My wife, Sally, and I have just returned from our vacation in Boston. In a town not known for service, our experiences were generally terrific. Even American Airlines, which I alternate between loving and hating, treated us very well and handled a weather-related flight delay admirably. The question I always like to ask is, "What can we learn?" Here are a few of my favorite take-aways.
Next Level Customer Service Blog
News, tips, and trends to help you reach that next level of customer service.
We've all experienced customer service so bad that its left us feeling outraged and powerless. In the 1990s I was a frequent flyer on United Airlines, but by the end of the decade they had treated me so poorly so many times I vowed never to given United Airlines any of my money ever again. The worst experience was when I tried to return home after a three week trip and my flight was cancelled due to a work slowdown initiated by United employees. I didn't receive so much as an apology.
Here are a few quick-hit topics to start your week. Ponder, enjoy, and feel free to comment!
Listening - I hear you, but do I hear you?
My credit card is about to expire, which means I have to contact a variety of vendors to give them the new date. As you can imagine, the level of service I received varied widely. One vendor sent a reminder, but didn't include the information I needed to update my billing preferences. I managed to dig up an old bill to get my account number and then went to their website. This got me halfway through their process until I received an error message after entering the requested information. I finally had to call their customer service line.
The person I spoke with was very friendly and quickly updated my credit card expiration date. However, she wasn't very interested in acknowledging my frustrations or listening to my feedback on their process. In this case, she "heard" me well enough to solve my basic problem but didn't "hear" the underlying frustration. I'm sure the company's quality assurance department would give her a great score on that call, but as a customer I definitely wouldn't since she didn't address all of the reasons that prompted me to contact her.
Identity crisis brewing at Starbucks
(Get it, "brewing"? Ha ha ha!). Ok, that was corny, but a new initiative at Starbucks may be equally corny... or genius! The Seattle Times reported last week that Starbucks is opening three stores in Seattle that are named after their neighborhood instead of being called "Starbucks". Reportedly, the first of the three stores will be named "15th Avenue Coffee and Tea" and offer beer and wine in addition to coffee.
The big debate has already begun. Will this pilot project lead to a new chapter for Starbucks where they recapture their local coffee house roots? Or, will people refuse to buy-in to the idea of a major corporate behemoth re-branding itself as your local mom and pop? An informal poll conducted by the Chicago Union Tribune found that nearly 75% of participants say a Starbucks by any other name is still a Starbucks.
Fierce competition: Apple vs. Microsoft
Apple and Microsoft have recently been taking shots at each other in their commercials. The back and forth is amusing, but the consumer reaction is too! As a PC user, I must admit the Mac campaign has a certain appeal. I've experienced nearly every drawback of a PC highlighted in their commercials. Worse, Microsoft's technical support has been appalling. I've learned that if you have a problem with a Windows-based computer, you are better off getting assistance from a third party.
Check out this short article on Inc. where you can watch a recent commercial for both companies and learn (*gasp*) that at least one of the people in Microsoft's "Laptop Hunters" ad campaign is an actress.
I visited my local Petco today to pick up some food for my dog, Melrose. Much to my horror, I discovered they had replaced their regular employees with a hoard of zombies.
It was a truly terrifying experience. There must have been five or six of them in the store. I could tell they were zombies by their dull expressions, lazy demeanor, and incessant zombie-grunting. They were huddled around a cash register, engaged in idle conversation. I asked the group if someone could ring up my purchase and one of them looked up, grunted, and shuffled over to another register. Apparently, that was my cue to approach.
I said "Hello" to the cashier and she just grunted again and then turned to her co-worker to continue her zombie conversation while she rang me up. At the end of the transaction, she grunted again and then said, "Have a nice day." After all that grunting and distinct lack of eye contact, her empty pleasantry actually made me laugh.
What was happening? It looked like they were a special work crew that had been brought in to rearrange the store's merchandise. The employees had different uniforms on and were all moving shelves and displays. This may have been necessary work, but it shouldn't have been done at the expense of customer service. And, it was no excuse for acting like zombies!
Are you good at filling out paperwork, navigating red tape, and jumping through bureaucratic hoops? Money for training programs is tight, but there are many sources of government funding that can help give your employees new skills. Check out our handy guide below.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided a lot of money for employee training. Much of this money is funneled through the states and eventually through local “workforce investment boards”, but you can get an overview here.
State and Local Funding
Much of the federal money gets funneled through local “workforce investment boards”. Companies can gain access through a grant process. Here are some useful links: