Customer Service Week

Photo by verticalpharmacy on flickr.

89%

That’s the number of consumers who switched to a competitor after a bad experience.

86%

That’s the number of consumers who will pay more for exceptional customer service.

These statistics from Harris Interactive emphasize with numbers what we all know:  customer service matters.  We are more likely to stay with a company, to recommend a product, or to buy more services from companies who do it well.  And, when we have a negative experience, social media can become an outlet for frustration.

I’m a believer that everyone in a company is in customer service.  Decades ago, Peter Drucker said, “There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer.”  Servicing the customer is central to success.

A One-Word Question to Improve Results

Photo by Ksayer1 on flickr.

One of the questions I always ask a customer is why.

Why did you choose us?  I love to call new customers and ask.  I’ve done this hundreds of times throughout my career.  In all of those conversations, I’ve never had a new customer not want to tell me the “why.”  And I learn valuable information with each phone call or visit.

It’s such an easy thing to ask.  I’m not sure why everyone doesn’t make it a habit.  Like most things, it may be easy to do but it’s also easy not to do.  I know when I fall out of the habit, I lose a valuable opportunity.

Almost always mentioned is the professionalism of the company’s representative.  It may also be the service, the product, or the price.  It could also be driven by a negative experience with the competition.

It’s important to listen and understand why customers are buying from you.  It can inform your corporate strategy.  You may spot a trend.  You may learn that you have strengths you didn’t even realize.  You may even develop new services because of the feedback.

Almost invariably on these calls I find other benefits:

  • Developing new relationships
  • Hearing about issues I wouldn’t have known about
  • Learning about employees who have gone above and beyond

If you’re running a business or in a leadership position, take the time out to make a few calls.  Ask the question.  Then, just listen and take notes.  I’m willing to bet you will learn more than you thought possible.

 

 

Macaroni and Cheese With a Side of Leadership

The Scene:

The restaurant is buzzing with conversation.  The clinking of glasses and silverware can be heard above the laughter.  Scents of barbeque and aromatic flavors permeate the room.  Enter a man who moves from table to table, quietly filling the water glasses.

Restaurant Attendant (smiling):  “You like the mac and cheese?”

You (eyes wide open): “Are you kidding?  I didn’t even know you could do this with macaroni and cheese!  Fantastic.”

 

Attendant: “That macaroni is handmade for us by the Martelli family in Tuscany.  Just what we wanted.  The two-year-old Vermont cheddar cheese is caramelized.  We thought the combination was perfect.”

You, thinking, but not saying aloud, “Who is this guy? What type of water boy knows this stuff?”

Attendant, interrupting your thoughts: “Do you want some more bread?  You’re eating the Roadhouse bread, but you may also want to try the Irish Brown Soda bread tonight.”

You: “Is it as good as what we’re eating now?”

Attendant: “Depends on your taste, but it’s good.  We source the oatmeal from the Creedon family, the same family who makes our Irish stone ground oatmeal.  It makes the flavor and texture.  I’ll be right back with some for you to taste.  Oh, and I’d love to give you a taste of our barbeque tonight.”

You (turning to me, shrugging as he leaves):  “Who is THAT?”

Me: “That, my friend, is Ari, the most unusual water boy you will ever meet.  He’s the owner!”

You (feigned choking):  “The owner?!”

It’s true.  Ari Weinzweig is one of the restaurant owners, but he also fills water glasses at the restaurant.  Yes, you read that right.  As a partner in a multi-million dollar conglomerate, he personally walks around filling water glasses in order to stay close to the customers.

Ah, Zingerman’s.

Delivering Happiness — At Zappos and Beyond

I recently visited Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh in Las Vegas.  Sitting in his condo in a room lined with hundreds of plants and overlooking the Vegas skyline, we talked about his success and what’s next for Zappos.

Zappos.com is an online retailer with a specialty in shoes.  It has branched out into other clothing lines in recent years.  It is known for its exceptional customer service.

A Very Different Company

Zappos is different in many ways.  Here are three: