Tag Archives: Customer satisfaction

Unkept Promises, Ungathered Feedback

Last week I wrote about how a company with which I did business became a source of annoyance. I realize that the odds are slim that they read the piece, especially since they, through a surrogate, managed to do something even more annoying than spam a good customer.

A few days ago, I got an email from a company who was acting on behalf of the golf ball reseller with whom I had done business. The email lead with “We want to hear your opinion. It will take less than 15 seconds” and featured the logo of the reseller. It further stated that the company:

asked us to contact you to hear about your experience regarding your recent order. Your ratings and comments, whether positive or negative, will help improve their customer service. Your review is also valuable information for new customers who are considering shopping with this company. All feedback will be made public, we will not publish your name.

Scrolling down through the mail, I just had to award 1 to 5 stars, which I did. When I hit the link to enter, I was taken to a website which asked me to write a few words of feedback about my transaction. No problem, at least not until I tried to submit my review. You see, the page wouldn’t submit until I had also written a review of each of the three brands of balls I had ordered, leaving stars for each one as well as several words of text. The 15 seconds (actually quite a few more) being up, I closed the browser tab, feedback, rating, and review unsubmitted.

Yet another thing we can’t do in marketing. We can’t make promises that we know won’t be kept. Asking for “15 seconds” of my time is fine. Requiring many more seconds (minutes, actually) under a false pretense isn’t. The feedback I left initially was my opinion (positive, by the way) of the transaction as well as the quality of what I had received. It would have served to encourage people to do business with this company since they deliver what they promise at an excellent value. Instead, they got nothing, because a vendor they had hired put a gun to my head and demanded I write multiple reviews and wouldn’t take what I had written for them until I did so.

It’s a customer-centric world, folks. You can’t turn a happy customer into one that is left with a bad taste in their mouth because of something you want, not the customer. And for goodness sake, don’t promise anything that you won’t deliver, OK?

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Top Posts Of The Year #3

Continuing our countdown to the most-read post of the year, this post is from last May. I’ll often use something that has happened to me as a case study, particularly when it involved bad customer service. I generally find that many of the issues that escalate into customers not returning to a business involve things that could be prevented or remedied with transparency. This post is one of those cases. Originally called “I Got Trucked,” it was prompted by a bad van rental experience. Enjoy!

I rented a cargo van and that’s when the fun started. I mentioned in another post that we’re preparing to sell Rancho Deluxe and part of the process is cleaning out 30 years of stuff. I booked a cargo van through Enterprise, a company from which I’ve rented cars in the past without issue. They confirmed my reservation but just to be safe I went to the local lot and examined the vehicle I was renting a week ahead of time to be sure it would serve my needs. It was fine.

At 2pm the day of the rental I got a call from Enterprise asking if I was indeed coming to pick it up. I said yes, the reservation is for 5:30 and that’s when I’ll be there. I asked if there was an issue. The guy on the phone said no, we have a van, it’s just not the one you saw. Hmm. Is it the same size? “No, it’s a little shorter.” “You mean less tall because I need height to get some items in?” “No, the length is less.” OK, not an issue.

5:30 comes and I go to get the van. It is quite nice but a miniature version of what I rented. It was no bigger than a minivan or large SUV, and not at all satisfactory for my needs. The customer service rep was very apologetic, informing me that the person who rented it last hadn’t brought it back, they’d been working all day to find me another one, etc. All well and good, but it’s 5:40, most other rental places have closed or will close in the next 20 minutes, and I need a van.

What’s the business lesson? First and foremost, be honest with your customers. Obviously, they knew there was an issue at 2 when they called. Why not be honest? I’ve been on the other end of this, running the NHL’s online commerce. One year we were completely out of hockey jerseys and the inventory system failed to turn off new orders. I told the customer service reps to be honest – we would not be able to fulfill the orders by Christmas and if the customers didn’t want a credit then a full refund should be offered. More than that, I asked our commerce folks to be proactive and contact the people immediately, since it is unacceptable that some kid wouldn’t get a gift due to our faulty inventory management.

Had they been open about the problem at 2, it would have given me 3 hours to find a replacement. They were also dishonest about the size of the replacement. It had nowhere close to the cargo capacity of what I rented. No, I didn’t take the replacement Enterprise offered me. I scrambled and was lucky enough to convince a U-Haul dealer to stay open an extra 15 minutes to rent me something like what I rented in the first place. It will cost me a few bucks more but at least I got what I needed.

I’m hoping this was an aberration on Enterprise’s part. As I said above, I’ve rented cars from them before without a hitch. Customers don’t expect perfection but they do expect to be told when there is a problem and to be told what you’re doing to solve it. I wasn’t told there was a problem until it was too late, and what they had done was to throw up their hands when they couldn’t find a replacement in their own inventory (ever hear of an airline rebooking you on another airline? Maybe get one from someone else?). The goodwill you’ll generate by doing so will outweigh the negative of the moment.  You with me?

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Open Your Ears

First things first: I swear this post isn’t about golf.ClickZ

I recently joined a new golf club. What has impressed me so far has been the proactive customer service.  After almost every round I receive a quick (5 questions) survey about my experience at the club that day. Was the course in good shape? The food ok? Any staff issues? I also received a survey last week since it was the end of a half-year. That was a more in-depth questionnaire (but not burdensome). I know, by the way, that these are being read because I made a comment on one of them and the club GM sought me out to answer it in person after my next round. I’ll admit that this is an extreme and I can see where it might be annoying for many consumers to have a follow-up post-mortem after each interaction.

I’ll also admit that I’m baffled by the companies that ignore the basic customer feedback mechanisms they already have in place. Name a business without a Twitter account or a Facebook page or at least a website with a “contact us” button. Pretty hard to do. Yet studies show that 45% of consumers will abandon a purchase if they can’t get answers to their questions. They use social channels to get them and yet businesses keep ignoring them. At least a third of these interactions go unanswered.

So in the words of the Jerky Boys, open your ears, jackass. As you can see in the graphic from ClickZ, the differences in long-term results for a business are very tied to how that business services its customers. Negative experiences have ripples as dissatisfied folks tell their friends, post reviews, and go elsewhere. If they’re doing so via social channels, and most are, then isn’t it incumbent upon every business to listen and react? Especially to the customers who come to you for a response first?

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Filed under digital media, Huh?

I Got Trucked

I rented a cargo van and that’s when the fun started. I mentioned in another post that we’re preparing to sell Rancho Deluxe and part of the process is cleaning out 30 years of stuff. I booked a cargo van through Enterprise, a company from which I’ve rented cars in the past without issue. They confirmed my reservation but just to be safe I went to the local lot and examined the vehicle I was renting a week ahead of time to be sure it would serve my needs. It was fine.

At 2pm the day of the rental I got a call from Enterprise asking if I was indeed coming to pick it up. I said yes, the reservation is for 5:30 and that’s when I’ll be there. I asked if there was an issue. The guy on the phone said no, we have a van, it’s just not the one you saw. Hmm. Is it the same size? “No, it’s a little shorter.” “You mean less tall because I need height to get some items in?” “No, the length is less.” OK, not an issue.

5:30 comes and I go to get the van. It is quite nice but a miniature version of what I rented. It was no bigger than a minivan or large SUV, and not at all satisfactory for my needs. The customer service rep was very apologetic, informing me that the person who rented it last hadn’t brought it back, they’d been working all day to find me another one, etc. All well and good, but it’s 5:40, most other rental places have closed or will close in the next 20 minutes, and I need a van.

What’s the business lesson? First and foremost, be honest with your customers. Obviously, they knew there was an issue at 2 when they called. Why not be honest? I’ve been on the other end of this, running the NHL’s online commerce. One year we were completely out of hockey jerseys and the inventory system failed to turn off new orders. I told the customer service reps to be honest – we would not be able to fulfill the orders by Christmas and if the customers didn’t want a credit then a full refund should be offered. More than that, I asked our commerce folks to be proactive and contact the people immediately, since it is unacceptable that some kid wouldn’t get a gift due to our faulty inventory management.

Had they been open about the problem at 2, it would have given me 3 hours to find a replacement. They were also dishonest about the size of the replacement. It had nowhere close to the cargo capacity of what I rented. No, I didn’t take the replacement Enterprise offered me. I scrambled and was lucky enough to convince a U-Haul dealer to stay open an extra 15 minutes to rent me something like what I rented in the first place. It will cost me a few bucks more but at least I got what I needed.

I’m hoping this was an aberration on Enterprise’s part. As I said above, I’ve rented cars from them before without a hitch. Customers don’t expect perfection but they do expect to be told when there is a problem and to be told what you’re doing to solve it. I wasn’t told there was a problem until it was too late, and what they had done was to throw up their hands when they couldn’t find a replacement in their own inventory (ever hear of an airline rebooking you on another airline? Maybe get one from someone else?). The goodwill you’ll generate by doing so will outweigh the negative of the moment.  You with me?

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Top Posts Of The Year 2014 – #1!

This was the most-read post I wrote in 2014.  It is about one of the favorite topics here on the screed: customer service.  This one was a pleasure to write as was the experience upon which it was based.  It was originally called “Service Done Right,” and that’s something I hope the screed continues to provide for you.  Happy New Year!

I go on an annual golf trip – no shock given that golf is a frequent topic here on the screed. This year’s takes place in a few weeks and part of our group’s tradition (it’s our twentieth trip!) is that each guy brings “free stuff” for every other guy. Of course, it’s never free to the giver, but that’s part of the charm, I guess.

Over the years I’ve made a variety of commemorative T-shirts for the group as my gift and I’ll be doing that again this year (sorry if I ruined the surprise for any of my group that visits here). I designed them and sent the file off with my order to Design-A-Shirt, the company I’ve used several times before. What happened next is customer service at its finest.

First, when they began working on the order, they sent out proof sheets to show me how they had cleaned up what I sent them and to get an approval to proceed.  This is the first step in very smart customer service.  After all, why take the chance on an unhappy customer (bad) or on having to redo an order (worse, and a killer of margins)?  This was NOT a form email.  It came from a person and I responded to a personal mailbox as I approved what they were doing.

To this point, I’d call this above average, smart customer communication.  Here is where it gets extraordinary.  I got this note yesterday:

Hello Keith,

I wanted to follow up on the order you placed with us to provide you with a production photo of your design printed on fabric. Please see the attached photo for reference. We are concerned about the text… as it’s a bit hard to read. To fix that we would either have to move the “ball” up to make the font larger, or use a different, thinner font that would be more legible. Please advise!

Wow.  They printed the approved design on T-shirt fabric and had a human give it the once over.  That same human took the time to write me a personal note and to ask for guidance.  I should remind you that this is for 13 shirts and the total cost was around $150, far from a big order.  Even so, they made me feel as if I was ordering 13 dozen.  Giving equal attention to every customer is part of doing it right.  Not surprisingly, late last night I got an email that the order had shipped and will be here at the end of the week – several days ahead of when it was promised.

Think I’ll be back?  You bet.  More importantly, by using them as an example of perfect customer communication and service – that which goes above and beyond the customer’s expectations – I’m hoping you’ll both learn from them and given them consideration if you need to make a shirt or two.  I know I talk often in this space about how excellent customer service costs less than you think and retaining a customer is always easier than finding a new one.  Hopefully this real word example resonates.  Does it?

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Service Done Right

I go on an annual golf trip – no shock given that golf is a frequent topic here on the screed. This year’s takes place in a few weeks and part of our group’s tradition (it’s our twentieth trip!) is that each guy brings “free stuff” for every other guy. Of course, it’s never free to the giver, but that’s part of the charm, I guess.

Over the years I’ve made a variety of commemorative T-shirts for the group as my gift and I’ll be doing that again this year (sorry if I ruined the surprise for any of my group that visits here). I designed them and sent the file off with my order to Design-A-Shirt, the company I’ve used several times before. What happened next is customer service at its finest.

First, when they began working on the order, they sent out proof sheets to show me how they had cleaned up what I sent them and to get an approval to proceed.  This is the first step in very smart customer service.  After all, why take the chance on an unhappy customer (bad) or on having to redo an order (worse, and a killer of margins)?  This was NOT a form email.  It came from a person and I responded to a personal mailbox as I approved what they were doing.

To this point, I’d call this above average, smart customer communication.  Here is where it gets extraordinary.  I got this note yesterday:

Hello Keith,

I wanted to follow up on the order you placed with us to provide you with a production photo of your design printed on fabric. Please see the attached photo for reference. We are concerned about the text… as it’s a bit hard to read. To fix that we would either have to move the “ball” up to make the font larger, or use a different, thinner font that would be more legible. Please advise!

Wow.  They printed the approved design on T-shirt fabric and had a human give it the once over.  That same human took the time to write me a personal note and to ask for guidance.  I should remind you that this is for 13 shirts and the total cost was around $150, far from a big order.  Even so, they made me feel as if I was ordering 13 dozen.  Giving equal attention to every customer is part of doing it right.  Not surprisingly, late last night I got an email that the order had shipped and will be here at the end of the week – several days ahead of when it was promised.

Think I’ll be back?  You bet.  More importantly, by using them as an example of perfect customer communication and service – that which goes above and beyond the customer’s expectations – I’m hoping you’ll both learn from them and given them consideration if you need to make a shirt or two.  I know I talk often in this space about how excellent customer service costs less than you think and retaining a customer is always easier than finding a new one.  Hopefully this real word example resonates.  Does it?

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Stews Leonard’s And The Thumbtack In The Chowder

Today’s tale ended up providing a good business lesson but began as a potentially lethal bit of negligence.

Oyster crackers are better with this than thumbtacks!

Oyster crackers are better with this than thumbtacks!

I went to see my folks the other day and my Mom had something interesting to show me. On her counter was a container of clam chowder from the Stew Leonard’s store down the street from their house.  She had purchased the soup the day before.  On top of the container was a thumbtack as you can see in the photo.  I don’t know about you, but my Dad prefers crackers with his chowder and doesn’t ever consider thumbtacks as a condiment.  However, that is exactly what he found as he ate.

How the tack got in the chowder is a serious problem but not our focus today.  Obviously the commercial kitchen should not have small, sharp, unsterile objects anywhere near food but let’s put that aside and focus on what happened when I returned to the store.   Stew’s is known for great customer service.  At the front of the store here in Norwalk is a big stone that says:

We’ve been going to the Norwalk store for 30+ years and have always found that they practice what they preach.  However, we’ve never had an issue like this.  In any event, I took the tack and the chowder to customer service at the Danbury store and explained the problem.  The young woman didn’t ask for a receipt nor question me in any way.  She just apologized, asked me if I had other shopping to do and to please come back to see her when I had finished.  Upon my return she waved me to the front of the short line, asked for the new clam chowder I had picked up, tagged it as paid and refunded the price in cash.  I gave the soup to my folks along with their refund and they were happy.

We get opportunities in business to take bad experiences and make them worse or to make them better.  This was the latter which I think is a model about handling a customer problem.  Address it immediately, admit blame, tell the customer how you’re going to solve the problem, make restitution, and see if that resolves it.  I suppose if I had carried on about wanting gift cards or something more I might have got it but I wasn’t there to take advantage( I realize some customers are!).  They could have asked me for my parents’ email to send them an apology (about the only improvement I would have made).  They were being adult about it – I thought I’d reciprocate.

Many places would have denied there was a problem (that’s impossible, sir, maybe you dropped it in while you were heating it up).  Many would have demanded a receipt (maybe you were storing someone else’s chowder in one of our containers).  Some would have made me solve the problem (so what do you want me to do about it) instead of offering a solution themselves.  They did none of those things and so what could have been a series of horrible posts on social media are, instead, a blog post that praises them.

How would you have handled it had your customer found the tack?  Any differently?  Could this have been handled any better?

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