Hello, Is Anyone There?

Written by: Bill Wachel, Principal, Cyber Group

Hello, Is Anyone There?

What a week!  I was reminded this week multiple times of the highs and lows we all see as a customer.  Some businesses are so focused on creating a positive customer experience and others just don’t seem to care.  Perhaps I am more sensitive to great service this week, knowing my team just deployed a new enterprise-wide website for a key customer that elevates and enhances their customer interactions. 

Or maybe, like all of us, I just want my purchases to matter to the stores and restaurants I frequent.  I like how Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, expressed it to his team, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts.  It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

What do you believe makes a great customer experience?  Here are 3 elements I find important:

Approachability

I am a fan of the local printed newspaper, the Dallas Morning News.  I read a lot and much of the material is online, but there is nothing like a great cup of coffee and the “old fashioned” newspaper first thing in the morning. A while back, Grant Moise, publisher of the Dallas Morning News, wrote a brief front-page article asking for feedback on recent changes to the paper.  He even included his email address to respond to.

Being a fan of the paper, I emailed Grant with my critique of the changes and suggestions for improvement.  To my astonishment, I received an email back from Grant within 12 hours – and rather than push back on my feedback, he thanked me for it, called it very articulate, and asked if I wanted to join a customer advisory panel at the Dallas Morning News.  I have since emailed Grant again and like the first-time, received a same day answer.  

That’s an approachable executive who truly cares about his customers’ experiences.

Honesty

I love the outdoors and try to walk often.  Years ago, before the knees gave out, I was a runner and discovered the Brooks Beast running shoe.  The Beast has a great look and feel and was specifically designed for the “larger” runner.  Superb support and quality made me a purchaser of new Brooks Beast shoes almost every year for 20 years.

Last month, I purchased a new pair of the “2020” edition of the Beast.  I wore them hiking in the Wichita Mountains National Refuge this past weekend and could tell something had changed about the shoe.  The tremendous ankle and arch support were no longer there.  I reached out to Brooks customer service to communicate from my experience, it looks like the shoe has changed for the worse. 

To my amazement, I received a quick and honest email from Jack Petersen, a Running Experience Specialist with Brooks, in which he offered that, “yes, they did change the support in the shoe, and they have received similar feedback from others that the new support is not meeting customer needs”.  He suggested a different model shoe that has the original support and asked me to get back to him if I needed additional help.

Jack could have not responded or offered a canned response; instead, he was honest about the changed shoe configuration and suggested a viable replacement.  This honesty will keep me a customer of Brooks.

Customer experience matters.  A survey by PWC noted that 32% of customers stop doing business with a brand they love after only one bad experience.  57% of customers indicated they have stopped buying from a company because one of their competitors provided a better customer experience (source: Salesforce).

Empowering the Customer Facing Employee

Several years ago, I had a reservation with Enterprise Car Rental in my neighborhood.  My family was going to see our daughter perform at Baylor University and we wanted an SUV.  Friday afternoon I arrived at the rental facility only to be told due to a staffing shortage that I needed to ride with an Enterprise employee across town to get my assigned car.  I explained I needed to be in Waco a few hours later and could not make the performance if I spent two hours picking up my assigned car.  The customer service agent was adamant that going across town was the only way to get my car. 

One has to love the wonders of the Internet!  I did some quick googling and found the name of the Vice President of Operations for Enterprise in Texas.  I sent a quick email explaining the situation and had a call in thirty minutes from the Vice President.  Shortly thereafter I was able to pick up a rental car and be on my way. 

I learned when returning the car, the original employee was just following the “procedures” and the process was modified based on my experiences.  Now the local office staff has more empowerment to go “outside the box” in serving customers.

Convince & Convert learned in a study that 50% of Americans would choose word-of-mouth if they were asked to pick only one source of information and Salesforce discovered 62% of customers say they share bad experiences with other people.  As Bill Gates once said, “your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”. 

It’s Not All Bad News

Being approachable and available to your customers does not always mean you will hear bad news.  Sometimes it is the rare good news that keeps us going for a long time.

A couple years ago I was dealing with nasal congestion and reached out to my physician for an appointment.  His office agreed to slip me into the schedule with an appointment Friday afternoon at 4:00 PM.  I was excited to be able to see the doctor and hopefully get relief going into the weekend.

As life would have it, traffic that afternoon was terrible, and I ended up arriving 30 minutes late for my appointment.   I figured my physician would be long gone on Friday afternoon.  Amazingly, he was in the office with his nurse waiting on me.  Needless to say, I was very pleased to see him and get relief for my congestion.

The next week, I wrote my physician and his nurse separate hand-written notes thanking them for staying late on a Friday.   Amazingly, I received a call from the nurse a few days later expressing their thanks for my note.  She voiced, “Dr. G said he had never received a thank you from a patient in 20 years of practicing medicine – doctors don’t get thank you notes”. 

May I suggest you stay approachable, be honest, empower your staff, and be surprised at the gratitude and improved customer experience.

What are your favorite experiences as a customer, good and bad?  Any especially memorable experiences you will share?