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Friendly Reminder from Bank of America

bofalogo_01_07 I have a confession to make. I am obsessive with keeping track of my bank balance. I don’t check it 30 times a day (more like once a week), but I do know how much money I have in the bank to the penny whenever I need to. I know this without having to login to my bank’s web site.

Apparently, Bank of America knows that I don’t use their web site as often as they’d like. They sent me this email the other day. The subject was  Can we help you with online banking? (which I really like).

It’s been a while since you’ve signed in to Online Banking, so we wanted to remind you of just a few ways it can help make managing your finances easier. Sign in again today and:

  • Access your accounts online. Check your available balances, view your transactions and transfer funds.
  • Pay 10 bills in as little as 3 minutes with free, unlimited Online Bill Pay.
  • Rest easy with our $0 Liability Online Banking Guarantee. You’re not responsible for any unauthorized activity on your accounts if you report it promptly.

Take the Online Banking Test Drive to see how easy it is to manage your accounts and pay bills online. Or sign in today to get started.

bacThe email (which you can a screenshot of to the right) also had several side boxes assuring that the email was not a scam by listing by name, reminding me of how to sign in, telling me they can reset my password if needed, and so on. There was a clear link to contact Bank of America and another clear link to unsubscribe from the email.

When used correctly, emails can be really useful (see this guest writer post). There is a fine line between useful and annoying and this email was useful. People spend quite a bit of time setting up their online banking and they might have forgotten about it. Or, they were unsure of what to do.

This email could have been better if Bank of America did one or more of these things:

  1. Included their phone number right in the body of the email (as opposed to having a contact us link).
  2. Addressed the email in a Hi So and So format (instead of Prepared For). This makes it seem more personal and less like a form.
  3. Had it so a customer could just reply to the email instead of having to go to the contact us link to get help.

I could see how and 1 and 3 could possibly be a security issue (phishing is obviously a huge problem with online banking), so that might explain why Bank of America decided to not do that.

Overall, the tone was friendly and helpful. It was a nicely designed and well written email that offered to help. Bank of America did a good job and I think everyone could take something from their email and apply it to their own.

What do you think about this email? What other good emails have you received from companies?

And Happy New Year! I’m looking forward to 2008.

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Service Untitled Year End Numbers

I’ve been using a detailed analytics program (Google Analytics) to track Service Untitled’s traffic and such since late March. So, the year end numbers are really late March through today (evening of December 28), but I feel they are accurate enough to be useful.

  • The blog’s traffic and and number of subscribers have all increased significantly since March.
  • I’ve met a lot of interesting people and companies. I’ve had the pleasure to interview quite a few interesting people, feature their guest writer posts, and more.
  • Since January, I’ve written 283 posts about customer service, the customer service experience, and related topics. Excluding a few holidays, I think I have only missed one or two days of posting.
  • I’ve seen hundreds of comments about various companies including Spirit Airlines, Verizon, United Airlines, HP, and more. If I know someone at the company, I forward the comment there and the customer usually gets a resolution.
  • Aside from my regular writing and consulting, I’ve spoken in front of a sizable audience, helped organize a conference, and have been quoted by ABC News.

Here are the most popular posts on Service Untitled since March:

  1. Sample Client Thank You Notes
  2. Sample Email Signatures
  3. Interview: Dick Hunter, VP of Customer Experience at Dell
  4. Spirit Airlines doesn’t care about your call.
  5. Dick Hunter of Dell – Part 2 of 3
  6. Jack Hightower of CarMax – Part 2 of 2
  7. Interview with Jack Hightower – VP of Sales at CarMax
  8. United Airlines Customer Service
  9. Interview: Robert Stephens – Founder of The Geek Squad
  10. Verizon Customer Service Does Well!

It looks like readers like interviews and travel posts. Ironically, of all the categories on Service Untitled, the angry customers category is the most popular. The next most popular category is customer service.

Most of all, 2007 has been a great year for me personally and professionally. I’ve made a lot of great new friends and contacts. Service Untitled continues to be a lot of fun to write. I’m thankful to have the opportunity and I thank all of you for continuing to read Service Untitled and refer it to your friends and colleagues.

I’m looking forward to an even more exciting 2008.

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Service Untitled on Satisfaction

I created a site for Service Untitled on Satisfaction yesterday. After just a little bit of time and effort, it’s all setup and ready to go.

Get hepl related to Service Untitled.

Feel free to post your ideas for blog posts or just say hi. If you own or manage a company, consider adding it to Satisfaction. It is a really interesting way to get feedback from your customers / users.

While I’m on the topic of Satisfaction, I think I should remind you that early bird pricing for Customer Service is the New Marketing (written about here) ends on December 31. If you want to save quite a bit of money on your ticket price, register before then. If you use the code SUBL, you save 15% as well.

The one day summit is going to be in San Francisco on February 4, 2008. It’s going to feature speakers from companies like Zappos, Timbuk2, Ning, Virgin, and more. Robert Stephens from the Geek Squad (interviewed here on Service Untitled) will also be a featured speaker at the summit. I will even be there! It’s going to be a really interesting event and not one that you want to miss.

Thanks for listening to this news. As always, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about Service Untitled, please let me know.

Disclosure: I am being paid to help organize Customer Service is the New Marketing. Get Satisfaction did not pay for or ask for this post.

FYE Customer Service

FYE_logo_clr For Christmas, my parents gave me several DVDs that they purchased at FYE. Of the four DVDs they gave me, I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing two of them (it’s the thought that counts!) and went to return them at the store last night. I figured I’d have about $36 from the return that I could put towards some new DVDs.

I go to FYE every now and then and have always had okay experiences. Not bad, not great. I’ve always been fairly indifferent towards the store, which for a store I don’t shop at too much is just fine. However, my most recent experience annoyed me as both a customer and a customer service writer and consultant.

I had receipt for the DVDs and the credit card that was used for the return. I went into the store and browsed around for a while. I picked out two DVDs that I liked and figured I would even have some money (roughly $8) left over to use for a future purchase. I took everything up to the counter, waited in line for a bit, and got to the employee.

The first employee was friendly enough. She seemed a bit confused about how everything was going to work, but she was working. I gave her my name, address, etc. for the return. Apparently, though, what she was doing was not working because she went away (without saying a word to me) and got someone else to help her.

This second woman (who I think was named Tonya) did not even acknowledge me (I was simply he for the entire customer experience). Tonya talked to the first employee about what was going on (and what I/he bought and did) and apparently there was a problem (I was not told of this). I gave my name and address again and that did not matter. There were still problems and she asked for the credit card to refund the extra $8 or so. They couldn’t give me a gift card, but that was fine. I gave her the credit card and then I was suddenly made aware of a sale that my parents took advantage of that included buy two DVDs, get one free. One of the DVDs I was trying to return was the free one (since it was the cheapest). The sale was no longer going on, so the value of my DVD was $0.00. The receipt said it was valued at $7.99 or whatever it was, but apparently there was a sale on “select items” which had completely disappeared and was no longer valid.

That was the fatal flaw in the experience. The whole point of bringing in a receipt for a purchase is to have the clock set back to the time of purchase. If prices change, it doesn’t matter – the receipt is the way of proving that. Apparently, at FYE, that is not the case. The sale was no longer going on, so I didn’t have the option of picking a new DVD to get for free or getting a refund of the price of the DVD at the time of purchase (which I think would be fair). Tonya didn’t want to honor what the receipt said.

I pointed out to Tonya that I was getting a refund of $0.00 for one of the two DVDs I was trying to return and that I might as well keep it. She really didn’t appreciate that observation and it made her even shorter and ruder than before. Reluctantly, she gave the DVD back. I paid for the second DVD I wanted and left. Not one apology for the misunderstanding or hint of empathy from anyone.

Personally, I found the situation to be unethical. I can see and understand FYE’s position, but I think the practice is generally unethical. A receipt should let you set the clock back. The experience was horrible. Tonya was the quintessential example of an employee who clearly did not like her job/the customers she was dealing with. The experience was just a negative one and I don’t forsee myself shopping at or recommending FYE again.

This situation can teach customer service providers a few things:

  • Keep your customers in the loop. One of the reasons this experience failed completely was because no one told me what was going on, took any time to explain anything, etc. Keep your customers in the loop and let them know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
  • Acknowledge the customer. Tonya should have introduced herself and addressed me by my name. They had my name (I gave it to them twice) and never used it. Using “he” or “she” when the customer is standing right there is unacceptable.
  • Don’t be cheap. I had expressed interest in buying more DVDs at FYE (hence why I asked for a gift card) and was obviously an interested customer. If I were Tonya, I would have just given me the 8 bucks and have been done with it. Nordstrom would have done that. Most stores would have.
  • If you can’t, be nice. If the computer wouldn’t let Tonya do it or she would get yelled at by her manager for doing it, that is okay too. It isn’t really about the eight bucks for me. She could have apologized, expressed empathy, or done something besides just glaring at me. There is always something you can do and she did nothing.

I filled out the store survey mentioned on the receipt and will send the URL of this post to FYE. Let’s see what, if anything, happens. In the mean time, I think I will buy my DVDs from Amazon.

Bad Restaurant Customer Service

I saw this “tweet” on Jeremy Wright’s (friend and former boss) Twitter feed yesterday:

Bad appetizer at restaurant (*really bad*). Waitress response: “well you’ll know for next time”. Hah. First time for that comment evar 😉

apathyI laughed out loud when I read this. Then, I came to the realization that the waitress actually did say that. At point, I got a scary reminder of just how bad customer service can be. The particular phrase isn’t on my “Big List of Things Not to Say,” but I do feel it is implied.

There are so many things about that comment that are so bad. Here are my thoughts about the comment, how to avoid it, and what to do if it happens:

It is completely unacceptable. Saying something like that is completely unacceptable. If I overheard an employee saying that, I would fire him or her on the spot. If your company culture tolerates those sort of answers, your customer service has no shot at being any good.

Don’t hire people like that. If at all possible, do not hire people who give answers like that. See this post on avoiding bad job candidates. If you have to, use personality tests and potential employees assessments. You must screen for (and avoid) people like that.

Train people to do the opposite. Part of your training should focus on being empathetic towards customers and their concerns, dealing with common problems (i. e. bad food in a restaurant), etc. If you train people to do the right thing, the chances of them doing the wrong thing will decrease significantly.

I don’t know if there will be a next time at that restaurant from Jeremy. With bad food and bad service, I would hope not. It is a lot easier to lose a customer than it is to gain one. Make sure you aren’t losing customers because of ridiculously unacceptable answers.

Fix Your Phone System!

KXTDA100 A post by Glenn at AllBusiness Customer Service got me thinking. He had a negative experience with Nintendo because of incompetence. The incompetence, though, wasn’t the normal type of incompetence. It was phone system incompetence.

Phone system incompetence is one of the worst types of incompetence. Firstly, it’ll cause a lot of inconveniences and frustrations. Secondly, it’s so easy to avoid. It is a lot easier to fix a phone system than it is to make all of your employees more competent.

I generally advise my clients to fix the easy things first. In a given customer service experience, there are generally a lot of things that can be improved easily. I advise my clients to start with those. Collectively those little things can make a difference and if that collective difference does not require much effort, it’s well worth it.

Fixing a phone system is one of those easy things. I am not an engineer and know very little about how PBX’s, IVR’s, etc. work, but I do know that they can work and they often do work. Technology that is not super complex (this stuff is not artificial intelligence, rocket science, or neuroscience) should work.

Having calls drop is a sure way to aggravate the customer. It is extremely frustrating and extremely time consuming to have to call back, navigate through phone menus, explain your problem, and sometimes, start over.

If you have gotten any sort of complaints about your phone system dropping calls, look into it seriously. Hire someone to check out your phone system and ensure that it’s in proper working order. If it isn’t, get it fixed. If it can’t be fixed, buy a new phone system.

If your phone system is well designed and works well, you shouldn’t have to ask for a phone number to call back customers if they are disconnected – hopefully they will not get disconnected. When you do collect customer information for the first time (ticket ID’s,case numbers, etc.), you should collect their phone number as part of that process. It isn’t worth asking every customer for his or her phone number if only 1 of 1,000 calls get dropped, though.

Make sure your phone system is working well. It’s worth the time, effort, and money. There are a lot of things that are much more complicated to get right, so make this one right if you can.

Merry Christmas!

I’d like to wish all Service Untitled readers a very Merry Christmas!


Take the day to enjoy and spend times with friends and family. There won’t be a customer service related post today. Posting will resume as normal tomorrow.

If you don’t celebrate Christmas, a happy December 25th to you.

Vet’s Office Fun

Purdue News Service photo/David UmbergerLike many Americans, I own a pet. I’m a proud dog owner and do a lot for my dog. She was limping a bit over the past week so I made an appointment to take her to the vet. I called on Saturday and got an appointment for Monday at 11 AM. I was fairly impressed that I could get an appointment with relatively short notice. I got a confirmation call later that day and was all set to take her into the vet this morning.

I took her into the vet and waited in the waiting room. For some reason, whenever I go to this vet, the front is always hectic. Unlike in most doctor’s offices, the people at the front desk of the vet aren’t glued to their desk. Because they aren’t glued, they are often no where to be found. I had to wait for a few minutes before one of them was around to check me in. Right after I was checked in, my dog and I were shown to an examination room.

The examination room was interesting. Firstly, there were no chairs whatsoever. The only chair like piece of furniture was a small bench in the corner. This small bench was not intended for adults, because almost no adult could comfortably sit on it. I could barely sit on it without falling off and I am fairly skinny.

Once the vet came in, he was friendly and helpful. They took my dog out to walk her around. They didn’t really tell me what was going on until I asked, but they were friendly about it.

The vet came back with my dog and spoke to me for a while and then they left again to do blood work. I assumed it would only take a few minutes, but when he brought the dog back and left again, more than 10 minutes passed. He came in and said it would be another 7 minutes. It ended up taking about 20 minutes or so, which is longer than I expected.

The vet was an overall positive experience. They could have done these things, though:

  • Have a more consistent check in procedure.
  • Have a more comfortable place for humans to sit in the examination room.
  • Keep customers in the loop about what’s going on and how long things will take.

I’m still very happy with my vet and I am sure there are vets that are much worse. As long as my dog ends up feeling that, that’s what matters.

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