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    Entries in Customer Service (5)


    Price vs. Value

    The simple comparison is; Price is what you Pay, Value is what you Receive.

    The true goal is to find the equilibrium where they both meet.  I pay $10 and I receive $10 in value.  I guess to break it down to the simplest example, a gift card would be pure equilibrium.  You pay exactly what you receive.

    However, when you think of a gift card, you don't think of value.  You paid for what you receieved.  I've never heard anyone bragging or referring friends to buy the $20 Starbucks gift card because the $20 was stretched out into some magic way.

    In the service business, the goal SHOULD be to create value.  To maintain the quality and integrity of your product or service while widening the Price vs Value gap as far as possible.

    I love it when clients say, "I love paying my invoice, because I know that for what I have paid, I have received X multiples more in value."  That should be music to any business owner or entrepreneurs ears.

    Value cannot however be confused with Volume.  Although there are example of  Value and Volume colliding (like a Costco Value Pack of Chicken) that's not true value.  True value, as I define it is when the product or service, when compared with similar products or services costs the same or less, but delivers relatively more service or product to a customer.

    A value pack is more more than bulk pricing.  Retailers pass on savings to the customer to drive top line says while maintaining a realtively fixed (but low) gross margin.

    So enough technical speak.

    Everyone loves it when feel the value vs. price equilibrium slanted towards value.

    Equally, everyone hates it when it slants the other way.

    Can you think of an example when you paid $10 and received $1 of value?

    Can you think of an example when you paid $10 and received multiple times more in value?

    What you pay is generally a fixed amount, what you receive is dependant on who is providing it to you and how realistic your expectations are.


    Casting Vision that Matters

    Vision is one of the most under-valued characteristics in modern day leadership.  In the fast-paced "get it done" environment that we work and live in everyday, casting a 2-year vision is difficult...casting a 10-year vision seems impossible.  "How could I cast a 10-year vision, when my business field didn't even exist 10 years ago?"  A valid question...but not a relevant one.

    If vision is defined as laying out a plan and path for what you and your organization will DO over the next 10 is nearly impossible to have long-term vision in today's world.  If that was the definition, the writers and producers of "Back to the Future" would have us all commuting on hover boards and eating protein bars as our only food source. is a plan or path of what you will DO...but rather a plan or path of what you will BE.

    While vision has some elements of things you service offerings or larger space requirements, it is funamentally based on what you will be and who you will become.

    Here's a quote from Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

    "We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that's not changing. We are constantly focusing on innovating. We believe in the simple not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution. We believe in saying no to thousands of projects, so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot. And frankly, we don't settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we're wrong and the courage to change. And I think regardless of who is in what job those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well."

    If we define clearly who we are and what we are committed to being defined as, the micro details and mission of our organization will follow.

    For example; If you build a profitable business model, then make decisions based on a faithfulness to that business model rather than the daily/weekly/monthly ups and downs of the market or industry, you will be successful over the long term.

    Taking a longer term approach to casting vision is critical.  To often to leaders get sucked into the mire of daily operations that they convince themselves that "growing by 10% next year" is them casting vision.  This is a mission.  A mid-level managers can do that.  Look that the trends, examine your pipeline and out spits 10%.  Instead, casting out "we want to grow from a localized business to a national organization within 5 years" commits a path and gives your team a goal to build their management plan towards.

    Don't cast mission...cast vision


    A Tale of Two Companies

    So it seems like I'm on a bit of a Customer Service kick lately..but didn't want to NOT write about something just because of recent discussion in last weeks post.

    Most people that know me well, and specifically those that also follow me on any of my online platforms know that I often speak my mind about when a company or organization serves me poorly.  I am trying to improve at also giving kudo's to Customer Service "wins" as well.

    For the purpose of balance...I want to share two short examples; one positive, one negative about how Customer Service can create buzz and lead to building or tarnishing a brand.

    Story One - Expedia
    Over the past year, I have unsubscribed to  Expedia's newsletter dozens of times.  For whatever reason, a few weeks ago, I had had enough and tweeted that I was upset about the lack of customer service I was experiencing in that I was still receiving these emails.

    Within a few minutes, I received a msg asking me to DM them my email for the matter to be looked into.

    Within an hour, I received a phone call on my cell phone from a woman in customer service at Expedia ensuring me that all was looked after, apologizing for the oversight and asking if there was any way she could assist me further.

    My first response after I got off the phone was: WOW!  Mainly for 2 reasons;

    1) Social media is great.  It gives the individual a voice and allows for connections and community that would not exist without it.  But there is something about good 'ol fashion (offline) customer service.  When the two combine (online complaint and offline resolution) it truly embraces the strengths of online service with bricks and mortar execution.

    2) The short response time tells me that expedia understands that customer service is everything.  I'm selling their business right now and they're not paying me a dime.  Talk about ROI on the person watching their twitter's part of it!

    Expedia's handling of my concern was a positive example of a company using social media and

    Story Two - Harbour Sixty
    For those of you that haven't heard of this restaurant before, it's a very high-end steak house in downtown Toronto.  And if you haven't guessed it already...they will be my negative example.

    Being a high-end restaurant, one would expect that the service would be...high-end and that when a problem arises, the staff and management would handle it with the same (or better) intentionality of a lower-end service provider like Expedia did noted above.

    That would be an incorrect assumption in the case of Habour Sixty.

    After pressing the issue with management, a token gesture was offered which did not come close to redeeming the situation.

    The owner was then called and apparently said that if that was "not acceptable to us, he did not want our business anyway."

    Again (like Expedia), my initial response was; WOW.

    I guess the people at Harbour Sixty don't like money...or business.

    But as I thought about's much more simple than that.  They just don't understand business and specifically customer service.  Fact is this: the cost to aquire a client that would spend what our firm does in a year on nice meals downtown is multiples of the cost of reconciling our needs.  Further, although this blog doesn't have thousands of readers, I am using my own platform (online and offline) to voice my disgust with the management of Habour Sixty.

    The cost of strong customer service is like the cost of anything in business...relative.  Although there was no monetary reward/cost in the Expedia example...a reputation was at stake, and Expedia did what they needed to do to make the situation right (they could have corrected it without calling and/or left it alone).

    I can only assume that in a booming economy like this one, that Habour Sixty has plenty of business and can afford the costs associated with losing business and failing in serving the reasonable requests of customers.

    All I know, is that I have since booked 2 separate trips on expedia and will never go to Harbour Sixty be the judge.



    A Customer's Problem IS Your Problem

    I was driving home the other week...the day Apple failed to meet the standards set by the rumor mill (launching iPhone4GS rather than iPhone5), thinking about Apple Inc, product innovation and of all things...customer service.

    Customer service is a funny thing.  I wrote about it more HERE, but wanted to touch on another aspect as it related to the purpose behind customer service.  Companies generally put hard-nosed "never-back-down" types at the desk to meet the customer's needs while not giving away the store and its margins.  Very soon I will write about my extraordinary experience with Expedia and their customer service...but until then, I will say this:  Customer Service is a function of sales...plain and simple.  Customer service uses the guise of fixing problems and attempting to help the customer to feel loves...BUT it is ALL about sales.  If you want to sandbag your chance at getting top-notch customer service, make them feel like you're going to leave and never come back.

    Customer Service uses retention as a tool to sell.  I feel better because they fixed my problem, so I will come back.  I had an experience a few months ago at Harry Rosen.  I bought a few pairs of dress pants and within a few weeks, they were falling apart.  I took them back and the sales guy gave me all brand new I bought another pair as well.  Now subsequently, they fell apart and I'm never going back to Harry Rosen...but you get the idea!

    So knowing this, what opportunities did Apple miss?  Well, the rumors were that iPhone5 was coming out.  Clearly Apple knew that was not true...MONTHS ago.  But true to form, Apple allowed hype to trump good business and their stock and brand took a hit.  Twitter went crazy and RIM stock climbed out of a bit of a pit all because Apple could not (or would not) seize the opportunity to "make lemonade out of lemons."

    This didn't surprise me as I remember all the commotion over the antenna issues with iPhone4 and Steve Jobs' famous "So don't hold it Like that then.." comment that had customers up in arms.  The funny thing is's true.  If you just don't hold your phone in that one specific way...everything is fine.  Problem is, it sends mixed messages to customers:

    - Our product isn't the best, so make do with what you have.
    - Our product isn't sophisticated, so slap on some tape and move on.
    - We hate you, our customer.

    In spite of the eventual outcome (overall bad product) the guy at Harry Rosen made me feel like my business was very important and that he wanted me to be happy.  I knew that with thin margins, to replace 3 pairs of best he would be breaking even, and that is why I appreciated the gesture.

    Whether it's a defective product or the customer is just an idiot...their problems ARE your problems.  I don't like the saying "The customer is always right" because, it's not true.  Often the customer is wrong.  Lying to say the TV had that crack in it or demanding unreasonable discounts, the customer is NOT always right.  The customer IS however, the customer and can take their business to one of many competitors who will then take their abuse and make the same decision you have today.

    Serve the customer by exceeding their expectations.  Not necessarily in a monetary way, but at a minimum in your responsiveness to their concerns and by demonstrating a true desire to help them fix their problem.


    Techno Treats

    When trying to find a solid internet/email marketing program is like trying to find something that tastes good in a Fillet-O-Fish wrapper…it’s a struggle even if you look hard.  As many of my friends and colleagues know, I’m a huge advocate for referrals.  While in search of an option for a program to meet our needs to email clients without it looking to template-like or spam-ish (not the meat, although, I didn’t want it looking like that either), I reached out to a good friend who often has a plethora of program/software solutions.  He did, I tried it and it was amazing.  The program we use now is called: MailChimp.  As I mentioned, there a many options and solutions within this sector, but MailChimp does an excellent job of taking existing tools like Google Analytics and Gmail and marrying them with their own innovations.

    After setting up an account, it literally took me 30 minutes to customize a JMA-branded template and within 1 hour of setting up my account, I had sent my first email campaign.  Since then, I have signed up a few other company’s we work with and sent a few email campaigns myself.  As for the top 3 features I like, here it goes:

    1)   Platform. It’s clean, it’s easy and with the solid analytics of Google behind them, it’s very informative.

    2)   Price.  As for most “cloud” software programs, they have various pricing structures.  Most (including MailChimp) have a free (yes, it really is free) option.  The free option allows me to send 12,000 emails per month to 2,000 subscribers.  Now for a larger retail-based company, this would not be enough, but they have very reasonable monthly pricing options.

    3)   Purity. Okay, so I was reaching for another “P” word, but in all honesty, it’s true.  MailChimp doesn’t bog the user down with onerous processing or features that are complex and don’t make sense.  It literally is like: Design a template | Upload your email list | Press send.

    So there you have it.  If you are looking for a solution for this that is cheap (or even free) that’s what I use and I highly recommend it.