Archive for customer service

Learning from others’ mistakes

Toyota’s cars accelerated accidentally. Volkswagen cheated on emissions tests. protest signApple’s phones bent, while Samsung’s exploded.

With the exception of Samsung, these debacles have all been largely forgotten, thanks to time and supplemented marketing budgets.

Stocks and sales have all recovered nicely. While we hope they’ve learned something, business at these companies has largely gone back to normal.

Joining this select group recently was United. Their invitation for the Chicago police to be their public relations representatives on an overbooked flight didn’t go unnoticed.

The video of Dr. David Dao being dragged off the flight was seen by millions around the world. The airline did give him an upgrade, though, with a free broken nose, concussion and removal of two teeth that this passenger hadn’t even requested.

What, no peanuts?

Dao was one of four customers who were “voluntold” to give up their seat after refusing an offer of $800 apiece. He obviously wanted to be on that flight and the criteria for choosing him is unclear. However, it could have legitimately included him purchasing a discounted seat or not having enough frequent flier miles.

Those four seats were given to crewmembers needed in Louisville (325 miles away) for another flight. Apparently renting a car wasn’t an option for those employees.

The airline’s since settled with Dr. Dao, rather than getting dragged into court. They’ll also now offer up to $10,000 for volunteers relinquishing their seats.

But their reputation as “The Friendly Skies” airline is shot.

Meanwhile, Southwest has stopped overbooking their flights, learning from United’s mistakes.

On April 9 United clearly broadcast that their employees matter more than paying customers do.

They simultaneously provided these lessons for the rest of us:

With video cameras everyplace, nothing is secret anymore

Your reputation can be damaged in an instant

Customers don’t care what your problems are. Anyone with a business can adopt these lessons to improve service, sales and profits by not promising more than can be delivered. If you do over-promise, handle it delicately. Finally, trying to shift your problems to customers guarantees you’ll lose business and reputation.

The immediate issue may go away, but is sure to be replaced by bigger headaches.

United has (hopefully) learned that. You should also learn from its screw-up.

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THIS is the right way to treat customers!

How much would you charge?

breakfast sandwichI just flew in from Sacramento, and BOY are my arms tired!

Sorry…I’ve always wanted to say that.

At the airport my bride purchased a “substandard” bagel and “okay” coffee for $6.04. The same counter was selling breakfast sandwiches for $11.

Realizing I’m in the wrong business, I pondered how anyone has the nerve to charge such exorbitant prices.

First thought: Greed. Airport dining options are limited and most vacationers, feeling expansive, don’t bring their own food.

Plus with millions of guaranteed customers, a “Take it or leave it” attitude is almost understandable.

Especially since airport meals typically fade from memory before the next suitcase is packed.

Then I considered my neighborhood’s gas stations. One at the freeway entrance consistently charges 80 cents more per gallon than the place across the street lacking ramp access.

Given the minor differences from one brand of gasoline to another, the price differential must be caused by the convenience factor; the station’s location.

Economics 101 dictates something is worth only what customers believe its value to be.

A bottle of cold water selling for 25 cents at Costco is worth $3 when sold on a hot day inside a football stadium. Customers willingly throw money for the same item due to its increased perceived value.

Meaning we’re witnessing the law of supply and demand in action. The gas stations, airport restaurants, and water vendors are all charging as much as their particular customers are willing to pay.

You too should be looking to bestow some form of additional perceived value on your business. Like the airport, gas station, and football stadium, you may have location as an advantage.

Carrying hard-to-find products, providing amazing service, or making something of significantly higher quality than the competition also helps.

Or just making the experience more pleasant than the competition does might make the difference.

Greeting customers with a cheery “Hello friends!” and playing classical background music for those enjoying a morning cup of coffee, for example.

Of course, the answer to business success changes based on industry, geography, customer demographics, and your definition of success.

But if you can find that one thing that makes both you and your customers happy, you may suddenly find you’ve become quite popular.

Right this way, Mr. Squinty

In September I found myself at a branch of my bank awaiting a receipt. My sd-sdreyer-1485458125-snap-phototime was spent perusing brochures, people-watching, and staring into space. Then the monitor behind the counter caught my eye.

As a marketing professional I’m naturally curious about every company’s messaging. So I watched their video presentation. Twice.

Finally I realized the problem. “The picture’s fuzzy,” I told the teller, who smiled noncommittally.

Last week I visited another branch of the same bank and determined the problem wasn’t my eyes, but the presentation itself.

This time the teller acknowledged the issue. “We said something to headquarters weeks ago and they promised they’d fix it,” she said.

Yet here we are, months later, and the problem persists.

When I started in business, my father advised me to be sensitive to customers’ needs. “People’s eyes start playing tricks on them around age 40,” he warned.

Truer words were never spoken! Shortly after I hit 40 my eyes started acting up, and they’ve only gotten worse with age.

So here I was observing a marketing presentation that was unfocused and giving me a headache.

And the bank’s marketing department apparently wasn’t very concerned about it.

Meaning the message meant to reinforce my warm fuzzy feelings for this bank instead irritated me.

Counter-productive? You bet!

Even if the bank eventually gets its act together, it’ll be quite a while before I’m watching that video again.

Translation: beyond the annoyance factor, they’ve lost a very visible, very cost-effective tool for communicating with me.

And a measure of good will has also been lost because they didn’t pay attention to my needs.

Now let’s consider your business. Do you:

• Know your customer’s profile and their preferred ways of being communicated with?

• Understand their needs to ensure they receive your message?

• Listen to your staff when they tell you there’s a marketing issue requiring attention?

Admittedly I’m not so annoyed that I’m moving my business elsewhere…yet.

Still, I’m now wondering which other concerns of mine they’re ignoring.

And should the competition hit me with the right offer, benefits, and messaging on the right day, I might be persuaded to switch.

All because some faceless person didn’t take the time to ensure quality control at the point of sale.

Hey…Where’d You Go?

column-movedSometimes my dog gets lonely. He’s 12 and set in his ways.

This is challenging on days when I’m out for the entire day.

Enter doggy daycare (yes, there is such a thing), where he spends his time with a pack of 80 furry knuckleheads.

He’s happy and safe there, meaning I can tend to business.

So imagine my surprise when I drove up last week to find the daycare facility had vanished. A crew was overhauling the building for a new tenant. A small sign directed me to a location two miles away where the daycare providers had moved to.

The new location was buried at the far end of a long parking lot. Though I eventually found it, my unanticipated detour forced a 15-minute delay for a client meeting.

The facility no doubt updated their Facebook page with their new address…only I rarely visit that page.

So how was I to know they’d moved? And how difficult would it have been for the daycare staff to send me an email with this news?

A bizarre concept, right? You’re changing location and tell people where to find you so they can continue doing business with you.

Failing to tell anyone (with the possible exception of those on-site the week of the move) guarantees these guys will lose business.

At some point that new tenant will move into the old location and the signage pointing to the new daycare facility will disappear.

When that happens, anyone visiting the old location will probably assume the daycare facility is defunct and find a new service provider.

Every business has a house list of current, past, and prospective customers. Over 30 years I’ve learned the most profitable organizations regularly communicate with everyone on that list.

Communications (newsletters, promotions, emails, texts, calls, postcards, etc.) should vary by audience.

Because whether you’re sharing buying opportunities, factoids, stories, or case histories, customers must be reminded why they need to have you in their lives.

Recognizing that out of sight is out of mind, regular customer outreach ensures customers think of you often and remember to buy from you.

Regular customer contact will grow your business over time, as well as helping you to weather disruptions like moving the business to a new location.