"Cubicle Slaves ... hack off your ties ... flip off your heels ... the Work can be Cool!" Tom Peters
The latest addition to Tom's "Mother of All Presentations" (MOAP) is available now at ExcellenceNow.com. You can download it as a PowerPoint or a PDF. We've been releasing a new section every other week throughout 2012.
Part 21 continues the "15H Theory of Everything" with "Hewlett," and it puts the limelight on the Professional Service Firm, Tom's model for a transformational business. That is, one that offers to provide not just customer satisfaction, but, instead, customer success.
Part 16 of Tom's "Mother of All Presentations" (MOAP) is featured now at ExcellenceNow.com. You can download the PowerPoint version or a PDF. We're releasing a section every other week throughout 2012.
Presenting the 9th "H" in the "15H Theory of Everything," this part of MOAP has "Things Gone Right" as its theme. Vernon Hill, the titular "H," is the founder of Commerce Bancorp, a small bank that made a big impact by providing, without exception, excellent customer experience.
Now available on YouTube: the latest video in The Little BIG Things series. Tom presents an alternative to minimizing Things Gone Wrong. He suggests you maximize Things Gone Right. Which would you prefer to be remembered for?
Part 11 is the next installment of Tom's "Mother of All Presentations," or MOAP, available now at ExcellenceNow.com. You can download the PowerPoint version or a PDF. We'll be releasing a section every other week throughout 2012.
The 15H Theory of Everything continues with this lesson derived in part from Tom's study of Henry Clay. The key point is that Kindness = Repeat Business = Profit. That is, courtesy, apologizing for mistakes, and appreciation of your internal and external customers are all important parts of a successful business strategy.
The Little BIG Things video series at YouTube continues today with a reminder from Tom about what's really important to your business. It's the people. We think this is a great message for the holiday season. What have you done for your people at this time of year?
You can find the video in the right-hand column of our front page, or watch it here (time: 2 minutes 45 seconds). Also, you can get a PDF transcript of the video's content: Service: Invest in Your People.
The latest video is now at YouTube, #65 in The Little BIG Things Video Series. Forget the complex data analysis (such as least squares fits), says Tom, and concentrate on the customer. You'll be amazed at the possible payoff.
You can find the video in the right column of the front page of tompeters.com or you can watch the video on YouTube. [Time: 2 minutes 18 seconds] A transcript of the video's content is also available as a PDF: Service: Customer Loyalty.
Here's video number 53 from The Little BIG Things Video Series. Tom argues that your internal customers are more important than your external customers. As a waitress, focusing on your relationship with the chef can directly impact your performance with a diner.
You can find the video in the right column of the front page of tompeters.com or you can watch the video on YouTube. [Time: 2 minutes, 26 seconds] You can also download a PDF transcript of the video's content: Service: Develop Internal Customers.
A friend recently went to Sante Fe and had a less than scintillating experience at the Inn and Spa at Loretto. I thought the online review he posted at tripadvisor.com was masterful. (I may copy some of his refined language the next time I have a crappy experience.)
Herewith, his review:
If you really enjoy being treated with contempt (I understand some people do), then the Inn and Spa at Loretto is the place for you. My wife and I had planned two days at this four-star inn as the culmination of a visit to the Southwest, but as soon as we saw our room, we decided to leave as early as possible the next day. No one at the desk asked us why we were checking out early. I'm sure they knew the reason; it's doubtful anyone has ever stayed more than one night in that room.
The room is on the first floor just down the hall from the public restrooms. It has no windows, just French doors opening directly onto the parking lot—I mean DIRECTLY: no lawn, flower border, or screening of any sort. You can step out of the door and bounce off the grill of a car—maybe your own car, which you can park there for an extra $18 a day. If you are particularly gregarious, you might enjoy relaxing in your room and exchanging cheery greetings with hotel staff members bustling by with their cleaning equipment or valets parking cars 12 feet from your bed. But if you have a more retiring nature, you'll feel compelled to draw the curtains, making the dark and gloomy room with its blood-red walls resemble a vampire's crypt.
A four-star hotel should give a four-star experience to every guest, not just those with the best rooms. We had a third-rate motel experience at three times the cost. When we left, we moved into a larger, more pleasant room at a Marriott Courtyard at a savings of $100. Admittedly, we could still see the parking lot (where we parked for free), but it was four floors below our balcony, and it was separated from the hotel by a lawn and trees. So we recommend the Marriott, where you will get a nice room for the price, and you won't feel either cheated or insulted.
The bill came to about $2,700.
Getting that hearty bundle-of-bucks is an indicator of what happens when you open a little earlier and close a little later than the norm.
My wife went shopping for a mattress at the Nelson store of a "major New Zealand retailer." The retailer, incidentally, had run a huge print ad that day in an effort to immediately increase traffic—though my wife hadn't seen it. It was rather late in the day. She wandered around, wasn't overly impressed by the offerings—though they were decent enough. There were four or five salespeople on the floor, however, who had a fair shot at earning her custom. Not one approached her. A few minutes later she walked out. Not in a huff. Just walked out.
The next morning, while awaiting the 9AM opening of another shop (not bedding), we walked past Brownies, a family-run mattress and bedding store, around since 1939. Brownies, to our pleasant surprise, stood out by opening at 830AM, about a half-hour, at least, before the herd. One of the family members, on active duty at the opening bell, subsequently told us they opened early and closed late in part to attract folks going to or coming back from work. "That's when a lot of people shop," was their straightforward answer (in the "duh" category—though it apparently didn't occur to others).
An exceptionally knowledgeable salesperson immediately engaged Susan. She wandered around, and eventually made a purchase. That is, she purchased the mattress she'd hoped to find. And, uhm, a set of twin bed mattresses and bed frame, that were not on her list. And about four pillows—as I said, about $2,700 worth in total.
All because the store was open early, had a decent-but-not-spectacular set of products, and very attentive-but-not-hovering staff.
The "major New Zealand retailer," by the way, is also under newfound competitive assault. Their local folks failed miserably—not on product selection, but on attentiveness. My wife is not as picky about customer service as I am, by a long shot. But aggressive rudeness is another kettle of fish.
May Brownies prosper from now until kingdom come!
(And may the "major New Zealand retailer" get its act together—that is, improve by an order of magnitude on the basics which can indeed set local stores apart from the "big box" monsters.)
(This vignette is also included in our recitation on independent retailers.)
Tom argues in favor of the brilliant comeback when compared to a perfect record in a new video from The Little BIG Things Video Series.
You can find the video in the right column here at tompeters.com or you can watch the video on YouTube. [Time: 1 minute, 56 seconds] You can also download a PDF transcript of the video's content: Service: Problem with Perfection.
I may have been misunderstood when I wrote/Tweeted that we don't need "Wow service" (Peters), "Raving fans" (Blanchard) or "Memorable experience" (Pine and
Gilmore). The word "service," all by its lonesome, will more than suffice.
I was not dissing myself or Ken or Joe or Jim. I like and think important and have written extensively about all of the above formulations.
But here's my deal (I repeat):
Organizations exist only to serve.
Leaders exist only to serve.
That is "service"—WITHOUT MODIFIERS—is a sacred word.
To "be of service" is the highest aspiration possible.
To have "been of service" is the highest tribute possible.
Ponder the word service.
Have you, boss or non-boss ... BEEN OF SERVICE ... today?
That is: To the extent possible, review every transaction-exchange today or in, say, the last 3 hours. Even the most fleeting transaction. Have you unfailingly offered support or acknowledged a good effort or in some way nudged the person you were with forward just a smidgeon—i.e., have you ... UNFAILINGLY & PRO-ACTIVELY ... been "of service"?
Be tough on yourself. Or, at least, honest with yourself.
Every opportunity to "be of service" that you miss is gone for eternity.
Here are a few things I believe are central to success, personal and organizational. In this (selfish) instance, the author is me (some emerged from the gorgeous brevity of Tweets):
If not EXCELLENCE, what?
If not EXCELLENCE now, when?
EXCELLENCE is not an "aspiration."
EXCELLENCE is not a "journey."
EXCELLENCE is the next five minutes.
Organizations exist to serve. Period.
Leaders exist to serve. Period.
Service is a beautiful word.
Service is a beautiful word. Service is character, community, commitment. (And profit.)
Service is a beautiful word. Service is not "Wow." Service is not "raving fans." Service is not "an experience." Service is "just" that—SERVICE.
K = R = P
Kindness = Repeat business = Profit.
I have a slide that I invariably use at the top of a presentation:
Organizations exist to serve.
Leaders exist to serve.
Ten Principles of Twenty-first Century Leadership
The Four Questions
In this latest video, Tom presents his case for including thoughtfulness in your values statement. But don't do so unless you believe, as he does, that it is the key to success. Success through customer satisfaction and retention, employee satisfaction and retention, enhanced brand image, and more.
You can watch the 2:50 minute video on YouTube.
A transcript is also available for downloading. Get the PDF.
"Airline service"—I've called it the ultimate oxymoron for years and years and then more years. Well, that was before I met Kingfisher Air on a roundtrip to Mumbai last week. First there were the "butlers," I guess you'd call them, that carried our bags on and off the plane for those of us lucky enough to be in business class.
Courtesy piled upon courtesy, all at a decent price—the food was grand. (Though, truth be known, I think almost all Indian food, as prepared in India, is pretty grand.)
But it was that last touch. As we neared the beginning of our descent, the flight attendant in biz class walked down the aisle asking us if we'd like her to clean our glasses.
(Sorry for the expletive.)
NB: The wonderful founder is Branson-like in his peculiarities!
We have entered the post-customer-service age.
This doesn't mean that customer service isn't important. Of course it is. But customer service, like product quality, has become a basic, expected deliverable. Without it, you fail. With it, you are only at parity. Customer service is nothing more than basic business hygiene—the "brushing your teeth" of running a company.
If you try to differentiate your company through customer service, you will, at best, be a "me-too" company. Sure, you might have competitors that provide bad service, but your goal is not to be better than the worst. It is to be unique among the best.
Good customer service can help differentiate you only if it is a gateway to building relationships with customers. Customer relationships differentiate you from the competition in a way that customer service (or products) never can.
Aim high ... beyond customer service.
Through good times and bad, Southwest Airlines stays on brand as a no-frills, low-cost, wacky-humored carrier. Here's a video of a SW flight attendant on a flight to Oklahoma City last weekend doing his safety announcement as a rap—with passengers stomping and clapping along. Note: In a tight economy this kind of customer service (keeping the passengers entertained while imparting necessary information) doesn't cost the company a THING!
[See John's blog at RockandRollLessons.blogspot.com.]
Our colleague, Phoebe Espiritu pointed us to this interview with the CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh (conducted in a bathroom, no less). The interview is close to 20 minutes long, but it's worth your time. Zappos is famous for its extraordinary customer service (their call center doesn't use scripts and they train for generosity), but according to Hsieh, "Customer service is not our No. 1 priority, our No. 1 priority is company culture." (Sound familiar?)
Each year, Zappos publishes a book about their culture, written, unedited, by their employees. They're not just talking about how much fun they have planning parades; this video description of the book includes employees talking about the level of empowerment they feel.
This may sound touchy-feely, but their gross sales in 2008 were over a billion dollars. How? Hsieh says they're not trying to maximize every transaction, they're trying to build life-long relationships.
(Yippee, I saved $2,000! I'm sure "Best" Buy didn't need my custom.)
Customers Second, Customers First.
Customers in the "Marketplace."
"Customers" in the Firm Who Serve the Customers in the Marketplace.
[Some of you said, in Comments, that I've gone too far in this "customer 2nd" stuff. Probably true—but I still contend that there is a fundamental correctness, which addresses a characteristic imbalance, to Matthew Kelly's, "Our employees are our first customers, and our most important customers"—from The Dream Manager. Let me get personal about "all this ..."]
I luuuuuuuv great customer-"end user" feedback! I am competitive to a fault in that regard and a slave to the market—"after all these years." At a higher level of marketplace engagement, I love a hearty business backlog, especially if it's based on repeat business—and I carefully measure it against year-to-date 2007, 2006, 2005, etc. And I love a fee-per-event yield that exceeds last year, the year before, etc.
And so on.
And yet ...
And yet ... in an important way ... I indeed put the customer-"end user" second or third or ...
Second or third to what?
Simple & crystal clear (to me): To give a high-impact, well-regarded, occasionally life-changing speech "to customers" I first & second & third have to focus all my restless energy on "satisfying" ... myself. I must be ... physically & emotionally & intellectually agitated & excited & desperate beyond measure ... to communicate & connect & compel & grab by the collar & say my piece about a small number of things, often contentious and not "crowd-pleasers," that, at the moment, are literally a matter of personal ... life and death.
I crave great "customer feedback"—but in no way, shape, or form am I trying to "satisfy my customer." I am, I repeat, trying instead to satisfy me, my own deep neediness to reach out and grab my customer & connect with my customer over ideas that consume & devour me.
Hence ... my "Job One" is purely selfish & internally focused, to be completely captivated by the subject matter at hand. That is, to repeat in slightly different words, Job One is ... self-motivation.
Warren Bennis, my primo mentor, in On Becoming a Leader, said, "No leader sets out to be a leader per se, but rather to express him- or herself freely and fully. That is, leaders have no interest in proving themselves, but an abiding interest in expressing themselves."
So I'm back to my somewhat disingenuous message: To put the marketplace customer first, I must put the person serving the customer "more first." (Myself, in the case of a speech, the frontline employee for Rosenbluth International's Hal Rosenbluth in days past or for RE/MAX'sDave Liniger—see yesterday's "customer second" PowerPoint re Hal, Dave, et al.)
Excitement & self-stimulation first.
That's my cause & effect scheme.
Do not read "Flying Foul: Passengers Behaving Badly" on page D1 in the May 6 issue of the Wall Street Journal.
(I'll say no more other than what goes around comes around—treat customers like dirt and they will return the favor. Literally.)
[For heaven's sake, don't read this article. Ugh!—CM]
I long ago promised myself I'd stop using airline service horror stories. (A tautology, if ever I've heard one.) I got tired of beating dead horses, and was boring myself to death—and doubtless boring you as well.
Still, a useful reminder is a useful reminder. I flew home last week from Mexico City to Boston, on Delta, via Atlanta. The ATL-BOS leg was delayed about 75 minutes, both in the waiting area and on the plane.
I do not exaggerate: Never once did waiting area personnel or the pilot provide any explanation whatsoever. Not one bloody, frigging word.
No, this is not really news in "airline service sucks land"—though it was a smidgen worse than usual. Nonetheless it was a reminder of the Insanely Important Value 100% of the Time of Keeping People Informed/Over-informed. To reiterate a reiteration of a reiteration: We can almost all deal quite well with shit—we all/almost all deal very poorly with uncertainty. Tell me it'll probably be a 90-minute delay because the pilot is in the bar popping Tequila shots—and I'm fine. (More or less.) Total Silence? I'm on edge, pissed off as hell—irate, in fact.
(NB: Show of electronic hands of those who think Delta-Northwest will in any way, shape, or form positively impact air travelers. TP: Really Big & Crappy + Really Big & Crappy = Shockingly, Gaspworthy Sucko Monumentus.)
Shopping for Easter dinner in a crowded Shaw's [market] in Manchester Center VT at about 1 p.m. Saturday. As I check out, I'm delighted to see a bagger—an effort to relieve congestion. I am even more delighted to see that my bagger is the Store Manager!!
Four hearty cheers! (And, alas, ever so rare.)
Fact is, I made a small fortune in the mid-80s bitching and bitching and then bitching some more about customer service shortcomings. I was commonly referred to, from CA to Timbuktu, as the "king of customer service"—and given too much credit for putting this critical strategic issue on the map.
Therefore I applaud Steve Yastrow's post on Hilton's misbehavior. And applaud even more wholeheartedly the fantastic discussion responding to his Post—you'd do well to read all the Comments. (I did.)
I got to thinking about all the sophisticated ideas stirred by the Post. And thinking about all the reporters who almost automatically ask me, "Why does customer service uniformly stink?"
Fact is, I think customer service is a pure marvel:
**On 21 December 2007 (today), a day before leaving the country, at 4 a.m., from my bed, in West Tinmouth, VT, iced in, wireless working, I readily finish my Christmas shopping. Sure, a lot of stuff can't make it by Christmas—but a lot can, enough to get the job done. (And the rest will arrive by the 27th or 28th, not bad by my shabby standards.)
**Last week at this time I was in Dubai, and woke up to the electronic news that a good friend and mentor had passed away. The memorial service was 72 hours later, in LA. Within the space of 20 minutes I had totally re-organized my 3-continent travel, made hotel reservations in LA, and was set to be where I wanted to be when I wanted to be there. (The email received about the service had of course included a map.) (Also, within a half hour, I'd arranged to meet a couple of good friends, one from England whom I hadn't seen for 10 or so years, at my hotel in LA to drive together to the service.) (Some elements of "customer service" are beyond the Web's power—despite my prayers, God decided to do his "blizzard thing," my travel plans imploded, and I missed the service.)
**Two interesting fellow speakers I met in Dubai and I are already at work on creating a mini-conference next Spring on the Web. (I'm almost certain that Spring will come, in spite of my VT picture above—if I light enough candles this Christmas at San Marco's in Venice.)
**Yesterday morning I read a squib on an unusual, older, out-of-print technical book that sounded cool. I'd ordered it 20 minutes later from some guy who lives in that most common of places these days—God Alone Knows Where. (Oh, and there's a 93% chance he'll come through.) (Another book I came across I decided not to order, thanks to 5 minutes perusing 10 or 15 peer-reviews at Amazon; the formal reviews—Publisher's Weekly, etc.—weren't worth a shit, as usual.)
**Talking to VT friends last week who recently finished building a small recreational house in Colorado. This summer they furnished the whole thing, good stuff for an insanely low cost, courtesy eBay—and on the trip out from VT had a jolly time collecting their acquisitions at various places where the eBay sellers lived. (Batting average with purveyors: 100%.)
**Guy who drove me from the airport to my hotel a couple of weeks ago had just started a wee business that involved very sexy recording equipment—in a 6-month period he'd acquired, from various addresses on the Web and after incredible Web research, about $75,000 worth of equipment, in mint condition, for a touch less than $10,000.
To be sure, one of my colleagues ordered her daughter a computer for Christmas, a big deal and total surprise. Delivery was absolutely, positively promised by today—when she checked yesterday, dear, dear Dell informed her it wasn't gonna happen. (Too bad she didn't consult with me earlier—I could have told her how much Dell service sucks; it's even worse post-purchase.) Susan's and my Christmas trip to Italy will be courtesy frequent flyer miles, and I don't need to tell you yet another tale of the pain involved in cashing in "customer loyalty" FF miles—on the other hand, it did work out in the end and enormously lessened our guilt about this indulgent trip.
So, yes, service horror stories, real "head shakers," abound. But as for me, circa December 2007, I am in "shock and awe" at what I can get done in the way of services (breadth and depth) that would have been unimaginable a scant decade ago.* (*And I do love it that a new Web service, boardfirst.com, will allow me, for $5, to automatically get "A" group reservations on Southwest for my insanely inexpensive post-New Year's Albany-BWI trip to see my 93-year-old aunt.)
Merry Christmas—my presents to you, dear close colleagues, will be arriving on time!
Established in 1809, Madison, Georgia, is the only city in the state to have been spared from destruction during the Civil War. The city's website boasts that "the historic city and county are often said to be like 'walking into a Norman Rockwell Painting.' Life in Madison and Morgan County moves with a slower, more personal pace. Neighbors and friends still visit with one another under the shade trees that line Main Street. Farmers come to town on Saturdays. People here are genuinely friendly and will stop and open a door for you or speak when you walk by."
I've lived in Atlanta for nearly fifteen years, but just two weeks ago I went to visit the historic city of Madison for the first time. It was like entering a time warp. I was sure I was going to run into Opie Taylor playing pick-up sticks on the sidewalk.
I enjoyed my lunch at the cozy corner coffee shop and my visit to a fabulous custom jewelry boutique, but the place that left the greatest impression was an ice cream shop (friends advised me to protect the name of the establishment for fear that what I'm about to tell you gets out to the general public and creates havoc for the store). While I was impressed with the store (the smell of its oak floors, its vibrant polka-dot painted walls, the rows of candy jars from floor to ceiling), it was the young woman working the counter, Carolyn, who impressed me the most.
"What in the world is she so happy about?" I thought. "And, why is she so happy to see us? Surely she owns the place." As these thoughts ran through my head, my friend and I ordered two ice cream cones. Like any good plastic-dependent American consumer, I presented Carolyn with a card to pay for this transaction. "I'm sorry. We don't take credit cards," she said, "... only cash or checks. You can just send me a check," she said, as she handed my friend her business card. (Yes, we did look at her as if she had two heads). We came up with the cash between the two of us and questioned her business practices ... "ARE YOU SERIOUS? PEOPLE REALLY SEND YOU CHECKS?" I asked. "Yeah, they do. And, they always come back to see me," she said with great satisfaction. The next two words out of her mouth shocked us even more. "My boss ..." she began.
I couldn't believe it! She has a boss?! She doesn't own this place? How can this be???!!! How can this $8/hr (give or take) employee love her job so much, take such pride in her work, and be so empowered that she'd allow a customer to walk away with a promise to send payment later? Pinch me ... this can't be real!
I shared this story with some friends who are planning to franchise and expand into new markets, and I'd like to ask you the same question I asked them ... could this service philosophy work in your town? Could they make it a policy to extend this level of trust to all customers? Could this be a signature of their brand or will customers take advantage of their generosity, eventually putting them out of business?
Susan gave me my 65th birthday present early, while the days in VT still have a hint of warmth and the sun sticks around for a while at least. It is a magnificent (!!!!!!!) Kubota 4-wheeler—aimed at feeding my growing passion for landscaping on the mountainsides here in West Tinmouth.
I showed it off to a good friend, and I mentioned the wonderful support Susan had gotten from the Kubota dealer. He seconded the story, as he does business with the same guy. "I still can't believe it. I bleed green [Deere's color] and I've left them behind. [He has enough Deere equipment to fill a freighter—and has had for years, and then more years.] But the fact is that when I call the Deere dealer with a question, I'm lucky if he bothers to get back to me in the next two days. Finally, after the pattern was clear and then some, I'd had enough. A pack of wild horses couldn't get me to reverse course."
So Deere makes utterly superb equipment and innovates constantly—not an ounce, or gram, of doubt about it. But today, as always, the basic "soft" service from the company or its distributor-dealer/s makes or breaks the relationship, given some decent alternatives, in which category Kubota fits and then some.
No news in this story—except for the always Big News that, whether it's your father's world or Web 2.0 world, it's the basics (e.g., of returning phone calls) that make you or break you.
(NB: People come from hundreds of miles away to purchase from the good-guy dealer in question.)
[Photo credit Susan Sargent, for the great photo of Tom and his Kubota, above]
As I read this article about not siloing the customer service department, but, instead, inviting them to the table, it reminded me of the days when I managed a customer service department. I had thought that by now organizations would understand the importance of the customer service front-line workers. I recall that people on the front line knew the customer, and customer issues and concerns better than anyone else in the org, including the salespeople. There was a big disconnect between the customer service department and other support and production areas. One of the first things that I did, when I was in the situation, was to make the production manager my "new best friend."
Has the customer service department risen in organizations yet? Do you value the customer service department where you are? If not, what must change to be sure that the customer service department is "rockin'"?
After all the customer service training that has proliferated, you would think that service levels would now be off the chart. Sadly, that is not the case. A recent article from Stores magazine relates survey results showing that associate attitudes are poor, salespeople are rude, and product knowledge is in short supply. I loved this particular quote from the article: "An underlying theme of many shopper comments is the disconnect between the image projected by the brand in various forms of advertising and the experience they have when they visit the store."
What is it that retailers and associates aren't getting? It is all about the experience that is created, whether someone is shopping online or in the store. People want to spend their money where associates care and are knowledgeable and where they are greeted with a warm welcome. Retailers are losing ground on the most basic elements of customer experience. In the end, those retailers who reverse this trend will be the most successful.
What have your experiences been like when shopping? On a scale of 1 -10, with 1 being dismal and 10 being "off the charts," where do you stand these days?
Our Amalfi Coast hike was overseen by Country Walkers. I'm busy writing my lengthy assessment. Views great, group great—chief guide awful, substance and style,* and I'm being generous, and hotels average to awful (Capri, view of stone wall—no shit) and food—in Italy!!!!—mediocre.
(*We had to fill in a detailed form ahead of time—food concerns, medicines, etc. Obviously confidential. Or so we thought. When the guide did the first night intros, he made semi-snide remarks about Kosher food, etc, etc. "Appalling" is far too kind a judgment; and then it went downhill.)
Country Walkers: a resounding "No bloody way"—so much so that I'll actively try to discourage others (e.g., with this Post).
Speaking of customer "service":
buy viagra on line It's not about free tickets.
Or multi-hundred dollar "I'm sorry" checks.
(Or multi-thousand dollar checks.)
It's about what it's about!
Totally Insane Incarceration In Supermax Prisons!
Fix it, you idiots!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I don't want federal mandates.
I want you to pull your heads out of your ...
1, 2, 3 ... all together ... pull!!!!!!!!!!!
(I've written this Post because I've read a hundred "I'm sorrys" and plans for healthy recompense—but no damn ironclad promises about destroying Abu Ghraib of the Air.)brand viagra on sale in canada
Sure, don't believe everything you read. But if it's true, as I read yesterday, that Jet Blue called an 11 hour wait in a plane on the tarmac at JFK "unacceptable" ... well may the Big Guy damn them to the Eternal Fires of Hell ... at broil. Whoops, forgot to mention the refund or free flight JB is also apparently offering.
11 hours? No kidding, I'd be in federal custody for having attacked JB employees and having tried to chew my way out of the plane. I simply know ... FOR SURE ... that I could not have handled that.
The situation was an outright, stretch-the-mind disgrace-horror, but the use of "unacceptable" is also a total travesty.* Assuming the CEO couldn't have stopped it (he could have), then he should have been on hand at the end to beg forgiveness in person and to have called the situation "an incredible, horrible, disastrous, disgraceful, unconscionable occurrence."
Jet Blue are idiots!
No more Jet Blue for me!
"Unacceptable," my tush.
(*"Free flight" ... how about a top defense lawyer to help me appeal my federal charges for what I did on board—plus weekly cookies in the high-security pen I'll be entombed in?)
Rather than wait until the Chinese New Year to start my new year's resolutions (normally I'll use any excuse to put this off), I'll make one pledge right now: to promote companies that truly "get it" about customer experience! I'm referring, of course, not to what a company does with a customer (a transaction) but what the customer is feeling and thinking as a result of that transaction (an experience). This is where a brand has to walk the talk. As Steve Yastrow says, "Your brand is not what you say you are, but what your customer thinks you are." As James Carville might have said, "It's the EXPERIENCE, stupid!"
When I can go on Amazon.com and order a book, CD, or DVD (usually for under 10 bucks, used, including shipping) in the time it takes to boil water for tea (about 50 seconds), I'm left thinking, "SOMEBODY gets it about convenience!" Then I'm energized to do battle with the next 20 items on my To-Do list. When I call Commerce Bank and an exuberant call rep answers, predictably, within 1 second (no kidding!), my reaction is "How come everybody can't provide this?" My faith in commerce (small c) is restored. Of course it requires TALENT in high measure to pull this off (including usability experts, I presume, in the case of Amazon.com, and highly motivated call center agents in the case of Commerce Bank).
So what companies would you like to promote, which consistently provide you a great customer experience?
An Impossible Dream?
Just how do companies manage to get the economies of scale needed to be competitive today, and yet provide memorable customer experiences in their day-to-day interactions? The ideal scenario is that the systems take complexity out of the way of employees, leaving them free to deliver personal service. And yet the reality is often far from that. It seems to fall to the customer to find their way through systems, often having to work out for themselves how to get the service that they need. ... I well remember the frustration of one former client, who, on introducing a highly efficient CRM telephone system found that although performance efficiency improved, customer satisfaction plummeted. Although customers previously had to wait to get service, when they eventually did get through, they felt well treated. The new system made them feel "processed"!!
Interestingly, I read a report in Saturday's UK Guardian newspaper [01.20.07] that describes what one UK Insurer (More Than) is doing to respond to customers' frustrations around impersonal call centre handling. Their solution is to provide every customer with their own personal customer manager. This manager will be personally accountable for their own customer accounts. It's good to see that they are at least attempting to find a way through this minefield
Is this likely to improve things for the customer, or is the problem they are trying to solve much more deeply rooted? The future shape of organisations is being created by those companies who really are getting to grips with challenges like these. Where are the companies out there who are consistently delivering great experiences, and how are they managing to do it?
Over the next couple of weeks I will give my Best-Worst awards for 2006. But I want to get a jump on the process. Gawd do I hate oligopolists-monopolists formed by mergers among barely competent already too big companies.
I am in Frankfurt at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, December 10, as I write. I will not share the details of the (latest) indignity, but simply give my first "Dirty Dog of the Year" award to the astonishingly incompetent overpriced foul ball non-responsive idiot-jerks at ... Verizon.
I wish them no ill, but I do hope that every Verizon exec's "world phone" fails to work over and over and over at critical junctures in far away nations after painful (very) efforts have been made over and over and over to head off or rectify the problem/s.
My bank has a policy that if you spend more than 5 minutes in a teller line, they give you 5 dollars. Imagine my excitement when, on one of my rare visits to a local branch, I happened to notice the policy (posted on the wall, in fine print) while I was ... well ... waiting in line.
When I finally reached a teller, 7 minutes later, my eager request for the 5 bucks was greeted by confusion then disdain by the teller. (Perhaps no one had ever stooped so low as to actually ask for the five bills before!) I cheerfully told him that now that I knew of the policy—and of the long waits in the bank—I'd be dropping by regularly to pick up my 5 dollars. (He didn't think that was nearly as funny as I did.) Of course I eventually did the complex calculation to determine that taking 20 minutes out of my day to earn a probable 5 dollars might not make great business sense. (But, then again, there is something to be said for doing things just for entertainment value.) It's ironic that the first "positive customer experience" I've had at this bank was at their expense. (I'd switch banks, but the local competition appears to be dreadfully similar.) So ... how's your bank treating you these days? Got any customer experiences to share—horror stories or uplifting testimonials?
I defended repetition of message last week, assuming the issue is important and the implementation is still lacking. Hence my latest paean to the late Ann Richards. Remember: "Pissed off at a glitch? Fine. But be nice. Very nice. Very, very nice. The person on the other side of the counter [etc] is the Only Human Being on Earth, at the moment, who can help solve your problem. Or not."
Barcelona airport. 4:30 a.m. Biiiiiig computer glitch, courtesy United—and the elves are sleepin' in Chicago. Biiiiiig Glitch, "unexcusable" ... and I am weary weary weary. (And I have a veeeery short fuse in general, and particularly when weary at 4:30 A.M. 3,500 miles from home.)
So I did 1 minute of "practiced breathing" ... "did a Maxi-Ann." I had, I reminded myself, but one desire: in a busy airport, I wanted a very "unfair share" of the Lufthansa agent's time. With total concentration that would have made a neurosurgeon proud, I launched a Maxi Charm Offense—accepting my fate and musing on the tech-driven perils of our current age, "especially since your employer is giving you the short end of the stick courtesy understaffing and the like." [The syrup nearly flooded the airport.]
This is not, not, not a "Tom Story." This is, is, is an "Ann Story." Both you and I are, in the end, capable of a WMP* charm offense (*Weapons of Mass Politeness).
The "bottom line" ... I got that blessed Unfair Share of the agent's time, and then some; with tenacity, she did indeed untangle the Gordian Knot; we sympathized with one another on "the sorry state of human affairs"—and, unbidden, I will send a note commending her effort.
I am obviously asking your indulgence for "another Ann story"/ "another airline story." My justification, of course, is that it's in fact a fundamental saga of human nature—and, crudely, the difference between success and failure ... in an airport at 4:30 A.M., or when attempting to ice an order for another Boeing Dreamliner.
NB: Perhaps you'll recall the Henry Clay quote I offered up a few weeks ago: "Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart."
I remain amazed.
Sounds a bit like the Golden Rule—and I guess it is. This is obvious: If I treat EVERY service provider as my CUSTOMER (even when they are having a bad day) ... then I radically increase the odds of getting good-great service from my "customer." This notion is a first-class "Duh," but it struck me anew yesterday. I went into an electronics shop and badly needed help. The only clerk in the store is in no danger of winning the "employee of the month" award. Yet I showered him with love & affection, as it were, and got an unfair share of his time-attention; in the end he offered pretty damn good advice. (Moreover I didn't let the little prick ruin MY day! And he actually wasn't a L.P., he was mostly left holding the bag by his manager—perhaps a B.P.)
Hence my "golden rule" du jour: My service provider is my customer. To get good service give good service to those who service you.
As I said: Duh!
Still reeling from my nasty affair in Boca Raton. But also reaping benefits; here's a slightly extended version of yesterday's PowerPoint on when the problem is not the problem. One additional idea: Oh my, how powerful (and, oddly, rare) a simple "I'm sorry" can be—even if the speaker has little ability to fix the problem; at least he-she is attempting to establish empathetic human contact! In my Affaire Boca the front desk manager kept blaming the problem on me! Even if it had been true, and assuming I hadn't shot another guest, that is a stupid tactic!
"Stating the obvious" is how I've spent much of the last quarter century ("people are important"). Fact is, there's little more important than stating the obvious—over and over.
So here I go again:
The problem is rarely the problem. The response to the problem is usually the problem. (Think Watergate and Martha Stewart.)
Ta-da: So work proactively and assiduously on that response—remembering, to state the obvious, that ... perception is all there is!
Genesis: an incredibly crappy ("die rather than go back") experience at the Boca Raton Resort & Club—which doubly annoyed me because I had such a lovely time with newfound colleagues at the Direct Selling Association, and wished (literally) to savor the experience, not have it supplanted by an untoward event. The "event"/problem, as implied above, was far from endangering the earth; but the stunningly & repeatedly rude & inept & disingenuous* (*"disingenuous" = lie/s) response to the problem played havoc with my blood pressure as well as my morale and my view of humankind. (NB: Uncharacteristically, I plan to get even. E.g., starting with this Blogpost.)
Home Depot's board members no-shows for annual meeting—meeting lasts minutes. Wal*Mart's annual meeting includes a live Broadway review—meeting lasts hours.
Asian cars' market share in U.S. exceeds 40% for the first time—fuel-efficient cars lead the way. American response: GM effectively gives fuel away to new Suburban and Hummer buyers.
On Sunday, May 21, 97 new docs graduated from the University of Vermont's College of Medicine—62% were women. On June 2, Tom Mortenson of the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education was quoted as saying: "Women have been making educational progress, and the men are stuck. They haven't just fallen behind women. They have fallen behind changes in the job market."
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation's (Kansas City) annual "Index of Entrepreneurial Activity" finds that immigrants are starting new businesses at a rate that's about 25% higher than native-born Americans.
A couple of weeks ago I was presenting in New York City, and I realized that I had forgotten the power cord for my Dell laptop. Since I was in the great city of New York, where you can find everything, I wasn't that concerned. After all, I have paid service coverage and Dell is known for service ... or are they?
I called Dell and told them of my dilemma, and their first response was, "We are Dell and our parts are proprietary. The only place you can get them is from us." Just to be sure that I'd heard correctly, I asked, "You mean to tell me that there is no place in all of New York City where I can buy or borrow a power supply?" You know the answer: "No!"
Seems like déjà vu. Wasn't this the old attitude of IBM? Careful, Dell. Don't think too highly of yourself.
P.S. The temporary fix was to purchase a universal power supply, which will run the computer but not charge the battery!
Hats off to Hertz. I rented a car from them at John Wayne Airport (Orange County, CA) on Friday. The gent who handed me my key at the remote pick-up point, I discovered in a brief conversation, is 82! I'd wager that the fellow who checked my contract and let me out of the garage was about the same age. Whether or not this has any bearing on the heated immigrant debate is not clear. I simply wish to commend Hertz for creating a fantastic win-win situation. The guys both seemed glad to be out and about and of some use; Hertz doubtless benefits from conscientious and generally cheerful employees who presumably are not taking home a king's ransom.
cheap viagra on line More: In the "little things" department—there are no little things in Service-Experience World—more Hertz kudos for exceptional driving directions, readily produced, that put Mapquest to shame. (LA and environs are a damn good test.)
As I wrote that last I realized anew how valuable I believe the word-idea of "experience" to be. To me, it's light years beyond "semantic difference." "Experience" conjures up a different plot line entirely from "service." It's helped me in my own work—the seminars—to adopt the word-idea "experience."
Starbucks clarification. I made a big deal out of the "Starbucks Smile." Let me add that, to me, these smiles (and sparkling demeanor, even a 6:30 a.m.) are ... The Real Thing. That is, we've all been "subjected to" "training program smiles"—those stretched-lip phantom "smiles"/face-contortions that bear no trace of genuine human emotion. Erik Hansen and I were talking about this. (He's the one who made me a Starbucks Maniac.) We conclude that the not-so-obscure secret is breaking one's back to hire ... folks with naturally sunny dispositions. Any other criteria come in a (very) distant second!
My firm belief: Such people do exist, in fairly sizeable numbers, but you must be determined to make this the Clear & Unmistakable No.1 Criterion! (And, to understate, it doesn't exactly hurt if the person/ doing the hiring is, um ... sunny & sparkling. Message: Sparkle begets sparkle. Sparklers sign up to work with sparklers.)
So ... HOW DO THEY DO IT?
Walking this morning, finishing up. Stop. 14th Street. Downtown Atlanta. Starbucks. Shaken ice-coffee venti. AND THEY ALL SMILED!*
They do. They r-e-a-l-l-y do all smile. M Street Georgetown/DC yest'dy. 14th St Atlanta today. Charles St Boston tomorrow.
And they all smile.
(*Shame on Microsoft, a Seattle corp. like S'bucks, for having Venti get ... THE DREADED RED UNDERLINE. Surely, by now, it's entered the realm of "common parlance.")
This banner, in Chinese, hangs in each room of the Hua Xin Li Dress Co., Ltd., amidst the Rongcheng Industry Zone, 100 miles from Beijing:
"THE CUSTOMER IS GOD AND THE MARKET DECIDES EVERYTHING"
(I think GM ought to order a few of these—we know the price would be right—for its Detroit HQ.)
Fred Reichheld is the God-Guru of Customer Loyalty. He pretty well took the anecdote-laden field and put (VERY) hard numbers to a previously (VERY) soft topic.
Now he gives us another, related home run observation backed by, as usual, a ton of unimpeachable data: There is one question/measure (just one!) in the "happy/pissed off customer" universe that correlates ... perfectly (BIG WORD) ... with subsequent revenue growth. Namely: "How likely are you to recommend [company] to a friend or colleague?"
Reichheld calls this the "net promoter score." For instance, in wretched airline world, you guessed it, the golden oldies cluster tightly at the bottom ... and Southwest is off-the-charts positive.
Source: POINT (Advertising Age)/November 2005
Just finished a brief phone ordering frenzy for Christmas. (Far earlier than usual; not sure what got into me.) Here's the scorecord, ranked: #1Tied, Sharper Image. Answer very quickly (1st ring—salesperson answers). Minimum of required information. Everything (4 items) in stock. Duration: less than 3 minutes. #1T, Territory Ahead. Answer very quickly (same as Sharper Image). Info collection dragged out. Everything in stock—7 items. Duration: "about" 7 minutes; email confirmation within 180 seconds (no one else offered an email confirmation). #3T, LL Bean. Answered very quickly. No items (three) in stock. (Typical of Bean in my experience.) #3T, PBS Home Video. On hold for over 3 minutes; quit. (Ah, alas, so predictable, eh?)
Not all bad. On the other hand, given the early date and time of call (noon, Tuesday), not all that great. If you wonder why I didn't do this online, perhaps the repeated experience of getting 90 percent of the job done, then being derailed by a glitch. Frankly, the phone is still easier, at least at this early date.
Greatest sadness: LL Bean, love of my childhood, continues, year-after-year, to come up (very) short.
American Airlines lost my baggage on Thursday. All ended well ... thanks in large measure to former Texas Governor Ann Richards.
I attended a speech Ms R gave a couple of years ago ... and, yes, it actually changed my life. Here's what she said (among many other things): "When you are facing a horrid service situation, which has you fit to kill, take a deep breath and remember, as, say, you approach an employee from the offending company, 'This woman [man] is the only person on earth who, at this moment, can help me—or not.'"
So, Thursday, AA lost my baggage. I was on a tight schedule, needed my suit pressed ASAP, among [many] other things, and I was ... screwed. Moreover, given the state of airlines, the lost baggage desk was, as usual these days, woefully undermanned. As I waited in line, getting more tense with each passing moment, I listened to one traveler after another light into the AA employee manning the desk. A couple of The Irate were truly over the top. (The way I routinely was for years and years—pre-Ann.) My turn came, I took two meditative breaths in which I expelled all bad vibes (yes, I can do this), thought deeply about Ann's advice, and mounted a charm offensive: Operation You-Alone-Can-Help-Me-and-I-Dearly-Pray-You-Will. We joked a little, commiserated about our different but extreme pickles, and I just kept on smilin'. Several things happened. By behaving in a relaxed, empathetic, life-goes-on fashion, I actually started to feel better myself—hey, this wasn't a trip to market in Baghdad. More important (selfishly), my "you're the only one for me" AA buddy bent over backwards and then some to track the bag, double-confirm its current whereabouts, get unequivocal info on the arriving flight, give me a priority hotel dropoff slot, and so on. And I flatter myself by thinking that she, too, ended up feeling a touch better about life—it really isn't much fun to be ripped, and ripped again, by customers mostly because your employer is in dire straits and understaffed everywhere and has left you on point to take [all] the heat.
That's my "little tale." But of course it's not so little at all. It's near the heart of what happens on those occasions when human beings take the trouble in the face of trouble to deal in a civil and empathetic and even cheerful fashion with their fellows. That's not "news" ... except that of course it is!
Thanks, Ann. I'm almost tempted to say this is the best piece of advice I've ever gotten. (And three cheers for me for eventually following it.)
I'm obviously a lucky guy. My fees allow me often to stay at Four Seasons Hotels. I know I'm unusually lucky, and that the Four Seasons is an uncommon treat—and so I try not to overdo Four Seasons examples.
But I've got to break my rule ...
I have a Presentation in Chicago today, and Susan came with me yesterday so we could go to a birthday dinner. My closest friend's son and I are born on the same day, November 7. (Dead-center Scorpios, by the way.) Frank Jr lives in Chicago and is turning 36; I'm his mirror image, 63 ...
Anyway, Susan was desperate to see last night's West Wing, which of course was pre-empted by the dinner. On a lark, about 15 minutes before we went out, she called the Concierge and asked if by any odd chance they could tape the show for her/us.
"Naturally," they said, "No problem."
Upshot. Great dinner. Returned to the hotel at 10pm. Our VCR was set up with the show tape in it, and a little Post-it note saying, "Happy Birthday, push Start." (There was also a plate of treats next to the note.)
Ye gads ...
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viagra pharmacy price canada Before blogging became all the rage, Tom was posting book reviews and Observations (essentially early blog posts) to this site. You can find the archives below.
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