Customer experience: It’s Broke, Fix It!

The customer was attempting to place an online order, which involved uploading a large file. When the file upload was complete, the customer expected some kind of response telling her, “Your materials have been received” and an expected date of delivery. But there was no response or message of any kind.  

She emailed customer support to ask if they had received the file, but the response was a boilerplate message saying, “We generally deliver within 7-10 business days after receiving your materials.” But that didn’t answer the question of whether they had received the file in the first place.  The uploading process was a tedious one; one she didn’t care to repeat if unnecessary. 

Eventually, she was able to speak with a customer service representative who—although not able to confirm that her file had been received—mentioned that quite a few people had made the same complaint regarding the status of their uploads.  The customer, understandably, responded to this comment with,  “So why don’t you fix it?”

We’ve all heard the saying, “If it ain’t broke…” But what if it is broken? 

You may learn—from customer comments, surveys, or mystery shoppers—that some part of your operation is confusing, frustrating, or simply doesn’t work. If so, then fix it. Why risk annoying—or worse, losing—customers over it?

Someone’s getting the right message: Go the extra dozen miles for your customers

My husband and I gave ourselves a weekend getaway for our 19th anniversary, just a 2-hour drive from our home to a seaside resort town.  We chose a modest “resort” hotel, simply because we found a good deal on it through Groupon, and in March in New England, we weren’t going to be strolling any beaches or anything.  Our anniversary coincides with my husband’s birthday, so this was an added incentive to celebrate.

We arrived amidst gail-force winds and rain, soaking us on the short walk from car to reception desk. There inside the warm lobby were four very cheery, very young clerks, two of whom were offering us complimentary cocktails and snacks involving chocolate.  We immediately forgot the miserable storm outside.

The weather didn’t improve for our Friday evening and Saturday stay.  Shops were within walking distance of the resort, but it was folly to attempt to walk to them.  We were content to read books at a warm coffee shop and choose a fine restaurant for our Saturday evening out.

We were shocked, upon our return from Saturday dinner, to find not one but two gift bags delivered to our door by one of the clerks who had greeted us on Friday with the cocktails.  Apparently she had overheard my husband and me talking about our anniversary and his birthday when we checked in—and she hadn’t forgotten it.

The first package contained well wishes on our anniversary, complete with wine and two wine glasses; the second contained birthday wishes and a bottle of locally brewed beer, with a lovely beer glass and anchor-themed bottle opener.  Again, any dreary thoughts at the miserable weather were dissipated instantly.

Clearly that young clerk had been empowered by someone in the organization to follow her instincts and go the extra mile—or two—when she felt it appropriate.  We weren’t big spenders. We weren’t return customers.  We were just average travelers passing through in a dreary March.

And, now, we have booked a room at this previously unfamiliar resort during high season, to give as a wedding gift to a beloved nephew.

And we’ve let the management know what that clerk did for us.

You don’t really want that item, do you?

I have this tiny problem: I can’t drink more than one cup of caffeine coffee in a day, and that cup has to be early in the morning.  Otherwise, I’ll be calling you to chat on the phone at 3 a.m.

At today’s chic coffee shops, however, ordering decaf is somewhat frowned upon.  At least, that’s the way I feel when I attempt to order decaf there.  I often feel like I’ve just ordered fried cheese curds or something equally weird, instead of decaf coffee at a coffee shop.  

Coffee shops often have a solution to this problem for afternoon decaf drinkers: they make the decaf at the time of the order, so that it isn’t sitting around waiting for that lone, pitiable decaf drinker to come in the door, and they often do this with the “pour over” filter thing. That was the case when I recently tried to place an order for decaf at a chic coffee shop.

“Oh, we don’t have any ready at the moment,” the clerk said, without further ado.

“I realize that.  I’ll wait,” I assured her. I had gone through this routine before.

 “It will take a few minutes,” she said, clearly wanting me to give up or order something else.

 “Yes, that’s fine,” I said again.

 “I have to get out this whole holder thing and the water has to get hot and then drip…,” she went on.

 “Yes, I understand.  I’ll wait over at that table,” I said.

 I’m not sure if she actually rolled her eyes at my order, but I do know she sighed heavily.  I paid for my order and took my seat.

Before my coffee was ready, her colleague arrived from what I assume was his break and ribbed the clerk, “Oh, my, you’re actually making a decaf? Look at you!” as if she had accomplished a baked Alaska.

It occurred to me then that the clerk was relatively new and her hesitation at making my customized decaf was rooted in the fact that she hadn’t felt confident enough to do it on her own yet. She clearly welcomed the arrival of her colleague to help her.

Perhaps her training needed to include how to appear confident in the job and not try to talk a customer out of her order?

This kind of problem can easily be identified and rooted out by periodic mystery shops. Another good investment.

Are your automated messages automatically turning customers off?

It’s amazing how a tiny interruption in your workday can turn you into Miss Cranky Pants.

It was to be an extremely busy day as I attempted to get my sole proprietor business ready for me to be gone on a vacation.  The “to do” list was a mile long, but I was hammering away at it successfully until…that one thing happened.

I had to determine if something I had purchased could be returned to a store.  It was a perishable item so I was willing to accept the fact that, maybe, store policy wouldn’t allow me to return it.  That was going to be okay with me, but first I just wanted to check.

So I called the store.  That’s where the plot started to thicken.

First, I had to listen to an extremely long automated “ad” alerting me that this store needed new workers, complete with long details about how I could go about applying for a job there. I did not now, nor would I ever, want to work at this store.

Second, the automated voice then went through what I should do if I wanted to contact a certain department within the store. Let’s just say there were A LOT of departments. Yet, I had a basic customer service question: Could I return a certain item to the store?

There must have been 12 departments I could have pressed #___ for, yet I only wanted the one general one, and that one was LAST on the very long list. Customer service was last on the list?!  Hmmm….

Okay.  Maybe it was 3 minutes out of my day, but still, I was irked, peeved, put out and put upon.

They did agree to take my item back, in a very cheery and speedy way, by the way.  But…it all left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m wondering if anybody had “road tested” this automated system before unleashing it on the public.

A round of mystery shops would be the perfect “road test” because they would uncover the issues you need to address before you lose the loyalty of any customers. What better investment than that could you make in growing your business through customer retention?

Under-promise, and then over-deliver

Image for Under Promise Over Deliver PostUnited Airlines recently announced that purchasers of low-cost flights would be restricted to one carry-on that fits under a seat. The low-price buyers also would not be able to choose seats until the day of their departure, which means people flying together might not get to sit together. Similarly, Delta’s least expensive fares will now prohibit itinerary changes and seat selection. Apparently, these airlines are counting on the “upsell” they’ll get from customers once they realize the limitations on those cheap fares.

It’s easy to get upset about such “fly and switch” tactics. But does your company do the same thing? Do you try to get customers in the door with special offers that turn out to be not so special after all? If the payoff doesn’t live up to the promise, or was clearly just a gambit to lure customers, you risk squandering good will, perhaps the most precious commodity a company can have.

Take a good look at your marketing efforts and make sure your performance lives up to the promise–and you maybe even over-deliver on whatever it is you did promise. You’ll reap the rewards in customer loyalty.

Customer experience: The Case of the Missing Adapter

Image for Customer Experience PostThe consultant finished her presentation at the swanky hotel conference center and packed up her equipment—everything except the adapter cord that went from her computer to the LED projector, a moderately expensive gizmo.

Several months later, when she realized what she had done, she called the hotel to ask if they had found the adapter. She figured it was a long shot, it had been such a long time ago.  The lost-and-found folks said they had not see it, but promised to call her if it should turn up.

Sometime later, she was delighted to receive a call from the hotel’s customer service department alerting her that they had found the adapter and would be sending it back to her.

Her delight turned to chagrin when she received the remains of an envelope in the mail, along with an apology from the U.S. Postal Service stating that they had received the envelope at their central sorting location, open and with no contents. The adapter had apparently been placed in a plain envelope with no padding or protection and it had not survived the postal journey.

The consultant was hesitant to contact the hotel again. After all, it was her fault that she had lost the adapter in the first place, and the hotel had tried to make it right…sort of. She decided to write a note to the hotel, politely thanking them for their attention to the matter, but suggesting they might want to take a bit more care in the future.

Two days later, she received an email from the hotel’s general manager, apologizing that her staff had dropped the ball on the return of the adapter and offering to pay for a replacement. She also promised to speak with her lost and found department to make sure that kind of problem didn’t happen again.

Needless to say, the consultant now has a very positive attitude about the hotel. The hotel was willing to admit to a mistake, correct it, and take steps to make sure it didn’t happen again. From a customer service perspective, what could have been a negative experience for the consultant became a very positive one, ensuring that when she tells the story, the hotel will be portrayed in a positive light.

Isn’t that the kind of customer you want to have telling your story?

Improving customer loyalty: Keep an eye on 5 things and you’ll keep more of them

Image for Improving Customer Loyalty PostOnly 28 percent of consumers are loyal to a brand or businesses, but we all know return customers are the key to a healthy bottom line.

Take a look at these five reasons your customers may be abandoning you:

  1. You treat new and existing customers too differently: If you’re giving hefty discounts to lure new customers, better offer your existing customers something along the same lines.

  2. You haven’t WOWed your loyal customers for a long time: Offer something special—a birthday freebie; exclusive access to new products—and make sure you’re thanking customers for their feedback and implementing what they suggest.

  3. You forget who is your business backbone: Which customers buy which product? In other words, focus on the core of your business by paying attention to where you get the most traction; then do more of that.

  4. You make problem resolution painful: Teach and empower your employees to solve customer problems efficiently and beyond the norm. 

  5. Your customers are getting the same quality for a lower price: Customers will jump ship in a minute if they’ve had a bad experience with your business; when they do, they flock to something of the same quality for a lower price. A customer loyalty program, and attention to high quality service, will keep this from happening.