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Customer Service

Why Your Customer Service is Failing

Are sales not what you expect? Are repeat customers non-existent? These are two indications that your customer service is failing!  Customer service is not intended to be just words that business owners or managers talk about. Customer service is meant to be the beliefs, words and most importantly the ACTIONS of every person who works for the business.

Let me give you examples of the the really good and the really bad in terms of customer service that I have had in the last year – starting with the really bad first:

Not long ago I heard about a clothing store that was not only supposed to have great work clothes (a.k.a suits, etc.) but also very reasonably priced suits. Hey, who doesn’t like a bargain? So, on a particular weekend I trekked across town to a store called Olga. As I approached it looked promising. I saw some nice things.

The positive experience really ends there however. I was there to buy. Let’s make that clear. Despite this however, I could not get either of the people working there to even acknowledge me. Now, being nearly 6′, it’s not like I blend in to the clothing racks. I covered the entire store, selected some items off the racks and looked to the people working as I had questions. I even said “excuse me” at one point and the response…well, might as well have been chirping birds. Nothing. Nada.  Then to add insult to injury two other potential shoppers came in. And while you can’t judge a book by the cover, I felt confident that these shoppers would not be the typical customer. Their style was just completely different. Both employees…did I mention both employees greeted them and asked if they needed help. One of the ladies responded saying “Nah, we were just walking by and didn’t realize what kinda store this is. There’s nothing here that I would be interested in.” And, they left. Meanwhile I am still standing there and still nothing. So, I put the items I had in my hands back on the rack and walked out. I won’t be going back. This store offered zero customer service. It was clear, in my opinion, that the workers in this store had no idea what customer service is.

Why do I classify this as “ugly?” Simply put, the workers in this small store were not young kids. In other words, they should “get it”. One or both might have been an owner, but that is just an assumption. I don’t believe that this is a chain store either. All of these things combined result in the owner(s) of this store being in a position to build their brand and their customer base based on the quality of service and product offered. They really can’t afford to dismiss people.

Customer Service

On the other hand, there is cleo. Now cleo is a chain. There is some brand recognition associated with the chain. It is also clear that the staff have been trained. The key here? Did I mention that the staff have been trained. They have been trained to represent the brand. A brand is more than a logo and this is probably where a lot of people fail. Rather than thinking that your brand is what you promise to deliver, many people focus on the logo and the colours. cleo on the other hand has gotten it right. They know that their brand is focused on the professional women looking for on-trend clothing options at reasonable prices. This is what cleo means to me. To me this is their brand.

What is the Olga Moda brand? Again, this is my take based on my experience of what they deliver. Olga is a clothing store that doesn’t know who they are or who their customers are. As a result, they don’t understand the value of a person walking into the store and therefore ignore people willing/wanting to buy. They represent a bad experience. To me, their brand is not caring, not knowing and just not the place to shop.

It really is unfortunate when a business has not taken the time to identify their values, develop what they want to be in the eyes of their customers and potential customers. Finally it is a hug mistake to train your employees on the importance of who you are and what the brand is. These are all big misses that are completely avoidable!

Want to learn more about how you can develop your brand, train your employees and develop your business? Contact us. We can help.

 

 

 

 

3 Tips on How HGTV’s Timber King’s Conquered the World

In Part 1 of this two part series, I interviewed Bryan Reid Senior, founder of Pioneer Log Homes and learned how passion, people and relationships built this world class business.  In this post, we will learn about Joel Roorda, one of the brilliant craftsmen of Timber Kings and the 3 proven tips on how HGTV’s Timber King’s conquered the world. HGTV Timber Kings Conquered the World

If there is one thing I learned from interviewing Bryan and Joel, its that these guys love what they do.  It all starts with passion.   If that is the only thing that readers take away from these two blog posts, I think that is a great.  However, we can learn some very important things from them to be truly customer-centric.  These guys just aren’t just Timber Kings, they are royalty when it comes to understanding the customer.  So, let’s jump into what I learned from Joel.

1. Listening is An Art Form

There are tons of business books and even courses that tell us that we need to be good listeners to be successful.  Listening is work.  Regardless of what people say, listening is a lot of work.  You need to focus on the individual or individuals, tune everything else out and pay attention.  Listening to Joel, I have a new respect for doing it the right way.  In fact, it is listening with your eyes, as well as your ears.  Here’s what Joel had to say about getting to know his clients:

“I always spend time before each project to learn about the client. It is my personal mission to try to satisfy each client with the style of log home that he or she is dreaming of.  Not only do I ask a lot of questions and really listen to what they are saying about everything, but I pay attention to things like what type of vehicle he or she has drives, what types of clothes they wear, etc.  These details outline the type of person they are and the type of life they live.  These are important details to match the house we build for them, to the dream they have for their house.  Like Bryan said, we aren’t just building houses, we are building dreams.”

After hearing Joel’s approach to getting to know his clients, I can certainly see why the homes he builds are so spectacular and special.  Each home is a piece of art, and as unique as the owner.  No wonder their clients come back over and over again.

2.  Building Relationships is an Extreme Sport

Again, there are tons of blog posts, books and gurus that tell us that we need to build relationships in order to be personally and professionally successful.  What these resources don’t convey however, is that building relationships is more of an extreme sport or a lifestyle.  Here’s how Joel approaches it.

“All my clients have my personal contact info, know me well and can contact me at any time. In fact, most have come to my home, spent time with my family and walked through my home.  They experience my dream of my log home and how I achieved it through hard work.”

The other thing that really impressed me about Joel is that over and above this being a lifestyle for him, you know it is authentic based on how his clients treat him.

“We work in countries all over the world and on every job I have the homeowners giving us gifts and cooking us meals.  On a recent job in Moscow, our billionaire client prepared a traditional meal for me and my crew, and then he gave me a very expensive bottle of Scotch. I truly feel blessed to meet these incredible people and to get to know them and their families.  I feel blessed that we remain great friends and I always have a place to stay, regardless of where I am in the world.”

3.  Achieving Implicit Trust Can’t Be Faked

It struck me when speaking to Joel that he and all of his colleagues are not only expert craftsman, but really, there is a lot more to what they do.  While we didn’t speak of trust specifically, Joel and all of the Timber Kings are experts at achieving implicit trust.

“I love the challenge of the big unconventional and complicated projects that are logistical nightmares. I have built homes all over the world from mountain tops to islands, secluded lots to fly in type resorts.  I truly love my job and it is actually a lifestyle.  I work a lot of long days and last year did a stint of sixty-two days straight.  I don’t need to work this much but, it drives me, and it satisfies me.  It is a great accomplishment to build a complicated home from raw logs that you shape, mould and cut to create a client’s dream home. I do not think I could do anything else, except maybe be a fishing guide for myself and Bryan.”

When you dissect what is being done when building these homes with behemoth logs and complicated structures with weights that would scare us all, it really does come down to implicit trust.  Joel and all the Timber Kings are being trusted with the most precious commodity of all – human life.  They are building dream homes for people – families, young and old.  Maybe this is a little more at the forefront for me after experiencing the winter from hell and looking out at the still present mountains of snow that normally would be long gone by now.  Maybe the recent collapses of roofs on commercial buildings and homes that are no longer safe to live in, is this part of my psyche right now, but regardless, the fact that their customers keep coming back and welcome Joel and his colleagues into their homes and lives is completely indicative of implicit trust.  That can’t be faked!

I sincerely want to thank both Bryan and Joel for taking the time to answer all my questions – it was a true East-West Canada Connection – From New Brunswick to British Columbia.  I can’t wait for the next season of the show to see some more spectacular homes.

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8 Simple Ways to Cut Customer Service Costs (Hint: Use Pinterest)

Simplicity.  We all want simplicity, right?  As customers we want simplicity when we have an issue.  We want to contact customer service at the time it is convenient for us.  We want to connect with customer service using the channel of our choice.  After all, we are the customer.  As business owners and managers, we want efficiency.  We want to cut costs through reduced call time, first call resolution, etc.  Ironically, there is an easy way to meet the expectations of both customers and businesses: use Pinterest.  Not sure how to do that, read on to learn 8 Simple Ways to Use Pinterest for Customer Service.Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 8.56.29 AM

Pinterest continues to be popular and contrary to popular belief, Pinterest is not just for women.  In fact, when a businesses uses Pinterest properly they have access to a very powerful tool.  Depending on what research you use, we know that at least 65% of the population are visual learners.  So, as managers, let’s leverage Pinterest to reduce costs while also meeting (or exceeding) customer expectations.

1.  FAQ Boards

What are the questions asked most frequently by customers?  Every business has a list.  Sometimes it is available on the website, sometimes not.  While this is good, many websites have become labyrinths to navigate.  Why not make it easy and have a Board for “just” FAQs on your Pinterest Page?

2.  How-To Boards

As businesses move away from printing user manuals and/or how-to guides, create a board specifically for your visual representations of your products.  The visual aspect will always be appreciated.

3.  Special Offers or Sales

There are two great opportunities with this type of board.  Customers are rewarded for visiting your Pinterest page and will be able to see special offers and or sales at any given time with great visuals.

Additionally, businesses that use the merchant version of Pinterest can make use of the automatic alerts for specials and price changes that go direct to those following your boards.

4.  Customer Board

Creating a customer board can showcase how your customers are using your products.  Such boards not only give your customers new ideas, but they act as testimonials of your product at the same time.  Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 8.57.21 AM

5.  Contests

Another way to reward customers who focus on your Pinterest page, is to have contests that originate on Pinterest.  This is a great way to inform and educate customers about all the great content and resources available for them.  Giving them a great one-spot source will ensure that they visit your Pinterest page frequently.

6. Customer Insights

Want to really learn about your customers and the things that are interesting to them? Take a look at their boards.  Use this information to build better boards for them to use on your page.

7.  Collaboration Tool

Want to really impress your customers and show that you are listening and want their input to improve customer service.  Create a collaboration board.  Invite your customers to pin ideas, information and issues directly.  The key of course is to monitor and act in a timely fashion.

8.  Product Reviews

Want to really demonstrate your confidence in both your product and your customer service?  Have a product review board.  Let your customers share their experience. Not only will you learn new insights, but you will build trust and create ambassadors for your product.  Product reviews occur outside your marketing channels, but when you create an environment inside your environment, you demonstrate confidence, openness and the willingness to listen to others.

These are some simple ways to cut your customer service costs, while increasing communication with your customers and reaching out to them in the channel they prefer.  What are your thoughts.  Have you tried Pinterest?

Good Customer Service Includes Having The Guts to Admit You Messed Up

It takes a lot for me to write a blog post discussing how a company messed up.  I don’t like doing it really.  Why?  All companies make mistakes.  After all, they are run by human beings and we all make mistakes from time to time. As a result, we should use mistakes to learn what to do to change future behaviour.  Having the chance to learn is the only reason that I write blog posts that highlight poor performance.  Earlier this week I wrote about my experience  with Keurig Canada.  I actually wrote the blog a month earlier, but sat on it.  I wanted to give them a chance to rally and fix the issues.  Eventually I decided to update it and post it.  To Keurig Canada’s credit, they called me.  It takes a lot of guts to admit that you messed up, but they did.  As a result, I want to give credit where credit is due and provide an update as a lesson learned piece.  Here are tips that you can take away from the Keurig Canada experience:

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1.  Be Active Listeners in Social Media

Reputation remains a top concern for Boards of Directors  and quite frankly it is keeping many members awake at night.   So, it shouldn’t be surprising that social media is at the crux of the matter.  You can choose to employ the Ostrich Effect, or you can be an active listener in social.

Keurig monitors its social channels and as a result when I mentioned them on Twitter, they not only saw my blog post, they read it.  They also checked me out on LinkedIn.  I am sure that they also looked at the fact that I have more than 4500 followers on Twitter.  In other words, I have an audience and some level of influence.

2.  Take Action and Move Conversations Off Social

Businesses that care about reputation need to do exactly what Keurig did.  They also need to   use social media monitoring tools that pick up on any company mention and not just direct mentions.  When you have the right tools you can act quicker.  Responding to customer service issues early on, is important.  The sooner you do it the better the relationship.

I have to admit that when I was answering the call and I saw the area code I wondered if it might be Keurig Canada calling.  It was.  I was pleasantly surprised and pleased that they would have a Customer Service Manager call me.  She was good actually and very professional.

3.  Acknowledge Issues

In this case the company is going through a lot of changes and growing pains.  The good news is that the Customer Service Manager acknowledged each and every issue that I raised in my blog post and outlined that they are taking corrective steps.  I find it encouraging that each issue was acknowledged.  I am sure we have all had experiences when a bad customer experience was only made worse when the person or persons representing the company denied that anything unsavoury happened.

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4.  Live the Brand

The Customer Service Manager that called me was, as I mentioned very professional.  She understands the Keurig brand, that was clear.  While not everyone thinks about being on brand and following the brand voice and values, I do. I can’t help it.  I am a Marketing Practitioner so I value and recognize when companies do this well.  Kudos to this Customer Service Manager!

5.  Follow Through

The proof is always in the pudding  though, isn’t it?  During the conversation, some issues that I had, were addressed and acted upon as promised.  This is encouraging of course.  Change also takes time and I know that they understand and have identified all of the issues that they currently have.  Based on this information, I have chosen to again use the online purchasing option through Kuerig Canada.  I will continue to monitor the progress that they make with each purchase.

These are all important components of customer service.  There are of course more and I would love to hear what you think about.

3 Ways to P!$$ Off Your Customers – Keurig Canada Customer Service #Failure

Customer service is not something that you expect some of the time.  Customers expect good customer service all  of the time – period – full stop.  Great customer service is what sets a brand apart from its competitors.  Unfortunately, some companies are failing at customer service – both traditional AND social.  Even more unfortunate is the specific epic #failure of Keurig Canada.  Here three things we can learn from this bad experience.

The Issue

For the first time I opted to buy my coffee online direct from Keurig Canada.  This is not a complicated process.  Create an account, select the coffee you want, check out and pay for it.  Check, check, check and check.  All was well up to and including the confirmation email receipt.  This email stated that I would receive another email when shipped.  Days passed, no email.  A week passed, no email.  More days passed, no email.  I checked on line.  What did I find out?  My payment was taken, but yet there was no status on my shipment.  In fact under delivery date, it said: “N/A”.  I made my original order on November 30th.  After approximately two weeks, I called.  In total I called three times.  Each time I waited on the line for close to an hour and still could not reach a human.  An option was given to leave a message.  I left a message with my name and telephone number and asking about delivery.  No one returned my call.  I emailed Customer Service as well.  No one ever responded.  I resorted to social media and did get a response and a call from the main location in the US.  Unfortunately they were unable to help.  They couldn’t see my order because I was in Canada.  They were fantastic.  In fact, I want to stress that when dealing with Keurig in the United States, their brand representatives are among the best.  I love dealing with them.  Cross the border and well, that is a different story.  Dealing with Keurig in Canada is painful at best and enough to make you rethink your coffee machine purchase.  Keurig Canada’s customer service is a failure.

So, how can your business excel at customer service – both traditional and social?  Here are 3 lessons learned from Keurig Canada’s epic #fail:

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1.  Understand the Brand You Represent

It is incumbent on all organizations to ensure that all employees, and particularly customer-facing employees, know and understand your brand – the brand values, voice and how to actually live the brand.  If you are going to outsource parts of your operation, this is even more important.  It only takes one person to hurt your brand and reputation.

Keurig Canada failed to understand the brand.  Their website states the following:  “Keurig” is derived from the Dutch word for excellence, which is our standard for everything, from our patented brewing technology to our gourmet brands of beverages and our customer service.”  

Keurig Canada if you believe that not returning phone calls and/or email which you specifically point your customers to as a communication channel is “being excellent,” I beg to differ.  This is NOT excellence.  Failing to keep your customer informed is a fail.

 2. Staff Your Customer Channels

There is no question that certain times of the year more busy than others.  The business cycle should not come as a surprise.  Staff for it.  Keurig in the US was able to answer and respond to calls.  Their population base is larger.  They have more customers.  They were staffed appropriately.  Jump on a plane and get schooled by the Keurig experts at your head office.  Please!

 3.  Rethink Your Processes and Actually Make Changes

Clearly there was an issue and Keurig Canada realized it.  I received notification that there was an issue with unusually high volumes and therefore they were offering a free box to make up for it.  Good on them, sorta!   This is an opportunity for a second chance.  Unfortunately, they have failed yet again.  Not only did they require that you make a minimum purchase, it has now been a week since my last order.  Guess what?  For days there was no information.  My delivery date said:  N/A.  I checked today and my order apparently shipped yesterday. I have not received the verification email that they promise.  So, the question is:  has it really shipped?  I could call or email, but based on my previous experience, I will pass.

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What’s Your Experience?

These three items are three easy fixes.  If you value your customers, establish processes to avoid these missteps.  The next step is mine.  Will I continue to be a Keurig user?  Or, will I sell my machine and go another route?  I am not certain just yet, but I can tell you that I am seriously evaluating next steps.

So, what is your customer service experience with Keurig?  Would you choose another coffee system?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Who “Owns” the Customer?

In a Social Enterprise Asking “who owns the customer” is Not Only Antiquated, it is Ludicrous

Each day we have interesting and insightful conversations that get our juices flowing.  Sometimes we get a new idea or sometimes we exit those conversations just scratching our heads. I recently had dinner with someone I have a great deal of respect for, but I have to say that I left that conversation scratching my head.   I have known this person all of my life and I can say that he is usually very insightful and spot on when it comes to intuitively knowing that the customer wants.  In this conversation however, he was dead serious when he spoke of his organization and who should be making decisions about the customer.  His exact words were:  ‘Why should PR be involved in this issue?  This is a customer issue and therefore, it is our decision what to say or do when it comes to the customer.  They are our customers not theirs.  What do they know about customers?”

I have to say that I was floored – from two perspectives.  First off I have to state my bias.  I do come from the “PR world” and was integrated into PR when they actually controlled the message.  I also spent enough time in the public sector to know how the various interested parties want a say in the message, the timing, etc.  However, and thankfully so, I have seen the light.  Because of my passion for social media and the intrigue around the democratization of knowledge, I know that no one single person or business unit owns the message.  That being said, I also know from experience that no one single unit owns the customer.  If an organization approaches its customers from the standpoint that only the Customer Service department has a stake in the customer, then heaven help us.

In today’s social enterprise, we all have a stake in the customer.  We all have a say in how to communicate.  We have moved beyond someone thinking that a department owns the customer.  Or, at least I thought we have.

Over the coming weeks, I will explore some actual best practices that I was working on in my last organization and how these practices can move organizations to being social enterprises as opposed to anti-social enterprises.

If you have experiences that you would like to share as well, I welcome your thoughts and conversations.  After all, it is about being social.