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@Your Service » 2012 » January

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NSA Leaks: The Big Data Two Step for Businesses This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on June 10, 2013.  To see the original post click here. I expect we will be seeing a lot of dancing over the next few...

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Coming to an Agency Near You! This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on September 23, 2013.  To see the original post click here. I am often pondering what is next in the world in which we...

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Customer Service Week: Here's Your Call Center This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 7, 2013.  To see the original post click here. As we begin Customer Service Week I want to thank all those...

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Defining the Customer Experience Role This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 2, 2013.  To see the original post click here. Customer experience is a term growing in popularity within businesses...

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Apple's #Fail When Dealing with @MarthaStewart This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on September 30, 2013.  To see the original post click here. It feels like it was the Tweet heard around the world: "I...

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Are We Creating the Age of Me?

Posted on : 31-01-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Marketing, Social Media

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The world is changing around us and in many ways I love how connected we are becoming. At the same time with the good there is always some bad. Their has been much discussion regarding recent legislation to protect copyright infringement and illegal downloads. I am not a supporter of the legislation and I personally believe it is a slippery slope for the government to advocate such actions. At the same time I do believe we should have an open dialogue regarding the issue.

Before I get into that, let me say I think other actions are creating a world about me, instead of the connected world that many of us envision. It starts with the manner businesses operated for years which to Consumers seemed to feel like they did not care. Policy and pricing decisions seemed to be part of back room deals to maximize profits at the Customers expense. Of course these can prove to be short term financial gains but could hurt long term. The record industry as an example limited ways to purchase music, so to get around that Consumers created new ways. Finally the record industry woke up and new alternatives have arrived but they will most likely not be at the same profit margins that were enjoyed for years. I wonder what would have been different if their pricing efforts were considered more fair? We have seen this same impact in movies and television. Of course the industry is only tepidly moving forward and for every few steps forward a few steps are taken back. As an example Starz is discontinuing its deal to distribute content via Netflix. Speculation is they fear its current deal with Netflix is hurting subscribers via cable. From the rumors I heard they wanted Netflix to have some sort of tiered pricing to combat that. For years the movie industry has controlled releases carefully to encourage people to go to high priced theaters, then buy DVD’s instead of renting, etc. In my view the trouble they have with illegal downloads comes down to this control and not creating an @YourService environment. It was all about them, so now their Consumers is saying, no it is about me.

Now we are in a social media world and businesses all over want to be a part of the conversations. They want their Customers to make it about the brand. Toward this effort businesses galore have offered discounts or free product to ‘like’ them or follow their every move. This may spur conversation for their brand, but at what cost? Is this type of marketing going to change Consumer behavior? We have all heard stories of small businesses trying to take advantage of the social world by buying Groupon deals only to find the business inundated with Customers only buying the item on the deal and the business losing a lot of money with little or no repeat business from the group. I think the key for businesses is to have a culture that aligns the experience with their Customer. Building an @YourService environment Customers will want to discuss your brand and build on the relationship you have with them. Trust is key, and very few businesses have it. Do you think the movie or recording industry had it?

I view a lot of work to be artistic, whether it is a book, movie, song, or even a more traditional business product. I want to see artists get their dues. It is hard work. I have been privileged over the years to be provided many books. What these artists do not realize is that I often also bought a copy. I own many duplicates! But I am proud of their work and I want them to have success. At the same time, I trust them so I am more likely to do that. You see I do not see it as a world about me, but rather a world built on trust and relationships. This is the @YourService world I envision.

Is It Just Me?

Posted on : 23-01-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Customer Service, Uncategorized

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I just finished my book @YourService and it is filled with Customer Service stories. It has the good, the bad and the ugly. In my view the businesses must make a shift in the new @YourService economy. Your Customers and employees now control your brand image. Often I am struck by stupid easy things businesses could fix, yet they fail to do so. Is it just me that sees this?

As Customers, new technology has brought us greater ease, yet it has caused us to grow ever more frustrated. Case in point is my recent experience with Best Buy. Best Buy has been an interesting case study for me. Over the past few years the company has gained greater control of their market by the departure of Circuit City. I am a tech geek and have spent a lot of money with them, and most likely will continue to do so (although debating that based on my experience with Amazon). Recently Forbes had an interesting piece on ‘Why Best Buy is Going Out of Business Gradually‘. The post has many strong and truthful observations about Best Buy and ways they could improve. For a few years Best Buy has also been trying to send the message that they are working to improve, including their Twitter Twelpforce initiative, their community forum and ideation efforts, as well as their CEO blog, where he welcomes feedback. I did enjoy the CEO’s post in response to the recent discussion of the Forbes piece. The problem is it should never have taken such a long time to gain reaction from the company. No matter what words are said, actions are louder. Online feedback regarding the retailer has been negative for a number of years, and I have yet to see evidence of any changes the company has made to create the right experience. I should note that I know many people within the Best Buy social team and I adore them. The failure here is not their efforts, it is the failure of the leaders to understand their Customer. Winning in social media is not some program, it is creating the right experience for the Customer where they want to talk about your brand.

Unfortunately I want to speak about the brand in a negative manner, because that is more fitting of my recent experiences. As Consumers, I wonder if our actions have told companies that poor service is okay! I especially think that way because I tend to attract it. That is probably for a post another day. On Black Friday I was wasting time so I went window shopping at Best Buy. While I was there, a TV caught my eye and the price was great. I decided to buy it. Well after waiting really long (not in a line mind you, just one Customer was doing some odd things involving credit, which they were not approved). There were 3 associates there but no one could do anything while this situation played out. So I went online and ordered the TV from a store that was on my ride home. When I arrived I already received the email that it was ready so I went to pick it up. Amazingly there was no line late in the day for pickup so I thought I would be in and out. Well that was not the case. It took well over 40 minutes to get the item from the back. I chalked that up as my fault for shopping on Black Friday. A week later I decided to order an accessory for the TV. I did it online with store pickup. This is where I started to see the dysfunction of the company. About an hour after ordering I went to pick it up. I never received the email but in my prior experience this typically took about 30 minutes. I went to the store and the associate said there is nothing they can do until ‘they’ transmit it to us. First of all they is you and you are Best Buy. After waiting in the store for 30 more minutes, I decided to pick it up myself figuring I could easily cancel the order. Probably my mistake too. First they could not cancel the order in the store. The mysterious ‘they’ had to do it. You also are not able to do it online. Now this makes business sense, take someone who prefers to self serve and send them to a call. If you want to save money, make it easy to do things online! Calling is a trip, but needless to say, after many transfers it did not happen. I did learn that if you do not pick up the item, eventually they cancel it, so I did that. That brings me to my latest. I ordered a game system and some games for store pickup. When I received the first email it had an item with the wrong store as the pickup location. I quickly relooked at the order and for some reason the incorrect store was listed for 1 out of 7 items. Why would your online system even allow that to happen? Bad Customer experience! An easy warning asking do you want to pickup items at two locations would resolve this. Of course I still blame myself for not catching it prior to submitting the order. I do take issue with what transpired next. I called to cancel the order. When you do the only real option that fits is speak to someone, so I select that. Once you get to that point you have to describe your issue, and more importantly, the product you purchased, then you are transferred to describe it all over again. Of course you do not get to describe it when you are transferred to dead air or disconnected. After working on this for 30 minutes, I give up and head to pick up my items. I assumed the products were ready, even though the confirmation only listed two items. I luckily assumed right. While driving I called again and on the 4th attempt I was able to get the item cancelled. Why do I have to go through all that? Why, as I was getting increasingly frustrated, did no one empathetic to my frustration? I am willing to bet it happens so often that the agents simply do not care. This is all emblematic of a larger cultural issue.

As I vented this on Twitter, others came out to vent frustration, including Lon Seidman, who shared a strikingly similar post from 2009. Now I do love Best Buy and hope I start to feel the difference, but if it does not happen soon, I am afraid I will be seeking alternatives. Is it just or is service going downhill?

Is It Really the Agent’s Fault?

Posted on : 19-01-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Customer Service

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As Consumers when an experience is not pleasant we like to blame someone, often times it is the agent we are dealing with. Is this right? Usually not.

I was reading a few news stories that my readers will find interesting. First was from SmartMoney regarding 10 Things You Will Not Here a Customer Service Rep Say. It is a very thorough look at the state of Customer Service. It is sad to me that we are training Customers to be loud to get proper service. Do we really think that is a good idea for our brand image? Service better get their act together if they want to win in an @YourService world.

Another article, Customer Service Needs Friendly Returns, comes from the Columbus Local News. This article takes a look at a popular topic this time of year, retail returns. Like many of us I feel the same way as the author regarding returns. Often you feel like a suspect instead of a Customer. But to me the friendliness of the representative is determined by the culture of the business they work for. Have you returned items to Target in recent years? A few years back they changed their return policy to be more stringent. Basically for most items you have 90 days and you must have a receipt. If you do not have a receipt they will try to locate it for you (of course you have to know the credit card that was used and be the one with the card). You can fully review their return policy by reviewing here and here. I have witnessed and experience with the no exceptions to the policy, including one person who was at 91 days.

Now let’s look at the return policy for a store I enjoy shopping at. Kohls, often ranked as a top Customer Service retailer, has their Hassle-Free Return Policy. One time I returned a George Foreman Grill that was used but had trouble in the first couple of months. I dreaded returning it because I lost the receipt. I walked up to the service counter prepared for a hassle and instead I was greeted with the friendliest person who said no problem, I would be happy to process that return for you. It amazes me how friendly they have been over the years. Because of this I have spent a lot of money there.

Where would you rather work? Kohl’s is constantly sending messages to the Customer and employee about trust and creating the right experience. Have you ever forgotten a coupon at Kohl’s? No problem here is one for you. I remember years ago working for a different major department store retailer the senior leadership made the decision to not honor coupons unless they brought them with them. How stupid is that to send a Customer ready to buy out of the store. These decisions impact the culture of your employees and the trust of the Customer. I am sure Target’s decision was based on tons of data collected. I am willing to bet, it is impacting their bottom line but not in the way they expected. Including less loyal Customers (I am in that boat) and employee turnover.

I agree we need friendlier returns, but it starts with having an @YourService culture.

Do You Build the Right Messages for Your Customers?

Posted on : 18-01-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Customer Service, Uncategorized

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I had a great experience returning an item to Lowes last week. The cashier made if fast and was very friendly. She even noticed, without me saying, the color difference which was the reason for the return. Even with that great experience I left with a different message and it is something that can help other companies too. Like many retailers, the service desk is located by the front of the store. It is fairly open area, so it is easy for Customers to see behind the counter. I am always fascinated by hand written signs behind service counters. They usually are something about the policy. In this particular location the sign was signed by the Loss Prevention department, so of course, I had to read it! I did take a picture but it was too blurry to share. Basically the message was to the service team. It was a reminder of a policy about Customer or employees trying to exit through the entrance. I immediately thought about all the times I exited through the entrance. 9 times out of 10 it was because I forgot something in the car. No the 1 out of 10 was not theft! It was because they did not have what I was looking for so I was leaving. Anyway the sign tell the service personnel if anyone tries to exit through that door, you are to immediately stop what you are doing, including helping other Customers and confront the person using the wrong exit and guide them to the other exit by the cash registers.

I should be clear that I understand the need for loss prevention, and years ago even did it. There are benefits for Customers in keeping costs low. That being said, telling a service agent to break away from the Customer they are helping to help the loss prevention team, is ridiculous. It is not the Customers fault that the loss prevention team is not able to watch the door properly. I also do not think it is a good practice to dictate what doors a Customer must use.

In this new world of @YourService it is important to know the message you are sending to your own employees and Customers. Their interactions are what define your brand. This handwritten memo is an example of this message. Have you seen message like this? As a Customer how do they make you feel?

Picturesque Service

Posted on : 17-01-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Customer Service

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It seems with all the technology we as Consumers are still growing frustrated by the service experience by companies. It seems to me many companies just created a patchwork quilt to meet the demands of their Customer. Of course many new companies, built from the ground up, are finding new ways to surprise and delight. Today I want to tell you about one of those experiences.

Our story starts with An email from a friend about a free picture book offer from Shutterfly. With the email we began putting together the book of 2011. What a year to watch the kids grow! Anyway, we complete the book and begin the check out process, but we realize the code was already used. No big deal, we check our email and it turns out we had the same offer, but the email went to junk. The friend that sent it to us was not as lucky. See the email was sent to her by another friend. So she emailed Shutterfly and within an they emailed her a code. She is now very dedicated to Shutterfly, because they could have said any number of things, including the offer was intended for select people, etc. They made it easy.

Today we have fairly low expectations of companies especially when it comes to the Customer experience. This is where Shutterfly differentiated themselves. Through the checkout process we decided to order a few more things, totally about $25. As we went through the check out process a $20 credit was automatically applied. It turns out we earned that credit when purchasing school pictures from Life Touch. Shutterfly did not put the onus on us to remember a code or that we even had it. They applied it automatically. The experiences you create are what lead to social media success (or failure). This is an @yourservice world!

Is Service Down the Drain?

Posted on : 13-01-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Customer Service

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I am excited to report that in the coming weeks you will be seeing some changes to this blog.  First I will be updating the look.  But, more importantly, I will be focusing on sharing stories I read everyday regarding Customer Service.  I’ll share the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Hopefully as businesses improve we will see more and more of the good.  I will also be encouraging readers, as well as businesses, to share their stories or ones they come across on the internet.  I think that this will provide a well rounded view of the current state of Customer Service.

All this is in preparation for my upcoming book called @YourService.  The book will include many personal stories, observations and recommendations for the Customer Service field.  The simple fact is the Customer and the employee now control your brand image. Many want to win in social media, but if you want your business to have success you have to start with the basics: your Customer and your employee.  Social media simply highlights the culture you already have.  The Customer service world has changed dramatically over the past 30 years with a lot of impressive technology.  But is that technology designed for the Customer or the business?  The fact is that today Customers feel further and further away from your business, and often we are sending a message that we are not interested in their needs.  We are stuck on process and we provide limited room to move.

In the book you will find many stories about service, some of which I experienced personally.  We tend to make Customers jump through hoops to get things cared for.  Sometimes I wonder if that is intentional.  Are companies just hoping we will just give up?  Of course I like to be more positive than that and hope they are simple mistakes.  Of course they happen way too often.  Here is an example of a situation I just dealt with for a new faucet I purchased.  The final email to this chain, is probably the funniest since I am not sure why I received it.  Our story starts on December 6.  I send an email to Kingston Brass/EOD Faucet because the finish was coming off of the pull knob for the drain of a faucet I bought from Overstock on September 3, 2011.  The original email includes a clear picture, our address, a description of the trouble and a request for a new pull handle.  I do not receive any response, so on January 3, I emailed again.  This time I received a fairly quick response.  The first email asks me to provide proof of purchase, which I respond with.  The odd thing about the email is it cc’ed what appears to be the human resources email address for the company.  This continues through the remaining emails, so I make sure to cc them as well.   The next email asks me to take a picture of the entire faucet “so we know exactly what part to send you.”  My first two emails did include a photo and a request for the part, which was simply the pull.  So this time I respond with two pictures.  One was simply the damaged part and the other was the entire unit.  I then get a response asking me to attach the pictures instead of cutting and pasting them in.  For some strange reason when they received the email the picture were shrunk to icons.  They were full size when they left here.  Anyway I sent the photos with separate emails.  I then get a response asking for the address to send it to, which was included in the first two emails.  Again I respond with that information and we are done with this back and forth.  The good news is I received the part very quickly but now for the odd news.  Remember how I mentioned the agent included the HR email address in the chain?  Well today I received another one which was send from CS103 to Erik Chen at Kingston Brass, the HR email and one that appears to be for tech support at Kingston Brass.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Mr. Chen,

In the morning I answered phone calls and answered technical, order inquiry, and stock status questions. I wrote up warranty request forms and also entered them into Elliot. I entered orders from Kingston Brass Faucet and from SinksPlus. I answered emails from info@eodfaucet.com and techsupport@kingstonbrass.com.

In the afternoon I answered phone calls and answered technical, order inquiry, and stock status questions. I wrote up warranty request forms and also entered them into Elliot. I entered orders from Kingston Brass Faucet and from SinksPlus. I answered emails from info@eodfaucet.com and techsupport@kingstonbrass.com.

Sincerely,

Juan

After writing the book, and a chapter about an inside look at a call center, I immediately started putting together my own backstory to email, including the fact that the agent cc’ed HR on every response.  Is the agent in trouble for something and that’s why he was doing it?  I suspect that the different emails were not due to him but the process they have in place, including lack of history to identify the address.  All this is part of our Customer experience.  The key to winning in the social world is creating a good environment for agents where they can be empowered, such as possibly just sending the pull since the cost is so low, instead of the multiple emails creating frustration.  The book was fun but this will give you a feel for what this blog will be like moving forward.  Thank you for your continued support!  Please send your Customer service stories to frank@frankeliason.com  I’m looking forward to hearing your stories!