Remember Me

English: Light bulb patent application. Photol...

English: Light bulb patent application. Photolithography reproduction. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think that of all the things I might dislike about customer service experiences, having to repeat myself is the thing I find most frustrating. Think about how much time it takes to recall whatever your story is to share it with the next new person you are working with in any customer support channel. Face to face at the bank. On the phone with the doctor’s office. At your pharmacy. Your child’s school. By the third time you I relay the same story, I start to think “Is this really worth all the effort?” in my head.

We know that today, customer churn is top of mind. Keeping customers is less expensive than attracting new ones, and we all want the entirety of the customer experience to be great. What makes a great customer experience? In my experience, the interactions I have with companies are what impact my impression of companies I deal with. For example, when I’m sitting at home wondering “when was that gift basket supposed to be delivered?” I immediately think “well, how can I find out? How long would it take to find out? Do I have to call them? Will they answer the phone at 9pm when I have time to call them, and how informed, articulate and generally amenable is the customer service rep that answers the phone? And, all that sounds hard, so do I really have to call? Can I just tweet to @giftsgalorenstuff ‘hey did my basket make it?’

Sound familiar? So how great would it be if, when I reach out to the company, they act like they know me? Can they just (if they can figure it out from my Twitter handle) respond and say “if you’re talking about that chocolate heaven stack sent to Hoboken, it got there 2 hours ago.” Of course, that’s a convenient case where proprietary information isn’t really an issue, and the Twitter handle can be linked back. But more and more customer support-focused social engagement tools have the ability to link internal account information to customer’s social accounts. And hey, even if you can’t fully answer the question, you can still add whatever personal context is prudent to let customers know that you know them and remember them.

How easy is it to tweet a question to the universe and get the right answer? It’s easier than digging through email to find the confirmation email and clicking through to the company’s website, or even clicking the embedded link in the email that takes you directly to tracking information. If service is really the new retention, then shouldn’t the company dig through their records and click a link for me? (lightbulb goes on.) Yes, we have evolved to that place with social I believe. In customer service we used to be able to say “well, if you can find that confirmation number for me, I’ll be happy to look into it for you.” Social media says “Hey Company XYZ, it’s Frankie, where’s my gift basket?” and infers that you, company XYZ, should go find your own confirmation number based on my name. And I think the company that can accomplish that task regularly probably gets the repeat business by reducing customer effort. I know it works for me personally.

So, tomorrow, when you’re dreaming up ways that you can make a huge impact at work, try a little of this. I bet you can change quite a few customer experiences. And it’s probably easier than you think.

Let’s Not Fight, Shall We?

McDonalds Happy Meal

McDonalds Happy Meal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Picture this: a McDonald’s drive thru speaker, a drive thru worker, and a carload of parents and cranky toddlers disgruntled from leaving the park before they were ready. The only thing that separates them from nap time is the Happy Meals that are calling their names. It’s great that McDonald’s offers smaller french fry sizes and sliced apples in the Happy Meals now. That makes my husband happy.

What does not make me happy is the fight about the drinks. The drive thru lady says “what drinks do you want with the meals?” and my husband says “we don’t want drinks.” How do you think the drive thru lady responded? “You have to have a drink,” she says, sounding disgusted.

Ok, it’s really hot outside and the kids are crying. They have ice water in their cup holders. We don’t need the milk or (heaven forbid the sugar rush) soda or juice. Now, I do realize that the price of the meal is discounted by the price of the drink so that your point of sale system can account for and charge the drink. I served as the drive thru queen of a fast food place through high school and am familiar. I’m fine with you charging me for a drink because that’s what the meal costs. But I don’t really have to have a drink, I just have to pay for one.

Fast forward to the window where the drive thru lady tries to hand us the ice waters she’s prepared, where my husband again informs her we don’t want the drinks. Her demeanor changes from disgust to disbelief when she repeats “You don’t want a drink?” Nope. We don’t want the drinks. All six cup holders are full, and as we can’t pass you trash through the window anymore, no, we don’t want a drink.

How could this situation have been improved? Had the drive thru worker listened to and accepted the original customer request to not have drinks, and simply informed us of the necessity to charge for the drinks, my husband would have said “that’s fine.” Time and materials would have been saved because ice waters would not have been prepared, and the customer experience would have been much more enjoyable. Instead, attempts to force customers to comply with rules that make process easier for the business actually makes things harder.

This can be translated to social customer support as well. If your customer makes a statement or request that seems reasonable, take a moment to determine whether it is appropriate and feasible to bend to meet customer desire. The experience delivered can drive customer satisfaction and loyalty, and could turn out to be an easy way to make an ordinary interaction memorable. In my experience, taking a little time to ponder possibilities can provide many more options for customers. This can reduce the number of times the phrase “you have to” is spoken to your customers. Who likes to hear that? Not me.

Make Feedback Easy

Hampton Inn

Hampton Inn (Photo credit: Mark Sardella)

Last night my family and I stayed in a Hampton Inn in Greenwood, Mississippi. It’s a small town on Highway 82. There are several hotels in town, many with (I’m fairly certain) comparable amenities and features. I do recall the bed being pretty comfortable. But that’s not the most memorable part of the stay.

The most memorable part of our stay was Mary. The Hampton Inn offers free breakfast like so many hotel chains do these days. Ours in Greenwood had a rather nice setup, with just about everything you could want, short of a line cook and a hot grill. As my family and I wandered in, Mary came straight out to meet us. She said good morning. She doted over the kids. She made meal suggestions and pointed us to utensils and extra napkins. As a matter of fact, Mary came out of the kitchen every time a guest came through and treated them as though they were relatives in her very own kitchen at her own house. And not the relatives you wish would leave, but the favorite ones you’ve been waiting to see, and really hope have a good time and want to come back.

Before we left, Mary came out with a couple apples and bananas. She said we should take them for the girls, you know, in case they got hungry later in the car. We drove several more hours before making it back to Atlanta, unloaded the car and got situated, and I’m still thinking about Mary.

There were other positive things about the hotel stay, too. The night clerk (I didn’t catch her name) was very nice when I rang down and asked if I could stop by to pick up extra shampoo. She had a few bottles waiting for me at the front desk by the time I got down, and made sure to ask if I needed anything else and assure me that anything I needed, I should let her know.

So… you know what’s frustrating? I was so pleased with Mary that I wanted to let Hampton Inn know right away. I mean, as my husband drove us out of the parking lot I was on the iPhone looking for their Facebook page to tell them. And I couldn’t find them. Well, really, they had many custom pages for different particular hotels, one page that could have been them but it was hard to tell on the phone view. And then when I visited the site I couldn’t clearly find a place for compliments or suggestions. With cell reception in Greenwood being what it is, the slow speed got me frustrated and I decided it would have to wait. The result being that I’m blogging before I’m able to let Mary’s employers know that she is awesome.

My suggestion is to make feedback easy for customers. Where’s your Facebook page? Can I find it? Do I know it’s really the one I’m looking for? Is it easy to find you on Twitter? Don’t make me email you. Don’t make me mail you a letter. That sounds hard. You may miss out on my compliments.

I will do those things for Mary, because man, that lady was awesome. If you’re looking for someone to really make your guests feel at home, run out to the Hampton Inn in Greenwood, MS around breakfast time and go see Mary. But if you want to know before my blog readers do that you already have a Mary in your employ, I suggest you make feedback really easy.

Good Customer Care in Crisis

English: The water towers on the north side of...

English: The water towers on the north side of Tinker Air Force Base are prominent landmarks in Midwest City, OK. Category:Photographs by User:Willy Logan Category:Images of Oklahoma (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m sitting in the parking lot of the Hawthorn Suites hotel in Midwest City, OK just before midnight. Although this is a much later hour than I usually keep, I thought I should take the time to write about this.

As you may know, Moore, OK has just been through some devastating tornados. There isn’t a hotel room available for over 50 miles tonight because they are all booked with people who have lost their homes.

My family and I reserved a room for the week a while back because my father, who passed a couple years ago, is being honored at the Air Force base. We were fortunate that we made the reservation early. Unfortunately, the hotel clerk that booked our reservation was brand new the night I talked to her on the phone. I was, quite literally, her first and last reservation. She neglected to book tonight’s room for us. And here I am with twin girls sleeping in the car. In light of others’ troubles, this is peanuts, but inconvenient nonetheless.

Shane, the night staff at the hotel, has been working 24 hours straight. He could have just told me we were out of luck, and that other people have bigger problems. But do you know what he did instead? Shane worked out a room for us by calling to see if any of the 4 late check-ins were not going to need their rooms after all. He found one room like a needle in a haystack when all rooms, as I mentioned earlier, are booked for 50 miles. Shane stayed an hour late to help make sure our room was ready. I have to tell you, I’m so impressed.

Could any of us say we would do the same? I hope so. Shane’s own house just got electricity turned back on, so he has his own struggles. But he still helped me. Thanks, Shane