This past August, I was in Shanghai China for several speaking engagements. One evening, my host took me to dinner at Hai de Lao, a very popular chain of “hot-pot” restaurants. If you’re wondering what “hot-pot” is – basically, you’re brought a boiling pot of soup and you spend the rest of your dinner dunking in and cooking as many different kinds of vegetables and meats that you want. Needless to say, the food was fantastic, but it turns out that Hai de Lao is making its mark on the restaurant scene not just for their food, but also for their customer service! Since it’s not uncommon to have to wait up to an hour for a table during peak hours, the restaurant seeks to keep you entertained. Read the rest of this entry »
In the April 2012 issue of Forbes Magazine, Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon.com shares his top ten leadership lessons. While I certainly agreed with all of them, #9 caught my attention because it was so atypical. Bezos says:
“Everyone has to be able to work in a call center.”
Bezos asks thousands of Amazon managers to attend two days of call-center training each year. He is keenly aware that complaints can be devastating in the age of viral tweets and blogs, so he wants everyone in the company to never lose sight of the very reason for their success – their customers. Sitting in on call-center training means that his managers always have empathy and humility towards the customer. Oh, and by the way, the rule applies to him as well: he attends two days of call-center training every year too!
So what are you doing to make sure that you (and your leadership team) never lose sight of your customer? Please share, and also tell us if you think your organization is missing the mark in this regard.
Two weeks ago, my husband and I were snorkeling off the coast of sunny Puerto Vallarta in Mexico. As we climbed back into the boat, my husband asked, “So how was it?” With a shrug, I said, “Not that great!” “Yeah, that’s what I thought too,” replied my husband. Someone overhearing might have thought our exchange a little odd; after all, we were in a prime snorkeling coral reef known to have great underwater vistas. But the underlying reason behind our seemingly strange conversation was that our experience was relative. You see, just five months ago, we spent two entire days snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. As you might expect (it’s one of the seven natural wonders of the world), our Great Barrier encounter was breathtaking, stunning, exciting and magnificent. And it set the standard. Ever since then, without even realizing it, we evaluate every single snorkeling spree using the Great Barrier Reef as a yardstick. The tour companies in Puerto Vallarta might think that this kind of a comparison is unfair, but the reality is that everybody assesses their experiences using their past experiences as benchmarks. And that’s a reality worth considering further.
As you begin a brand new year in your professional lives and businesses, it’s worth taking some time to reflect on how you are viewed by your clients and customers. Whether you like it or not, they are judging what you do and the products or services you offer against what they receive from others, many of whom are your competitors. Yes, it may be unfair – perhaps your competitors may have more resources and larger budgets at their disposal or maybe they have a competitive advantage that you cannot duplicate – but the irrefutable truth is that people compare! So spend some time thinking about what your competitors offer to your clients, and then strategically and deliberately consider what you are going to do to make your product or service stand out. How are you going to position yourself, differently, in the minds of your buyers? How are you going to create, for your stakeholders, a Great Barrier Reef experience?
I’d love to hear from you — both about what you are doing to create Great Barrier Reef experiences for your stakeholders, and also what your challenges are when it comes to doing so.
Below are three underwater photos from our trip to the Great Barrier Reef. I think you will see what I’m talking about!
Recently, a colleague suggested I contact a specific company because she’d been made aware that they were seeking leadership development training for their people. Given what I do, it seemed like a perfect fit. While my colleague couldn’t direct me to a specific person, she was quite familiar with the company and so was able to direct me to the right department. I called and spoke to their receptionist, who promptly transferred me to the appropriate manager, who I’ll call Kara Close. I left a voice mail for Kara, explaining who I was and why I was calling. I acknowledged that she may not be the right contact for this particular matter, or the company may have already met their requirements through alternate means, but asked her to call me back to let me know or to direct me elsewhere. I also gave her my email address. That was two weeks ago. I’m still waiting for a response.
Now I know all the likely reasons Kara Close didn’t call me back – she probably gets hundreds of phone calls from potential vendors, the company doesn’t need my services, I called the wrong person, she is too busy. But here’s why she SHOULD have responded to me. This company is a well-known corporation in the cruise industry. And so I am not only a potential vendor, but I am ALSO a prospective customer. Kara Close’s lack of response to me as a possible vendor is ALSO a very visible indicator of what kind of customer service I might expect from this organization as a consumer. The cruise industry is fiercely competitive with many top-notch lines aggressively battling to get vacation dollars. So, the next time I plan a cruise holiday, how high on my list do you think this company is going to be?
Kara Close may not have the words “Customer Service” in her job title, but she is definitely (not) a customer relationship ambassador. It doesn’t matter what jobs your employees do, they are always representing your company, your brand and your organization’s values. By not responding to my call, Kara Close gave me an unexpected insight into this organization’s values and culture, and in the process, did her company a great disservice.
So what do you think? Am I right? Or am I being too sensitive?
For the last couple of weeks, I have been telling you about the saga of my broken foot, and also the leadership lessons I have learned along the way. Well I have one more installment on this topic, and then I’m done (I promise … at least for a while!) You will recall that I finally got an appointment to get my cast off on June 21. After the rigmarole of finding someone to remove the cast, I wish I could say that the rest of my experience was smooth and uneventful. Unfortunately, it wasn’t! Read the rest of this entry »
Wow! I just love a good customer service experience!
We contract out all our graphic design requirements, and today’s Internet world means that we can do it all virtually. Recently I had one of our virtual designers do several small jobs for us – one of which was to create a “Merge’s blog” button for my primary website. He delivered promptly, we approved the work and paid him, and all was done … or so I thought. Two weeks later I received an email.
I went to your website and noticed that the image I created for you doesn’t have a shadow like the others above it. I have attached a revised image with a shadow so that it looks as close as possible to the others.
Wow! This is pride in quality of workmanship. This is willingness to go the extra mile for your customer. This is focusing on building long-term business relationships instead of just trying to make the sale. This was not a big job, in fact probably just one minor task in a long list of others. Yet, he took the time to do it right. I was impressed. I am now a loyal customer. And I have no reservations about recommending his work to others. His name is Anoop and you can reach him at bamboocake[at]gmail.com.
Can you see the difference? I certainly can’t, but eagle-eyed Anoop could!
Are you and your staff giving this kind of customer service experience to your clients and customers? What are you doing to create this kind of a Wow! culture in your workplace?
So a few weeks ago I tried to make a purchase at Costco.com; “tried” being the operative word.
I went online, selected a gift for a friend who lives in California, paid using a credit card, and received email notification that my order was in progress. A couple of days later, I checked online to see the order status, and imagine my surprise when I discovered that the order had been cancelled! What?! No notification, just cancelled! It was late at night, so I fired off a note to Costco.com’s customer service department asking “What gives?” Got an email back the next day with a cryptic message that my order was cancelled because the billing information I entered did not match what my credit card issuer had on file for me. Huh? Read the rest of this entry »