Really, Cable Guy?

My cable went out last week. I hate when my cable goes out. Not because of the missed TV watching but because its such a pain to get it fixed. First, you’ve got to call the cable company to schedule a day and time for a cable guy to come out to the house.  Then, the only available times always seem to be a 4 hour window during working hours which pretty much kills the entire day. All this being said, something happened during the cable guy’s visit that was a pleasant surprise.

The cable guy showed up within his 4 hour window and was a nice enough guy. I chatted with him while he replaced our box and did some testing just to make sure it worked. But the surprise came once he was done with his work. He handed me his business card and told me if I had any problems over the next 10 days to call him directly and he’d come over immediately to fix it. Really, cable guy? Now that is the way to provide good service. There’s a big difference between a company standing behind their service and an individual standing behind his service. I understand that its AT&T that is telling the cable guy to do this, but its a great approach. As a result, the cable guy takes pride in his work, the customer has a direct line to someone that can help him if needed, and the sense that the service was provided correctly is much higher. I don’t say this much, being an iPhone owner and all, but nice job AT&T.

Is there an opportunity for your service to do something similar to this? Its worth thinking about.

The customer just wants to know

With rates at an all time low, I recently decided to refinance my home loan. I called Mike at Bank of America and told him what I wanted to do. He had helped me with my original loan and I really liked him so I decided to let him help me with the refi. To make a long story short, it didn’t go very smoothly. Mike and his team were overloaded with work due to layoffs in his department. The entire process took months longer than it should have, but to Mike’s credit, he handled it professionally and honestly, keeping me in the loop the entire time.

The fact is, Mike could have made up all sorts of excuses. He could have avoided my calls or he could have passed me off to someone else. But he didn’t. He answered all my questions whenever I had them. He returned my calls whenever I made them. He was professional and honest even when the news was not positive. In the end, my refi got done and Mike refunded me a lot of money to make up for all the delays. Despite all the issues, I’d recommend Mike in a second. Because ultimately what makes a customer angry is not the problems, it the lack of honest communication. And Mike has that part down.

Customers just want to know what’s going on. Be honest with them and treat them fairly and they will come back again and again.

How NOT to use Facebook

As a habit, I follow closely what my companies competitors do…press releases, articles, service offerings, etc. And now with Facebook its as easy as becoming a fan of all my competitors to follow exactly what they are up to.

One of the companies I follow is Adecco. Great company, tremendous amount of success. No one can fault them there. But what they are doing on Facebook is the wrong way to go about using social media. Here is a recent example.

In one of their recent posts to Facebook, Adecco touted that the job market was showing signs of recovery and provided a link. That’s good information for their fans. Adecco is in the market of finding people work so any information on the job market makes sense. The problem came when their fans started to comment.

“Adecco stinks, the girl in the Falls NY area passed over submitting me for jobs i was wanting instead using me for a warm bdy for grunt work, Steamed!!!!”

“Be carefully what you say they deleted my comment last time I said something they didn’t like.”

“If you have any talent at all…don’t go to Adecco cause they don’t care about talent…”

Now, no company wants to see comments like this for everyone to see. But unfortunately, its part of doing business. And the bigger you get, the more likely it is that there will be people that will say negative things about you. That in itself is typically not the problem. The problem comes when you do not respond the right way. So how did Adecco respond? They deleted the negative comments and replaced them with positive comments. Positive comments by their employees non-the-less.

“Adecco is the best company ever!”

“You’re def right (name), it IS!!”

This is NOT the way a company should use Facebook. The proper way is to address the problems right then and there. Show the world that you know the proper way to deal with unhappy customers. Complaints on Facebook are an opportunity. Don’t try to sweep them under the rug. They will simply show up somewhere else. And you won’t be able to simply delete them there.

I lied

A while back I wrote a post titled “Never offer a discount.” I even wrote a second post on the subject of offering discounts which you can read here. Both posts discuss the reasons that you should never offer a discount. In a nutshell, you should provide value and keep your prices firm. Don’t cheapen your brand. Yadda, yadda, yadda…well, I’ve changed my mind…sort of.

Recently, my company offered its first discount in over 20 years. It was not something that came easily. There was plenty of internal discussion about the effects of doing such a thing. But ultimately we did. And here is why.

Everyone knows we are in difficult times.  And the staffing industry is no different. But when the subject of offering a discount came up, it was always a short discussion. Nope, we’re not doing that. Eventually, however, we decided that as a long time contributor to the success of so many companies in Silicon Valley and around the country, it was time for us to give back a little and show some support. The unusual economic times dictated it. So we did. And we wrote up a nice letter explaining why we were doing it.

So while I said “never offer a discount,” there are clearly times when it makes sense. And those times are not when you are desperate for business but when you are providing support to your community.

So you’re a service company and service is not your priority?

The management team at my company recently sat through a presentation done by Staffing Industry Analysts. They are an organization that tracks all sorts of trends within the world of staffing. It can be a little dry for those of you that don’t like numbers, charts and graphs. Their presentations don’t usually provide anything too surprising but they always have some good information. Their most recent presentation, however, had some real shockers.

One of the questions they asked staffing firms across the country was this, “What are your top priorities?” And to everyone’s shock in the room the bottom two priorities were “Recruiting Quality People” and “Excellent Customer Service” Really? Quality people and customer service? Those are the bottom two?

Now I realize times are tough and companies are scrambling to make ends meet, but there is no way a company in a service industry should ever rank those two items at the bottom of their list of priorities. Never ever. And if you find yourself doing it, your pretty much doomed.

Providing a quality service REQUIRES quality people and an intense focus on excellent service. This is true during good times and bad. Don’t loose focus on the long term goal by focusing on short term problems.

My CEO posted more about the presentation on our company blog.

Your customers just want to know

I had a very unfortunate experience with Ricoh customer service this week. And although Ricoh sells products and not services, there is a lesson to be learned. Your customers just want to know what’s going on.

So I needed a new part for our color printer here at work. The printer is less than a year old and the Ricoh guy on the phone, Scott, told me they would replace the part free of charge. Great. So far so good. I scanned in the invoice and emailed it to Scott for proof of purchase as he requested. Perfect. We’re all set. He told me the part would ship on Monday. Great.

Thursday rolled around and no part. I called and left a voice mail asking for a return call to let me know when I could expect to see the part. I also sent an email. Nothing. No reply. I called again on Friday and was told Scott had gone home for the day.

“Okay, but can you tell me when I’ll be getting my replacement part?” I asked.

“Nope, I’m sorry but I don’t have access to that information. You’ll need to speak with Scott.”

Great. “Can I leave him another voicemail please.”

Monday rolls around and still nothing. More voicemials and emails and I get no reply. And all I want to know is when the part is arriving. So finally, its Thursday. A week and a half after I was told the part shipped and I get a call from the front desk that there is a package from Ricoh for me.

Yes, the part has arrived.

I bring it upstairs, replace the part and the printer works like a charm. And believe it or not, as I get back to my office I notice I have a voice mail. Its Scott. My part should be arriving today.

Thanks Scott.

The fact is, your customers simply want to be made aware of what’s going on. This is so often the most common reason for dissatisfied customers, whether you are selling a product or a service. Your customers just want to know.

Save your customers from themselves

There’s no better way to demonstrate a great service than by example.

A while back, I ordered flowers for the funeral of a friend’s father-in-law. The funeral was at a location that I was not familiar with so I was relying heavily on the flower shop to make sure the flowers were appropriate and delivered to the right place at the right time. Funny thing is, I gave them the incorrect day. Fortunately for me, this particular flower shop was proactive and checked ahead of time with the funeral home. The flowers were delivered on time on the correct day without incident. They saved me from myself.

A great way to run a service oriented business is to find ways to “cover” for your customers most common mistakes. Take it from me, it is very much appreciated and a great way to run a business.