Tag Archives: customer service

Our Rapidly Changing Culture

Making the social media rounds recently was this observation shared on Craigslist by the management of a New York City restaurant who were trying to figure out why service was so much slower in 2014 than in 2004 despite a simplified menu and increased staff size. They found security footage from 2004 and compared it to current footage. Some results they shared in their post:

Before even opening the menu they take their phones out, some are taking photos while others are simply doing something else on their phone (sorry we have no clue what they are doing and do not monitor customer WIFI activity).

26 out of 45 customers spend an average of 3 minutes taking photos of the food.

14 out of 45 customers take pictures of each other with the food in front of them or as they are eating the food. This takes on average another 4 minutes as they must review and sometimes retake the photo.

9 out of 45 customers sent their food back to reheat. Obviously if they didn’t pause to do whatever on their phone the food wouldn’t have gotten cold.

27 out of 45 customers asked their waiter to take a group photo. 14 of those requested the waiter retake the photo as they were not pleased with the first photo. On average this entire process between the chit chatting and reviewing the photo taken added another 5 minutes and obviously caused the waiter not to be able to take care of other tables he/she was serving.

Given in most cases the customers are constantly busy on their phones it took an average of 20 minutes more from when they were done eating until they requested a check. Furthermore once the check was delivered it took 15 minutes longer than 10 years ago for them to pay and leave.

8 out of 45 customers bumped into other customers or in one case a waiter (texting while walking) as they were either walking in or out of the Restaurant. 

They studied 45 customers in both cases and found that, on average, the time spent in the restaurant went from 1:05 in 2004 to 1:55 in 2014. It’s fairly safe to assume that other service businesses are experiencing similar behavioral changes in their customers, and it’s stunning to think about how quickly it’s happened.

BTW, I’m a notorious food-porner, but I can’t imagine taking more than 10 or 15 seconds to snap a pic of my snapper. I like my food way too much to waste more time than necessary before I dig in.

You Can’t Please Everyone

I'm constantly fascinated by the perceptions that different people will have of one business. For instance there's a BBQ restaurant that I absolutely love, I think it's the best in town, but during a casual conversation about weekend plans I had a relative tell me she thought the food was terrible.  I couldn't for the life of me understand it.  On the other hand I have friends who LOVE a certain downtown restaurant that I think has mediocre food (at best) and terrible service.  I gave the place three tries and in my mind it failed to please all three times so it struck out with me.

From a business's standpoint it just has to try and please enough people enough times that it can be profitable.  Of course it, or rather the people who run it, should always strive to improve and provide the best product/service possible, but they will never please everyone all of the time.  I was reminded of this when I read this comment at Consumerist about the service one family got from American Express:

In 1989, my father died while traveling in another country. We were told by the State Dept. that we needed to deposit $2500 into an account to cover all costs of cremation, processing, and shipping him and his belongings home. Any monies not spent would be refunded to us.

It was a Sunday and none of our banks were open. My mom was frantic. In the course of a conversation with… someone from one of the banks? I don't remember… the woman whispered into her phone that if I had an AmEx card, I should call them, but not tell anyone she had suggested it.

So I called AmEx and spoke with an impossibly perky 15-year-old-sounding person who promised to take care of everything for me. Fifteen minutes later, she called with the transfer confirmation number and said that the State Dept. now had our funds. She also wanted to send the AmEx rep to take care of everything, but by then my poor dad was so wrapped up in red tape that no one could have gotten near him or his stuff.

In the course of the next few days, the State Dept. managed to lose my father in transit so he missed his own funeral, but that's another story. During that time, I got two more calls from managers at AmEx, asking if there was anything they could do to help us…

I know a lot of vendors don't take AmEx because their fees are higher, but I will never forget what they did for us when we had no other way out, and that they actually paid the substantial State Dept. fee for us and wouldn't let us repay them.

We have a friend who has had similar experiences with AmEx.

It's a pain to have to pay it all off every month, but well worth it to me, just to ensure that they are in my corner if, God forbid, I ever need them.

The same relative who disagreed with me about the BBQ place has a lifelong animosity towards AmEx for a reason I can't remember, but I can tell you that Hell will likely be frozen over before she ever uses an AmEx card again. There again we have the same company with two wildly divergent perceptions.  Obviously AmEx has pleased enough people to build a very profitable business so I suspect the 'lovers' outweigh the 'haters,' but it's good for all of us to keep in mind that no matter how well we think we're doing we absolutely have someone out there who isn't pleased with us.

BTW, my wife and I just applied for our Costco/AmEx card.  Hopefully we'll find our experience to be more like the Consumerist commentor's and less like my relative's.

*I posted this piece at the work blog as well.


Sad That This Is Considered ‘Pioneering’

In an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about Apple's retail strategy I came across this:

Still, Apple is considered a pioneer in many aspects of customer service and store design. According to several employees and training manuals, sales associates are taught an unusual sales philosophy: not to sell, but rather to help customers solve problems. "Your job is to understand all of your customers' needs—some of which they may not even realize they have," one training manual says. To that end, employees receive no sales commissions and have no sales quotas.

"You were never trying to close a sale. It was about finding solutions for a customer and finding their pain points," said David Ambrose, 26 years old, who worked at an Apple store in Arlington, Va., until 2007.

Apple lays its "steps of service" out in the acronym APPLE, according to a 2007 employee training manual reviewed by The Wall Street Journal that is still in use.

"Approach customers with a personalized warm welcome," "Probe politely to understand all the customer's needs," "Present a solution for the customer to take home today," "Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns," and "End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return."

Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304563104576364071955678908.html#ixzz1PNc5

I find it sad that a business is considered a pioneer because it asks its front line employees to listen to customers, help them solve a problem and warmly invite them back.  I'm not shocked, hey I saw Glengarry Glen Ross too, but I am saddened.  I know many small businesses that do what Apple is being lauded for in this article, but when the Journal of Big Business Wall Street Journal points out that this is different from what you see in corporate retail America I think that's a pretty good indicator of how lots of large companies treat their customers – as raw meat for the sales mill.

Case Study on Good Corporate Twitter-care

Last week the organization I work for (Triad Apartment Association) hosted its regular monthly dinner meeting and it was one of the most successful meetings we've had in a long time.  The topic was social media and it featured a presentation on the "Top 10 Things You Need to Know About Social Media" and was followed by a Q&A session with some social media experts from the apartment industry. One recurring theme that evolved from the presentation and the Q&A was the importance of being active in the social media sphere, and being prepared to engage with customers and prospects via Facebook, Twitter, etc.

I thought of that today when I observed the interaction between one of my coworkers, Rachel, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car.  Enterprise told Rachel that they'd be at our office to pick her up at 2 p.m.  At 2:15 she called them to see where they were and they indicated that the driver had left on time and knew where he was going so he should be here any time.  Rachel waited a few more minutes and then wrote this on Twitter at 2:21:

Hey Enterprise, remember when you said "We'll pick you up at 2!" That was awesome. Except. You didn't. #tickfreakingtock

Obviously she was being funny, but it's also obvious she's getting a little annoyed. Well, someone at Enterprise is on the ball because within 20 minutes @enterprisecares Tweeted the this:

Have you called re: the delay? If you need anything else follow us & I'll DM my contact info to get details (Elizabeth)

Needless to say Rachel was impressed and is currently a very happy Enterprise customer.  BTW, the driver showed up just a couple of minutes later; he'd gone to the wrong address which is not uncommon for people coming to our office since it's a kind of weird location. 

Here's a screen shot of my Tweetdeck showing the interaction. Very well done Enterprise: