Our street has a private trash service. We're slightly off the beaten path and the city trash trucks don't come up here. So twice a week a trash truck, complete with large, leathery, laborers hanging off the back, climbs our hill to collect our rubbish.
This morning they were making their semi-weekly pickup and the elderly lady who lives next door to me happened to be walking up her driveway. Upon seeing her one of the roughneck workers raised a hand in greeting, flashed a big smile and chirped out "Good morning!" She returned his greeting. Moments later, he had climbed back onto the back of the truck, and as it pulled away he added "Have a nice day!"
It was a little thing. Basic courtesy I suppose. But he was so friendly and cheerful that he made a good impression on my neighbor and on me. He may not have a business card or a tie, but he just advanced that company's customer service image a long ways. You can bet that I'll remember that if their contract ever comes up for discussion.
Are your employees leaving a favorable impression of your company? Customer service is EVERYBODY'S job.
Here's an action item for you: Allocate some time, every week, to quietly observe how your employees interact with your customers. From the sales people to the service people, right down to the guy who empties the trash bins and the parking attendant in the lot. Try to catch somebody doing something RIGHT. Then praise them for it.
I recently had the opportunity to deal with United Airlines telephone service folks and I have to say - it demonstrated all of the stereotypical problems people complain about when dealing with outsourced phone support these days.
"To Be Hung Up On Without Speaking to a Person, Press 2"
First of all it answers the phone and dumps you into an automated attendant. There aren't too many options, which would normally be good (never keep your customers sitting there through long lists of options) but unfortunately NONE of the default options seemed to apply to a person who missed a flight (which I did).
Guessing at the option that seemed the most likely presented me with a sub-menu of options which also didn't seem to apply to my situation. Again, not a huge problem but it was exacerbated because NONE of the options were "Speak to an Agent." It had become clear that the automated system wasn't going to understand my problem and that I'd need to try and talk about it with a human being, if I could find one.
Finally, by repeating "Can't I just talk to somebody" I eventually got the system to prompt me with "Would you like to speak with an agent?" I don't know if the colorful explicative I inserted into my query helped or not.
I'm all for automated attendants for simple queries - like flight status or such, but give your users an easy way to escalate their problem to a real person if it doesn't fit easily into one of the automated slots.
Fail = No easy way to get to a person.
Thank You For Calling Me - How May I Read From My Script To You Today?
Once I finally did get to a human being they were singularly unhelpful. Oh, they tried, but it quickly became obvious that they had only a limited understanding of the United Airlines service (and air travel in general) and were operating mostly under a pre-written script which they were reluctant to deviate from.
One suggested that I switch to a flight that was leaving in 30 minutes, AFTER establishing that I was still at the hotel some distance away from the airport. After telling me that I essentially needed to sprint to the airport and that every second would count he then attempted to sign me up for a Mileage Plus Credit Card. I hung up as I dashed out the door. As expected I didn't make the flight he recommended.
Another suggested she could rebook me on another flight...that would get me to my destination two days later.
A third told me that NOT cancelling a leg of my trip (which was still upcoming) would be considered a change and thus subject to fees. After a long, and increasingly heated, discussion during which he was unable to explain why NOT changing a reservation would be considered a change and subject to fees I finally hung up on him as well.
When you put customer service folks on the phones make sure they understand your service offerings and are able to offer real solutions to your customers. It's a really bad sign when a customer hangs up abruptly on your customer service people feeling like they did not get any assistance.
Fail = When you reach a person the person reached isn't capable of understanding a situation that doesn't fit neatly into their script.
Your telephone support reflects heavily on your business and especially in a field as intense as air travel (travelers who call customer service often have a more serious situation than somebody calling Taco Bell customer service, for instance). Make sure you get it right or you're going to have a lot of angry customers choosing your competitors next time.
Tip for retail and services: Make sure your customer-facing messages are consistent. Case in point - the Sheraton in Seattle. The book in the hotel room says that the pool/jacuzzi closes at 11p. The sign on the door of the pool says it closes at 10p.
It's a little thing, but a curious faux pas for an establishment that is otherwise well put-together. They had time to mount a professionally-created sign on the pool door; they should have had time to update one page in the guest services book.
Just part of a seamless and professional presentation.
MESSAGE: Periodically review all of your customer-facing messages and make sure they're consistent and logical.
Even Ted Williams Struck Out Sometimes
I've often praised the ad agency Geico uses. They've been running multiple simultaneous ad campaigns (Cavemen, Gecko, even the "I've got good news!" campaign) and for the most part they've been very effective.
The latest one, with the money staring at people...falls flat I'm afraid. The money with the eyes is just sort of creepy. I guess nobody wins every time.
High Heels for Packaging?
Costco sells a multi-pack of Gillette deodorant. It's a long open cardboard package that holds, upright, several deodorants side by side. When you get it home you discover that they've done something clever...there is probably half an inch or so of cardboard "propping" at the bottom that makes the product seem taller than it actually is.
A little tricky, borderline deceptive. I wonder how many other folks have noticed.
A few rules to using the web to support your brick and mortar store:
1. Have a website. If you don't have one at all you're already at a huge disadvantage.
2. Your website should include a map of where your store is. Including where parking is.
3. Your website should include a picture of your store - if I'm driving down the street looking for it, it would be helpful to know what it looks like. "Oh it has a blue awning." or "There are big windows in front."
4. Include your store hours on the website. If I'm looking up your store I want to know what times I can go there. Today I looked up a place online specifically to find the hours...it told me to call for hours. I don't want to have to call - it's a simple question. How often do your hours change?
5. If it's practical, list the brands/types of items your store carries. If you're a shoe store it should be easy to list many, if not all, of the brands of shoes that your store has.
One great new feature I'm seeing on a lot of sites is the ability to place an order and have it ready for me. Bonus points if I can pay for it, thru your website, using my credit card. So I show up, show the printed receipt I printed at home, and you already have my order bagged and ready at the front counter. I walk in, grab it and go. Nice!
Of course, that last feature does have a disadvantage for the store - if we don't make people walk thru our stores we lose out on the impulse purchases. It's good to make it convenient and you WILL get some sales from that. But balance that with how much you might lose by letting folks avoid your aisles and displays. Your conversion rate and the type of store you have will determine whether it makes sense for you.