What one employee can do for your customer experience

What’s your customer experience worth?  And what can one person do about it?

How about making 50 people with thousands of nights’ stays willing to stand up for you?

There’s this woman.  Her name is Peggy.  She’s a hotel concierge.  In my opinion, I think it takes a certain amount of humility coupled with a huge dose of gregariousness to be a hotel concierge.  You spend your time serving and cleaning plates and make sure there is enough coffee/tea/water/wine around to meet the needs of your guests.  That’s the job description.

What’s not in the job description:  remembering almost every guest’s name, even if they haven’t been in the hotel for months, conning a whole room of supposedly high status professionals to watch American Idol with you and helping them become friends with each other – like “know each other’s names, companies and lives” friends with each other. When you’re that person, you’re Peggy Galante.  And what happens when Peggy says she might have to leave to leave us?

Well, as you might expect, it starts with a bit of letter writing.  Where it went was 50 gold and platinum members using word of mouth who were willing to say we care about the lounge and the person who makes the lounge a lot more like our living room.  To be honest, we simply asked for a few things.  However, there is not a change they could make for us more important than keeping that one employee who cares.

What happened – the General Manager’s commitment to seeing us happy – was not only good, but heartening.  Being unabashedly afraid to stick up for good service is a great and rewarding thing to do.

Don’t miss the opportunity to point out Customer Experience success when you find it, even if you aren’t lucky enough to have 49 friends in the living room/lounge to join you.    Someone who cares about great customer experience is worth the effort.

-c-

Cristene Gonzalez-Wertz

Hackers & Microsoft Kinect: Used for Good (Customer Experiences, that is)

I actively fall in love with people who take things and redeploy them for social good.  I also fall in love with people who create things that can translate into better customer experiences.  You know who I am really in love with today? The Microsoft Kinect Hacker Community.

The hacking community, despite some bad PR,  generally acts more for good than evil.  Hackers dig into to technology and then ask:  “what if.”  They are experimenters, deploying their natural curiosity.  It’s a labor of love, and occasional payment until something takes hold.  When Microsoft in principle, says “hack away,” at something as delightfully fun as Kinect, the hacker in everyone crops up, “hmmm, what if I could…”.  Some behave like 13 year old boys.  Others start using it to solve real problems.  What’s more, they often actively SHARE ( a term I coined a while ago with Steve LaValle to represent Simple, Helpful, Alternatives that Reliable and Easy to use) in the new world and old world sense.

I am sharing three videos that I think have tremendous application for delivering a better customer experience, two of which also serve the public good.

  • A mobile shopping cart powered by Kinect
  • A video gesture capture translating sign language into local dialects
  • A touch design that works on any surface

Yes, I love the handicapped aspect of this.  My mom has been handicapped for 50 years.  I love how this can help her.  However, I also see a broader picture:

Any mother who has ever shopped anywhere with two kids under the age of 5 one or both of whom wants to be picked up, can immediately detect the beauty of this.  She might even be willing to help subsidize.  I know I’d pay $2-5 dollars to have it follow me around the mall.

wi-GO Project from Luis de Matos on Vimeo.

The second video is about translation.  We often think about the world needing to know English, or even Chinese, Spanish or some version of Indian dialects by 2050.  You know what language is truly universal?  Sign language.  Think about it.  What if we removed the boundaries not only through RT translation, but also through gesture?  What if you could gesture to checkout and get your receipt emailed?

This one is a simple way for even the smallest retailer or coffee shop to entertain patrons and guests while waiting.  The code is free, click through at the end of the video. If you have the device, and the desire – and any version of a 13 year old boy to help, try it out.

Release your inner 13 year old boy and see how simple and publicly available technology can help you solve new challenges.  Thanks to @BrooksBayne for introducing me to this via Twitter -c-

Cristene Gonzalez-Wertz

Customer Focus 2011: House and Home Companies who get it right

Alas, I have begun in earnest the always daunting and often unrewarding task that is home renovation.  Some days I come home and see a part of the house into which I have poured my heart, soul and dollars and say “ahhhhh.”  However, because I am early on, around the corner is simply another “ewwww.”   We all know about the challenges of home repairs gone wrong, awry or simply slowed to a crawl.  This effort has given me a perspective though on shopping for such services and products.  And while I can be very critical, these three pass the test.  They understand the meaning of strategic service as a means of enabling the sale.  Woot!Woot!  (and that is not an extraneous Amazon reference…)

  1. Home Depot
  2. Build.com (specifically FaucetDirect)
  3. Rejuvenation.com

1.  Home Depot – I have been hard on Home Depot in the past.  They lost an order of mine (different bathroom, same house) and made me move mountains to get a response.  (It actually took public humiliation via Twitter to get a response I should have gotten through email or the contact center.)  So, I wasn’t expecting much.  I figured, what the heck, it’s right next to Terrain.  Here’s what Home Depot is doing right:

  • The greeters are not just greeting.  They are offering assistance and guidance and helping customers way-find – critical in the big boxes.
  • They are allowing employees to really help customers.  I tweeted about this guy Bill in the Garden Department.  He transferred my 5 hefty hefty hefty bags of soil from my rather ill-equipped shopping cart and then drove it to the front of the store (Since trying to steer that much potting soil requires a commercial license.)  But not before he told me that I could shop as much as I wanted, and was there anything else I needed.  That was not all though.
  • I ordered marble through the same store.  As a matter of fact, it came in quickly.  rather unfortunately, it also came in damaged.  Instead of trying to hide that broken marble under the rug, they called me, told me and told me they would reorder it, rushing it if possible.

We have to come to expect low prices at the big box, not service.  Home Depot is really trying hard to remodel that experience.  Nicely done.  Retail really is still a people business.

Build.com (specifically FaucetDirect) – This is the award for great use of shopping tools.  I mean all kinds of tools.  I mean they’re like the snap-on tools of retail tools.  They make it easy, cheesy.  First off, they beat everyone else’s prices.  I found them because they had better prices on Kohler brands, and since mine was a custom order for anyone, why not save?  (Retail Hackers Unite!)  Here’s how Build.com got nearly $4,000…

  • They give consumers business grade tools:  I was concerned that the shower doors were the right ones (they weren’t).  So while I used the chat function, Justin told me to request a quote and gave me his email so he could get it directly. He then matched his knowledge to my choices and got me back on the right track, in sixty seconds.  This saves a lot of hassle in time and returns. Additionally, I could download a PDF with the specs right from their website and give them to my contractor, so he could go get other pieces he needed.  Allowing smarter consumers to be even smarter is shopper empowerment and that is worth cash.
  • For people with less immediacy to their purchases, they offer the opportunity to ask a question about an item on a page and then respond to it.  For instance, do these Kohler doors match this shower…because we all know how easy to read all those model numbers are.  The beauty of this is not for the inquirer I suspect, but for all those who follow afterward and benefit from the collective intelligence of the users and employees.
  • They also offer new shoppers a small discount for friending them on Facebook.

These aren’t new tools.  You may not think it’s worth it.  You may not think your customers notice.  It is and we do.  I have been helped by at least 6 people at Build.com – they’ve all been great.  I take back my earlier statement:  it’s a knowledgeable people business.  We are grateful for help but exceedingly grateful for great help.

3.  Rejuvenation.com So there I am with my Martha Stewart Living magazine and I spy the mirror I have search for, for hours actually.  I’ve been to 10 sites.  And there it was calling me.  Problem was I could not find it on Rejuvenation.com.  However, based on the lovely experience from Build.com, I decide to try the chat function.  I am not one to like chat functions, because often they are peopled by people who don’t care.  That was not the case here.  Andrea responded immediately to my query, sent me a link to make sure it was my perfect mirror, and then… she said, it’s a big mirror.  I don’t want to steer you away, but just make sure it can fit. She’s right to ask.  It’s 41″, but I didn’t want a small sunburst anyway.  While I had someone helpful, we also discussed finish options.  We also went to to chat for a couple of minutes – chat – on a Sunday morning – about restoration in general, about how she had been through her own remodel.  She wished me luck and asked me to send pictures once it was hung.  It was like running into a friend at a coffee shop.  People still want a people experience, a heartfelt, personal “I know where you’re at” experience.

When people are helped, they want to tell everyone they know.  I told you.  Now to paraphrase a company not on this list:  let’s build a better customer experience together.

Where have you found that companies are enjoying serving customers?  -c-

Other similar posts on customer focus/experience: 2010 examples2009 examples , The W Istanbul, J Crew

Creating Customer Intelligence: Chasm Crossing

We are in process of designing a new marketing dashboard for a client and it will feature only three categories of information:  campaigns, contacts and customers. I present these in order of things we know the most about to things we know the least about.  There, I said it, we currently know the least about the customer.  Why?  The other two are rather reasonable categoricals – counts, dates, programs, material types. Customer intelligence – which should be the basis of all contacts and all campaigns is often only given a quick slice and dice in the selection criteria, not the deep and abiding interest and perspective it should.  It isn’t even deeply addressed in the after the fact analysis – we focus on what we offer/sell, not what caused the customer to purchase it.  We develop knowledge about us – and not about them.  Seriously, they are far more interesting.  I promise.

But this client has it a little harder because they use – ahem – “a longitudinal approach of incremental measurement,” It means they won’t get to alignment because when everything has to count, nothing does.   There is an untold amount of time spent defining the impact of an ad impression, but not the specific customer it influences.  That creates a big hole in our understanding, a chasm.

So, instead, our joint teams will change the vantage point and offer a different message.  Our client team leader has decided to share with his sponsor the things in his immediate responsibility, but also offer a path forward – around the chasm -that shows how these all end up at Customer (capital intentional).  From there, we can begin to specify a better bridge.

This dashboard is not simply to be used to report the past, but also forecast and predict outcomes:  campaign response, contact optimization and customer retention/customers at risk…as the top of the iceberg. So the goal is how to design new outlooks that:

1.  Display performance and operations in a meaningful fashion.  In other words, showing them together.

2. Make it easy to see influences/dependencies, patterns and trends in the data; creating information.

3. Enhance customer intelligence by showing the decision options and tradeoffs.

All of this is not going to solve the problem straight away.  It is really simply going to help them see the environment clearly to enable better customer intelligence.  We simply have to address the psychology of presenting the data in a manner that helps make it clear, concise and knowable, and finally jumps across the chasm from campaigns and contacts to customers on the other side.  -c-

10 business models that rocked 2010 – from the Board of Innovation

I came across this content from a fellow IBMer who came across it from someone else, who… ah, the beauty of social media.  And it is highly unsurprising that the Board of Innovation – the Slideshare’s owners – used Social Media centric models.  Instead of me blabbing, I’ll let you get to the good stuff.  -c-

E-mail: the new “telemarketing at dinner time”

Two colleagues, Stanton Willins and Amol Potdar were discussing if “email was dead.”  Amol – after his smart remark about it being dead about the time he graduated high school 10 years ago,  asked the important question: “so what replaces it?”  After this holiday season, where I received no fewer than 3000 non- work messages between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I am forced to say I would consider any options for its replacement.

It feels a lot like the days of telemarketing at dinner time – where we coined all the smarmy jokes about the people who wasted our time and disrupted the evening meal, the evening news, putting the kids to bed or just about anything else you would rather be doing than a survey on dish detergent or signing up for newspaper subscriptions.

We used to think email would bring the right information right to us, at the right time.  That has been overrun by marketer overuse. It has translated to misaligned customer and brand experiences.  (Seriously brand marketing folks, go back through the emails you’ve sent customers for a period of a month and see if you feel like buying from them.  What makes you think your customers want to?  Are you really attracted to being notified about the same sale 6 times( even after you have already shopped it?  Or getting a Marriott Visa card.  Really? Given that you’ve mentioned it no fewer than 50 other times and places – what makes you think…today is the day she’ll sign up…???)

As such, media and tools that allow consumers to interact will begin to rise up and take the place of email.  Although Stanton argued that email must live on, Amol argued that micro-segment mangement is possible.  I’d side with Amol.  With endless content libraries allowing us to customize the experience I can have, assembling, rearranging and reassembling what I need in endless combinations, why should I find a static message suitable?

I began to consider exactly why do I need to log into those 4 email accounts (5 if I count my client-provided one)?  The yahoo one is full of ads.  My Mac email consolidates the other three, but still…I used to rush to check my emails – back in the days of relevant communications.  However after you work for a company who overuses the medium with endless cc’s and cya’s and tla’s (three letter acronyms) and automated notifications and automated alerts and and and:  you get a little tired of it.  I used to get 200-300 work emails a day.  It wears you out.  It’s a time suck.  Now my personal email is the same way.

Currently at least 25% of the content I receive is notifications for content that to consume I have to go somewhere else.  That’s not email.  That’s an alert, and that doesn’t require email.  In December,  I set up a new profile for an account – because they asked me to.  Not only did they send me 5 emails immediately confirming separate parts of the transactions (one would have been really fine – in fact even handy) but then they screwed up my bank account alerts, and that gave me another 3 completely unnecessary communications. Even if I say it’s okay to email me, it doesn’t mean its okay to email me 5 times in 20 minutes.  If they keep this up, I will not only opt out of email, but out of them entirely.  When you ask permission to email, you accept the responsibility of doing it well.  I didn’t grant you permission to do a half-baked job of communicating with me.  I gave you the opportunity to increase our immediacy and intimacy.  Either respect it, or you will not be invited into the next stage of my communications life – which will not involve email.

Most of my friend-communication is directed to me via facebook, twitter and other sites that aggregate content in a way email can’t.  Plus, the promise of *customized* to me – not simply *personalized* with my name is still as undelivered as “address could not be found.” We all have mountains of proof of this.  What’s more, in this season, I found people to whom I gave no right or permission awaiting me to opt-out.  They got my name and mailed me until I unsubscribed or filed them as spam – neither of which is good for the long term health of their communications.

After the egregious abuse of email this holiday season, I would expect the following for retail:
1.  a spate of unsubscribes for the offenders
2.  increasing adoption of aggregating technologies that process the information into personalized dashboards
3.  the ability for consumers to use AI or bots which we can turn on and off to go find what we need, when we need it, reducing impulse and benefiting the global world

This diminishes email, meaning that retail better find a better way – and fast.  In this way, a publishing model may be reborn.  If a style maven assembles items into approaches that support retail fashion, or how to organize a garage or clean kitchen or install a new piece of software, the purchase of bundles becomes even likelier but more distributed.  That represents some challenges, but it’s doable.

I would expect the following for financial services:
1. reduction in email-based data transmission due to mobile interfaces that function at or near the point of interaction (purchase, payment etc)
2. continued privacy and permissions challenges that dramatically decrease the consumer’s willingness to accept any information through email
3. government oversight that increases the theatre of financial security but not the actual financial security.  In other words, more email that they are required to send and we will continue to ignore because it’s still not helpful and still doesn’t act in our in favor.

Email will still exist in financial services and still not be able to deliver any content you need.  You’ll need to go to the aggregator of your choice or bank website.  With any luck, FS providers will provide more on the device.  This generally means greatly reduced marketing messages and more targeted content.  It’s better for us consumers, and believe it or not, better for the bank because for once they are not driving us batty enough to hate them for trying to  sell 62 things that are better for them than the consumer.  They might even save money by NOT marketing.

Media and its consumption:
1.  Media will move closer to point of consumption.  If HBO can recommend content when I actually sit down to watch, then its interesting.  At the beginning of the month, when I can’t watch TV until the 10th because I have pressing matters…it’s not interesting
2.  Media will trigger upon my action/recommendation – instead of forcing the effort.  In other words, why force the contact when it can be triggered and responded to – at a moment’s notice?  If I am watching TV with my boyfriend, it can recommend something different than Eat/Pray/Love or Valentines Day.  If I am watching with my nieces, it could bring me Toy Story.  It can recommend the Princess Bride any day it wants.
3.  Media can better fit its forms – Gaming/Music/Movies…all benefit from different treatments – such as, I don’t know, maybe…video?

So, when I realize that 90% of my email can be processed through:
* dashboard configured for me alone
* SMS/IM
* triggered communications
* communications nearer the point of interaction on a device, a screen, a pane of glass in my car/desk, my palm (yes, currently possible)

Yes, email is slightly more ignorable than the telemarketing call during dinner, even if you are a charity or have the *dubious-at-best right* to call me because we have a “relationship.”  However, that ability to ignore is what will cause its slower and more protracted death as it moves from annoyance to invisibility.

-c-

2010 Customer Service Hall of Shame (MSN data released May 2010)

On May 18th, MSN’s Money page published a report on the current state of customer service – as perceived by the customer.  I am enamored with any research that does not use what customers tell a company directly.  It’s hard to lie to a company to their face – you have to be really mad to tell them their service stinks directly.  However, we all know that a disenfranchised customer will tell everyone else.  This list of 150 companies across 15 industries represents a decent – albeit US-only list of those who have received, in twitter parlance, more FAILS than anyone else over the last few years.  (- the hall of shame,   – the complete list)

I chose to do this by matching the company who had made the list repeated times – the worst of the worst – and its tagline – that expensive tool by which companies express their brand promise.  Hundreds of thousands are invested in taglines and the marketing campaigns that support them. In each of these cases, that  positive brand connection – seems to have failed.  However, marketing comes up with the tagline.  It goes through executive review.  Service is delivered at the personal level – often at the least paid and least consulted level on the org chart.  So, the challenge in customer experience is in closing that gap, in making the desired experience a reality.  When was the last time you asked your service team about how they see their ability to deliver on the tagline?

These are companies we continue to love to hate:

10.  HSBCthe world’s local bank seems to be the neighbor you love to hate.   28.1% of respondents ranked their experience as poor.  6.1% ranked them as excellent.

9.  Citibank the Citi never sleeps, and apparently that makes it really grumpy and difficult to deal with.28.3% ranked them as poor.  7.6% ranked them as excellent.

8.  Wells Fargo – they may be with you when you want to get your finances on track.  They didn’t say anything about helping you do it.  And here’s something interesting:  While 28.3% ranked their experience as poor, more than 15.2% ranked their experience as excellent.  There is something going right here and Wells Fargo needs to find, mine and expand what is going right to tip their scales.

7.  Time Warner Cable – who seems to be making no performance gains.  “The power of you.”   Let me admit this right now, even as a marketer, I don’t have a clue what that means, let alone the service promise it intends to deliver.  Time Warner too has something that they can mine.  While 31.1.% ranked them as poor, there are apparently a number of good experiences to go find and mine – 13.1%.

6.  Dish Networkwhy would you ever pay more for TV? Because apparently people want to understand exactly what they are paying for and when – even if it is less.  Their numbers are 31.2% to the poor, but 14.5% for the excellent.  Again, you can mine that great feedback – call those people back and find out what people did well.  FInd out what drives a great experience.

5.  Capital One – has used “what’s in your wallet?”  Apparently your hand, Capital One, according to one gentleman, who in the article equates them to pirates, not vikings.  They were 31.3% to the negative and only 7.6% to the positive.  Once the best at targeting offers and the first to adopt card personalization, Capital One should aim to reground their experience in service.  Anyone who has called their contact center would likely express their frustration with the inability of the agent to serve the customer.  You’ll find examples on Consumer Affairs.com – however, you shouldn’t need to.

4.  Sprint – “The Now Network” lacks a service promise.  However, they were the worst company in 2007, and are moving their way out of that spot.  Interestingly enough, my boyfriend, a KC native notes:  “when Sprint starts putting service people in executive appointments, then you’ll know they are serious about change.”  He’s a Sprint customer.  I’d take that one step further.  When Sprint is willing to abandon its poor customer policies (which they have done some of) and reinvigorate their brand, they will get themselves off this list.  They have twice as many people ranking their service as poor versus excellent – 32.7% versus 9.9%

3.  Comcast – as a Philadelphia metro dweller and marketer, it’s kind of amazing that I don’t know – and couldn’t find Comcast’s tagline.  However, in a post entitled Twitter Won’t Make You Suck Less Lisa Barone provides the following quote: “Now when people talk about how badly Comcast sucks, they preface it with how responsive the company is. Comcast hasn’t learned anything. They’re just shelling out more bandaids. Often, used, dirty bandaids.”  Only 4 companies had a lower percentage of excellent ratings than Comcast, at 7.2%, versus their nearly 5x as many “poor” service markers at 34%.  People reference the Twitter campaign often and glowingly, but I am with Lisa – Twitter provides the one off – you need to repair the massive leaky cracks in the service dam, not address the two or three customers whose complaints are more visible.

2.  Bank of America – given that Bank of America is now so big that according to the article, it serves one in two households, their old tagline “Bank of Opportunity” seems to refer to them, not the consumer.  That being said, a full spate of changes to make financial documents easy to read and comprehensible might help.  I hope, at least.  They have also launched a new set of online tools designed to help guide people to financial choices more in line with their needs.  Only time will tell if this will help.  They had 3x as many poor experiences to excellent ones – 34.6% to 10.7%.

1.  AOL – AOL became its own company again in December.  There does not appear to be a new tagline for me to throw sarcasm against.  However, perhaps they don’t need as their 4th year in leading the Hall of Shame indicates the legacy of people who simply remember the challenges they had.  I think they have a huge perception problem.  Mapquest is AOL.  Moviefone is AOL.  Ask me about either of those and I would say they deliver exactly what I’d expect.  And I’d give them a good – albeit not an excellent rating (especially the new Moviefone interface…it’s a little harder to work than it was.)  With 7.0% excellent versus a whopping 6x more – 42.3% poor, it’s amazing that AOL didn’t position themselves as the holding company and let the individual brands take the spotlight earlier.  I am not sure any company can recover from this.

If you were these companies – what are the first things you would do differently?  I’d love to hear from you. If you want to see the taglines for some of the biggest brands around, and see how they deliver, try this linkThis post from Acton Marketing contains a good list of what a tagline should deliver.  Want to test your tagline knowledge?  Try this – can you beat my 80%? -c-

(By way of disclosure, I have done business with 7 out of the 10 companies on the list and still do business with 3 of them – Citibank, Capital One and Bank of America.  I have worked in a small consulting capacity at some point 2008 or prior for four companies on the list – AOL (2007), Dish Network (2007), Sprint (2007-2008), and Bank of America (as MBNA – 2005, whom I sorely miss).  All three of these efforts were aimed at trying to move the numbers.  MBNA was successful.  Alas, consultants can recommend efforts – it’s up to companies to take the actions to move forward.)