Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Little Human Contact

Even though I write about Customer Service and think about it a lot, I'm not really very hard to please when I shop or go to lunch or dinner. I'm only looking for a few basic things to happen, and it's only when I get none of them that I go away unhappy.

  1. Greet me somehow - When you see me, either say hello, or make some eye contact and maybe give a smile. I find nothing more disconcerting than doing business with someone who never looks at me, and only speaks to tell me the price or ask if I have any coupons.
  2. Help me if I need help - If I have a question, either answer it, or find someone who can. This sounds incredibly basic, but I'll wager you can think of an instance where you were brushed off, or told, "I don't think we do that."
  3. Give me a little space - Don't "service" me to death. If I have a question, I'll ask. There's a disturbing trend in the restaurant business to have servers ask, "Is everything OK?" about every five minutes. That tends to make things not OK.
  4. Thank me - Let me know that you appreciate my business. A bland "Have a nice day" doesn't really cut it, but it's better than the complete absence of acknowledgement.
If you make me feel like a human being through those four phases of our contact, I'll be back. If you get everything right and then some, I might be telling my friends about your business right now.

Give it some thought.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Last Minute Lunch Order: A Customer Service Quiz

A department of roughly 50 people was going through week-long training, due to end on Friday. The training was being held in two sessions—morning and afternoon—so that only half the desks would be empty at any given time. The morning session ran from 7:30 to 11:30 and the afternoon from 12:30 to 4:30. On Thursday afternoon, the heads of the department decided to buy lunch for everyone on Friday. Their question to the administrative assistant was:
Can you—at 2 PM Thursday—find someone to provide lunch for 50, delivered at 11:30 AM Friday?

The AA started making calls to caterers the department had dealt with before. The first said, "No way." The second conversation went like this:
AA: You might not be able to do this.
Caterer: Try me.
AA: Can you get us lunch for 50, delivered tomorrow at 11:30?
Caterer: No problem! I can give you the same things you ordered last time. Would that be OK?

The AA also made quick arrangements with the facility to have a buffet table and a cart for beverages brought in, and someone to escort the caterer to the location.

Wow. Big points on the board. The caterer said "Try me," indicating a willingness to work with the customer. The caterer said, "No problem," indicating a can-do attitude. The caterer also said, "...the same thing you had last time," highlighting an existing relationship to the customer, and good records.

Flash forward to Friday at 11:30. The facilities people came in with the table and cart. No caterer, no lunch. 11:40. 11:45. The management says, "We'll wait another 10 minutes and then break and go ahead with the afternoon session." At 11:50, the caterer arrives with the food. But there seems to be a problem. There are no plates, no utensils, no napkins. The AA is off and running, and arrives a few minutes later, breathless, with the missing components. (Note: The caterer said "...the same thing you had last time," and last time included plates and utensils.)

  1. What was the first link in the chain of events that could be changed to improve the outcome?
  2. How did the caterer set the expectations of the customer?
  3. What questions could the AA have asked that would have improved the outcome?
Leave a comment with your answers. I'd love to hear from you.

Give it some thought.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

And Sometimes Ugly

Funny thing, Customer Service. We all need it from time to time. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes it's bad. And, yes, sometimes it's ugly.

Last week, our home Internet connection simply disappeared. Our Internet Service Provider (ISP) had an outgoing message on their support number that announced a statewide outage of all DSL service. (To me, an IT guy, this screamed "single point of failure" which is never a good thing.) Luckily, my iPhone gets enough signal at our house to keep my email, news and Twitter going. About 2 days later, our service was announced "restored."

None of my connected devices were able to obtain a useful connection. No email in or out, no Web. I followed the directions they gave on their announcement, but to no avail. Nothing worked. I called support.

After being polite and confirming some information, they got me back online when connected directly to the DSL modem, but that was it. (I understand this entirely. Support has limits, and they were making theirs clear. They would have to pass me over to their "advanced support group" to get any help for my network setup. Let's just say that that side of the call quickly got to "I can't help you."

What the heck—I was due for a router upgrade anyway, so I bought one and ran the setup. I still cold not establish a connection to the Internet. Modem worked. Router worked. Configuration went correctly. No net. 

So, I called the router company's support. I got some of the best support ever. The agent walked through every setting on the modem, suggested what some causes of the issue might be, and worked through the entire setup with me until I was satisfied that everything was working correctly.

The ISP's support was OK. Limited, narrowly focused, and just OK. They threw in the towel as soon as their job was technically done. The router company provided me with all the information and help I needed to get to the desired end: Everything worked.

Often, companies are ready to pull the plug on support because they forget that the object of that support is to get the customer happy with whatever product they are using.

The object of business is not opposed to the object of Customer Service. They are the same: Create and keep Customers.

Give it some thought.