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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.”

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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.”

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Interview with Rob Siefker of Zappos – Part 2 of 4

This is the second of a four part interview with Rob Siefker, the Director of the Customer Loyatly Team at Zappos. In this part of the interview, Rob discusses how Zappos motivates members of their customer loyalty team, what programs they have in place to recognize good service, and what service metrics the company tracks and how.

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

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Interview with Rob Siefker of Zappos – Part 1 of 4

After interviewing Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh  and seeing the company’s HQ outside of Las Vegas, I knew I wanted to learn more about the nuts and bolts and day-to-day operations of Zappos. To get this information, I spoke to Rob Siefker, Director of the Zappos Customer Loyalty Team. In part one of this four part interview, Rob talks about what he does at Zappos, how the company handles operating 24/7, what the training process is like for Zappos employees, and how the company makes the most out of cross-training its employees.

Click “Continue Reading” to see the questions and answers. You can also jump ahead and read part two, three, and/or four.

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Airports and excellent customer service – can it really be?

Indoor TreesThe next time you’re sitting in one of those impossibly uncomfortable hard plastic seats at Newark International Airport and you see a suggestion box hidden somewhere, slip a picture of Singapore’s Changi International Airport in there. It’s certain to be an experience any traveler will remember for years to come.

In the online blog  The Middle Seat, Scott McCartney writes about Andrew Tregonning and his wife’s experience covering the joys of an airport. No it’s not a syntax error – the couple traveling from New Zealand to India actually wanted a long layover at the Singapore airport. Imagine amenities such as comfortable sleeping areas, work areas, showers, pedicures, premium bars, a swimming pool, and even a tour of Singapore for nominal fees. The airport has a four-story amusement park for the children, and in Terminal 3, a city in itself, such passenger services as a dry cleaner, medical center, grocery store, pharmacy, jewelry and clothing stores all at one’s fingertips.

As a sharp contrast, JD Powers and Associates’ nationwide survey 2010 North American Airport Satisfaction Study which rated comfort and amenities in the United States most likely would have exploded if given the opportunity to rate Singapore’s airport. The survey covered basic needs which included seating comfort, ease of moving through the airport, getting passengers in and out of the airport efficiently, and reducing passenger stress with the TSA. Small airports scored significantly higher than the largest airports.

For large United States airports, Detroit Metropolitan scored the best with such amenities as an arbored concourse, people movers, sculptures, an on-site Hyatt Hotel and purple lit tunnels to connect terminals. Scores were rated on accessibility, check-in, security, terminals, food and retail service, and the efficiency of baggage claim. The Minneapolis/ St. Paul International Airport scored closely behind the one in Detroit; the connection between the airport and the Mall of America is cited as being very convenient. My son flies through Detroit regularly and agreed that it was one of the nicer airports in the US. He also reminded me of a post he wrote about the Charlotte airport in 2009.

Do you think it’s possible to actually transform travel into a less stressful environment given the security demands of today’s society? While North America may never be able to offer the top-notch creature comforts of the Singapore Airport, why not start with some of the more practical ideas to lessen the stress? Let us begin with some soothing music quietly resonating throughout our airports. How about reducing the number of announcements and the noisy horns of the passenger carts traveling through the concourses?

In Singapore, touch screens are provided in every bathroom to allow passengers to send a text message to attendants when towels or tissues are needed in the restrooms. Currency exchange booths and clothing stores are all in one area to encourage and stimulate competition for both merchandise and prices.

All of the 28,000 employees at the Singapore Airport are required to attend an orientation to help them help passengers. It’s a people pleasing business where successful concession spaces support 50 percent of the airport’s revenue which keeps the costs down and helps to pay for the amenities. Even the JD Power survey concludes that high levels of airport satisfaction create a strong positive impact on retail spending. Passengers who are “delighted” rather than “disappointed” spend up to 45 percent more at an airport. That’s a substantial difference.

While I’m pretty sure, the United States will never boast a butterfly garden as does Singapore, shouldn’t we still be taking lessons from those who do it so much better? Ironically last week I watched the ABC series Pan Am which takes place in the 1960’s and flying sure looked like more fun, and a much more relaxing and exciting way to travel.

photo credit: mikecogh

Take lessons from Disneyland and learn how customers are treated

Corvette Z06Mark Reuss, President of General Motors North American operations has a three-fold plan to increase Chevrolet sales in California. As is the progressive California mindset, Chevrolet production will have to develop smaller and more fuel-efficient models to compete with the imports, make Chevrolet dealerships more physically attractive, and amp up customer service.

General Motors has lagged behind Toyota, Honda, Ford, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Volkswagen for years. Statistically California Chevrolet dealerships are only capturing three percent of the market share for passenger cars. Time for a change? It seems so since Disneyland in Anaheim will be the setting for some intense customer service training with the purpose aimed at making a car salesman into Prince Charming.

Salesmen won’t be riding pirate ships and teacups, but will be concentrating on Disney’s attention paid to detail. Not that there is anything especially wrong with tattoos and body piercings, I wasn’t surprised however to hear a woman tell me about her disappointing first impression with a car salesman who had facial and lip piercings. The customer couldn’t concentrate because she was so distracted by what looked so very painful and offensive. Would the Little Mermaid ever sport a lip piercing?

Sales people won’t be smoking in public view while on the job. Disneyland says that would be equivalent to Cinderella smoking a cigarette. Perhaps the biggest lesson to be learned from Disneyland is that customers are always to be appreciated, and it’s the small things that count which customers always remember. Can you ever remember seeing loose garbage on the sidewalk of any Disney kingdom? Can you ever remember any Disney character ever looking disheveled or having the slightest rip in her costume? The car dealerships can find small but effective ways to pay attention to details also. Service departments can show how their customers are appreciated with a free car wash with every service or a bottle of cold water in the beverage holder when a customer comes to pick up their car.

A big part of the total experience of purchasing a car is about the dealership – more than what the salesman has to say. Once GM brings forth a product that appeals to California car buyers – fuel and environmentally efficient, the physical appearance of the dealerships are next. GM promises to pour in $60 to $100 million into over 100 franchises – primarily in Los Angeles to make a uniform entrance, redesign others and even move dealerships to better areas – all with the intention of creating a brand known for quality and excellent customer service.

Time will tell if Disneyland comes to “Chevroletland”, but it definitely can’t hurt.

photo credit: Hertj94

Chick-fil-A recipe for excellent customer service

Free FryDayToday in the Jonesboro, Arkansas Regional Chamber of Commerce presentation, franchised restaurant operator and owner of Chick-fil-A, Mike Fullington explained to his audience how customer service can have an impact on a person’s day and even his life. He explained those who really do it well have a certain “spirit,” and that is not something that is trained; rather it comes from the heart with the desire to serve and help others.

In the world of fast food, there has to be a special talent to prepare fast food and still be able to pass out a survey asking a customer to rate taste, speed, attentiveness, courteousness, and cleanliness. That sounds more like the upscale restaurant we visit once in a while, but the Atlanta-based franchise is well-known for its passion and service. Instead of a “thank you” at the end of a customer’s purchase, the more genteel “my pleasure” is used. Truett Cathy, founder, chairman and CEO stresses “servant leadership,” meaning managers treat employees how they want employees to treat customers.

It’s not the extra mile of service franchises bring to Chick-fil-A; it’s been described as the second extra mile. It’s where new franchise owners can take up to a year to come aboard. They have worked in the restaurant, gone through countless interviews, involved their families in the business, and identify with corporate values. All Chick-fil-A’s for instance, are closed on Sundays as a day of rest and prayer. While it’s not mandatory to be Christian, all owners must have demonstrated a special passion, humility, and genuineness Cathy finds mandatory. He places families first, and is a firm believer in strong family units.

Innovative ideas to promote the Chick-fil-A culture for outstanding customer service is rewarded. Contests for competitiveness are rewarded as teams show exemplary work ethics and ideas. Technology and training assist employees in attaining goals of efficiency and speed; 90 seconds for service at a drive through and 60 seconds for counter service.

As an incentive to heighten customer loyalty, coupons, restaurant openings, and special community occasions bring forth new opportunities for “ambassadors” to spread the word to someone not familiar with Chick-fil-A.

And to constantly keep a check on the best ingredients for Chick-fil-A, Cathy spends $1 million dollars on quarterly evaluations which questions customers about their experiences. Respondents receive a free sandwich for answering twenty questions about their experiences. Each location is then forwarded a two-page report.

Excellent customer service is adding that special recipe people just don’t expect to receive. With over 1200 restaurants and $1.5 billion in sales, there’s a lot to be said about integrity taking first place as has been shown via Truett Cathy’s philosophy.

photo credit: Carl Black

Customer service continues to center on good client communication

Comfy?Once upon a time a client or customer would call a business on the telephone or write a letter; whether it was a complaint or compliment, the conversations remained private. As we fast forward to the 21st century however, organizations have been forced into finding new ways to deal with public feedback. Customers are empowered with online resources to share opinions. It can happen anytime of day, night or special holiday; the new reality is for businesses to reaffirm good client communication and show the public that we really do care.

The old-fashioned customer service agents spent most of their time on the phones trying to resolve problems, but now such quick social media outlets as Twitter can quickly lead to a firestorm of criticism if not handled immediately. It’s not an efficient business decision to ignore the negative, and people want to know how any responsible company deals with negative complaints. It’s best in the public arena of quick opinions, that complaints be handled in a positive manner to build confidence and trust; in other words customer feedback and service must remain a full-time endeavor.

So how should a business deal with customer service issues when the world is reading and opinions are being shared quickly by typing 140 characters? Client satisfaction hasn’t changed; it’s only the delivery method. As is with the old golden rules of exemplary customer service, everyone in the organization is responsible for customer satisfaction, and the accountability always leans on the upper echelon of a company.

What are the golden rules of knock-down, kick-butt, customer service? Start with the value of  employees who by far are any company’s best asset. Spend money and time in customer service training using both traditional training methods, intern learning opportunities and experiences, and lots of feedback and positive recognition of employees for jobs well-done. Concentrate on providing customers with quick responses to complaints and negative comments, and welcome feedback. Turning a bad situation into a good situation by providing the customer with the help that is needed turns enemies into advocates and provides a stage for potential new customers in the future.

Luis Franco, director of international business operations at Survey Monkey offers advice on how to approach clients for feedback. He says there are three rules that every organization must keep in mind:

“Don’t survey the hell out of people. Keep it simple and short – seven minutes is the maximum survey time – and make sure the question has terminology that is understood by everyone, no acronyms and no sector jargon.”

Don’t be frightened that customers have a lot more power; look at it as a new opportunity to provide better customer service and as a new opportunity to bring in more business.

photo credit: paulswansen

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