Category Archives: Customer Service

With my heartfelt gratitude this Thanksgiving

Some of you may know that I suffered a stroke in April. Ever since then, I have been sidelined with extensive recuperation and excruciating rehabilitation. 

In the United States this week we celebrate Thanksgiving. So I want to take this opportunity to express my appreciation and gratitude for many who have wished me well as I recover.

Today I would like to give a very special mention to the following people:

  • Edgar Gum, regional vice president for Marriott Vacations and his team, along with my fellow colleagues in Hawaii at the time, David Wong and Amy Shiroma
  • Gustavo Salazar, Marriott Vacation Club Pulse
  • Femy, Naty, Rebecca, Tammy, Tracy, Haas, Jackie, and Mike of The Henry Dearborn
  • Genovev, Janice, Joyce. Kathy, and Marsha, associates who were in hotels I managed

During my time at the properties, these individuals personified customer care over customer service. They not only served their guests to take care of them, they really cared for each guest and every associate. They cared for anyone who was feeling confused, angry, sad, or alone. They cared for everyone on or off the clock. And, as I recuperated, they expressed their genuine concern and well-wishes more than once.

I also want to thank customer service speakers Steve Curtin, Shep Hyken, and Adam Toporek and leadership speaker Rick Olson who wished me well beyond a simple “Get well soon” card. I very much appreciated their genuine concern and well wishes.

To those who were not aware I had a stroke, thank you very much for sticking with me for months without my blog, Facebook and Instagram posts, LinkedIn articles and posts, and tweets. I certainly have appreciated you following me now after I had a long hiatus of publishing and posting while I recovered.  

Since this is Thanksgiving, let me share with you quotes about Thanksgiving and gratitude that I have found to be more meaningful given my personal hardship and now, a most bountiful response from so many of you:

“Give thanks not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day of your life. Appreciate and never take for granted all that you have.” Catherine Pulsifer

“The struggle ends when gratitude begins.” Neale Donald Walsh

“We must find the time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” John F Kennedy

“No one has ever become poor by giving.”  Anne Frank

“Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.” Randy Pausch

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”  Voltaire

“No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.” James Allen

“Make it a habit to tell people thank you. To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return.”  Ralph Marston

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” William Arthur Ward

“Appreciation can change a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.” Margaret Cousins

“An attitude of gratitude brings great things.” Yogi Bhajan

“Thanksgiving is a joyous invitation to shower the world with love and gratitude.” Amy Leigh McCree

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QUI QUOTE: It’s not the one BIG WOW to one customer that builds loyalty. It’s the one small wow delivered consistently to every customer.

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November 22, 2021 · 12:28 pm

Great Service is Great Theater. An Encore.

A while back, I wrote an article entitled “Great Service is Great Theater”. Today I want to offer another article about the very same subject, an encore performance so to say. So, here it is:

There are some who say that they, as customer service professionals, have been trained to act the part to be happy to serve. They believe they are acting. They claim they can never “be the part” to be happy to serve. Here is what I say:

Movie actors like Scarlett Johansson, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Anthony Hopkins, and Jack Nicholson act to be happy, sad, scared, scary, or angry. Yet, we, as the audience, believe they are genuinely real. The actors may “act their part”, but they are so good that we, as the audience, believe they are real. Whether actors are acting the part or believe they are real is not important. It is never about the actors. It is always about the audience.

The best movie actors have rehearsed before they are watched by their audience. Even theatrical actors rehearse before a live audience. We, as customer service professionals, can train or rehearse before we connect with our customers, our live audience. But, more often, we are interacting as we go. So we need to be better than actors who rehearse. We need to be so good that our customers believe we really are happy to serve. So be GREAT out there. 

We, as customer service professionals, act to be happy to serve our customers so much so that they believe we are genuinely happy to serve. It doesn’t matter if we act it or not. What matters is if our customers believe we are genuine. When it comes to customer service, it’s never about us. It’s always about them. So always be GREAT out there.

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“Satisfaction Guaranteed” Does Not Lead to Customers Guaranteed

When you are working in customer service, you have been happy that your customers leave satisfied. You have sold them a product or service that meets their wants or needs. Or you solved their problem for them. You were happy because, in the end, they were satisfied.

But their satisfaction does not guarantee their return. The good news is that your satisfied customers didn’t complain. But the bad news is that your customers also didn’t rave about you to others. And the very bad news is that some customers don’t come back as they seek alternatives that they think will be as good as you but might be less expensive.

You don’t want to earn customers who are merely satisfied. They have to be more than satisfied. They have to be happy. They have to be ecstatic. They have to be raving to others about how great you were. 

And in order to do that, you have to do more than satisfy them. First, personalize their experience. Get to know who they are and understand how they are feeling. Create an emotional bond with your customers during your interaction. Don’t just take care of them. Care for them. Then make a difference. Do a bit more than they expect. 

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

After you are done, they will be more than satisfied. And they will be coming back again and again, happily raving to others along the way

To earn loyal customers, you have to do more than be good enough to satisfy them. Be GREAT out there!

P.S. If you lead employees in your business who make your customers happy, then you have to do better than to satisfy every employee. Be GREAT in there, too.

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Service Is Not Servitude

Several days ago, I was told that the counter person did not want to say, “How may I serve you?” “I’m not a servant,” she said. She already had an attitude that disdained servitude. To her, servitude meant slavery, having no liberty to determine one’s own way of life. Servitude is having no freedom, consigned to a lifetime of misery and boredom.

Service is not servitude. Service IS having the liberty to determine one’s own actions, in this case, not to satisfy them, but to actualize their happiness. Service is not satisfying your customers because you have to please them. Instead, make your customers happy because you want to please them. Emotionally bond customers when you are interacting with them. Don’t take care of your customers because you have to. Care for your customers because you want to.

Instead of having a negative attitude of servitude, have a positive attitude of service. Do more than satisfy your customers. Personalize your interaction to emotionally bond them to you. Then make them happy. Good service is having a smile on your face. Great service is having a smile on your customers’ faces.

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Be the Customer

As a customer service professional, you have been told by your supervisor to interact with all customers as if they are the customer persona. Of course, it is easier to have one of your customer personas. A persona is the general image of customer personalities. A persona is many customers wrapped all in one. 

But a customer is just one individual. Unlike a customer persona, each customer is different from the other. Each is unique. 

So don’t be like the persona of all the customers. Be just one customer.

As a customer service professional, you “think” like the customer. You rationalize the problem as you see it when you resolve any issue. But rather than think like the customer, be just one customer. Don’t just think like the customer, feel as that customer. If you think the product or service is over the top, but your customer feels that it’s ho-hum, then it’s ho-hum. If you feel that the problem is small, but your customer feels it’s A BIG DEAL, then it’s a BIG DEAL! 

So when you are interacting with customers, you must do more than just think like all of them. You must ”Be the Customer”. Yes, it would be easier for you, but that is not what customers want. Customers, each uniquely feeling, want it to be easier for them.   

Put aside your rational person to think like the customer. Instead, Be the Customer. Recognize that, as the customer service professional, you are emotionally bonded as if you are that customer. Feel that customer. Respond to every interaction as if you were that customer. At the end of the day, your customers, each uniquely feeling, are not only satisfied, they are emotionally happy. And when they’re happy, you’re happy. 

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Amazon Customer Service: The Worst is Yet to Come

Some of you may know I am a stroke victim who is paralyzed on the right and have selective short term memory. Several days ago I did not order on Amazon two bottles of Phillips Milk of Magnesia. Despite no order, Amazon shipped the products. In short, I was very frustrated with the Amazon NO REPLY emails and subsequent customer service webpages requiring resetting passwords.

Again, today, a product, now a mouthwash, is not ordered, but shipped by Amazon. Amazon does not offer explanations. I am so convinced customer service will claim that the order was shipped by me when I did not order. And if I were to contest it, I would be forced to reset my password to question it. If a reseller fails a product, Amazon requires the reseller to respond personally to the customer via email. Yet Amazon customer service is inhuman, with no names of the representatives.

If you are a behemoth company like Amazon, shipment issues are just pennies. But to customers, especially those like me with, now, no income, the cost for shipment, no matter how small, is excruciating painful.

LESSONS TO BE LEARNED: If you are a large corporation, still recognize that the customer is, in fact, a human. Even if the other company is huge, the customer of that company is still an individual. Whenever the customer is emotionally involved, your representative should be, too. Let your representative FEEL with, not for the customer. Be sure to let the representative empathize with the customer and respond appropriately.

If you are a customer service representative, know that to the customer, you are the company. Do not say, “They”. Instead say, “We”. Even better, say, “I”. Do not interrupt when the customer rants (expletives not acceptable, of course). Empathize with the customer after the rant. Then work to solve the problem. In the end, ask if everything is satisfactory or helpful.

When you listen, empathize, resolve the issue and ask if the customer is satisfied, then not only will the customer be satisfied, he/she will be sure to rave about your company to others.

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Amazon Customer Service Isn’t

I am a stroke victim, paralyzed from the right side. Also I am having certain short-term memory lapses.I have had severe constipation.

Because of that, I ordered a bottle of Phillips Milk of Magnesia from Amazon. I did not order two. Yet Amazon sent two bottles to me. According to the webpage, Amazon does not have a telephone customer service. Only a page on their website. I explained that I did not order. In order to send I had to close, reset my password and re-open. In response to their webpage, they responded on a NO REPLY email that it was not unauthorized. I had to type on the webpage that I DID NOT authorize it. In order to send, I was forced to close and reset my password. Again, in a NO REPLY, they claim tersely it was NOT unauthorized. And again, I said I personally did not sign the order. And again, to send it I had to close, reset my password and reopen. And again, in a NO REPLY email, they said unempathetically it was not unauthorized. ZERO empathy! I have had to painfully endure this ‘I did not, Oh yes, you did, Oh no, I didn’t’, Oh yes you did’ complaint dialog, having had to reset my password after every email and webpage response. It is even more frustrating when I have had to retype with only one hand. And while I remember Amazon’s website, I do not memorize the password.

In the end, Amazon customer service is unempathetically HEARTLESS. Just the WORST!

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Three Steps to Proactive Customer Service

Too often, businesses focus solely on the negative feedback from their customer surveys in CSI fashion, identifying the pain points and taking the steps to eliminate them. While this reactive analysis is critical, it is just as important to embrace a proactive approach, taking as much time examining the positive comments for clues in the experiences that customers raved about in their surveys. Here are three steps you can take to move from reactive to proactive customer service.

STEP ONE: Thank ALL customers who gave you survey feedback. Businesses do a good job at responding with a “mea culpa” message to customers who were dissatisfied. But in this age of opt-in privacy guidelines, many do not reply to customers who offer complimentary feedback. That is just wrong. If you were my customer, and you say to me, “You were great! Thank you very much” and I don’t respond, you would think I was downright rude. My bad manners would certainly taint your perception of my previous excellent service. And would you say anything to me in the future? So how do you think your customers feel when you don’t send a response to their surveys?

Remember that people buy from people they know, like, trust AND want their business. The best way to show customers you want their business is by saying thank you. Acknowledging a customer’s positive remarks begins to build a relationship. I would send a letter to customers which, in part, said,

I thanked the individual personally, included your comments in our weekly internal newsletter and forwarded it to our corporate team so they could recognize the employee on your behalf. Please let me know when you return so that I might meet you and thank you in person.

Many of them did just that and they have been loyal guests ever since. If you aren’t responding to all feedback, start today.

STEP TWO: Recognize employees who have earned positive comments. If you want your employees to make it a habit to deliver exceptional service, you need to make it a habit to thank them when they do. Thank them in person and publicly. I forwarded to everyone any email I received from a customer who raved about an employee. We posted positive comments in our social media private group, created a slideshow of the positive comments with a photo of those employees and played it on mounted backstage big screen monitors, and included the comments in our weekly e-newsletter. Remember that what gets recognized gets repeated. So acknowledge your people regularly.

STEP THREE: Brainstorm with your employees to define if there are steps everyone can take to have raveable moments happen more often. In most organizations, there are a few superstars that earn more raves from their customers. Get them together and ask them what works for them in creating an emotional connection with their customers. We found out that our superstars would look for cues, such as a familiar city or state, team logos on caps or shirts, or guests celebrating a special occasion. When these employees took the time to move from transaction to interaction, customers were happier and more inclined to let us know that. Generate ideas and educate others to replicate the opportunities to deliver outstanding service.

QUI TAKEAWAY: Spend as much time analyzing the positive customer comments from your surveys as you do the negative ones. Recognize the actions of your employees who have delivered exceptional customer service. And seek to identify the methods they used so that they might be practiced by all employees. Practice these three steps consistently and you will certainly earn more rave reviews.   

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Lessons from the Pandemic to Improve Your Customer Experience Now

When first confronted with this pandemic we moved quickly to identify the high risks for our employees and our customers and then worked to define the action steps required to minimize those risks. We got everyone involved at all levels of the organizations, followed local, state, and federal guidelines which changed week-to-week, and innovated, looking at every possible solution to keep us safe. Within the hospitality industry, we considered everything from hand sanitizers to Plexiglas shields, from floor and door decals to HVAC filters, reallocating the funds to cover the costs. We sought recommendations from experts, vendors, and our competitors to see what they were doing in response. We established protocols when someone was sick or had symptoms. What would have taken many months to implement for any other initiative took only a few weeks. Many of us had to make the difficult decisions to reassign, furlough or lay off employees. We had to make many necessary, yet tough decisions, but we did not hesitate because the need for quick action was crucial.

We can learn from the processes we took during this pandemic to establish the same steps to reassess and create our customer experience in what is the new normal. While improving customer experience is not literally life and death, without offering a good experience we stand the chance to lose the customer forever.

With restrictions being lifted and vaccinations for everyone available soon, now is the best time to assert yourself to reinvent your customer experience. As a direct result of the pandemic, customer expectations have changed dramatically. So, the experience before the pandemic is no longer good enough. Take this time now to make a similar determined effort to evaluate what needs to be done to offer an experience that is simply better than before the pandemic.

QUI Customer Experience Strategies from the Pandemic

Define who is the CX Champion and the key players on the CX team. In our case, during the pandemic, the champions were the director of housekeeping and director of loss prevention because they were responsible for guest and employee safety. Pre-COVID, the CX team may have been directed by the marketing leader. Now is the time to ask yourself who should champion customer experience improvement. Who is the leader of the team who has the most face-to-face customer interactions that can create a raveable customer experience? Be sure to include as co-champions and team members the employees who interact daily with your customers. Choose the group’s internal social influencers so that the message can be amplified throughout the organization.

Identify the experts who deliver an exceptional customer experience. Mystery shop your competitors in person and online. Google the Top Ten Best list, not only in your industry but also in the business category where your customers buy products or services. Is there any idea you can CASE and tweak to make it your own? For example, CASEing the practice of complimentary beverages on an airline flight, we began offering bottled water to guests who were checking in AND when they were checking out. With daily housekeeping services being suspended during the pandemic, the bottled water served as our “peak-end” experience enhancement.

Assess every position. Is the job description of each employee pre-COVID the right job now? In hospitality, for example, could a front desk position be changed to be a pre-arrival concierge calling multiple-day stay Guests to offer their assistance in planning sightseeing activities, making restaurant reservations or celebrating a special occasion? Does each role in your business enhance the customer experience or can it be modified to give customers a better one?

Allocate resources. Review each budget line item. Given the new environment, is that the best use of the appropriation? Is it time to consider upgrading to a customer relationship management application instead of using the contact feature in Outlook?

Involve everyone. As you did in announcing the safety protocols, make sure you publicize internally the action steps and outcomes of your focus on customer experience improvement. Create a channel, whether it is via email, a private Facebook or Yammer group, or a “What are you hearing” voice mailbox to constantly solicit for staff feedback. And make sure you share the feedback and let them know what you are doing as a result. Without the involvement of every employee, there is no commitment to maintaining the newly defined customer experience standards.  

Continually remind your people. During the pandemic, we plastered doors and floors with social distancing decals, and walls with CDC guidelines posters. At our hotel, we had safety reminders run on the guest in-house TV channel and on the employee backstage TV channel. Safety reminders were part of the daily 15-minute staff huddle and the weekly e-newsletter. Use the same methods to continually remind your team of your foundational values and daily performance standards. Repeat it everywhere and often to make it stick.

QUI TIP: Maintain a sense of urgency. Choose a date like June 1 or July 4 to define the internal reopening of your establishment with the “new normal” customer experience. Back plan action steps using that date.

QUI TAKEAWAY: At the start of this pandemic, we all worked with a real sense of urgency, innovated, spent money, and elevated our safety game.  Now is a great time for you and your team to put in as much critical thought and intense energy to revamping your customer experience.

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