Posts tagged ‘customer service’
My elderly Dad has been in and out of hospital a lot recently (long story, he’s doing better now thanks). It’s a small local hospital and the staff are all nothing less than amazing.
Not just amazing on the nursing/cleaning/admin-ing front, they are all lovely people who take the time to chat and connect with him and will bend over backwards to help him out (can you tell it’s a private hospital and not the sadly time strapped and cash starved NHS?).
He’s in there twice a day for drug treatments at the moment and it’s clear to me that he’s made to feel like the most important, most welcome person in the building every time he walks (on two sticks) through the door.
Agency staff and freelancers – could you say that about your clients?
Do you know what they prefer to drink at different times of the day? Do you know where they’re going after they leave your meeting and therefore how much of a hurry they’re in? Do you drop everything when they arrive for a meeting to get them comfortably settled? Could you instantly recall what happened in your last four get-togethers? Do you know what the next big challenge on their horizon is and how apprehensive they are about it? Do you pop in to say Hello when they’re in the building even if they haven’t come to see you?
No? Perhaps you need to collar someone who works here and ask them how to find out.
I used to love GAP. Mainly because their sales staff were always prepared to bring you dozens of different jeans to try on until you found one that fit. When your body shape is tricky (little waist but curvy hips), that kind of customer service makes a big difference and GAP became my first port of call for denim.
I’m 99% sure this exemplary customer service was because the staff were on some kind of a bonus scheme based on being name checked at checkout in answer to “has anyone helped you today?” It was certainly being logged on the tills.
Then maybe two years ago something changed. Getting any kind of assistance on the shop floor or in the changing room suddenly required an eagle eye and determination not to be fobbed off, ignored or redirected. Except at the tills, where the staff were now concentrating all their smiliest efforts on getting customers signed up to their email database, giving me a fair idea of exactly where the staff bonus scheme had been redirected.
It looks like Gap’s recent instore marketing materials haven’t been thought through either. I’ve tweeted several examples of not-great GAP signage I’ve spotted recently, including this one which obviously hadn’t been tweaked for the UK market:
I now darken GAP’s doors a couple of times a year to stock up on their black work trousers that miraculously seem to fit me, while playing the exciting game ‘how many staff members can fail to make eye contact while you try to buy something’. So bar a couple of pairs of essential oh-my-god-they-actually-fit trousers a year, sorry GAP, but I’m out.
A store can only get it so wrong, for so long before the target audience walks away. The brand reported last month that sales across its international markets fell 13 per cent year-on-year in the five week period ending October 1st 2011.
I did warn you I wasn’t a big fan of Mary Portas, so I suppose it was inevitable that I would end up muttering darkly at the TV this evening when the first episode of her new series Mary Portas: Secret Shopper aired.
pic taken from interview here
Mary has a new bee in her bonnet about poor customer service on the UK high street and the first episode saw her turn her wrath on Fast Fashion retailers. She started by singling out Primark for criticism on the basis that they made healthy profits but had rubbish customer service; with clothes on the floor, untrained and uninterested assistants, enormous queues and so on (see your local Primark on any Saturday afternoon for details).
But what Mary failed quite spectacularly to grasp was that creating a great customer experience costs money. Cost which has to eventually be passed on to the customer. Stylish, spacious changing rooms require extra rent for floorspace and changing room refits don’t come cheap (I recon around £20K per store for the MTVtastic Pilot changing room refit shown in the same episode). Having enough staff working on the shop floor so that someone is free to go and find you that dress in the next size up means more salaries to pay. Training staff to be super smiley and helpful takes time, which again costs the company money.
You can’t have all that AND expect to be able to buy a complete outfit and still have change from twenty quid.
I’ve blogged before about how, when it comes down to it, you can have to choose two of fast, good, and cheap. In the case of Fast Fashion, Good (service and customer experience generally) and very Cheap appear to be mutually exclusive. There’s no question that Primark is Cheap. But that isn’t the same as offering Value, i.e. a Good shopping experience at the right price. Because just like every other kind of quality, you get what you pay for.
Retailers aren’t charities. They have owners or shareholders they have to deliver returns to, so “putting profit before customer’s needs” (thank you, Mary) isn’t necessarily evil. After all, if you don’t like the service, vote with your purse and shop elsewhere.
I’ve had a bit of a bad run with technology recently. In the last couple of months, the following have gone wrong on me: two mobiles, PC, laptop, 3G dongle thingy, TomTom satnav, Bluetooth dongle, printer and broadband. Trying to get all these technology issues resolved has been a real eye-opener around customer service and brand delivery (or lack thereof).
But what has really struck me is that perhaps these brands should be directing a little more resource towards keep my loyal custom than charging after the holy grail of Brand New Customers. It seems that even in today’s reputation conscious era, some companies really would rather take the (contract) money and run.
For example, it turns out that Vodafone have a bit of a chinese wall between their retail operation and call centre which meant when my new mobile died after a fortnight I faced a 30 mile round trip to the store I bought it from for a replacement. Add in overseas call centre staff with a ‘computer says no’ mentality and I didn’t really feel like the brand cared about me and my custom. I’d much rather have my problems resolved quickly and painlessly than the remote possibility of VIP tickets to some event, thanks all the same.
Tiscali / TalkTalk undoubtedly suck the most. I’m having to upload this via my rather slow ( but at least now fixed) 3G dongle as my broadband has been down for 48 hours. It turned out that Tisacli / TalkTalk’s second line engineers aren’t available for some reason at 9.30am on a Friday and a promised call from them booked for Saturday evening never materialised. When I called on Saturday evening to ask why an engineer hadn’t rung, the guy on the other end of the phone pointed out that it was 2.30 am his time and the engineering department were “not there”. Neither apparently were any supervisors, managers, or anyone who could help in any way. But I did get a customer satisfaction survey on email. I expect you can imagine how I scored them ‘on a scale of one to ten’. Talk Talk might be spending squillions on X-Factor sponsorship, but if their customers are going to keep complaining about customer service online like me, perhaps some of that cash should be redirected towards retention rather than acquisition.
Oh, and in an effort to get some results I tried contacting both brands on twitter. Only Vodafone bothered to respond and that was to ask me to email their customer services team…
So I was sitting in the car dealership this morning, waiting for them to finish my car’s service, which they started in December and inexplicably failed to complete vital bits of at the time (and will now charge me extra £££ for).
I’d been there for the best part of an hour during rush hour but only four other people had come in to drop their cars off so the service bays weren’t exactly a hive of activity and the three blokes sat behind the service desk were looking a bit bored.
They perked up a bit when the phone rang, only to inform the customer on the other end of the phone that no, they couldn’t possibly valet her car while it was in for a service, but it would get pushed through the car wash as normal.
Hang on? The dealership is not exactly jumping with activity (presumably the current economic climate is discouraging people from getting non essential servicing work done) and you can’t find a vacuum cleaner from somewhere to delight a customer?
I know that a lot of businesses are trying to cut out costs wherever they can (this particular dealership used to return cars from a service in showroom condition), but it seems to me that at the moment businesses should be aiming to go the extra mile, not cut corners.
It doesn’t have to be particularly costly, but showing customers that you really value them choosing to spend their money with you during these difficult times is priceless.
So how does this translate to AgencyLand? Is it about making sure that the client’s favourite biscuits are in the meeting room? Spotting an interesting article in the paper and emailing it over? Delivering the work a day early? Or is that just decent client service in the first place?
Via the SmartBrief on Social Media e-newsletter, I found this post at Conversation Agent on the top 10 reasons why your customers are being difficult.
But perhaps rather than specific, economy related reasons like customers feel you’re charging too much or customer service reasons like you make it difficult to reach the right person, I think there has been an overall rise in our expectations. We actually expect things to work first time and any problems to be resolved quickly.
So when a brand doesn’t deliver, customers get disappointed, aka ‘difficult’ – and understandably agitated when their complaints get the same sub-standard response.
A great example is over at That Gormandizer Man about Mark’s experiences with thetrainline.com, which he sums up in one word – FAIL.
Or take my 3 month battle with Vodafone to get my new phone up and running. Which was finally (sort of) resolved yesterday. Everything has now been delivered and is working (touch wood). After some chivvying, Vodafone decided that my investment of 20+ hours in trying to sort out all the problems and the inconvenience that involved was worth a measly £10 credit on my bill. Sigh.
Ten hours (so far). That’s how much time it’s taken me to get my mobile upgraded and (almost, kind of) working. I’ve been bounced around call centres like pass the parcel, I’ve spoken to people in three different countries, I’ve mediated internal arguments between departments and I’ve nearly lost the will to live.
It shouldn’t be this difficult. I suppose it started because Vodafone have been convinced for the last five years that I’m actually running a small business and couldn’t understand why I might want to talk to customer services outside working hours. Changing over to their consumer database required me to leave the network entirely and start a new contract with the same company and took a mere three weeks to arrange.
Then they lost my records, mislaid all details of my upgrade, sent me a phone that needs a PhD in electronic engineering to set up and forgot to send my new charger.
I think the highlights were being on hold for 15 minutes only to discover I’d been transferred to the dealer support team by accident and finding myself with no idea whether old or new or neither phone would be working when I was about to set out on my own, in my car, in the snow.
Of course the problem for Vodafone is that apparently satisfied customers tell three friends, angry customers tell 3000. Or in my case everyone on my RSS feed. How do you think they’d take it if I sent them a bill at my agency hourly charge out rate for ten hours of my time?
I’ve been a Boden customer for a while. It didn’t take me long to work out that if I held off ordering for a few weeks into the season, mailers would land on my doorstep and in my inbox with increasingly good money off and free delivery offers.
Which was fine and fair – I was swapping the certainty of everything I wanted being in stock and available to wear from early September for what I saw as a ‘regular customer’ discount.
So this year, I was a bit peeved when The Sunday Times & Red magazine carried promotions offering all their readers (and anyone else who had access to the discount codes) 15% off with free delivery & returns. Which didn’t make me feel like a very valued customer seeing as my inbox at the time was full of measly ‘11% off’ offers.
These Boden mailers also contained lots of ‘contact us’, lets-have-a-conversation, type stuff like ‘we welcome comments on any aspect of our service and would be pleased to hear your views on how we’re doing’.
So I dropped them an email pointing out that they weren’t exactly making me feel like a valued customer. Their response?
Thank you for your email.
I am sorry to hear of the confusion caused by our recent offers. The reason
we are able to offer such an offer in the Sunday Times or Red magazine is
the free advertising we receive. The Sunday Times or Red benefit from the
offer for the customers and we save on advertising. This saving can then be
used to subsidise the extra incentive. Unfortunately, we operate on very
tight margins; we simply could not afford to offer such a promotion off our
I hope this makes our position more understandable and, if we can be of any
more help, please let us know.
So, lets see:
‘we simply could not afford to offer such a promotion off our own back’
Well, you did to me last year (and on MiniBoden on the 4th of September this year too)
‘The Sunday Times or Red benefit from the offer for the customers and we save on advertising’
And why, exactly, should that concern me?
So I’m still cross with Boden for not valuing my custom more than brand-new-customers. In fact, I’m much crosser than before I contacted them. Which raises an important point – having a two-way conversation with your customers is all very well – so long as your customers come out of it feeling more positive about your brand and business.
Ann wrote about one simple conversation (between nervous flyer Ann and a reassuring United Airlines attendant) achieving a ‘laundry list of objectives’ – establishing a personal connection between her and the airline, investing her fully in the brand and giving her the information she needed to feel secure in the air.
Ann’s point was that because she is a business writer and blogger, in this Age of Conversation, one exchange has the potential to influence many. And you never know who that person (staff or customer) might be.
Everyone on both sides of the Conversation now has a voice and can be heard and can influence. So brands really need to be sure that their people are their evangelists – because you never know how many people they’ll be talking to.
We, the clients, promise:
- not to call any agency contact before 9am or after 5.30pm unless it really is actually properly urgent
- to ask no more than five agencies to take part in any creative pitch and to make clear at the outset the number of pitch stages involved
- to provide hot/cold drinks and (preferably chocolate) biscuits at all meetings (note: anything out of a drinks machine or served in a chipped snoopy mug does not count)
- not to schedule meetings before 10.30am or on Friday afternoons if the agency is based more than 60 miles away
- to give honest and constructive feedback on creative and to adhere to that feedback in all subsequent emails, phone calls or meetings
- to pay our bills on time
- not to expect the moon on a stick in now-minus-five-minutes
We, the agency, promise:
- not to try and sell you geo-targeted PPC or a 60 second TV ad when you really need a decent PR campaign
- to have an office in an easy to find location with adequate parking and good public transport links
- to have a non-scary receptionist
- to tell you what all the focus respondents thought, rather than what the four most easily led said
- to create work that will win awards and therefore impress your boss
- to create really effective work that will really impress your boss
- to make your life easier, not harder