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    Entries in Expedia (2)

    Friday
    Oct282011

    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 account...here'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 it...it'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 again...you be the judge.

     

    Wednesday
    Oct192011

    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 ones...so 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 that...it'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 pants...at 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.