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Accelerate The Customer Experience

Oct 11, 2007
Why do companies world wide invest fortunes in product development, marketing, sales and afterwards attempt to save as much money as possible on their customer care? Servicing your customers in a respectful and customer oriented way is what causes repeated business.

Here are some recent examples of customer service as I have experienced it. As you might know I serve clients in both North America and Europe, so the examples are from both of the two continents.

Example 1:

I recently called up my insurance company. They had just mailed me a letter informing me that the content of my house (All of my stuff I guess) is insured at a specific amount and they were wondering if the amount was suitable.

That is a good question and I decided to call them up to get some advice on what an appropriate amount would be.

The lady on the phone presented herself with a standard greeting and proceeded to ask for my insurance contract number.

I inquired about the letter and the explained that they have been mailing their customer to ensure that they were adequately insured.

If you have a fire in your house, even a small one, the water and follow-on damage from the extinction work can be substantial, she explained. "OK, how much do you think would be adequate?" I asked.

How should I know? I have never seen your house and have no clue about your living standard! You have to know what the value of your possessions is" she said in a very snappy tone.

I was gob-smacked and quickly ended the call.

Let's take a closer look:

The letter from the insurance company caused me to think about my situation. I did buy a new computer and that flat screen TV and some other appliances over the past year - it might be a good idea to look into this.

The lady on the phone could have easily done one of two things: 1) Presented me with an amount along with a statement such as "80% of our customers will be perfect ok with an insured amount of X. We do however recommend that you make a quick inventory of your home and estimate the replacement value of each item - remember to exclude the following from your list: Car...." Which lead us to option 2) She could have adviced me by saying "I would recommend that you do a quick inventory of your home and estimate...." and agree with me that she would call back at a preset time.

I was ready to spend money with the company, but the service or actually the lack of same got me wondering if I am insured with the right company, so now they are losing a customer.

I recently had the opportunity to walk through the call center of the very same insurance company and I noticed a sign saying "Firing us is not an option - Slaves have to be sold". I wonder if there is a connection to the quality of their customer service.

Example 2: Marriott Hotels

I love to stay in Marriott hotels when travelling. They are good business hotels and the service is excellent.

Marriott Suites in Anaheim, California

I recently attended a convention in the Anaheim Convention center. When checking in, I noticed that these guys were different. There was a heartfelt friendliness during checking in and next morning in the restaurant it continued.

All of the restaurant staff was nothing but smiles and showed genuine care for the customers. It was not like in other hotels, these guys had that special heartfelt approach to customer care that so many businesses are missing. I was fishing a bit for a yoghurt with the flavor I wanted but could not find it. The lady filling up the bacon and eggs right next to me noticed and offered to check in the kitchen. She was back 30 seconds later with my favorite flavor.

While finishing up, I got a visit from the manager. "Good Morning Sir - how is everything this morning? - Would you be kind enough to let us know if there is anything we can do better or if there is something we can do to make your stay more enjoyable?"

I have heard this "song" many times before, but most of the time it sounds like the person couldn't care less - but this manager was different. I had the feeling that he was serious and that he was taking me serious. He continued after I had confirmed to him that I was very satisfied.

He stood outside the restaurant three days later when I was leaving. I confirmed with him that he was indeed the hotel manager - he looked concerned about what was coming now. His face lit up in one big smile when I started to sing his staffs praises. He told me that he had focused on delivering excellent customer service in an area where there are hotels everywhere (Disneyland Resort). They wanted to be different and they wanted it to be clear to the customer that they where - They had reached the goal!

Let's take a closer look:

You sometimes hear people make statements like "They should be a bit friendlier - after all we are paying their salary". I do agree to that, but I once saw a sign in a hotel saying "Not everyone get's the service they deserve and some people should be happy about that". That really nails it. A lot of the time people treat hotel staff like dirt and that is unacceptable.

I am a Marriott Platinum Customer and as a professional business traveler, I basically just want a nice clean room with an internet connection that works. I like it if there is some kind of office desk where I can work and a TV where the channels are actually working. Marriott delivers the value I expect and the excellent customer service I want when travelling, so meanwhile I almost exclusively stay with them.

Accelerate your business

There is a good old saying which goes something like "You better take care of your customers or someone else will". Many businesses have not realized that truth or the fact that they are in relationship management no matter if they want to be or not. These businesses invest large amounts of money in installing and maintaining Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions which, they believe, will help them serve their customers. They invest money in training their staff on using the telephone system and the CRM solutions. But all too often, they are using their CRM system to increase sales instead of producing an excellent customer service experience. They are not being customer centric as they claim but are in face focused on themselves and their own bottom line.

Accelerate your business by ensuring that all of your members of staff understand that all of them are responsible for the customer experience. Train your staff on what good customer service is and how to produce it. Make it clear to your staff, how you want them to deal with your customers.

Ask yourself this:

* How do we generate value for our customers?
* How can we increase the customer value?
* How can we build (stronger) relationships with our customers
* Where do we usually fail (What are the customers complaining about)?
* What parts of our processes, systems, solutions or products are flawed?

Take a holistic view before diving into details. Think about how your customers want to be served. Consider arranging for a mystery shopper to test your customer service, and do it on a regular basis.
About the Author
Jan Jensen is a speaker and consultant working internationally on helping businesses with management- & organizational development, business acceleration, project- and RFP consulting. He is founder and president of Z-Solutions . E-mail letter@z-solutions.net
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