Claims

I recently went on a golf trip and upon arriving at the airport found my bag damaged.  As you can see from the pics, it looked like it was dragged all the way from Connecticut to Florida.  

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Since these blogs try to get at the heart of how a customer feels through service, I tried to relate how my customers must feel when they get something damaged. Because this was just a golf bag and although there was additional damage to the things on the inside, I really didn’t have any emotional attachment. In fact, I kind of needed another one anyhow. What I did care about was the fact that no one brought it to my attention.  The staff for the airline just threw the ripped bag on the conveyor and left it for me to decide what to do.

Being in the service business and one that deals with lots of damaged goods, this experience made me think of how could this happen?  How is this similar to other businesses? Is it expecting too much for an employee to bring damaged items to a manager’s attention? Is this not common sense?  Does this have to be trained? What should have happened?

I’ll start with the business I know and with first-hand experiences with this kind of thing.  Recently, I got involved with a customer who received a tablecloth back with holes in it. For those of you reading these blogs from the beginning, you will recognize this as a Code Red which is how we report any negative customer experience.  Our system is to contact the customer when we see any damage whether it’s caused by the cleaning or inherent in the fabric. If we can’t contact the customer, we put a note on the piece and record it in the POS.

Because we failed to note the customer in advance, the conversation was much different.  There was a loss of trust in addition to the disappointment. Think of how the conversation would have gone if we were to have called in advance and explained that the fabric was weakened and came apart in the wash.  Compare this to the reaction of the customer when she goes to set the table and there’s a hole in the tablecloth. Guess what the topic of conversation will be at dinner?!!!

Here’s another experience which, I am guessing, is a result of training.  Another travel experience but this time with a rental car company surprised me with some over the top service.  Upon returning the car, the employee asked: “how was everything?” My wife said fine except there was a bit of a smokey smell.  Although the employee didn’t say anything, the manager, who overheard, came over and apologized and gave us a $75.00 credit toward our next rental. The reason I think this is training and a strategic customer service plan is that I had a similar experience with the same rental car company where they generously offer credits when there is not really a complaint.

What’s going on here?  

Let’s start with the feeling we had when the manager gave us a credit for just mentioning our experience was just slightly sub par.  “Surprise and delight” is one of our top service concepts and that is a pretty good summary of our feeling.  Could there also be a retention strategy here where the credit is used to build loyalty and get customers to return?  The fact that this happened twice and I’m not a frequent traveler leads me to believe it’s part of a bigger plan.

What’s wrong with a compensation strategy that is good customer service and builds loyalty?  Nothing!

I ended up getting an $80 check for my damaged luggage but still felt disappointed that I had to be the one to complain and haggle for compensation.  If only they had brought this to my attention in advance, I’m sure I would have had a completely different experience.

 

Return On Investment

It’s been often said, “it’s the little things that count.”  I look at this idea a little different in that the return on investment for doing the little things in service yield multiple times the investment in time and sometimes take no time at all!

Here are a few examples of personal experiences that either made or failed to make the most of small opportunities that could have made a big difference.

While at Ring’s End hardware, I was purchasing a handle for a pocket door.  Now Ring’s End is known for having better products and service.  The sales guy was very helpful and patient in helping me pick out the right hardware.  And like a good service representative gave me a tip about installing the handle.  He said the screws have a tendency to strip so he suggested that I buy and use better screws instead of the ones provided in with the handle.  I thought that was really helpful and not the kind of tip you’d get from a Home Depot experience.  Although I appreciated the tip and anyone who has stripped a screw half way through completion knows how aggravating it is, I felt like he stopped short of excellent service.  I’m thinking this is a hardware store, why not go get the screws instead of suggesting I get them. Everyone knows how much time it takes to get the right screw for the job.  Better yet, go get them and don’t charge me.  How much would 2 screws possibly cost? 25 cents? 50 cents?  

What is the return on investment of his time?  How would I have felt if he went the extra step and not only got them but didn’t charge me? At Fabricare we encourage CCR’s (customer care reps) to “keep going” with a service idea.  Don’t stop at the suggestion, do it for the customer.  Here’s a good example of this:

I had a lunch scheduled at Barcelona restaurant in downtown Stamford where parking is often a challenge.  I needed change for the meter so I gave the hostess a dollar.  She didn’t only come back with 4 quarters, she came back with 8 saying she thought I might need more time.  Wow! A dollar on the house and I haven’t even sat down to eat yet.  Is the restaurant going to make that up from me with a tip or when I come back again or recommend someone?  You bet. It wasn’t until later that I found out the restaurant didn’t have change for a dollar and the hostess had to go across the street to the convenient store for the change.  Wow again!  Return on investment? I’d say that one dollar on the house and the effort made by the hostess impressed me enough to write about it and tell others (as well as gladly give a good tip the waitress).

One more story: My friend and I like to grab breakfast after a long Sunday run.  We were at this one restaurant sitting at the bar before lunch.  The waitress gave us the lunch menus and as the two of us looked them over we saw a waitress off-duty eating an egg sandwich the chef made for her.  When we asked the waitress for one of those because we weren’t really feeling like lunch, she said no, “it’s not on the menu.”  Really I thought?  You just made a sandwich for a non-paying employee but you can’t do it for customers?  Return on investment? Or, cost of not investing in the effort? It’s amazing how often service employees say no to things that take no effort and have a big upside.  What’s the cost of 4 quarters vs saying “you can get some change across the street.” How hard is it to make an egg sandwich for a restaurant?

What’s an example of a little thing you can do that yields a big return on customer satisfaction?  What small act of kindness will touch your customer and make his day?

Be Not Afraid

These blog ideas start from personal experiences either good or bad (although as I type this, I’m realizing I don’t think I’ve written on many positive experiences. I’ll have to make a point of doing a great experience for the next one!). My goal is not to just write about the experience but to find what’s at its core and how it could be shared and made into a positive concept that can be replicated. I usually don’t know what the transferrable lesson will be until I go through the exercise of writing about it.  Often, I find that the lesson lies in one of the 11 concepts written about in the first blog, which can be read here: www.fabservice.net/blog/giving-fab-service

With that thought in mind, a recent experience I had at my favorite pizza joint was relatable to other experiences I’ve had in and outside my businesses, and I think we can all relate.

The evening started out great with a very friendly waitress engaging in conversation which always makes dining out more enjoyable.  Keep in mind, this is a pizza place so expectations aren’t very high.  We placed our order and then waited for the pizza.  And waited...and waited...and waited..and waited…

What does our friendly waitress do while we look around for her?

She hides.  

She doesn’t come over and explain why it’s taking so long or offer to apologize.  Instead, she avoids us, assuming (correctly) that we are not happy waiting an inordinate amount of time for pizza which is the only thing they serve!

As I thought about this concept of hiding, it reminded me of 2 funny experiences outside my business which I’ll try to describe briefly.

Hiding from conflict

The first was my neighbor’s young daughter, Mary C, who was a young high schooler  and working at a local bagel shop.  It was just an outlet and the bagels were made elsewhere so there was a limited supply.  One busy Sunday morning, they ran out of bagels early and Mary C. didn’t know what to do so she hid beneath the counter. The door was open so customers came in and looked all around but didn’t see Mary C. hiding behind the counter (not much different from the waitress at the pizza place).

Another story was about a girl I knew in college and who was a waitress at a fancy restaurant.  One night while she was still in training, she had an uppity couple who ordered some fancy drinks.  For some reason, the drink order got lost and they sat there waiting. When the drinks were finally ready, Becky rushes to get them to the customers and spilled the drinks on the well dressed customers!  Horrified, she goes into the kitchen and hides telling her manager she can’t take this job. The experienced manager talks her off the ledge and having seen this sort of thing before coaches her to go back out there and say “and now for my encore…” and give them the drinks for free.  

“And now for my encore…”

Becky goes back to the front line, says the line her manager taught her “and now for my encore…” and as she’s saying this, felt a sneeze coming on and turns her back to the customers. Trying not to spill the drinks and hold the sneeze in at the same time causes poor Becky to flagellate loudly in her customer’s face! (true story!)

I think we all agree, Becky deserved the night off after that!  However, her manager had it right.  In service, you need to find a way through difficult situations and win the customer over.  Most people are understanding if you talk to them, explain the situation, AND give them something to show you care.  

At Fabricare, we’ve learned that our most loyal customers are the ones where we’ve had some kind of problem and handled it beyond their expectations.  Heck, if there weren’t any problems in business, customer service would be easy and every business would be great.  

I’ll end this with a little trivia.  What’s the most common command in the bible?  

“Be not afraid.”  (or some version of it)

If it’s used hundreds of times in the most popular book ever sold, it’s good enough for customer service as well!  

What We Can Learn from United Airlines About Customer Service

You could say that pulling a paying customer out of his seat and dragging him off the plane is the ultimate in bad customer service.

Obviously, United Airlines is addressing this in more ways than one. (An impending lawsuit will do that - which was settled out of court.)

But what caused this to get so out of hand? How could this have been prevented? What’s the absolute worst occurrence that could happen in your organization that can be compared to United’s debacle - and how can you avoid it?