Tag Archives: Customer Service

Commodity?

there is no such thing as a commodityThree years ago, my wife and I moved to a small town, population 7500. New challenges included finding a barber, even though my hair needs are a bit of a joke…because I have no hair on top. Well, that’s not exactly correct. It would be more accurate to say that I have a countable number of hairs on the top surface, with the only remaining healthy crop having set up residence on the sides, in the back, and in my ears. But, unlike many follicly-challenged men who long ago decided to either shave their heads or to simply let those little devils grow indefinitely, I have pursued the path of clean-cropped. I get a haircut every several months, and I want those few topside survivors, as well as what remains on the sides and neck, treated with love and care.

When I first arrived in town I randomly selected one of several local shops. Carol (not her real name) did a nice job, but her hours were unpredictable and she didn’t work by appointment. I often arrived at 10AM, her posted opening hour, and she would arrive at 10:20, or not at all. Then I tried Tom (not his real name). He was at work most of the time, but he was…well, negative. He had a bumper sticker posted on the window opposite the barber chair, facing the customer, with large print that said, “I’m having a lousy day, thanks for asking.” So, to say that Tom was a downer as a conversationalist was to put it mildly.

I heard about a barber shop that had opened very recently, and I heard it was unique as well as expensive. I decided to check it out. We’ll call it Topp’s Barbershop (not its real name). Topp’s had an interesting decor – hardwood floors, a motorcycle suspended from the ceiling, sports memorabilia of all sorts on the walls, and a refrigerator with soft drinks and beer. And they worked by appointment, so you took your chances as a walk-in. As it turned out, they also offered a quality product.

I had heard particularly good things about Mike, one of the barbers, so I went online and made an appointment to have him cut my hair. After three haircuts, he is now my barber. Mike takes my head and hair seriously. And Mike reads his customer well. If I’m quiet, he’s quiet. If I offer a comment, he picks up on that thread and expands. We’ve had several really interesting conversations on subjects ranging from raising children to the trials of traveling west on the Oregon Trail. He has the personality of the salesman you wish you had hired.

I would guess that barbering dates back almost to the caveman era. It has all the earmarks of a commodity in today’s world. But Topp’s demonstrates that it doesn’t have to be. During my most recent trip there, Mike informed me that he was in the process of hiring two more barbers (in addition to the two that are already working there) in order to keep up with the demand. He is booked days in advance most of the time, as are his associates.

No product is inherently a commodity; the owner makes the choice.

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The Sweet Sonorous Sound of My Name

MyNameIsWe were on Delta Flight 1833, connecting through Salt Lake City on our way to Cincinnati. It was the usual, my hips wedged into the 12-inch wide coach seat, the lady in front of me comfortably reclined into my lap, my lower back and legs already beginning to cramp, only sixty minutes into the 3-1/2 hour flight.

“Would you like a beverage, Mr. Roof?”

Say what!? Had that soft-spoken flight attendant just called me by name? I was almost speechless, a little tongue-tied, but managed to blurt, “Fresca please, no ice.” While she was turned away pouring my drink, I smiled and searched through the gray cells that were still searchable, trying to recall the last time a flight attendant had called me by name. Ever? I think so, once, when my flights were so botched that the airline bumped me into a first class seat to try to make amends. But I have generally grazed in the cattle car over the years, silently enduring a mental fog, where even I am unable to remember my name.

My wife had mentioned that she had read somewhere that Delta was on a customer service kick of some sort when I noted that the gate agent had thanked me by name as we boarded both planes on this particular trip, but then he was looking at my boarding pass. The flight attendant had to be looking at a seating chart between filling orders. Suddenly she reappeared with my drink, looked me in the eye while handing the cup to me and said, “Thank you. We appreciate you being a Delta frequent flyer.”

Delta is a huge company, operating more than 5400 flights per day, in business since 1928, eighty thousand employees worldwide, $40 billion in total revenues. Their planes, like those of most competitors, are uncomfortable. Outside of their aircraft, their primary customer contact occurs in airports, venues that rank right up there with dental offices in terms of customer destination preferences.

So, if you’re giant Delta, how do you grow your business? It seems they have opted to make their customer interactions more friendly, a little more intimate. Probably won’t cost much, and it just might work.

What type of business will not benefit by being more friendly, more personal, more intentional in dealing with customers? Hard to think of one, isn’t it?

Maybe you’ve been in business a long time, or maybe you just started your business. Or maybe you don’t really have your own business, but you are a key cog in the organization that employs you. Have you or your business done anything different in the last year to endear yourself to your customers? Calling your customer by name may be a small deal to you, a regular part of your business operations. But it’s a big deal for a major airline. What would be a big deal for you in your industry, a big deal that wouldn’t cost a lot of money?

As always, your comments are welcome below.

I Love You, but…

CEOs cannot lose focus on customer service

Love is a many splendored thing

I love you.  Strange title for a business blog, isn’t it?  But it’s true, assuming that you’re a business owner.  Here’s what motivated me to make that declaration.

A couple days ago I went to hell and back.  You’ve been there.  I called the help line at a major corporation because of a small glitch in the operation of my new mobile phone.  This particular visit to hell took almost two hours of my not unlimited time.  I will spare you the details because you’ve been there.  I’d rather talk about love anyway.

I love business owners and that’s why I’ve devoted the past thirteen years to working with them.  Privately owned businesses tend to serve customers well and to get things accomplished quickly.  Many entrepreneurs started their own business precisely because they could not find the quality of service that they craved.

A customer service process that works is a thing of beauty.  A dysfunctional process will suck any beauty out of both customer and company.

So my love for you is conditional.  You might get big faster than you can control.  Or you might get complacent.  Or you might turn catatonic under the stress of sustaining your own business.

Next time you visit the hell that I have described here, I want you to pledge anew that you will not let your company slide into customer service dysfunction.  Promise?

First (& Second) Impressions

An Airline CEO has physical and human assets employed to attract and keep customers

Captive Customers

As the leader of your business, you’re concerned about first impressions.  You want to put your best foot forward in early encounters with any new or returning customer.  So you’re concerned about those early touches – your website; how your staff answers the phone; how your automated answering system represents your company; and how your sales people present themselves in that first customer meeting.

Not all CEOs put proper emphasis on this best practice.  Not long ago Continue reading