* You are viewing the archive for February, 2012. View the rest of the archives.

Interview with Rob Siefker of Zappos – Part 4 of 4

This is the fourth and final part of my interview with Rob Siefker, the Director of the Customer Loyatly Team at Zappos. In this part of the interview, Rob talks about performance reviews, how Zappos encourages employees to further their knowledge (and pays them for doing so), what he thinks about seniority and tenure amongst call center agents, how Zappos handles scheduling, how the company encourages “personal emotional connections,” and finally, what Rob thinks companies can do to deliver Zappos-like service.

You can read part one of the interview here, part two here, and part three here. To read this part, click “read more.”

Continue Reading

Americans changing banks because of fees and poor customer service

Onlookers at a protest against US Bank at OccupyMN - Day 20Market Watch issued a press release earlier today about studies done by Intellishop and Rate Watch citing credit unions and small community banks missing their market share of banking business due to sales efforts. The mystery audit services sent 120 anonymous auditors out who posed as new checking account prospects, and even though small banks were seen as pleasant, the criticism of having a too “laid back” approach regarding selling the benefits of their bank were losing these organizations business. It seems larger banks are more proactive.

Mystery shopper results documented large banks to be four times more apt to find out about other types of banking relationships, two times more likely to ask a new customer to sign up today, two times more likely to collect a prospect’s contact information, and two times more likely than the smaller competition to strike up small talk conversations as someone enters the bank to engage a new customer at a personal level.

Now this is where surveys commonly get confusing. J.D. Power and Associates just released their survey which may or may not parallel big banks versus smaller institutions signing up new business practices, but a 5,000 customer survey results found a deflection rate of one in ten customers leaving large institutions last year because of high fees and lousy customer service. Surprisingly small banks and credit unions only lost 0.9 percent of customers compared to 8.8 percent of customers lost in 2010.

So if we are to assume more customers are attracted to bigger banks because personnel is better trained to concentrate on the positive attributes of larger banks and use more initiatives to attract customers, then we might also assume those very customers are leaving big banks at an even higher rate? Of course, there is  always more to consider.

I doubt many customers have forgotten the Bank of America announcement of charging a monthly fee for debit card users last year. The firestorm took off in the media full force ahead, and the “Bank Transfer Day” when customers emailed, tweeted, and blogged everyone to leave big banks and switch to smaller banks and credit unions left quite an impression. Already adding to the malcontent of big bank customers, newer and higher banking fees from checking account charges to higher credit card interest rates  compared to piddly rates on Certificates of Deposit and savings accounts, customers didn’t look back when the hightailed it for the smaller institutions. Of the 50 percent of customers surveyed who changed banks, they also claimed poor customer service then became the final straw that broke the camel’s back. Not surprisingly Bank America scored the lowest followed closely by Wells Fargo, Citibank, Sovereign Bank and Chase.

People haven’t forgotten the debacle of the large banking institutions and their significant roles in the state of the economy. Big banks still make loans and mortgages more difficult than many of the small banks. When I walked into Chase Bank the other day to deliver a document for a real estate closing I was attending, the pleasant woman at the door greeting customers told me she loved my shoes! No one has ever said that at the smaller institution I use, but I doubt that will be the reason I will choose to change banks.

photo credit: Fibonacci Blue

U.S. airlines improving customer service?

N753EVThe trade industry organization Airlines for America has reported customer service for airlines  improving in three different areas. Travelers are always interested in improved customer service, so therefore any news in the airline industry is always considered good news, but alas have there really been improvements or is it just better defined as happenstance?

CNN states mishandled baggage was at an all time low for 2011 – 3.39 bags misplaced per 1,000 which registered a 3.51 drop from 2010. Airlines chalk it up to improved baggage handling, however let’s face the reality of travelers checking less luggage because of the outrageous baggage fees. We now pack much more efficiently, and just travel with less “stuff.”

The Department of Transportation reports the number of passengers bumped from flights decreased to 0.81 per 10,000 passengers – a decline of 1.09. The airlines contend better planning, but the Wall Street Journal attributed the decrease to DOT doubling airline penalties to passengers who are involuntarily denied boarding.

And finally the report states that U.S. airlines have had the best on time arrival rates – up by 85.07 percent. One has to question whether the airlines have changed and improved employee policies, improved maintenance on planes thus avoiding long delays, or has the lack of inclement weather this winter just been a greater part of that improvement? Never mind that there is less sky traffic, oil prices are way up and less people are traveling by air because of the weak economy.

We do know that traveler complaints continue to apply pressure to the airline industry forcing them to make improvements, however consumer complaints on both domestic and foreign airlines have risen in the past year. The Department of Transportation received 11,545 complaints – up 5 percent from 10,988 in 2010. Many of the complaints arose from foreign carriers, and an especially high amount of complaints concerned the apparent lack of  customer service for passengers with physical disabilities.

We of little faith periodically wonder if airlines will ever succeed in doing it better. With so many variables to consider for every flight, mistakes are bound to be a reoccurring pattern, however more personal considerations need to be addressed at the ticket counter, check-in, on the aircraft and at the terminals. It is how the human factor handles many of these problems that make the frustration and ultimate anger resulting in the constant multitude of complaints.

Do you want to know the best airline considered the number one on-time carrier for the eighth straight year? According to the Department of Transportation, Hawaiian Airlines scored 92.8 percent on-time performance. When asked how the airlines achieved such a remarkable achievement, the company heartily thanked the dedicated Hawaiian employee performance. Let’s hope the other airlines follow suit.

photo credit: redlegsfan21

What Two and a Half Men Can Teach Us About Customer Service

01 (285)Customer service isn’t an easy task, and for the representatives who successfully calm angry customers, soothe irate tempers, and are able to solve consumer problems in a polite and reasonable manner are those employees any great company should consider giving a raise in salary. Staying calm isn’t always the easiest task to do, especially when the attacks are often met with rudeness and unprofessional behavior on the part of the customer.

Angry clients, customers that feel a product is defective, poor service, an insecure co-worker  may be all in a day’s work for an experienced customer service representative. Now what makes one representative so much better, and what are some of the traits successful agents all possess?

One of Charlie Sheen’s most memorable Two-And-A Half Men stories centered around Allan’s former wife Judith being frustrated and angry with life’s turmoils. On one particular afternoon, Judith was ready to lay into Charlie’s lack of respect and whatever else was bothering her, when Charlie immediately diffused Judith’s anger. And how did he do that? Charlie assumed a natural, relaxed posture, softened the expression in his eyes, and as Judith shot off her frustrations and anger, Charlie shook his head in agreement and repeated “I understand.” As much as the sitcom is designed for pure enjoyment, isn’t how Charlie acted and responded those very traits a seasoned customer service agent utilizes when dealing with angry clients?

Breaking it down, the primary initial response is to stay calm, be reasonable, and let the client vent. Of course, there is no need to ever be subjected to rudeness, unacceptable behavior or profanity, and in that case inform the customer that their behavior will not be tolerated. If it is a phone call, then warn the customer you will hang up, or perhaps they would like to call at another time when they have calmed down. If you are in a face-to-face confrontation, excuse yourself and ask that person to get herself under control.

Never resort to anger yourself, because the situation more than likely will become explosive, and then nobody wins, and nothing gets solved. By now the anger should be waning, and the real problem is most likely somewhere near the surface. Listen carefully to the customer; don’t interrupt but assure the customer you are on their side and will do everything you can to rectify the situation to the best of your ability. At all times, remember you are speaking just like Charlie – both calm and engaged. From there you and the client can work on an amicable solution.

Remember however – if the problem was your fault, the first necessary protocol is to apologize. Customers will forgive you if you make a mistake, you apologize, and then rectify the situation. Don’t embellish your excuses with blaming other people; you represent your organization, and you need to fix the mistakes.

Whereas every company has their own standards and procedures for customer service, the ABC’s of staying calm, knowing your product, and having the ability to right those wrongs in a professional and satisfying method which suits your customers’ needs, is the key to a successful organization. And at the end of the day, that same professional wipes her hands, grabs her purse, and leaves the day’s complaints behind her as she goes home to her family.

photo credit: Victor1558

Does America run on “Dunkin’ Donuts”?

I'm thinking that in this case they should have just gone with the singularBrands Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index sets Dunkin’ Donuts as number one in customer loyalty for the coffee category. Second only to oil production, coffee is the largest commodity sold. The coffee category included ratings on consumer preferences, the consistency of meeting customer expectations for taste, quality, service, and brand value. This is the sixth year in a row the quick food coffee shop has been recognized with the award.

Dunkin’ Donuts has more than 7,000 restaurants in the United States and District of Columbia and another 10,000 restaurants in 33 countries. Their products are also sold in grocery stores and other specialty shops thus giving them a much broader shot at international brand recognition through a larger variety of different venues.

So what makes “Ameica Runs on Dunkin'” so popular? Most Dunkin’ Donuts are franchises, and their core values include honesty, transparency, humility, integrity, respect, fairness, and responsibility. Franchise applicants are required to have liquid assets of $250k and a net worth of $500k. Experts in the field provide extensive learning and training opportunities. Much of the organization’s success has been attributed to the dedication of the franchises and their ability to create an outstanding customer experience.

Perhaps the hardest part of meeting customer expectations however, lies with brand value and delivering the product to customers to make them happy. Actually the superior guest experience happens when customer expectations are exceeded. The company’s Dunkin’ Donuts Perk and Rewards program translates into free beverages as well as emails informing customers of the latest news, special offers and new store openings. Every year a participant receives a free medium beverage on their birthday. People remember – and couple the marketing with fast service, a smile from the person behind the counter, and 100 percent Arabica coffee beans, a recipe for success seems to have been achieved.

You may be a loyal fan of Starbucks where customers contemplate a more comfortable setting, a wider array of coffees, frappucinos and smoothies, having an employee inscribe your name on the cup and that small convenient table for sugar and spice – but “America Runs on Dunkin’ ” is less expensive and still makes the consumer feel as if they are appreciated.

In a company that serves more than one billion cups of hot coffee and iced tea annually, clever marketing has made people feel more engaged. The company’s green policy began in 2008 when the first green store opened in St. Petersburg, Florida, and on January 20, the second green store opened in St. Petersburg using eco-friendly LED lighting, recycled water for landscaping, coffee grounds for area farmer composting and even an electric car charging station.

The company supports veterans and donates coffee to the USO and provides grants for the welfare of the hungry.

When Nigel Travis, president and CEO of the organization was asked how he saw his company’s menu evolving in the next ten years he replied:

“I think we’ll be selling a lot of doughnuts. I think we’ll be stronger in our beverages, because that’s continued to grow steadily over time. We’ll continue to test things. We have more ideas than we can cope with.”

photo credit: craigemorsels

Interview with Rob Siefker of Zappos – Part 3 of 4

This is the third of a four part interview with Rob Siefker, the Director of the Customer Loyatly Team at Zappos. In this part of the interview, Rob talks more about the service metrics that Zappos tracks, how the company empowers its Customer Loyalty Team Members (and has avoided bureaucracy), how escalations to managers work at the company, how the Zappos compensates its employees, and the extensive continuing education programs employees have access to at Zappos and how they work.

You can read part one of the interview here and part two here. You can also jump ahead and read part four here. To read this part, click “read more.”

Continue Reading