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Tastes Terrible…Saturday Service Insights

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6a011571626a2b970c01310f4f0bdc970c-pi-1On a recent trip to the organic foods grocery store we decided to purchase a dairy/gluten free macaroni and cheese product for our kids.  There were a number of different brands to choose from but in the end we chose a product that had middle of the road pricing.  A few days later, we made macaroni and cheese for lunch and served it to both our son and daughter.  The looks on their faces were priceless - it's as though they had sucked on a lemon.  The product tasted horrible!  In this case because we paid $4 for mac and cheese we felt it was important to let the product manufacturer know it was not very appetizing.  My wife filled out a quick online form to let them know about our poor experience.  As well, we followed up with the grocery store to make them aware.

A few weeks later, we received a package in the mail with 2 free boxes of macaroni and cheese from the product manufacturer.  "Are you kidding me?" asks my wife.  How could this company have gotten our taste concerns so completely wrong that they decided to spend $16.50 on postage and send us the very same product that tasted terrible?

There is a valuable lesson to be learned here - listen to the customer.  We didn't want a free product or to be reimbursed our $4.  We just wanted them to know that the product was not appetizing.  A response acknowledging our concern and a simple one liner to say that they will strive to improve our products would have been sufficient.  In the past, I've made a point to call a customer to discuss their product/service concerns and just having someone listen to them was often enough to diffuse the situation and in very rare cases even agree to disagree in a respectful manner.



Phone Call…Saturday Service Insight

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Smiling Goes a Long Way

Smiling Goes a Long Way

On Wednesday I made a phone call to reserve a conference room at a hotel that most of us are familiar with.   The woman who answered the phone, Amanda, was able to accommodate my request - overall, a pleasant experience.  The following day, I had to cancel my meeting because it needed to be held at a more central location to accommodate my group.  When I called the hotel, Amanda was unavailable so I was put in touch with Kim who would handle cancelling the booking.

Kim was able to handle my request.  However, not once did she ask why I was cancelling the booking or if I would like to re-schedule for another date or another location.  In fact, she made it clear to me based on her tone and quick dialogue that she was in a rush.  Interestingly enough, after getting off the phone I didn't feel upset but I did feel rushed and most importantly I would have to call back to re-book.

For me, this interaction has lots of opportunity to ensure a customer is satisfied.  The first thing I would address is working with staff to smile when they answer the phone.  Although a simple trick, it can set the tone for a positive interaction.  Secondly, the staff member can dictate the pace and tone of the conversation to feel calm and unrushed.  The goal of interacting with a customer is to assist them.  Although Kim assisted me in cancelling my booking, she did not assist me in re-booking or trying to understand why I cancelled.  Interestingly enough, I did re-book my conference room at another location with the same hotel chain.  However, I may not be as inclined to use the original hotel in the future based on my interaction with Kim.

The lesson here for shops is to ensure as much emphasis is placed on interacting with phone customers as it is placed on face to face interactions.  Simple tips such as smiling and setting the tone and pace will help create a positive discussion.  As well, you will need to establish what the customer need is and ask pertinent follow-up questions.  In this case, "Is there a reason for your cancellation?" which would have helped to lay the groundwork for the rest of the discussion.

What would you do to improve this interaction?

Closed…Great Saturday Service

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2126703It's Saturday evening and we've just finished a family dinner out.  We decide to head over to the grocery store to save us time and a trip in the morning.  We enter the grocery store at 7:57PM and notice the store is bustling with staff but hardly any customers.  A man standing at the front of the store (presumably the manager) is asked by my wife what's happening.  He says that the store is closing.  We apologize and say we can come back tomorrow at which time he says its ok and to go ahead and do our shopping.  We have a sense of guilt but also a sense of relief that we can do our shopping.  It's amazing how quickly you can shop when there are no other customers to contend with and the feeling that you really shouldn't squeeze every orange since you've been granted a special privilege.

We get to the cash and have a great conversation with the cashier who lets us know that its ok we're there after 8PM.  It's now 8:12PM and we're at our car unloading the groceries.  What a great feeling to have accomplished our grocery shopping in 15 minutes but to have received a special experience!

The lesson for any shop here is this: you may have a closing time posted on your window but it's probably not likely that your closing will be completed at exactly the time posted.  This means you may have employees dedicated to closing and others who maybe on standby to help last minute customers.

As a courtesy we would always close our shop 15 minutes after the posted time to give any last minute customers an opportunity to do an oil change.  Even with a few oil changes in these closing minutes this would not put us behind leaving at a reasonable time since other members of our staff would be focused strictly on closing duties.  Interestingly enough, these last minute customers would often become our most loyal customers since they appreciated us staying open just for them (even though we would have still been there performing our closing duties).  That's one of the secrets to my success in customer service on how to to make a customer feel special.


Waiting…Customer Service Insight

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Waiting for service; not what a customer expects

Waiting for service; not what a customer expects

The goal of the Saturday Service article is to provide insight into what my experience is as a consumer and how it can be used to better improve your service.  It's Wednesday morning and I decide to stop in at the local pharmacy to mail a package and to also purchase a few items.  It's fairly quiet in the store since it's the AM and they usually don't get busier till after lunch.  I can see the woman from cosmetics is in her part of the store and the pharmacist is behind his counter.  I take my items up to the cash and find no one there.  However, the office door behind the cash is open and the the manager on duty is busy at her desk.  I continue to wait as 30 seconds has now gone by and I cough to break the silence of the store.  No response.  The 1 minute mark approaches and the manager emerges from the office.  She greets me nicely, processes my transaction, collects my payment and I'm off.

This is not the first time this has happened to me and out of convenience I continue to use this pharmacy.  However, convenience aside this is the type of behaviour that will drive customers away.  The payment process requires the attendant to be present and engaged.  In this case, she was engaged but was not present to help me right away.  Because of this happening on more than one occasion it has changed my buying habit to only visit this pharmacy in the PM when there are more staff on hand.

The solution: the customer comes first and any other activity needs to be stopped so they feel their business is important.

One Size Fits All Solution

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On September 10, 2012 GoDaddy, one of the world's largest web hosting companies experienced a technical glitch - websites they hosted could not be accessed including OilReset.com.   Although a nuisance, the outage was solved a few hours later and chalked up to a glitch and in turn a learning experience of how to ensure it never happens again.  Satisfied that my site was up and running again it was business as usual.

On the morning of September 15 I received an email from GoDaddy apologizing for the service disruption and offering me a free service to compensate for my lost productivity - great right?  As a customer, this felt like the right thing to do but hang on a moment.  The compensation was generically worded so it not only could be sent to me but to all customers, on top of this, it gave me a whole list of products I have never used that I could be compensated for.

I wasn't looking for compensation from GoDaddy and I was not very impressed with their generic compensation strategy.  The lesson here for your business is very simple - not all customers are the same.  I understand GoDaddy must have millions of customers but each of us is unique and has our own needs.  In this situation, maybe a more crafted email message should have been sent to customers based on what subscription they had or better yet - just an apology would have sufficed for me.  I realize this strategy may not have worked for all customers; hence the need for a more tailored approach to each customer.

The Success of the Little Guy

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The Importance of Knowing a Customer

I was in a meeting today discussing automotive service and what makes the difference when it comes to building the business.  Here is a rough idea of what was discussed, Competitor A has made a huge investment in technology within their service bays offering the latest machines and tools.  They have invested in software that allows them to track repairs and follow up with customers in a push of a button.  Competitor B for a number of reasons has not made a great investment in technology both in the service bay and in its software.  However, Competitor B continues to have a loyal and steadily growing customer base even when faced with Competitor A - why?  The answer for the purpose of this article is "Relationships".

Although Competitor B is "Low tech" they are "high touch" meaning they interact with the customer on a different level.  The "High touch" referencing how they interact with their customers by knowing all the kids names, when their last service was and so on.  In reality, there are many Competitor A's in the marketplace but Competitor B will continue to keep them at bay by building long lasting relationships - naturally, by truly caring about their customers.

Taking care of your existing client base by getting to know them, their personalities and their behaviours may provide better return on investment rather than spend thousands on marketing to the masses.  One of the things my customers were always amazed at was when I would greet them by their name as soon as they pulled up to the shop - this was part of my success in building long lasting relationships.


Customer Satisfaction Survey – Customer Service Insights

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For the most part, many retailers are participating in some sort of customer feedback program.  This can range from a dedicated website for a customer to answer questions related to their purchase to a suggestion box on the checkout counter at a fast lube.  Although the range of soliciting customer feedback is wide; it's very clear that information relating to a customers purchase and thoughts about the retailer can help to improve the overall business operation.  What happens when the feedback is forced and in a manner in which the only answer provided is the highest ranking answer?  Here is a real example of what my wife and I experienced when we purchased a new vehicle less than 1 year ago.

The process for purchasing the vehicle was no different than past experiences - we did our research, contacted a few dealerships, negotiated a price and signed the deal. When we picked up the vehicle and were walked through the features we were reminded by the customer experience manager and the sales person to fill out the customer satisfaction survey.  The key to this request was "Make sure you give us perfect and if you are unable to please let us know how we can fix your concern prior to the survey".  Hang on a second, this dealership also claimed the highest overall satisfaction scores nationally within their brand.  Does this mean, that  the #1 score they attained was a result of "fixing"?  In the end, I filled out the customer satisfaction score honestly and gave the dealership good scores but not a perfect.

This experience is not uncommon since I have heard similar stories from other new car purchasers.  In the end, as a consumer this has left me feeling that a #1 customer satisfaction ranking by any retailer needs to be scrutinized to truly understand what metics were being rated and what influence the retailer had on the outcome.  If you want to increase customer satisfaction levels and do it consistently it begins with talking with your customers and having an overall strategy on what great customer service will look like.  I also believe that a customer satisfaction survey has its place in understanding satisfaction levels but it should not be the only one.

Written by Ronald Rameshnauth

Is There Anyone Else Who Can Help?

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The weather is milder than usual in Canada for this time of year and we have decided to get ready  for the biking season a littler earlier as well.  My wife and I have spent the past few weekends discussing what type of equipment we will need for our 18 month old to enjoy biking as much as our 4 year old.  With questions in mind, we headed over to large retail chain on a Saturday afternoon and headed right for the bike section.  We paroused the isles looking at equipment but also looking for a salesperson to help.  We found an infant carrier for our bike but we had not found anyone to help us with our questions.  I decided we would split up and see who could find help quicker - my wife would stay where she was and I would go to another department in search of help.  I found a salesperson in another department who was kind of enough to explain there was only one person working in sporting goods and he kindly walked me back to the section and got the attention of the sporting goods guy who acknowledged me and said he would be a few minutes.

It turns out, I was not the only person waiting for his help - there was also a grandmother and her grandson.  I decided that the 15 minutes it had taken so far was far too long and decided to go with my gut and purchase the item I had found and return it if it didn't meet my requirements.

There is a valuable lesson here for this store (which I will share with them) and for shops and businesses in general.  As a customer I really don't care about what the staffing issues are , inventory issues or any other issue - I just care about getting the product I came in for or possibly an equivalent.  If your staff are not trained to provide assistance across all aspects of your business then what good are they putting up pricing labels in their department when a customer needs help in another?   In this situation, the gentlemen who walked me over from the other department would have been able to help his co-worker out by trying to facilitate my questions.  In the end, this lack of help has led me to believe this is not a store I want to return to in the future.

Indicating to the Customer

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Last Saturday, I discussed the positive impact a cashier had on me when she verbally acknowledged me waiting.  She saw me waiting in line and let me know that I could visit another cashier or continue to wait.  The end result was she made me feel that my time was important to her.  What happens when you can't say something to the customer?  Here's a great example - when servicing vehicles on a Saturday its not impossible to build up a line of cars waiting in cue to have their oil change performed.  Sometimes these lines can be 1 or more cars deep depending on whats happening on the car in the bay.

Over the years, I developed a zero driveway policy.  In essence, my staff and I would ensure no customer waiting in line would leave - period.   There were many aspects to us executing this policy but I will focus on the acknowledgement part.  As soon as a vehicle pulled up to the service bay waiting to enter we would walk to the back door, make eye contact with the customer and signal the amount of time it would be before someone would come out to speak with them.  This would usually be anywhere from 1-2 minutes depending on how busy we were.  The key to doing this was once the customer knew we had seen them and given them a time there was no reason for them to leave due to lack of attention.  This worked 100% of the time.  From time to time, we would even hear a customer say that they decided to wait because we had acknowledged them.


The Power of Acknowledgement

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It's Saturday afternoon and I am in the lineup of a drug store.  There are three cash counters but only one is open at the moment.  The cashier is working to reduce the lineup of six people as quickly as possible.  There's a problem - the next customer in line did not receive her double rewards on her purchase and would like to do a return and purchase a few more items to ensure she gets full value.  I know this because I like everyone else in line can hear everything.  The customer's request is reasonable and the cashier is more than happy to accommodate her.  The line adds another person.  At this point the cashier does something that is not done often enough.  She looks me right in the eye and says "We have another cash counter available in cosmetics but you're welcome to wait if you have the time".

The cashier had acknowledged not only my presence but the fact that I was waiting and there might be a quicker alternative.  Instead of going to the other line I said "I'm happy to wait".  In this instance, this simple gesture from the cashier made me feel my business was important and secondly that my time was valuable.  I think it happens far too often that we end up waiting in lines with no acknowledgement of our presence.  I can recall a bank years ago that made it a priority to acknowledge customers waiting and if they were not acknowledged they would receive $5 on the spot.

The key message for any shop is to ensure customers are acknowledged when waiting inside the store or in the lineup even if its a physical gesture but this way the customer will know that they are appreciated.

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