Memorable (blog-worthy) Service

It’s easy to turn to blogging to complain about this-or-that customer experience that went wrong – but we should also be careful to note the good stuff that happens day by day. Such as:

  1.  That drive through teller at my local Bank of America who greeted me on Monday, even through 2 layers of glass and from a distance, with a friendly smile and warm greeting. I drove out not only with a deposit of money made, but a deposit of kindness making my day better.
  2. Paul, the guy behind the counter at Saltwater Farm Vineyards (highly recommended, btw) in Stonington CT, who greeted my wife and me with a warm handshake and easy banter as we tasted their wines and got the fascinating backstory of this relatively new vineyard headquartered in a converted airplane hangar. And, yes, we bought a case.
  3. Tanya, a customer service rep from Enterprise in Orlando, who tracked down the pair of prescription sunglasses that I’d left in a rental car there and made sure they were sent back to me.

And then there’s this great story from Drew McLellan’s blog today about CustomInk.com. Look at the free WOM advertising they get just by doing customer service right.

Want to learn more about customer service? I’d recommend reading Becky Carroll’s new book titled, The Hidden Power of Your Customers. Well, not just reading. Doing!

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DeltaFAIL? You decide…

Delta Airlines has a PR nightmare on its hands – or, is it an opportunity?

Here’s the deal – some soldiers returning from Afghanistan put up this video on YouTube (please watch) complaining about the fact that they had to pay, out-of-pocket, for a fourth piece of luggage. They had been operating under the impression that they were allowed 4 pieces of baggage.

Delta put up this apologetic response on their blog, which outlines the fact that soldiers traveling coach class are actually allowed three bags (first/business class allows four).

Military people know that you have to do things “by the book” as you do your job. And Delta employee(s) were apparently doing just that – following the rules. Clearly, we have a case of miscommunication – and maybe a policy in need of review – that has blown up and is creating a strong emotional response.

So, here’s the question – what do you think Delta Airlines should do – right now for these soldiers, this week for PR damage control, and long-term regarding their luggage policy for the military? Put your thoughts in the comments and let’s discuss.

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Welcome! How May We Gouge You??

It was a rainy morning in Chicago. I had flown in early, taken the train downtown, and gotten pretty well soaked on the walk to the hotel – but, I was here. Ready for a great few days of networking and SOBCon.

I’d booked the conference hotel (Hotel 71) months ago for the duration of SOBCon but needed a place for one night, so I had gone on-line and reserved a room at a relatively nearby place, which will remain unnamed at the moment.

Dripping my way into the lobby at about 10 am local time, I was flabbergasted by the following exchange:

Tom: “We have a room ready for you, Mr Woodruff, but there will be a $35 early check-in fee.”

Me: ???????????????????????

OK, let me get this straight. A room is sitting there ready, I arrive early (terrible sin!) – and now you want to ding me for an extra $35? In 25 years of business travel, I’ve NEVER run into this gouging maneuver (have you? If so, enlighten me – please!)

This, after mentioning that, no, I don’t recall ever staying here before. What a nice welcome for a new guest!

I described this red carpet treatment on Twitter and apparently others agree with me.

I’ll try to communicate my displeasure privately and see where that goes, which is why I’m not mentioning the property by name at this point. But if you’re in the hospitality business, take away this lesson – when your first encounter with the customer is a grab deeper into their pocket – for no good reason – you’re really not likely to build repeat business.

Not. Likely. At. All.

ADDED BONUS: no e-mail address, no electronic message capability on website, and no Twitter! Free Wi-Fi, though….

UPDATE: I confirmed with a second desk person that this is indeed a policy of the small chain (though I think it is presented as a reserved red-eye early check-in on some document I see in the room here – I was a walk-up). That person gave me the name and e-mail address of the Customer Service Manager, whom I e-mailed, and who kindly got right back to me with an offer to waive the charge. That was (in my opinion) the right thing to do – and I respect the two desk personnel who actually did what they had to do – enforce policy (even if it was uncomfortable).

I will continue to leave the name of the hotel unmentioned and simply suggest that they forward this post up the chain of command so that an internal decision can be made about the wisdom of said policy.

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Do Customers Need to be Led?

The short answer to the above question is: of course. If someone is in one place, and needs to be drawn to a different place, that means exercising leadership.

However, there’s a whole different relationship involved. If you’re leading employees, there are built-in motivations, and a hierarchy of authority to enforce leadership. Not so with customers (or others where influence is more indirect – volunteers, collaborators, etc.)

Let’s say you are a graphic design consultant, and you have been hired by a customer to create a website design. You know what works on the web. You know what color schemes are appealing to the eye. You know about typefaces and layout and all that other juicy designer stuff. Yet your client wants you to put a 1,000-word marketing dissertation in 8-point type on a black background. With 14 references to Justin Bieber because they read an article on a plane once about keywords and SEO. Does this customer need to be led?

To ask the question is to answer it. And just replace the details with a hundred other business scenarios, and you’ll see that we need to lead customers every day.

As a consultant, I am leading my clients all the time. I have no value unless I’m leading them in the direction they need to go. Here are three basic ways in which I seek to lead a customer:

  1. Listen and ask questions. Put on your therapist hat first. Draw out the thoughts and goals and ideas bubbling in their minds (yes, typically, that is the way it is – very few customers actually come to you with a pre-packaged blueprint. Why do you think  they called you??)
  2. Steadily direct the questions and conversations to this one main point: What are you seeking to accomplish? It is amazing how many questions and ideas appear in a different light once you help the customer reach that one-sentence statement of purpose.
  3. NOW begin to apply your expertise to answering that question. Believe it or not, by playing the therapist and then clarifying the issue, you have attained a leadership position far greater than if you trotted our all your qualifications and pointed to your wall full of awards. Customer resistance is removed, not by intimidation, but by understanding. People are ready to hear your expert point of view and recommendations once they see that you’re standing right next to them, helping them see the main goal with 20/20 vision.

I have an accountant, and a financial planner. I want their expertise because I don’t have the bandwidth or interest to mess with all that financial stuff. They are both younger than me (I used to lead one of them in his high school youth group!). And I gladly let them lead me, because they can track and think about issues that I can’t or won’t. They ask the right questions, and show their ability to come up with a plan. Now I have one less worry.

Customers want to be led. They want one less worry. And you’re the answer – right?

Join us on Tuesday nights for #LeadershipChat on Twitter (8 pm ET). And, before you pull up a seat at the table tonight, read what my lovely and talented co-host, Lisa Petrilli, has written about this topic, drawing lessons from the life of Abraham Lincoln! And, to make your chat experience even more enjoyable, try out ChatTagged, a custom-made Twitter client for helping manage your on-line chat interactions!

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A Lake Placid Mugging

I was bummed.

Pulling my coffee out of the microwave, I managed to bang my favorite mug against the edge and shatter it, not only spilling coffee everywhere, but losing a symbol one of my fond memories.

Lake Placid, NY.

You see, I met my wife-to-be in Lake Placid during the summer of 1979, just before the “Miracle on Ice” Winter Olympics (still my favorite sports memory of all time!). We spent part of our honeymoon there, and have visited numerous times over the years, always happy to re-live the memories, and to introduce our kids to the sights and pleasures of that little Adirondack getaway.

Last summer, we had the pleasure of enjoying lunch at the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery, and there I spotted a mug similar in shape and size to one I’d purchased in LP way back in ’79. So, I bought it.

Then, a few weeks back, broke it.

Because I have fun sharing life events on Twitter, I posted a picture of me mugging with my remaining half-mug, and got some funny messages of sympathy. But then, lo and behold, a unexpected note from Kimberly Rielly at the Lake Placid Twitter account:

I loved the fact that LP has someone in charge of monitoring tweets that mention the destination. But I loved even more that Kim reached out via e-mail and really did offer to fix one of these tragedies. And, she did (together with the fine folks at the Brewery)!  A few days, later, I get this box in the mail, and sure enough, it put a whole new expression on my previously-saddened mug–>

And that, my friends, is how to use social media to delight customers. Happily, our local libation store now carries Lake Placid Brewery Ubu Ale, so I’ll be enjoying some of it this weekend.

This spring will be our 30th anniversary, and this summer the 32nd anniversary of our meeting in LP. It’ll be a little bit sweeter knowing that Lake Placid is not just a far-away memory, but an up-to-date source of gladness!

Now, for some more coffee…

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A Satisfied Elenco Customer

Here is the story, in bullet points:

  1. For Christmas, we got our 9-year old Seth a cool electronic snap circuits toy (made by Elenco Electronics) – various parts and pieces that kids can use to create simple electronic circuits.
  2. Dog decided to try out her teeth on several pieces. The teeth worked. The pieces no longer did.
  3. Wife contacts Elenco (e-mail) about the several DOA pieces. They promptly respond back by e-mail that the specific pieces outlined by my wife will be replaced.
  4. Package comes: new parts. No charge. Not even shipping. Happy wife. Happy Seth.
  5. Happy customer gives public, on-line back pat and recommendation for “blog-worthy” service.

And that, folks, is how customer service works.

(btw, I wrote a similar post about a similar customer experience with Legos 2 years ago. And that post has been one of the most heavily trafficked EVER on my blog.)

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Saying Good-bye to a Newspaper

For years, I faithfully subscribed to the Wall Street Journal. I liked the business focus. The in-depth reporting. The regular off-the-beaten-track feature stories.

I even liked the launch of the Personal Journal section a couple years back, which had more lifestyle reportage (including wine reviews, which I always enjoyed).

But this week marks the end of my customer journey with the WSJ. And it has nothing to do with the paper vs. digital transition.

Reason #1: The paper has changed. Too much. It’s been, for lack of a better term, “Murdoch-ized.” The last straw was the NY section, with all kinds of style and fashion garbage. I found that when the WSJ was in my hands, it no longer felt like a “serious” news vehicle the way it once did. The fluff invasion got to me.

Reason #2: They never could crack the nut of getting reliable, on-time delivery to my door. Whoever was in charge of morning delivery by car was so unreliable (multiple reports of poor service made no difference) that I finally insisted on getting the paper by U.S. Mail. This meant getting the paper in late afternoon – an OK compromise – but then, starting a couple months ago, suddenly daily issues began not showing up at all, or coming one or two days late. Making contact via Twitter, phone, and e-mail actually yielded personal interactions, but the bottom line is: the problem wasn’t fixed.

Delivering something on-time and on-target 70-80% of the time just doesn’t cut it.

And so, good-bye to an old friend. I still respect you. I appreciate the memories. And I”ll stay in touch on-line.

But you didn’t deliver.

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