Archive for the 'Customer Service' Category

Way To Go Great Wolf

Last weekend, my family and I visited Great Wolf Lodge in Mason, OH.  It’s right next to King’s Island Park and a great place to get away for some indoor waterpark fun during the cold winter months.  I’ve got 5 kids under age 10 (plus one on the way) and cabin fever can take on an ugly face at our house. 🙂  GW does a great job online of showing you the rooms and letting you make reservations online.  Because I’ve got a large family and I wanted to get the details right, I chose to confirm my reservations on the phone with a GW customer service rep.  At the end of our call, the rep suggested we use one of their playpens for our 15 month old.  I took her up on the offer.  One less thing, right?

Well the bad news is that when we arrived, the play pen hadn’t been communicated to Lawson, my on site customer service guy.  So he called a guy and they agreed to bring it to our room.  We hit the waterpark for a few hours and came back to the room; but no playpen.  I called Lawson and the bad news got worse…the hotel was full and all of the playpens had been given to other guests.  Oh man…I’m tired, it’s late, and no playpen means no sleep for me that night.  And I wasn’t in the mood to go out in the snow looking for a WalMart to buy a playpen…

That’s where Lawson stepped in and saved the night.  He sent someone to buy a new playpen at WalMart.  It arrived just in time and our baby boy slept wonderfully in his brand new, never been used, playpen.  Thanks to Lawson for taking it upon himself to send someone out just for us and thanks to GW for providing a culture where people do what it takes to solve problems with short notice.

The Lesson:  Dropped balls are part of being in business.  It’s your willingness to dive on dropped balls that sets you apart from the pack.

Reminder:  There’s never a better chance to win the customer service game than when you are dealing with people who aren’t at their best and really need your help.

Simple & Easy

Did you know that your own customers may leave you without telling just because doing business is even a little bit harder than your competition?  Confession is good for the soul, so let’s use me as an example.  Every customer has their priorities…price, friendliness of business, how important you make them feel, etc.  My top two are friendliness of the employees and convenience.  Make the gas pump ask me to punch fewer buttons to get gas and I’m there!  Let me buy from your store without up selling me at the counter or requiring my phone number and zip code at the register and I’m yours.  🙂  Make the line move a little faster, make the online buying process just a touch simpler to figure out, or make your parking lot easier to access from the street and I will pay your price, really! 

I’m a big fan of Publix.  They are always super friendly to my family and they never let me wait in line.  They are quick to open a new register just to get me out a little faster…my kind of people!  But then look at the Sam’s Club biz model:  I have to pay to join, have to have my card to get in the store, have to get my card back out to pay at the register, and then have to show my receipt to the guy at the exit to get out.  I’m not slamming Sam’s…they go for people who like to buy in bulk and save on price; but it’s too complicated for me.  Another example is the gas pump…many of them cut me off at $75 of gas…why is that?  And if you get a pump that pumps slowly, it really can double the time it takes to fill up.

Enough whining, right?  The good news is that you don’t always have to give up profits in order to make things just the slightest bit easier.  Check out this article about how Amazon added an extra $300,000,000 in sales just by making the online buying process a little easier.  Ask a friend to be a new customer for you and to walk through your process with “new eyes”.  What things could you change just to make your product or service just 5% easier to use?  You’ll be amazed at the results!

 

It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”  ~ Muhammad Ali

Be A Sure Thing

sure-thing_drHave you ever had an old car that was there for you most of the time; but from time to time it just wouldn’t cooperate and do the one thing you bought it for (drive)?  Then you know the feeling you get when you are running a couple minutes late and you jump in your beloved old car…it’s sort of an anxious feeling as you pray aloud “…just start…just start…START!”

While it doesn’t let you down often, the fact that it MIGHT let you down is enough to keep you from trusting that it will be there to do the job when you need it most, right?  Did you you know that business relationships work the exact same way?  Businesses that don’t deliver what they promise every single time are businesses that never allow their customers to trust that they’ll be there when they need them most.  And that lack of trust will keep you from experiencing the real success you are in business to achieve. 

The good news is that if you drive a stake in the ground and declare that no matter what, you will deliver what you promise every single time and especially when circumstances beyond your control get in your way…you will put yourself in the small group of businesses that people can’t help but refer to their friends.

  • Be the lawn company that doesn’t let rain throw you off schedule.  Let customers plan the party without worrying if the mowers will show up on the scheduled day to make the yard look nice.  [If it’s a monsoon that literally prevents you from cutting, have a plan in place to catch customers up the next day.]
  • Be the dry cleaner that has customer’s shirts pressed even when your hired help doesn’t show up for work.
  • Be CPA that gets the tax returns done on time even when you’ve over promised.
  • Be the sales leader that the owner turns to when he needs a job done right and done today.

Being a sure thing means you can charge higher prices, that you will have people on a waiting list to become your customer and that you can invest your old marketing budget into business tools that make your work easier.

“If you think you are too big for a little job, you are probably too little to be trusted with a big job.”  ~ unknown

Nice Job Chick-fil-A!

chickfila-cowQuick sighting of excellent customer service I couldn’t pass up:  Yesterday, I went to our local Chick-fil-A drive thru and it was packed…I mean wrapped 1.5 times around the building packed.    Here’s what they did to make me thrilled with my wait:

  1. The line was so long that the people pulling away from the window with their food were having to drive through the line of cars waiting in line to order.  They had a full time person directing traffic to get them out safely and to help people pull into and out of parking spaces safely and quickly.
  2. As I got in line, a young man with a menu came and took my order and handed me a piece of paper with my order on it.
  3. Next, as I approached the next Chick-fil-A guy, he took my paper with my order on it, called it in and told me my total.
  4. Then I pulled up to window number one and gave them my money.
  5. Finally, I pulled up to window number two where my food was waiting.

All of this took maybe 5 or 6 minutes max.  Not only was all of this fast, and my food hot and fresh and my order correct; but they did all of this with tons of enthusiasm and confidence.  Nice job!

“The best job goes to the person who can get it done without passing the buck or coming back with excuses.”  ~ Napoleon Hill

A New Standard Of Service

146A friend of mine recently asked me if I could refer a good attorney.  I have one that I have used with no real problems, and yet I hesitated to share the referral.  Referring someone is a very personal endorsement and your quality of referrals says a lot about you.  I had to ask myself why I chose not to send my friend to this attorney. 

The reason is not that he has done anything extraordinarily bad.  Sure he has been hard to get in touch with recently and hasn’t returned a few emails, but nothing unusual.  The reason is in fact that I have recently had such great experiences with some other professionals that it has sort of set a new standard of who I want to work with on a regular basis. 

For example, a call returned within 24 hours is absolutely good customer service for busy people.  In fact, most customers will not complain if they get a call back within the week.  And yet my financial advisor returns my call within an hour.  He returns emails within minutes. 

Another example is the idea of who the expert is.  Old school business says that it is normal for your doctor to tell you what’s wrong in a language you don’t quite understand, and then tells you what to do about it and you do it.  But wouldn’t you rather see a doctor that explains things in a way you understand well enough to re-explain it to your spouse, gives you several options along with his or her suggestion of which will fit your health needs best?  And what would you do if your doctor saw you within ten minutes of your appointment time and wasn’t in a hurry when he or she met with you?

Once you have had excellent experiences with other professionals, it’s just hard to go back and settle  for less.  I want to challenge you today to set the new standard of service in your line of work.  Be the one that people just can’t wait to tell their friends about.  Ask yourself how you can manage your time in a way that allows you to meet or exceed every time commitment you make.  I am watching business people with less experience steal market share from the old guard on a daily basis just by being willing to set a new standard in their line of work consistently.  Providing excellence in the ordinary is quite possibly the best and most affordable marketing tool you have & the good news is that you have the power to raise your own bar starting now.

Take Away:  Get creative about the little things you can do to communicate to your clients their importance to you.  Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself what it would take to make them tell their friends about how “over the top” you are.

Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right.  ~ Charles Hadden Spurgeon

Flu Season Is Coming…But What About OCS Season?!

There is a disease…if you catch it, it is professionally fatal.  I call it “old client syndrome” but you might also call it “old team member syndrome” or “old church member syndrome” and it can bring down your best team members or even you if you are not watching for it.  Old Client Syndrome or OCS for short is when things are growing; but your older clients or someone on your team can’t embrace the future simply because it’s different than before.  Comments like, “I used to just be able to do it the way I wanted…” and “I remember when I used to just be able to get it done without having to get permission…” are symptoms of OCS. 

The ironic thing about OCS is that clients or team members don’t have to have been around that long to catch it; just long enough to get attached to the old way of doing things.  One of the dangers of OCS is that it is invisible to the person that catches it.  Left untreated, the person with OCS can allow a bitterness to start to develop.  And as more and more change occurs, they slip further into the OCS coma…

The worst thing that often develops in a severe case of OCS is that a new person joins the team…a new person with no attachment to the old ways…a new person that has a good attitude about things and begins to excel and to generate new results using the new ways as the older, more senior member of the team slips further and further out to sea. 

As a leader, it becomes impossible to ignore the progression of the disease in your old client, team member or church member.  They continue to get bogged down while your new clients continue to thrive.  And often times, you end up losing your old client or team member as they walk away telling you that you have treated them unfairly by asking them to live up to the new standard.  And in many cases, it is time to be big enough for both of you and let the person go before things get too bad.

There is one cure.  First, a brotherly direct acknowledgement of the condition has to happen.  Second, there must be a conscious decision to be an “eternal new guy on the team”.  This means that without abandoning the principles that are important, you are willing to abandon the processes that you used before.  That when things are growing and you get asked to change cubicles for the third time, that you do it quickly and enthusiastically.  That when younger people come on board with new talents, that you are the first one to show them around and acknowledge their strengths.  That when your leader asks you to buy into well thought out changes that allow your team to win at the next level, you not only agree; but that you sincerely buy in and cheer others on to do the same.

Take Away:  Refuse OCS thoughts and determine to be an eternal new guy with your attitude.

“A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past, he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future.”  ~ Sidney J. Harris

“Processes change.  Philosophies & principles don’t change.”  ~ Dave Ramsey

“Everything has its limit.  Iron cannot be educated into gold.”  ~ Mark Twain

Intention vs. Execution

One of the things I love to do is to understand different types of people.  I love to look for patterns in people and learn how they think, how they make decisions, and to try and find similarities in extremely successful people. 

In studying people, I have learned that most people have very good intentions…really.  Most people intend to do good things.  They intend to get things done, to pray for you when they say they will, to read more, to improve themselves, to lose that 10 lbs, get out of debt, and so on.  Good intention might be defined as the process of having a sincere desire to do something we know needs to get done.  Let’s say that at least 90% of people have these kinds of thoughts.

Executing might be defined as the ability to formulate a plan to get a thing done and then following through with the plan until the thing is fully done.  This is where the pack starts to thin out.  Few people are really good at this part of the equation.  How many people do you know today that when they say to you, “…that sounds great.  I’ll call you this week to confirm.” that there is a slim chance they will actually follow up.  It’s widely accepted that things just fall through the cracks sometimes.  We are all busy right?  Wrong.

I suggest to you today that the gap between intention and execution is the exact same gap between your dreams and success.  The smaller the gap, the larger your success.  People who drop the ball with little things will drop the ball with big things.  Successful people don’t drop balls…period.  Some have assistants that help them, some have systems in place that work for them, but one way or another they do the things they commit to do or they simply don’t commit. 

If you are in business, I especially want to challenge you today to eliminate the gap between your intentions and the execution of every single thing you say you will do.  No more casual commitments.  If you can’t do it, say no instead of casually committing.  Your reputation depends on it.  Your success depends on it. 

“Repeat anything often enough and it will start to become you.”  ~ Winston Churchill

“99% of failures come from the people who have the habit of making excuses.”  ~ George Washington Carver