Tag Archives: Business Services

Mr. Roboto Comes To Cook

For our Foodie Friday Fun, today’s topic is the delicate balance between being consistent and being boring.  What spurred the thinking on this topic was, in fact, a food-related story that comes to us from The Daily Mail’s website.  It seems that in China they have a number of restaurants operated almost entirely by robots.  The machines do pretty much everything – cook the food, serve the drinks, take the orders, you name it:

If you pay a visit to this restaurant, in downtown Harbin, China, you will find 18 robots – from a waitress to a cooker to an usher – ready to ensure your dining experience is perfect.  The restaurant has 18 types of robots, each gliding out of the kitchen to provide your dish, with specialty robots including a dumpling robot and a noodle robot.

I’ve written before about the need to provide our customers and clients with a consistent, predictable experience yet I find this story repugnant.  I’m sure the food is uniformly something – good?  Bad?  Mediocre?  No, I guess the word soul-less comes to mind.  And that’s the business point today.

Cooking and serving food to another human being is not just another piece of manufacturing.  When I think of robots I think of them building cars, not canapés.  Oh sure, there are automated processes throughout the food industry, but they’re for packaged goods and supermarket foods, not restaurants.   What does this have to do with your business?  Think about how many business transactions involve us talking to a machine (I count email on that list – it’s more machine-like than human, lacking nuance and expression) or machines speaking to one another (digital media buying more often these days, for example).

Our clients want to see the humanity.  I’m willing to bet most clients and customers are willing to sacrifice a bit (and ONLY a bit) of perfection for the human touch.  The smile they get when they’re greeted by name.  The new photo of their kids they get to show off.  Business isn’t just an exchange of something of value for compensation – when it’s done well there are a number of intangibles that no robot can offer.

So ask yourself this.  Are you acting like a robot or like a human?  If it’s the former, maybe you ought to contemplate the differences that make us the latter.  You with me?

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4 Ways To Anger Customers

A little research today although frankly it falls into the range of that common sense thing we talk about from time to time. The good folks at American Express have published some findings on how social media raises the stakes for customer service. You can read the full release herebut I wanted to focus on one aspect of their work in particular.

YOKOSUKA, Japan (Dec. 1, 2009) Logistics Speci...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not surprisingly, Americans are growing more frustrated with customer service and businesses are hearing about it as consumers tell an increasing number of people about both their positive and poor service experiences.  How many of the folks you follow have reported on an interaction with a company?  What I found of particular note were the things Amex cited as the big four service gripes:

  • Rudeness:  An insensitive or unresponsive customer service representative – 33%
  • Passing the Buck: Being shuffled around with no resolution of the issue – 26%
  • The Waiting Game: Waiting too long to have an issue resolved – 10%
  • Being Boomeranged: Forced to continually follow-up on an issue – 10%

They’re all sort of cousins in the “we just don’t care about you as much as we do our own bottom line” family.  The key is to align the interests of the folks providing customer service of any sort with the customers themselves.  Pay them based on positive feedback, not on incremental sales.  Nearly half the respondents said that they will use social media to praise a company for a great experience (which sort of flies in the face of the widely held assumption that only complainers go public).  Nearly an equal number will vent publicly about a negative experience.  With other research telling us how most folks now do their pre-purchase research about brands and companies using social tools, none of us can afford to have anything out there that convinces consumers to do business elsewhere.

The study shows that folks who have used social media for customer service in the last year are willing to spend substantially more with companies they believe provide great service. They are also far more vocal about service experiences, both good and bad. Why aren’t we doing everything we can to be sure about the outcome?  Given the above “Big Four,” there’s still a way to go.

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Filed under digital media, Helpful Hints

Skin In The Game

As part of the mix of services I provide to clients, sometimes I write RFPs and evaluate the responses in order to select the top couple of potential vendors.  It’s not all that different from what I used to do in a previous life.  Hardly a day went by that some new company asked for a meeting in order to pitch the latest and greatest piece of technology or a service that was going to increase my group’s revenues dramatically.  Then and now, the conversation turns to the business model:  how are the two organizations to work together, where does money change hands, and what accountability do we have to one another?

It was usually during that part of the discussion that there was a “tell”, as poker players call it – the thing that gives away how good a hand you’re playing.  For me, this tell was always about how much skin the company had in the game, and to this day I think it’s an important factor in evaluating partnerships. Continue reading

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Filed under Consulting, Thinking Aloud

Service By Design

I’ve gone on at some length in this space about customer service and those companies that do it badly.  Today, I’d like to write about one that does it well and explain why I feel that way.  It’s nice to applaud rather than boo for a change!

I go on a golf trip each year.   I’ve also written about that band of brothers before but I don’t think I mentioned that one thing each guy brings is a gift for the others.  Generally these are relatively inexpensive – golf balls, pen knives – that sort of thing.  I think the biggest thing ever given to the rest of us was a cruise on the Inter-coastal Waterway one afternoon.  My contribution for the last few years has been a commemorative T-shirt of some sort.  I get them from a company named DesignAShirt and they’re the recipient of my applause today. Continue reading

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Filed under Helpful Hints, What's Going On

Want to save $243?

A new study talks about the impact of crappy customer service.  Unlike any of the rants on that topic in this space, it quantifies the effect based on research.  Not that I have to worry about letting facts get in the way of my story, but I thought I’d share it with you.

Here are the headlines:

Consumers feel the most significant root causes of poor service are:

  • Repeating themselves
  • Being trapped in automated self-service
  • Forced to wait too long for service
  • Representatives don’t know my history and value
  • Cannot switch between communication channels easily

33% cite voice self-service  as the most challenging channel compared to only 1% who find it most satisfying. And 38% of consumers said it is critical to improve voice self-service to make it more intelligently integrated with human assisted service. Where they were trapped in an automated system, consumers spent, on average, more than 9.5 minutes trying to reach a human.

It goes on to say that the average value (in one year) of each customer relationship lost to a competitor or abandoned is $243.

You can read the summary here but you already knew all this since you’re a loyal reader.  Right?

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