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Customer Care | Insight Edge
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Who Are You Again?

Posted by admin on October 22, 2012 under Customer Focus | Read the First Comment

A few days ago, I received a call from a market research firm interested in my opinion on a recent shopping experience. In the typical style of a researcher (or telemarketer, for that matter), the caller immediately launched into some boilerplate spiel about the survey and how important my opinions are to the policies of the company.

Well, while the caller was busy trying to assure me of my importance, I was wracking my brain to figure what the survey could be all about. After all, I’m not much of a shopper. Could this be a grocery store calling? Probably not – I typically shop at a neighborhood market, and can’t imagine them contracting a market research survey. A gas station? Hmmm. Probably not.

Always sensitive to the potential of invalidating the results of any survey (something I learned the hard way in school, after having my surveys invalidated), I interrupted the caller to clarify the purpose of the survey. As it turned out, the survey was about shopping experiences in a very specific store – one for which I haven’t crossed the threshold for several years!

After politely indicating to the caller that I couldn’t comment on my experiences, I started reflecting on this call. Think about it – I haven’t set foot in the place in a long time, yet they wanted to know about my experiences. The first thought that came to mind was: What database are they using that’s so old?

Then it occurred to me that they really didn’t want to talk to me, but to a member of my family. That was odd, too, because the person who could actually have answered the questions, hasn’t lived in my home for almost as long. The marketing firm must have been using an old data source.

Now, I’m not disparaging the store from conducting market research; rather, I applaud them for the effort (not many in their industry do similar studies). However, the lesson in this story is that we need to understand who we are talking to when requesting feedback. Are we speaking with people who can really comment on our performance – particularly on recent performance? Or are we using old data to identify respondents, and assuming they can still provide valid feedback?

If we truly want valuable feedback, it is critical to keep customer information current so we know who we’re really listening to, and can glean relevant and recent feedback. Oh – did I mention we need to listen to the feedback, too?

Consistency Counts!

Posted by admin on August 18, 2010 under Customer Focus, Operational Performance, Process Improvement | Be the First to Comment

Business performance excellence relies on performance consistency - consistency in process execution, as well as consistency in communication. In order to accurately predict and achieve your revenue, market share or other goals, executives must be able to rely on reasonably predictable levels of organizational performance.

The same holds true with communications – both internal and external. A clear, consistent message must be presented to internal stakeholders (employees, partners) so everyone understands what is expected. Perhaps more important, however, is the communication messages sent to your marketplace – customers, potential customers, and competitors. Particularly in these hyper-communicative times, consistent communication is critical to cut through all the noise in the marketplace. A small slip in consistency can make all the difference in gaining and keeping customers, impacting revenue and market share.

Let me give you a couple of real-world examples – both of these situations happened to me last week, and on the same day!

I needed to have some work done on my car. Now, I am pretty mechanically inclined and often like to do the work on my car. This time, however, I just didn’t feel like taking on this particular project. Additionally, there was some other work that I wanted to have done at the same time. So…. I called my local Mazda dealer to obtain a quote on the bigger piece of work. I was transferred to the Service Department and spoke with a gentleman about the work I wanted performed. He quoted me $110.00, plus tax and the environmental fee – “about $115.00”, he said.

That seemed pretty reasonable, but I didn’t make the appointment on the spot. Two days later I made the appointment, and arrived the following day to have the work done. When I checked in for the appointment, the Service Agent printed the estimate – they were going to charge me $160.00 for the work! I mentioned that I had received a quote a couple of days prior, and the Agent actually told me I was wrong, and that I couldn’t have spoken with anyone because no man worked in the Service Department! She even expected me to have the name of the person with whom I had spoken! (Do you ask the name of everyone you speak with at a store so you can justify your conversation later???)

The inconsistency in communication between the phone quote and behavior at the Service Department cost that dealership a sale – a sale of about $225.00.

Later that same day, I decided to have lunch at my local Domino’s Pizza shop. I didn’t want to have pizza because of the bread, but according to the menu there were pasta dishes available. The menu showed several photos of the various pasta dishes – pasta in an au gratin-style dish – for a price of $5.99. That seemed like a pretty good deal, and just what  I wanted – no bread. Well, wasn’t I surprised when the counter clerk charged me $6.99 (plus tax) for the meal, explaining that their prices on the menu were wrong! Can you imagine the prices being wrong on the menu?

The next surprise came when I received my order – a huge bread bowl filled with the pasta I ordered – not at all what I expected from the menu photos and item description. While I did walk away with the meal, the inconsistency here in communication regarding the product and its price was a big surprise. Will I think twice before going back there? You bet – there are lots of other options for lunch, and without the surprises.

Remember, consistency in communication is critical in setting expectations – of employees, partners, customers and others. Be sensitive to the communications in your organization – they could be impacting your overall performance much more than you think!

The Cab Ride - a Customer Care Story

Posted by admin on August 2, 2010 under Customer Focus | Be the First to Comment

Someone sent me this story recently, and all I could think about was: What if everyone treated every customer with the same level of patience and customer care?

I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I walked to the door and knocked. “Just a minute”, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.  

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie. 

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. 

There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters… In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware. 

“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. 

She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.

She kept thanking me for my kindness. “It’s nothing”, I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated”.

“Oh, you’re such a good boy”, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?”

“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.

“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.”

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. “I don’t have any family left,” she continued in a soft voice. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.” I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.

“What route would you like me to take?” I asked. 

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. 

We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. 

Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing. 

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.” 

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. 

Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. 

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair. 

“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse. 

“Nothing,” I said.

“You have to make a living,” she answered.

“There are other passengers,” I responded… 

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly. 

“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said.  “Thank you.”

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift?  What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life…

We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. 

But great moments often catch us unaware - beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said ~but~ they will always remember how you made them feel.