Four Reasons Why I Bought a Ford This Weekend

This weekend, I did something I don’t believe I’ve ever done before.

I went to a Ford dealer and bought a Ford automobile.

We tried getting by with our two cars but, with 2 high-school age kids and the ever-growing list of places-to-go and people-to-see, we finally had to make an addition. The odd fact is, that I never even bothered seriously considering another make of car this time around. This, from someone whose last few business cars were all Mazdas and whose family van is currently a Toyota.

Why? Let me give you four simple reasons:

1. Quality. I don’t care what the item is, or what the argument for domestic production is, if you’re not high-quality, you don’t earn my business. Ford has been making great strides in this area, enough that they slowly but surely edged back onto my radar screen. When my 18-year old and I took a test drive in a gently used 2010 Fusion, we were quite impressed (at the top of his list: the sound system, and the cool blue vanity lighting in the cupholders!)

2. Scott Monty. Scott is Ford’s social media guru, though I became acquainted with him back in 2007 or 2008, before his tenure with Ford. Scott has done a great job putting a more human face on a venerable American institution, and that goodwill (earned over time) translated into, not only consideration, but strong leaning, when it was time to make a purchase. It pays to hire good people. If you’re keeping score, President and CEO Alan Mulally: +1, Scott Monty.

3. Principle. Ford had the guts to refuse the government bailout years ago. While Chrysler and General Motors decided to become state-run institutions (or facsimiles thereof), Ford held to free-market principles. Thousands of us Americans never forgot that, and when it was time to make a purchase this weekend, guess which two companies were not even in the running? Granted, Ford is not some perfect company filled with angelic beings, nor are the employees of GM and Chrysler the spawn of evil. I reserve the right to re-consider GM products in the future, of course – but only if and when they are no longer a ward of the federal government. It’s not personal – it’s principle.

4. Referral. My entire solopreneur business model is based on trusted referrals. When I reached out on Facebook about my upcoming decision, a good friend (thanks, Janice!) recommended that I deal with Tommy Garcia over at Wayne (NJ) Ford. They also said that the General Manager (Troy Mol) was great. I reached out on-line and got an immediate and friendly response from Milca Irizarry, and meeting each of them over at the dealership was a pleasure. Purchasing cars can be a dreadful experience. My time at Wayne Ford has, without a doubt, helped advance my view of the Ford brand. If you’re keeping score, Mr. Mulally: +3, Wayne Ford.

I am not going to change the world of business by one little car purchase, or through any of my social media rants about it (e.g., here and here). But this entire experience simply reinforces the power of what should be obvious, in any business. Make great stuff. Do the right thing. Hire the right people. Treat customers right. And the end result will be the vein of gold that every business seeks – enthusiastic referrals. And sometimes, very public commendations…

(lest there be fuel for cynics, so let me say up-front that I have received no financial or other consideration for writing this post. I just believe in telling it like it is – and that includes the good stuff when it is earned!)

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Sweet Customer Service by Vosges

Count me very happily surprised.

I was ordering a gift card for someone, and figured – what could be more universally-loved that some luscious Vosges chocolate? (if you’ve tried it, you know – if not, well, what are you waiting for??)

So I go on their site, and the ordering process is easy, with one interesting chocolate-centered twist – when you plug in the zip code of the recipient, the site does a quick calculation about the destination and the time of year, and if it’s going to be a hot trip, Vosges automatically adds some cooling materials for 10 bucks. After all, you don’t want to receive a gooey mess in July, do you?

Except plastic gift cards don’t melt like chocolate. Oops.

A bit frustrated, I filled in the on-line form for Questions and explained the dilemma. I wanted to order, but…and I went off to walk the dog, grumbling under my breath that:

  1. I would probably not hear from anyone in a timely fashion;
  2. Any response would likely be some canned apology with no resolution;
  3. I was going to have to abandon the shopping cart and go buy something else.

Wrong, wrong, WRONG, you overly cynical consumer from New Jersey!

While still out strolling with my black lab Mystic, I received an e-mail from a “Chocolate Concierge” named Anna. In that message, she apologized for the problem (and promised to alert the web team so that it can be fixed), and provided two avenues whereby we could complete the process, including a direct phone call. Speed and a pathway forward – problem solved. Customer happy.

I’ve talked up and given away Vosges chocolate bars in the past, but now they’ve really won my heart. How’s your responsiveness? Is it personal, and fast, and blog-worthy like Vosges’ is?

Well-played, Anna and Vosges. That’s some pretty sweet customer service!

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Cattle Disguised as People

Yesterday, I had the displeasure of going to a pharmacy and being treated as a non-human.

Walking up to the window with a prescription, the person behind the counter, busy inputting something-or-other into a computer, barely registered any recognition of my existence. Now I understand the desire to complete a task before moving on the next one, but to make no eye contact, to give no greeting, to not say (with a smile) “just a minute, please, sir, while I get this finished up, then I’ll be right with you.” – nothing?

I’m a person, a customer, not cattle. What a contrast from my recent experience being in the more hospitable South.

When it was finally my turn to exist, the person behind the counter, without even looking up into my face, extended his hand as the signal that he was now ready to process my paperwork. Not serve a customer. Not be an ambassador of good for the company. Just take on the next task, which happened to be me. Totally de-humanizing.

Yes, jobs can be repetitive and boring (read this article: Confessions of a former TSA agent). It can be tempting to treat customers as objects, particularly when those customers have no other options. But you can be outstanding – either as someone who brightens another’s day, or someone who darkens it. As we all seemed to conclude in last night’s #LeadershipChat, hire for passion and attitude – skill can be imparted. And fire the bad apples quickly!

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Interview: Becky Carroll on Rockin’ Customer Service

If you don’t yet know Becky Carroll, you definitely should. She is one of the first bloggers I discovered 4-5 years ago in the marketing/social media space, and her Customers Rock! blog is well-known as a destination for all things customer service.

She’s also a really nice gal. We’ve collaborated on projects, spoken at an event together – I even had lunch with Becky and her family while staring at the Pacific Ocean in southern California (where she resides).

Becky’s just-released book, The Hidden Power of Customers, is a guidebook for any business that wants to put customers – especially existing customers – front-and-center in their business growth plan. And that should be – well, EVERY business.

Pardon the minor hiccup in 2/3 of the way through the interview when we had a connectivity blip. You’ll see a rather abrupt lighting change…!

Be sure to pick up a copy of Becky’s book today! (note: not an affiliate link. I have no financial interest in sales of this book).

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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Five in the Morning 020609

bcarrollWe picked up and moved all the way to the Left Coast today! That diva of all-things-customer, Becky Carroll, guest-hosts Five in the Morning over at her Customers Rock! blog (and if you’re not subscribed to her blog, remedy that situation post-haste!)

Here’s the link to her Five in the Morning post - Go! Thanks, Becky!

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fyi – the new Woodruff puppy Mystic doesn’t yet know how to do tricks, but she did set up her own Twitter account – and she has some a-t-t-i-t-u-d-e. You can get some doggie tweets by following her @mysticwood.

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A Return to Lowe’s – Strike 2, and a Home Run

A short while back, I wrote up a post about a very frustrating e-commerce (de-commerce) experience with the Lowes.com website, from which I tried to order a simple gift card. Let’s just say it was a total fail – you can read the backstory here.

I decided to write a follow-up post because of one very remarkable customer-service experience that I heard about from a fellow soccer coach. And that will be described below. But first…since one of the Lowe’s web developers had talked to me after my snarky original post, I decided to go back to their site and see if they’d fixed the problem.

Sure enough, the site design/navigation was re-vamped and better structured. Yay! Also, I went through the process of ordering a gift card, and sure enough, now it was talking about shipping the card to me or to the recipient, etc. etc. – Yay! But once again, at the final step, IT WOULDN’T LET ME ORDER ON-LINE – it insisted on directing me to local stores by asking for my zip code, and I could NOT, in fact, do the transaction on-line – GRRRRR!!!! C’mon folks, get this right!

OK, that’s the bad news. Strike 2. Now, here’s the home run. Last evening, a fellow was describing the fact that he had ordered cabinets from Lowe’s, and most of the order had come in right, but 4 times (that’s four – as in 1, 2, 3, 4) a specific piece was not ordered in correctly. OK, that’s not good. Talking to the manager about this repeat failure, he was asked if he was also looking for a grill (he was). She directed him to just pick one out and pointed to the section. He protested that this was too much for his trouble, so she said she’d take 50% off. When he selected a rather high-end model and brought it to the register, he found that he was only charged $1.00. Circling back to the manager, she smiled and said that she knew he wouldn’t go through with it if she said it was free, so she floated the 50% thing to help him over that hump – but in fact, he was going to get it free for his trouble. Sneaky! And very memorable.

Did she end up creating a customer for life? Probably. Did she have any inkling that the story would be told in a format like this, engendering good will toward Lowe’s across who knows how many time zones? I doubt it. But if we can use social media to point out the bad, we should also use it to highlight the good. And that’s what I just did.

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Revenge or Recourse?

Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord.

I’m not a big fan of taking personal revenge – I figure that an all-knowing, sovereign, and just God is perfectly capable of dispensing due vengeance, and therefore I am free to move on without a need to “hurt ‘em back.”

Recourse, however, is something different. Recourse can be defined as, “the act of turning to someone or something for assistance, especially in obtaining redress,” and those of us who believe in social media also see that it is a powerful tool for recourse when we are wronged.

Companies are (or should be!) very sensitive to their reputation in the marketplace. Any good or bad actions that can impact a reputation are now exponentially magnified by those of us who share our experiences in a networked world. Sometimes, our only recourse is to expose the bad business experiences that we have in order to obtain redress, or to shame others into giving up their suicidal business practices.

And so, not as a matter of revenge, but rather of recourse, here is an experience we have had over the past year with a healthcare provider (hospital). I wrote this up on my Impactiviti blog, but it is relevant here on my marketing blog as well, because it is all about brand reputation and customer service. How to Fracture your Reputation – may it serve as a signpost for others not to be stupid or indifferent!

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