Archive for category customer experience

Next Generation Customer Experience

The Next Generation Customer Experience event is in Los Angeles in May and although a lot of the tracks sound very interesting to me, I know that I cannot attend. Living in London has its pros for sure, but when it comes to no longer being able to fly out for conferences like these, it has its cons.

One thing is to be able to attend an event like this, the next is being able to get good ideas, and the most important thing is actually being able to act on these ideas and execute them for your business and customers.

For instance this track – Strategies for Managing, Meeting and Exceeding Customer Expectations – caught my eye:

Designing and delivering outstanding customer experience requires not only feedback from experiences customers have already had but also to anticipate what those customers’ expectations are before the experience. But most companies do not have a process for collecting and understanding their customers’ expectations and communicating those expectations to their people. In this hands-on, high-energy workshop, participants will:

* Determine the customer expectations they already know and which expectations they don’t at each touch point
* Create a strategy for gathering customer expectations from their key customers which will drive strategies for serving them and others
* See expectations through their customers’ eyes
* Walk away with at least one usable action item for exceeding customer expectations.

The above sounds obvious and easy, but getting time to brainstorm with peers and walking away with even one good idea is priceless.

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The dog and Sears story

I read this SearsKilledMyDog.com recap on Bart last night and am posting it on my blog because it has a little bit of everything I am interested in: dogs, customer support, customer experience, pissed off customers, happy customers, resolution, horror stories, social media, and the list goes on.

It’s also about Sears and refrigerators both of which are not on my “interested in” list, but you could just about insert any company name and/or appliance to relate to this story.

There is an ending to the story – whether you think it’s good or bad is your call.

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Welcome to the 21st Century: United’s expensive customer service mistake

Disclaimers: I am not a fan of country music; I have flown United; I am a customer advocate

In the spring of 2008, United followed its Terms and Conditions – i.e. , their fine print, their internal customer service policies – to their bottom-line minded detriment, and refused to reimburse a customer $3,500 for damage to his guitar incurred during the loading of the plane. The customer, Dave Carroll sings his story better than I can write it:

I guarantee you that this mistake will end up costing the company more than the $3,500 replacement value of the guitar. By the time the original incident handling went through the hands of the flight attendants, agents on the phone, supervisors, meetings, and policy review, and now the PR department, you’re talking thousands of dollars. Add the cost of poor word of mouth, unwanted publicity, and you’ve got a problem that will be talked about in customer support circles for years. And I mean years.

Company policy aside, should United have reimbursed its passenger?  In hindsight, most definitely. And now, with all of this unwelcome publicity, they have to. In the new world of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, a company must think twice about whether its 20th Century rules and regulations apply to the nano-second, at-your-fingertips, in-your-face reviews of just about everything and anyone under the sun.

Sure, United started with an obligatory vague policy – United’s Delayed and damaged baggage information – and quickly forgot to add the most important ingredient for customer service success – humanity. You can have the fairest policies in the world, but if you forget to add common sense and a personal touch, well, you’re already probably no stranger to unhappy customers.

So, should United have taken these YouTube possibilities into consideration when reviewing Carroll’s case? Yes. Should customer support staff be trained to know when an incident escalates beyond their control and when looking beyond internal policy might be the way to go. Absolutely. Should all companies review their customer service policies with the viral 21st Century in mind? They’d be foolish not to.

Sure, once the publicity started to hit the fan, United tweeted that they were ready to make good on the damage. But, Carroll is having none of that. It’s just plain too late for that, plus he hasn’t yet uploaded his follow-up song to YouTube.

My last question is whether or not United reprimands its staff for errors like this. The baggage handlers who tossed the equipment freely about did so because they knew that United’s policies covered their asses. Trust me, once United makes its staff accountable, then it will be much easier for them to work on getting their customer support in tune with the needs of today’s savvy customers.

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Love letter to Skype

One of the dilemmas I pondered before going to Italy – get mobile coverage for my iPhone or rely on free wifi and pay for Skype credit? I use Skype to talk with a coworker in the Netherlands, so it’s already on my laptop.

I decided to go with the latter. I used the iPhone for music and games, the computer for everything else. Why did we want phone coverage in Italy in the first place? To call Shelly’s sister, Laurie, in the U.S. on her birthday, of course. I bought the minimum $10 Skype credit thinking that would easily cover the call and still be cheaper than international mobile rates.

Well, we ended up using Skype more than for the 40-minute birthday phone call. We got an email from Citizen Canine saying that our dog, Frances, took sick earlier this week. She has existing conditions, so even little things with her cannot go untreated. As we were figuring out what to do, Shelly said to Skype them, and I did. We decided on a course of action and a couple of days later, Frances is better. Thank you, Skype.

Aside from the birthday call, the dog-emergency call, we used Skype one final time. We needed to get information for our Heathrow to SFO flight, so Shelly called British Airways in the UK from our Milan hotel room. Again, Skype worked perfectly.

Oh, and so far, our Skype calls have cost – $1.26.

So, that’s my love letter to Skype. I’m just really impressed.

Thank you, Skype.

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Sick dog, happy parents

Mickey got sick. We always said that if he ever refused food, we’ve got a problem. So, one Saturday, after a morning of not eating, we whisked him off to our neighborhood vet, Oakland Veterinary Hospital. They couldn’t find anything overtly wrong with him, but based on his symptoms, put him on antibiotics and took blood as a precaution.

He appeared to get a bit better, got his appetite back, and acted like it was just a glitch. After all the crap he tries to eat off the street, we thought this episode would pass.

Wrong. On a Monday, he started to get restless around three in the morning. He went between our bed and the couch in the other room, back and forth, little nails clicking on the floor. And he wouldn’t stop licking and licking and licking – his legs, his body, the bed. I sleepily fed him some cottage cheese for breakfast and as I was brushing my teeth, I really looked at him for the first time that morning. His face was completely swollen. His eyelids partially closed, remnants of cottage cheese stuck to his chin whiskers. I woke Shelly who thought he looked normal. Um, no. So, at 7:15, before he even got his morning walk, we headed to our emergency vet (yes, we’ve been there before) in San Leandro.

Naturally they were packed, the night shift was going off duty, the day shift coming on, and it was the usual emergency vet chaos. I finally got to the counter, explained the problem, and stat, out rushed a tech to evaluate Mickey on the spot. Unbelievably she said that he wasn’t in any distress, had a case of hives, and because they were so overwhelmed, I should take him to our regular vet.

Dr. Dorsey saw him at 9:30, had our test results from the weekend, and said his blood levels were not good. The hives indicated that his body was in major stress. She did an ultrasound right on the spot, and said that his gall bladder looked pretty bad. She admitted Mickey’s problem was getting outside of her expertise and she said we needed to get him to a specialist pronto. She’s a pretty even-keeled vet, but her sense of urgency got our attention. She called ahead to the specialist vet, explained the situation, made an appointment for us, and sent us away with the ultrasound. We headed back down to San Leandro to the same emergency vet I had visited earlier that morning. It doubles as a specialist vet during the day.

They kept him until the next day, ran more blood work, did another ultrasound, and started him on IVs. The diagnosis: pancreatitis and a gall bladder problem. Poor little guy. When we picked him up, we received four kinds of drugs, a bill for $3,500, and a glassy eyed, shaved Mickey.

Mick, in 2006

A few weeks ago, our regular vet called in to check on him. Wow. Our own doctors don’t even check on us. And as far as we’re concerned, Dr. Dorsey saved Mick’s life. And the emergency vet, although very expensive, took very good care of him, and set him right again.

It’s now been about a month and Mickey is back to his old self. He’s on special food, down to two meds, and off people food. He runs around with his toys, begs his sister to play with him, jumps on and off the furniture. Sometimes it’s really hard to tell that this old guy is around 15 years old.

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Double carma

I mean karma.

Yesterday I posted a way-too long tale about my car, its woes, and some not-so-great customer experiences. Hours after I posted, following a nice workout and while enroute to lunch, my car’s engine warning light went on. Yellow warning light. On my dashboard. Which has never happened, expect for the occasional, “you’re almost out of gas” nudge.

They couldn’t service it on a Saturday so it was my choice to drive it (the light could mean many things) or to leave it. I left it. In its place I got a white Scion xB. Low to the ground and so not me. My dog barks at it every time I pull into the driveway. Oh well, Murphy’s Law I suppose.

It’s gonna be a very crazy week with or without car troubles. Let’s hope it’s just a minor thing.

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Two stories: Is either a good customer experience?

Now that I’m more involved with Customer Support at Blurb, I’m now looking at personal experiences with customer support through a different lens. I started this post a while ago, never finished it, but upon today’s experience, here it is.

Today I travelled to Redwood City for a smallish, peer-attended event given by our CRM vendor. A little bit of this and that with an emphasis on UGC, social networking best practices, and the opportunity to meet like-minded peers in the area. Snapfish! Shutterfly! Friendster! OK, I thought, worth the time out of the office to see what others are doing in customer support. Only someone forgot to update the guest list and the agenda.

Less than 20 people were there, and half were made up of employees of the vendor, their business partners, and speakers. Disappointed? You bet. It was a glorified sales presentation to win over potential customers. Only I was already a customer. Not a great use of my time. Grade: D

The next story is a few weeks old, but one that anyone can relate to.

My 12-year old car, truck, okay, SUV needed an oil change before a kamikazi-weekend roadtrip from Oakland to Utah and back again. I asked my car dealer service department if they could check out a burning oil smell. Cut to the chase. Burning oil smell = problem, but they don’t have the part. They’d have to order it. Come back after driving 500 to 1,000 miles. I told them I would be back in four days.

I returned after driving 1,300 miles, dropped off car, only to get a phone call a few hours later. Oh, hi, we need to order the part. Can you leave the car overnight? We’ll clean it for you. Uh, sure, but why didn’t you order the part last week? Next day, I scrambled to catch a Transbay bus to pick up truck SUV before they closed. Paid. Waited for truck to come down. Waited. Someone finally drove it down from the roof. First thing I noticed – it hadn’t been washed. I went to jump into my seat and wtf! All over the seat … crumbs and smeared chocolate. Not happy at all. Someone used my truck as a picnic bench. I called the driver over who put his hands in the air and walked away shaking his head. Got the last remaining person in charge who stared at the mess in disbelief and couldn’t believe they had done that. He said that his manager would call me in the morning.

Needless to say, angry is not the word to describe how I felt. And needless to say, no phone call from the dealership the next day. So, I hauled my not-very happy ass back down to the dealership (third time in less than a week) and asked for the manager who said, yeah, he had heard about it. Looked at it apologized and offered to clean it. Handed me over to my initial associate and walked off. I picked up my car at the end of the day and all was well, I guess. Truck was clean. Oil was changed. Leak was taken care of. I was inconvenienced many times over, but got what I wanted after three separate trips to the dealership.

But wait. The dealership wants to make sure I am happy. They call me once, twice, almost pleading for me to give them a good review if I happen to get a survey from Toyota. I mean here’s what is stamped on their receipt:

Thanks for doing business at Downtown Auto Center! We are committed to providing the best service possible. Help us provide top quality service by sharing your comments or suggestions with us. If you receive a survey we want you to be able to respond 100% satisfied. Regards – The management.

Um, okay. I got the survey. Filled it out. Honestly. Sent it in. Got a follow-up letter (you know, an envelope with a stamp and everything), asking me to fill out the survey and mention my great customer experience. Grade: B-/C+ (I hated when teacher did that to me, so call this revenge.)

What did I learn here? Many things, including a good customer experience means knowing when to trust your customers. And to leave them alone.

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