not that they are change adverse, but rather that they need to be lead through it.

Older Chimps, often as a result of being ignored for years, have lost the confidence and drive of their youth. To move from Chimp to Champ, they need to be reassured that you recognize their past contribution and potential further value. Then, they need to be realistically challenged and held accountable. Nothing reengages the older Chimp like being asked to lead (or at least help out on) a project that requires ‘someone with their level of experience and expertise’.

All be they likable creatures, Chimps, young or old, are probably costing your company money. At best they may be paying their way, but in doing so they are occupying a spot that could otherwise be filled by a Champ. Truth be known, most of us could do with a lot less Chimps. The best way to reduce their numbers is to convert them to Champs. Fortunately, Chimps were born to please and with just a little push, are ready and able learners. Whether they know it or not, they want to be Champs. So train them hard and train them well. If they have what it takes, you’ll know soon enough. If not, perhaps there is another role in your organization for which they may be better suited; but failing that, they too should be set free. Chances are they have wrongly placed themselves in an occupation for which they have no aptitude. By letting them go you will be helping them avoid future unhappiness and the possible deterioration to the dreaded Chump level. They'll do just fine working for someone else and in time, will likely thank you for help them to find their way.

So there you have it. This ‘Who’s Who at the Zoo’ approach to people management may not be perfect, but it is effective, appropriate for the times and, in the final analysis, fair. Now to bring it all together in a nice little summary; in a nutshell, the WWZ or ‘Who’s Who at the Zoo’ management philosophy says: stroke the Champs; train the Chimps; fire the Chumps.


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If you would like to know more about how Wavemaker Consulting can help your company improve both the employee and customer experience you provide, visit our Website, or email us at wmconsulting@live.com

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Real Value of a Customer

One of the reasons customer service is what it is (as in not nearly as good as it should be) is that most organizations grossly underestimate customer value (CV) seeing it as simply the difference between the cost of providing goods or services and what the customer pays for them at point of sale.

Say for example Neil, my youngest pictured above, buys a pair of skis on sale for $800 (a ridiculous amount if you ask me, but considerably less than the ones he really wants). If the total cost of those skis (what the manufacturer/distributor charges the retailer, plus a proportionate share of operating expenses such as salaries, commissions, rent, advertising, etc.) to the shop is $700, they are likely see his CV as $100.

On the surface this might seem reasonable, but it far from tells the whole story.

First, the skis mentioned above by no means represent my son's first pair, in fact, he currently has three pair in active service (don't ask) and there are at least as many cast offs in the basement. I prefer not to think how many pair of skis he has owned and how much they cost.

It should be noted that not all of those skis were bought from the same shop and even if they had, I can understand why the retailer is not all that likely to account for purchases of years gone by when calculating Neil's value as a customer, although a little acknowledgment would be nice.

But consider this - Neil typically buys a new pair of skis every two years, either because he wears them out (what he tells me) or because something 'way better' has come along (the real reason). Given his passion for the sport, he is very likely to continue this pattern for many years to come and it would not be out of line to suggest that in the course of his lifetime he will probably go through at least 25-30 pair.

So what we are really talking about here are sales over time of somewhere between $20,000 - $25,000 and based on a 10% margin, that translates into $2,000 - $2,500 in potential value for the retailer.

But that is only part of the story. In order to ski, Neil not only needs skis, but also boots - good ones go for about $500 to $600 (replace every 3-4 years); poles - $50 to $100 (lasting 2-3 years, unless stolen); gloves - $100 (at best 2 years, but only if he doesn't lose them); goggles - at least $100 for anything decent, considerably more if you go with the built in antifogging fans (who know how long they'll last); a helmet - his mother won't let him leave home without one - $100 to $150 (good for 3-4 seasons or until he head buts a tree)...and then there's the outer wear (jackets and ski pants)... inner wear (thermal underwear, fleece, etc.)...and apr├Ęs ski wear...let's not even go there.

But we're not done yet. When it comes to skiing, Neil is the expert in our family, so when his brother or I need new equipment, we follow his lead. And because he can recite equipment specs in his sleep, not to mention 'drop a line' (ski cliffs/shoots/tight trees) most of us wouldn't think skiable, there's also a broader circle of friends, acquaintances and people who just happen to be riding the same chairlift who turn to him for advice as per what to buy and where to buy it.

When you add everything up over the course of his life, Neil will directly or indirectly influence the purchase of well over $100,000 in ski equipment, which would suggest that to those who sell the stuff he has a potential customer lifetime value (CLV), even at very conservative margins, well in excess of 10 grand!

It would be silly to imply that all of Neil's 'customer lifetime value' will be realized by a single shop, but one thing is for sure, little if any will go to the one that calculates his CV as $100!

So if you happen to own a ski shop, you might want to think about that the next time some lanky kid in jeans and a hoodie strolls in and tips back his baseball cap to give you and your inventory a critical glance.

To comment, or read the comments on this blog click on 'comments' beside the little envelope below. To read previous articles (this is #25), see the Blog Archive (lower right) and to become a Wavemaker Blogs follower, click on 'Follow' (just above Archive).

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If you would like to know more about how Wavemaker Consulting can help your company improve the customer experience you provide, visit our Website, or email us at wmconsulting@live.com

Friday, January 15, 2010

Some People Wait A Lifetime

The other day I found myself on hold while waiting to inquire about a billing issue with my telephone service provider. Unlike many similar automated queueing systems, this one did not give any indication of wait times. That said, I knew I was in it for the long haul as every few minutes the background music was interrupted by the following message:

Interested in a career in telecommunications? We currently have several openings for call centre operators.

When I first heard this, I thought: Fair enough. They are short staffed, but at least they're trying to do something about it. By the fifth or sixth time I heard it, my thoughts were becoming somewhat less charitable.

But then, about ten minutes into my wait, something happened that really lit a fuse. At first I didn't catch on as by this time I was cradling the phone on my shoulder and going about some other business. When the penny did drop, I became painfully aware of the song playing in the background. Believe it or not, it was none other than A Moment Like This which, for those of you not familiar with the lyrics, repeats almost ad nauseum the line:

"some people wait a lifetime... for a moment like this."

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against Kelly Clarkson, or this particular piece of music. But I did find it's placement a bit over the top. Either someone at the phone company has a very warped sense of humor, or attention to detail does not feature highly in their operational imperatives. Either way, while I had to laugh, I was not amused, if you know what I mean.

As it happens, I did not have to wait an entire lifetime. It just felt like one.

After a little over 18 minutes, I was finally put through to a rather pleasant individual, who when challenged on the billing item in question (a charge of $3.99 for a 1 minute call to directory assistance) was quick to advise me that particular service was not one provided by her company, but rather one provided buy a third party and that I would have to take it up with them directly. I found it strange that they would farm out such a lucrative service (many lawyers charge less than what equates to a $239.40 hourly rate) but since they are the ones doing the billing, it is probably safe to assume they get a cut.

In any event, intrigued by this response, not to mention being somewhat opportunistic, I then asked if they also farmed out the design of their automated queueing systems. Needless to say, she failed to see the humor in this.

In the end I opted to eat the disputed charge and did not bother calling the number she gave me. Not all of us can afford to wait a lifetime for moments like this!

If your company has an automated call management system, you might want to take a moment and check out what impression it leaves with your customers. From the rest of you, we'd love to hear about any 'interesting' call management systems you may have encountered.


To comment, or read the comments on this blog click on 'comments' beside the little envelope below. To read previous articles (this is #24), see the Blog Archive (lower right) and to become a Wavemaker Blogs follower, click on 'Follow' (just above Archive).

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If you would like to know more about how Wavemaker Consulting can help your company improve the customer experience you provide, visit our Website, or email us at wmconsulting@live.com

Friday, January 1, 2010

Many Happy Returns!

Happy New Year! I hope you had a great holiday and got exactly what you wanted for Christmas. I also hope it was the right size, the right color and the right whatever it needed to be.

I suspect however, there are those among you who have already made, or are planning to make a visit back to the shops for some minor or major adjustments.

And for those of you, my further hope is for 'Many Happy Returns!'

Even as I write these words I realize this to be wishful thinking. After all, last year was very challenging for most retailers and by all accounts, the sales figures leading up to Christmas didn't exactly turn the tide.

What are the chances that shop owners, sale clerks and customer service folk are going to greet you and your returns with the same enthusiasm they displayed (or should have displayed) when the purchases were made?

The truth is - I've already heard a number of somewhat disturbing stories.

The first relates to the electronics store who has implemented a 15% restocking fee on all returns, a hefty price if the item in question is a computer or big screen TV. Apparently one disgruntled customer asking why this policy was not brought to their attention at the time of sale, was not so politely told "It's printed on the back of the sales receipt!" which it was.

Fair enough I suppose, but consider the fact the customer doesn't get the receipt until after the purchase; and just out of curiosity, when was the last time anyone actually read the back of a sales receipt?

Then there's the major department store that back in October and November, was so actively encouraging everyone to shop early, but now, when presented with a return, is so quick to point out their 30 day refund policy.

On the one hand, I can understand, even sympathize with these retailers. After all you can't really expect them to freely accept returns for an indefinite period; or can you?

What constitutes a fair and reasonable return policy? To be fair (and ethical) it most certainly has to be clearly understood by all parties at the time of purchase, not hidden away in small print on the back of a receipt. But what is a reasonable return period and what specific return terms and conditions actually make sense?

Not easy questions to be sure.

Perhaps the root of the answer lies in just how much the seller values the future business of their customers and how much they care about what those customers have to say about them.

Rather than explain, I'll share with you one more little story which, while not so current, may help make the point:

Some time back a pregnant woman walked into a linen store to return an unopened set of sheets purchased precisely 31 days earlier. The sales clerk, obviously annoyed by this intrusion, cleared a pile of other returns off the counter and pointed to a rather dog eared copy of their version of the 30 day refund policy.

After expressing her disappointment, the customer in question was told that if she didn't like the policy, she was welcome to shop elsewhere.

That woman just happened to be my wife and the child she was carrying is now 20. While she has since made her fair share of towel, bedding and related purchases, my wife has never forgotten the words of that clerk, and more to the point, has never once stepped foot back in that store. Furthermore, to this day, whenever someone as much as mentions the establishment in question, she recounts her experience with same level of emotion and disdain that she expressed to me on returning home that fateful day.

The lesson:

When it comes to customers expressing and acting on their dissatisfaction, there is no 30 day policy.


To comment, or read the comments on this blog click on 'comments' beside the little envelope below. To read previous articles (this is #23), see the Blog Archive (lower right) and to become a Wavemaker Blogs follower, click on 'Follow' (just above Archive).

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with "Blog Me" in the subject bar. We promise never to provide your contact details to anyone else and you can unsubscribe from this service at any time.

If you would like to know more about how Wavemaker Consulting can help your company improve the customer experience you provide, visit our Website, or email us at wmconsulting@live.com