Tag Archives: customer experience

Don’t Confuse Customer Services with Customer Service

This was originally published as a guest post on Shep Hyken’s  customer service blog.  

HYKEN Human Touch

There are only two ways to make a profit in business. One way is to increase sales. The other is to reduce costs. Companies have relied on technology to reeduce one of the most expensive costs in any business – human labor. Banks have replaced tellers with ATM’s, direct deposit and internet banking. Gas stations and supermarkets have moved to credit card readers and scanners, reducing the number of cashiers and eliminating gas attendants and grocery store baggers. Even hotels are experimenting with robots to deliver room service.  But in this technological evolution, too many companies are confusing customer services with customer service. Customer services is all about how to speed up the transaction. Businesses have used technology to become more efficient at the process of serving customers.

But being good at customer services does not build customer loyalty. All a competitor has to do is ante up with the same technology. Now even non-related businesses are looking to take revenue from each other. Where banks might have been the first to offer self-service options and debit cards, stores now offer ATM’s and their own credit card services, stealing fees and interest revenue from banks. In fact, how loyal would you be to your bank if it started to raise fees for its services? When was the last time you actually walked into a bank and interacted with a teller? Businesses may have reduced labor costs by offering hi-tech customer services, but by reducing human interaction with their customers, they inadvertently have jeopardized customer loyalty. As a result, customer services may help to keep customers, but rarely does it increase sales.

Walt Disney had the best formula for boosting sales, “Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it they will want to come back and see you do it again and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.” Great companies will always remember that despite advances in technology, customer loyalty must be earned by nurturing a genuine emotional connection.

Focus on the interaction, not the transaction. Define ways to personalize the customer experience. Restaurants that take reservations usually ask the question, “Are you celebrating a special occasion this evening?” Many will offer a complimentary dessert for an anniversary celebration. But the best create a wow moment by personalizing the menu header with the couple’s names and delivering that dessert with Happy Anniversary and their names written in chocolate on the rim of the plate. Of all the pictures taken that evening of the food, which do you think is featured and forever immortalized on Facebook for their friends to see and like? And how many friends have gone to that restaurant hoping to have that same kind of experience?

Personalizing the customer experience can be as simple as using the customer’s name. Simple, but simply not done. Think back to the last several times when you were a customer. You hand a credit card with your name printed right on it to the cashier. Yet the last five times you used your credit card, how many times did the cashier use your name in giving it back to you? Rarely, if at all. An opportunity to embrace you, as a customer, is lost.

The sales adage that people buy from people they know, like, and trust should be your customer service mantra. If I were a retailer, I’d use the technology to make sure that the card swipe info would post the customer’s name on the mini screen in front of the cashier. I’d educate every cashier to look at the screen or the credit card and then look back to the customer to establish eye contact (trust), smile (likeability) and sincerely say, “Mr. Customer’s Name, thank you for shopping at Name of Company. We certainly appreciate it.” That small wow would make a big difference in having that customer return again and again.

So don’t confuse customer services with customer service. Real customer service is all about how to enhance the human interaction. As Shep Hyken has said, “The greatest technology in the world hasn’t replaced the ultimate relationship building tool between a customer and a business – the human touch.”

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Filed under Customer Loyalty, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Service

Review: Micah Solomon’s new ebook: Culture Of Yes: Practices And Principles Of Great Hospitality

MicahSolomonMicah Solomon is a customer service and marketing speaker, strategist, and author of the book, High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service. Ever since reading his book, I have been following his customer experience articles on Forbes. So when he recently published an ebook entitled Culture Of Yes: Practices And Principles Of Great Hospitality, I was all over it.  While I was quoted in the first chapter, I bought the Kindle version for the invaluable insight shared by some real hospitality heavyweights. And while this ebook is focused on those who are in the hospitality industry, I am sure that customer service professionals in any industry will benefit. Find out more about Micah and his new ebook at the end of this post.

A hotel’s associates have more impact in building the reputation of a hotel than the general manager. In one day, the associates have more direct interaction with the customers than the general manager might in one week. Yet, those associates can only deliver the level of service that they themselves have experienced. Many of them have never stayed at a hotel recognized for its exceptional service. Some of those associates may have graduated from a hospitality school. As a hotelier, I have interviewed my fair share of college graduates. These hospitality students have learned the technical parts of running a hotel – budget preparation and analysis, menu engineering, purchasing and inventory, property management systems, and sales and marketing. But rarely has the curriculum focused on the critical ingredient of a truly successful hotel operation, namely the art of hospitality, taking real care of the guest. So it is up to the manager to educate the associates and their junior managers on the principles of hospitality.

And if you are going to learn the principles of hospitality, shouldn’t you learn it from the best? Ask frequent travelers to name the best hotel chains and they will tell you Ritz-Carlton or Four Seasons. Or wouldn’t’ you want to know the secrets of the luxury resort properties that are frequently named in travel magazines as the very best like The Broadmoor or The Inn at Little Washington. Micah has interviewed the key executives from hospitality’s best, including others from Montage, Fairmont, EDITION, and Virgin Hotels and has published in this ebook their insights and, as a seasoned travel and customer service expert himself, those of his own.

Their collective insight focuses on all the key ingredients to deliver an exceptional guest experience – hiring the right people, developing the necessary internal systems and hospitality standards, creating the proper service culture, and defining steps for service recovery. Micah even discusses how technology has and will change the guest experience.

Busy managers may complain that they have no time to read an entire book on hospitality. Micah responds by offering bulletpoints at the end of the chapters, as he calls it, a “cheat sheet” to “begin learning from the best of the best – the greatest leaders and professionals from the very best lodging and foodservice organizations in the world.” That invaluable insight is offered from such hospitality icons as Isadore Sharp, founder and chairman of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Herve Humler, president and COO of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, and Danny Meyer, president and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group. And if you want to be great at hospitality, then ask someone who has already proven that they are one of the hospitality greats. Micah has done that for you here.

While this ebook is directed to hospitality professionals, there is value for a manager of any business who has customers. Whether it is buying a Big Mac from a McDonald’s, a book from Amazon, or gasoline from your local Chevron station, you exchange money for a tangible product. Unlike retail, the hospitality industry is unique. In exchange for hundreds of dollars for a weekend stay, you check out of a hotel without receiving any physical item. You may have taken extra bottles of shampoo or even the bathrobe, but were they worth the price you paid for your room? Of course not.  The only “thing” you take with you is the memory of the experience. That experience has to be so memorable that you are willing to pay to repeat that experience again and again. In retail, almost any product can be replicated by your competitor. What can’t be replicated is the unique experience surrounding the sale of the product. So wouldn’t any retail business gain from the insight from hospitality where the experience is what customers pay for?  Of course it could.

You have heard, “Knowledge is power.” That is not true. It is what you do with the knowledge that is the power. So buy this book. Read it. And then do something to start delivering great hospitality for your guests or a great experience for your customers.

Culture of YesMicah Solomon is a keynote speaker, author, customer service speaker, customer experience consultant and company culture consultant. Find out more about Micah, his blog and his recent Forbes articles at http://www.micahsolomon.com . You can find out more about the ebook or purchase it from amazon by clicking on the book cover.

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Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.

“Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.” Erma Bombeck

What do dead plants in the waiting room have to do with the skill of the doctor? Logically nothing, but to the customer, everything.

When we are sick, we go to the doctor because we do not know what is making us sick. The doctor is the expert. Even if he misdiagnoses the illness and prescribes the wrong medicine, we would still take his word for it since we have no experience in medical diagnosis. We assume that the doctor is the trusted authority. In fact, we assume it so much that we don’t ask the doctor to prove it. No one has ever walked into a doctor’s office to ask “Before you examine me, from what medical school did you graduate?” We take his expertise for granted because we have no benchmark.

But we can judge a doctor on what we do know. We know what clean and orderly looks like. We know what friendly looks and sounds like. We know what waiting too long feels like. And we certainly know what dead looks like. And with past experiences we can judge how our doctor visit stacks up to those experiences. And based on the entire experience we will decide whether to come back or not, and depending on the experience, will either refer our friends or tell the world to stay away with an on-line bad review. Is that logical? Of course not, but as management consultant Tom Peters says,

“Customers perceive service in their own unique, idiosyncratic, emotional, irrational, end-of-the-day, and totally human terms. Perception is all there is!”

When there are dead plants in the waiting room, the customer is saying to himself, “If they can’t even take care of the plants, why do I want them taking care of me?”

While a general manager at a resort up north in Michigan, I served as an adjunct instructor for many years teaching customer service at the local community college. To their credit (pardon the pun), the college made my customer service class a prerequisite for the office administration and medical administration paths. They understood that it is not what you know; it is how you say it. At the end of the semester, a survey was given to the students on how I did. Was I on time for class? Did I cover the objectives defined in the syllabus? Was I available after hours? All the survey questions were focused on the instructor. As part of the class session discussing customer feedback, I surveyed the students on their school experience. My question was, “If there was anything you could improve in your education experience, what would that be? Very few answers were specific to what the administration thought was the college experience. Rather the improvements ranged from the parking lot to the restrooms. What does the parking lot have to do with higher education? Logically, nothing. But to the female student who is taking night classes, everything. She perceives a burned out light in the lamp post as an unsafe parking lot. What does the restroom have to do with the education offered? Nothing. But as a female student wrote in her survey, “During the winter, the restrooms are so cold, I can’t even think after going in there.”

Several weeks ago, I needed to see a dentist. When I asked a friend for a referral, she gave me the name of her dentist. I asked why she thought the dentist was so good. She said the waiting room had Wi-Fi, they offered free bottled water and juice and there was a large flat screen TV in the waiting room. And, as an afterthought, she said the dentist was nice, too. The most important aspects of her dental experience were the touchpoints that eliminated the waiting time and angst of the perception of visiting the dentist for the first time.

So don’t be too focused on just your expertise. Your customers have no way to judge you on what you know. But they can grade you on the other touchpoints that they have experienced before. Take the time to look at your entire customer experience. Identify all the potential dissatisfiers and remove them. Then replace them with something positive.

What potential “dead plant” dissatisfiers in your customer experience are you leaving unattended?

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Filed under Customer Experience, Customer Service

WWWBLL’s wobble but they don’t fall down.

The customer service business is full of acronyms and abbreviations: CSM, CSR, CapEx, QA, ROI, SOP, VIP, WiFi. For those who want to drive their companies to stand above their competition, let me add one more – WWWBLL. “WWWBLL” ispronounced “Weeble” just like the roly poly toys. The toys’ tagline was “Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down.” WWWBLL stands for “What Would World’s Best Look Like?” And just like Weebles, the World’s Best companies may wobble in this economy but they certainly won’t fall down. So to stand above your competition, define “what would World’s Best look like” for your customer and then work very hard to deliver it.

Customers make a buying decision on three criteria: cost, location and reputation. According to Ken Irons in Market Leader, 70% of a brand’s reputation is based on the customer’s perception of the interaction they have with people. Nowadays it is not only your guests’ personal interactions and subsequent word-of-mouth advertising that will drive your reputation; it is also the viral impact when those interactions are posted on websites like TripAdvisor, Angie’s List or Yelp. Times have certainly changed when all we had to do to build our reputation was to include handpicked testimonials in our sales packets. Now clients reading these third-party sites take the reviews as gospel from people they have never and most likely will never meet. Communications expert Michael Angelo Caruso has identified this tendency of web surfers, “If they hear it from us it is advertising. If they hear it from someone else, it’s The Truth.”

If you are in their preferred location and if your reputation is WWWBLL, then they will come back and tell others about it. The only way to drive such rave reviews is by having your customers feel that the experience you offered was so over the top that they want to tell the world. So how do you do that? How do you create a customer experience that answers the question “What Would World’s Best look like? There are Three Principles: Think Like Your Customer. Create Their Experience. Make a Difference.


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Common Sense But Not Common Practice

Creating customer loyalty is ultimately about creating and maintaining relationships. Over 70 years ago Dale Carnegie wrote the very best book on building relationships, “How to Win Friends and Influence Others.” While the stories are too dated to be relevant for most people, the fundamentals defined by Dale Carnegie many years ago are customer service gold today. Mr. Carnegie defined the six ways to make people like you:

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
  6. Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.

While we would all agree that all this is common sense, is it common practice? Over seventy years ago, Mr. Carnegie recommended making the other person feel important by using that person’s name whenever possible. Common sense. But is it common practice? You decide.  Let’s use your credit card as an example. Should you ever lose it, you would be panicking about identity theft. It is only a piece of plastic but it is very personal and important to you. Mr. Carnegie says to win friends simply use the person’s name. In other words, in order to build customer loyalty, at every opportunity, use the customer’s name. You hand a credit card with your name printed right on it to the cashier. Yet the last five times you used your credit card, how many times did the cashier use your name in giving it back to you? Rarely, if at all. An opportunity to embrace you, as a customer, is lost. If I were a retailer, I would make sure that the card swipe info would post the customer’s name on the mini screen in front of the cashier. I’d educate every cashier to look at the screen or the credit card and then look back to the customer to establish eye contact (trust) and sincerely say, “Mr. Customer’s Name. Thank you for shopping at Name of Company. We certainly appreciate it.” That small wow would make a big difference.

So what are you doing to make your customer feel important? And what are you doing to make sure it is common practice?


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