Thursday, December 28, 2006

It's not Just Customer Service

The old year is passing and with it one of the most maddening weeks of the year for most retail businesses regardless of the country. For B2B businesses it’s a week of slow downs, key people on vacation and year end quotas hanging in jeopardy. The auditors, business owners, and accountants are cranking it up trying to get a head start on closing out the month and year end books, and on top of that a barrage of bargain hunting customers are trying the patience of the most forgiving of customer reps and clerks.

To help in this maddening world of business it is still very important to focus on the customer. Why? First of all they do pay the bills. It is in the customer that we find the reason to keep the doors open and hope for our companies future. With this in mind the idea of customer service isn't enough. Being polite, smiling, gracious, courteous, helpful and a host of other adjectives aren’t going to bring the house down. Customer service is only a part of a larger picture as well as is marketing, and branding. They are all pieces of the "Customer Experience".

It is in the creating and maintaining of the customers experience, both direct and indirect, that will bring success to any business or company. Not in any given process, but in all aspects of any given business that create some defining impact on the customer. So, in the New Year to come, let’s move beyond the realm of customer service. Let us move into the creating and management of the customer experience. It is here that loyalty develops and the true return on any business or companies capital is made.

We are just a few days away from the reflecting on the past year performances, which should be reflected in our consideration of our coming New Years resolutions. Let’s resolve to remake the way we do business and deal with our customers. One that will define us and separate us from the pack. Let us look beyond the realm of customer service to truly serve our clients/customers and expand our horizons for the year to come.

As always we invite your comments.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

It's Happened

We have been inducted into the "Incredible Hall of Acclaim" . This is awarded to people who take writing about customer service seriously and contribute to the on going piles of information that every business owner and manager should read but seldom gets around to it.

We have been inducted along with the likes of Seth Goodin, one of the worlds great marketers. Thank you Maria Palma the founder of . "The Customers Always Right" blog and of the "Incredible Hall of Acclaim" award.

Of course we will wear this distinction with pride and honor.

We welcome your comments as always.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Carnival of Customer Service

In the area of customer srvice , true customer service, the path is filled with land mines and road blocks and of course the misleading phylosophies of customer srvice out there that come from many of the self proclaimed gurus of customer service and marketing. However, I have come to respect and share many different views with Glenn Ross over at Allbusiness.com His insights are solid and timely.

Glenn this week is hosting "The Carnival on Customer Service". Sharing many various points of value from his insight and those of others. Stop in, take a look, it's worth the effort. There is much to learn in the customer service arena and The Carnival is a good place to start.

As always you are invited to leave your comments

Thursday, December 07, 2006

What Do Customers Expect? - Customer Service

In the on going battle to bring business from the dark ages into the 21st century of customer centered services the defining of what a customer wants has come down to the tug of war between the conceptual idealization of the marketing departments and consultants and that of the customers themselves.

Even in the most forthright of customer service blogs and articles, customer service ideologist have been mislead by the marketing world into identifying marketing concepts as customer service ideologies and perspectives, even to the point of re-labeling traditional marketing jargon to quack like a duck, however underneath the quack there ain’t no waddle. Businesses need to be careful of being mislead in the application of policies that are selfserving and hollow pulling them away from the purpose of customer service and their customer's (market segment)expectations.

It is of the greatest importance that businesses understand the direct relationship between customer service and customer expectations in the terms of the customer not in the terms of the marketing traditionalist. Until businesses can do that and understand how to integrate this "customer perspective" into their marketing, branding, sales and policy development, they will never win the hearts of their potential customers and loyalty as elusive as it is will always be a fleeting fancy.

Soul proprieters and small enterprize companies need to pay even closser attention to how they center their over all planning strategies and growth focus.

We invite any and all comments.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Customer Expectations

There is much to be said about what your customer’s expectations are and what are the customer’s expectations as defined by a given business? Meikah at Customer Service, Global Watch has started to take a few swings at this. It’s worth the reading.

However, what she has signaled out is that the customer expectation from a business perspective is defined by good marketing. Is this wrong? Actually its ok as long as you are careful to meld what the customers really expect from a business or product with the business defined perceptions. In the list cited by Meikah the focus is on creating emotional triggers that move the customer to making a purchase.


This is good right? Yes and no, in most all cases. It appeals to the emotional instincts of the buyer but doesn't really address expectations and often, more than not, leaves the customer empty. Think about it, how many times have u gone into a store or restaurant and felt let down by the expected experience, or bought a product and were left holding less than what your expectations were. And this applies to B2B businesses and products or services as well.

Perhaps defining expectations should be done differently.

We invite your comments as always

Saturday, November 25, 2006

What Do Your Employees Reflect

I walked into a small shop yesterday that sold a variety of things to do with gaming, computers etc, but this could have been any store large or small by the way. I walked in and looked around and there were no labeled isles or shelves or sections to help in a self service environment, so I went to identify/find a clerk in order to inquire about some specific products. There were perhaps 15 other customers in the store and it was impossible to tell them from the floor clerk or other staff, if in fact there were any working the sales area.

Next I went over to the checkout counter and there sitting behind the counter were two employees hard at work on what seemed to be there lunch and immersed in a deep conversation focused on topics other than what there job discription reflected. I stood there for upward of 2 to 3 minutes before they looked at me. They then very sharply said "talk to the floor clerk. We have one". I said I don't see one out there would you point him out to me. At this the young lady said "he's in the corner go look", and turned back to her food as though i wasn't worthy of her attention. Hmmm, I thoughtabout this for a moment, and of course I couldn't let it go, so I forced them to stop eating and answer my question. Needless to say, I didn't buy anything and left the store.

In reflection I concluded that the store had no customer service policy let along standardization for employee behavior nor did the owner/manager care about how the customers felt about their erperience while shopping in the store. Employees should never eat at the customer cvounter or anywhere in the common work area for that matter, especially in front of the customers, it's first of all rude and it sends to your customers a message that says they are not important. All employees should of had well marked name tags or clothing or both in order to be identified easily. Third, and last in this observation is that the employees needed to be trained in how to address the customers and how to put the customer first. especially in the manner in which they addressed and answered questions.

The sad thing here is that this situation is prevalent in most small B2C (consumer bassed) businesses. It also happens in B2B more often than you would like to think, especially with office staff when a customer walks in unexpectedly or calls to trying to reach his contact point. These behaviors and lack of training have explicit negative reflections on the business and the customer’s perception of that business and its brand.

We invite your open comments as always.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Customer Expectations vs Business Policy

It never stops to amaze me how businesses especially small ones develop business policies without relating their outcomes to direct customer service results. For instance, I walked into a hardware store the other day and wanted to make $145.00 purchase. No big deal right? Well it certainly ended up as one. They don't take credit cards, they only cash or debit cards.

Never the less I pursued this with the store manager. First, I didn't bring enough cash. Second, it is a business deductible charge so I wanted it on my Visa card. Well the company policy was set up so that the hardware store would not have to loose that extra small percentage of a purchase that credit card companies charge for the privilege of them bringing more business into the store. This was a "Big mistake", especially since their competition takes Visa and other cards. The manager offered no recourse, not even a feed back channel to higher decision makers, which was another big mistake in the creation of a good customer experience.


Such non customer centered decisions force customers to comply with a company policy that is not customer friendly creating bad feelings in the customer. Such Business centered policies pushes business to a competing business thus loosing a potential revenue stream. "True Customer Service" meets the needs of the customer including formatting business policies to enhance that customer service experience. Needles to say, I went to the competitors and bought with my Visa. Hey! guys, earning 100% of nothing is still 0%. 90% or 60% of something is still money in the bank and a happy customer.

As always we invite your comments and ideas.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Its all in the way They see it

Fist I want to thank all those who patiently returned time after time even without consistent material being here to read. I had been quite ill and this blog was somewhat out of reach. So Thank you and I'm back.

As business owners and managers we get so caught up in what we do every day that we forget one simple and very basic principle. It's not how we see the business or how the marketers claim they not the needs of the focus market or how much the sales people think they own the customer. It is in reality how the customer sees us.

Ever have a conversation with someone and no matter what we say they think they no what we will say next or they are off in some mind zone not even connected to what we are saying. Well in a recent poll the findings show that a very large segment of customers in B2B and the B2C retail markets think that is how they are treated by small and large businesses.

Maybe we should not look at how much we build the team, but in how good our listening skills are.

As always we invite your comments.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Some Days Just Dont Add Up

In the grand scheme of things sometimes what we do seems quite insignificant. Maybe its because we felt that we were in the drivers seat and the world was ours or perhaps we just get to much of ourselves being the all important manager or the owner of a flourishing business. It really doesn't matter how, but it does matter that when we do we dont lose site of the the fact that no mater how important we feel we are that5 we still realise that the customer is still more important. We need to realize that when we do put our selves on such a pedestal our resulting behavior destroys the very business that we are trying to build.

Yea, this is about customer service. When we fail to see the importance of the customer, we simply forget to put them first. It seems that we forget to care about why they are buying our products or services in the first place, we forget to see the things that we and our business does in their terms, we forget alot of things including how to be kind to our customers. In fact we really forget much more.

So before you think that your so hot remember that without the customer you ain’t got nothin at all. By the way this also includes your employees.

We encourage you to leave your comments and value your thoughts.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Internal Customer - "Customer Policy Development"

I was reading one of the associate blog sites involved in the development customer service Customer Relations: The New Competitive Edge" written by Meikah, where she brings up an interesting point about customers. The internal customer to be exact.

When push comes to shove the internal customers (employees)usually get the raw end of the deal. Why, because they are seen as an expendable resource, a necessary evil to splitting up the work loads, but not as a quality asset.

In the realms of customer service and customer acquisition, studies have shown that it is the employee, your internal customer that has the greatest effect on the customer buying cycle, repeat customer business, and on going customer relationships. Should I also mention the business culture here as well.

What this means is you better train them not just in their job functions, but a lot more in customer service and relationship management and yes this means the floor clerk, accountant, and warehouse personnel. If you have one employee train them if you have 500 train them and then hold on to them at all cost. Every employee adds value to this customer service and development chain. They maybe the single greatest element to the success of an on going business.

Customer service policies have to cover all aspects of what is a customer; In this case the internal customer or your employees should be the first consideration in their impact on a business, both negative and positive.

Yes training should be a part of the policy mix. It wouldn’t hurt management either.

Please share your comments, they are always welcome.

For more information on Customer Service please visit

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Customer Service Policy - Part 3

In the exploration of policy development and the formation of formal policies it is also important to keep in mind the ease in which these policies can be instituted by the manger and the lower staff that comes into direct contact with the customer.

There are many policies instituted by businesses that are virtually rendered useless based on their relevance to the customer and there relevance to how they can be supported or implemented by the staff that has direct responsibility for the customer.

Relevance of the policies that you will use or implement must be considered in all circumstances as these will have a direct effect on customer response to the policies. Such responses can have either a direct positive outcome on resulting customer perceptions of the business and the purchasing of current or future purchases, or they may have a devastating negative effect resulting in dissatisfaction with the company or disengagement with the on going or future buying processes.

Policy choice also has a direct impact on the development of customer relationships and the on going development of long term customer life cycles.

In any case relevancy of any policy and the ease in which it can be implemented must be primary in the policy development and the formation of any policy rgarding customer service.

As always you are invited to leave a comment or to share an idea.

For more information on customer service or the customer experience we recomend that you visit "The Customer Development Center"

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Customer Service Policy - Part 2

In addressing the customer service policy it is best to start by making a wish list. No, not what you think you should give to the customer but what you feel the customer wants from you.

Look at it as if you were the customer and then compile a list of what you think you would want, also consider feedback that customers have given you by way of sales people, personal contact and feedback instruments such as surveys.

Cover every aspect of your business such as; sales, store or office atmosphere i.e. displays, flooring, furnishings, decor etc, Accounts (are the billings on time, correct information and totals including credits, How are phones answered, how are receptionist trained to greet customers and handle their issues etc, Warehousing, logistics such as do you ship and deliver on time, the shape of the merchandise when delivered, routing, what shape are the trucks in etc. I think you can get the point from this very abbreviated list. Yes this applies to all businesses including restaurants.

Use large type for each area heading with indented items in your list. Remember customer service if done correctly is the total some experiences of all aspects of a company that a customer associates or comes in contact with. This includes your call center if you use one, in house or outsourced.

Please feel free to leave your comments.

For more information on customer service please visit "The Customer Development Center"

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Customer Service the Document - Part 1

Since every business is different it is an erroneous assumption that one must consider Customer Service in a generic perspective. In other words, one size does not fit all. The Customer Service policy statement can be part of a business plan. It is not a mission statement nor is it a action statement. It is a document that spells out exclusively the intent of the company toward its customers, the role of the employees in detail and its policies on how the customer is to be treated.

This isn't by any means exclusive, but a start, a beginning in which a company or small business can begin to form a frame work that enables employees and managers (business owners) to interact, hopeful in a meaningful way, with the customers.

It can contain many things including employee dress codes. Believe it or not this is a big area of complaint from customers although rarely is it openly addressed.

Please feel free to express your opinion.

For more information on customer service please visit "The Customer Development Center
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Monday, August 07, 2006

What is Customer Service ?

In all the places that I have gone and businesses that I have worked with no one has ever come up with a definition of what customer service is. In fact the notion is quite vague and caries some what of a mystique.

It certainly means different things to different people and when you talk to a consumer the definition to them is certainly polarized opposite of that defined by business owners and managers. Even when talking to business owners and managers the context of what customer service is changes with the person, although they can be grouped according to perspective.

The one lacking ingredient that I constantly come across is the lack of a focus in a business and certainly a lack of any credible policy that could define this question through out a department or company. Do you know what customer service is? May I suggest that you ponder the thought and devise a document that defines “Customer Service” for your business. It doesn't matter whether it is large or small, just get it done. Providing a unified front on any policy strengthens a business. In this case defining what customer service is, will empower both the customer and the employee.

For more information on customer service and customer experience management visit
"The Customer Development Center"

Monday, July 17, 2006

Product or People

What's it all about anyway. I recently meet with a client who just couldn't figure it all out. "What's the big deal about customer service anyway" he said. "Product is what brings in the money. If we sell something we create cash flow right. Just because I have a customer it isn't going to guarantee me anything. Money in hand is what it is all about".

Is he right, is it really focusing on the product and sales that makes it happen or is it really about focusing on the customer? Almost all of the marketing and branding industry supports him. This is especially true of the big firms. Are they right, what are your thoughts on this?

As always we invite your opinions and comments.

For more information on customer service or the "Totall Customer Experience" check out "The Customer Development Center"for current up to date strategies and articles.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

What was that you said? - Customer Service

"What was that you said" she asked as she looked up from the register with her hand phone apparently glued to the side of her head.

“I said hello!” as I replied to her question.

She smiled and answered, "What did you say? I can't really hear you”

Then I asked a little bit louder, "Can you help me find..." and before I could finish she blurted out in a rather rude sound,

"Wait a minute it's to noisy",

"Are you talking to me?” I somewhat apologetically asked. Then as the somewhat fleeting smile disappeared; she stood up and walked away without even looking in my direction to talk on her hand phone in another part of the store.

I stood there somewhat bemused by the incident and for the lack of service. As I looked around the store I found my self standing alone and a mouth with a half formed question. A simple question that would have just asked, "could you help me please?”, but there I stood waiting half frustrated because of the clerk’s lacking sensitivity and half chuckling because of the so predictable behavior. "What to do?” I asked myself.

And then there it was, a noise, hidden behind some boxes and files. I heard it before, but I wasn't exactly paying attention after the clerk had rudely left me standing. Hoping that it was human, after all I was in a computer store, I peeped around a corner to find two men in conversation. One was on his knees putting something in a window display and the other sitting on a box containing a computer printer, both in full conversation about something to do with the night before.

There I stood in full view waiting, hoping, and wishing that someone would notice me without my begging for some attention. Attention that was rightfully mine to have. I mean after all it was my money that I wanted to spend in their store, right?

Finally, with a loud noise I cleared my throat, and if startled into a new world the two stopped and looked in my direction. “What do I do to get some help?” I politely asked.

They quickly looked at each other and then the one on the box silently, as if by some pre-arranged signal, left to go do something else while the other continuing on with the window display said, "I'll be with you in a moment".

I stood there for what seemed like forever wondering why the window display was so much more important than I was. After all I'm the customer, right? maybe I should have worn a bright T-shirt with vivid lettering that said,”I’m a Customer don’t ignore me”.

Finally after what was actually only about five minutes he stood up, turned, smiled and apologized with a very short “I’m sorry I took so long?”. There he was standing in front of me with his white managers tag pinned to his shirt as if in testimonial to his leadership and dedication.

Then the manager said, "Yes, can I help you now",

“Hmmm, the damage was already done”, I thought. After that my question seemed somewhat mute and its urgency somewhat less important. After all what was the purpose of my being there when they clearly really didn't care about what I wanted anyway. “There are other stores who sell computer accessories”, I told myself.

I just said, "never mind, I forgot what I came in here for". Then I smiled and walked out of the store.


This really happened and I didn't really know how to put it to you other than in the way it took place.

Most of you who will read this post will do exactly the same thing as that clerk did or manager did sometime today or tomorrow and it's a shame that this has to be the reflection of who we are and the value that we put on our customers, but it is.

Your comments are welcome as always and we invite your replies.


If you would like to learn more on customer service you might want to visit the
Customer Always blog written by Maria Palma or you may wish to read articles and research on customer service and customer experience management at "The Customer Development Center.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Planning for Good Customer Service

To keep in the theme of my last post let me do a little drilldown to the area of customer service. Typically to me customer service is no more than a business doing what it has to do to close the deal. You need a smile and a good morning for someone to buy your product that's what you do and no more, if you need to add a clerk to help the decision process ok but no more. Little is ever done beyond what is thought to be the necessary to secure the deal.

That is old school and that is about as old school as you can get in concept. In today's new customer driven markets that approach isn't working very well and it is frustrating the consumer/customer/client to levels where they are starting to take their revenge. How? Well blogging and word of mouth campaigns are one way, and they are getting creative in finding new ones. Today businesses need a total customer experience that involves the customer and the employee.

Why wait for the customer to get to the point of frustration over your lack of response to often simple areas of concern, the customers concern? A simple little planning can change the direction of your customer initiative and make your business even more profitable. Businesses that are sensitive to the customer and the resulting experience they have while doing business will rule the competitive markets. Today's companies need to be responsive customer sensitive and relationship based. Small businesses are not an exception to this and face the same issues as the big boys.

What's needed is a culture switch. Planning to be successful can start with something as establishing a customer service policy and then creating a simple training program to teach your employees or managed underlings the value of the policies. Less than 3% of the existing businesses in the US and Canada have anything resembling a policy and in Asia it is basically non-existent.

Planning doesn’t have to be complicated or take a taskforce to establish a simple but effective customer policy to guide your business or department. Most can be completed in one session of an hour or two. These policies should be dynamic and responsive to your customers as you try to meet their needs. In other words they can change or be added to to sustain a good customer balanced business. Have fun, but take it serious.

If you need more information on customer service or the customer experience check out the
Customer Development Center

As always we invite your comments.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

When You Fail to Plan, You Fail - Customer Service

In working with various businesses, both large and small, I have seen a pattern emerge that is always predictable and that is the failure to plan. It really doesn't matter the size of the project or the flow, the cost, or the purpose, it just seems that business owners, managers and employees feel that there is no need to plan. This by the way includes the initial business plan for a startup business.

More business failures and product introductions, new lines or technology owe there failure of acceptance and thus there total failure to one very simple principle and that is the failure to plan. Oh! yes, I often hear the refrain from many if not most I've got it all in my head. Well what's not on paper isn't. I could write for days on this topic and I wonder if it would ever make an impact. I have been working with this one tech company, tech companies are the worst, to do a business plan so that we can move their product to market.

Why a business plan because the business plan contains elements that should define your product, your market, and strengths and weaknesses or S.W.O.T. analysis. In your product or service section it should contain market research on each product or service and how it will be accepted by your identified market including their need analysis, and rate of use. The one thing that is never if ever put into the customer section of the plan is the customer service principles that will govern the retention and loyalty factors needed to develop ongoing and continuing business.

Business plans are two types the one that 99% of everyone does, the one to retain financing, and the business plan that is the dynamic changing blueprint of the ongoing business. The latter should have embedded in it a plan for customer service policy, customer relationship management policies, customer experience policies and those for sales and marketing, employee training, hr and the implementation of those policies. Now you may ask why? It is really quite simple. If you want to succeed you need to have a map that can benchmark your performance and direction as a business, if not your company will take off and flounder.

Now many will argue that the above mentioned are not part of the business plan and should be separate. This can be the case, but if you want to measure the total performance of the business you need to have it in a perspective that can be quickly referenced.

Keep the day to day details and policies that govern your business including your customer management policies separate and match these against the business plan to make sure that they maintain the integrity of your over all vision and focus. If they deviate to much make the changes to bring them back in line. If the nature of the business and market are changing then change the business plan to reflect this and then change the policies to reflect your new direction. But always remember to be an effective customer centered business you need to plan it, reflect it and do it.

We invite your comments. Please feel free to comment and post your own responses.

If you would like to read more on customer service or the total customer experience please go to the "Customer Development Center at http://www.customerdevelopmentcenter.com.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Customer Service Is A Cultural Perception

To start this off in the proper perspective let me offer to all the fathers out there a "HAPPY FATHERS DAY".

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Thailand. Sometimes to really learn and understand the value of lessons one needs to understand we need to see the world through the eyes or in this case the culture of someone else.

For the first time I saw an entire country whose culture both in and out of the business sector is centered in the idea that people are centered, centric in the success of life. We forget to easily what creates the power behind our success and the success of others and loose this very simple focus. For the most part it is the loss of this people are first focus that also creates most of our failures.

In a business context, for them, people come first.

In recent studies businesses are starting to learn that the customer drives competition and define our services and products, except maybe for the marketing sector, but most of all our customers define who we are as a business and as a person. The Thais realize this and when ever anyone enters there place of business or when they call on a client they humbly offer gratitude and thanks and before they even start they put the customer /client first. It has become an ingrained part of their culture. Maybe we should do the same. In a customer centered and driven business this attitude would make the difference. In fact there isn't a business running where this type of culture wouldn't redifine there level of success.


As always we invite you to share your comments and ideas.

If you would like to learn more on customer service or customer experience management please visit
"The Customer Developent Center.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

It's What You Know That Makes The Difference - A Customer Experience

My wife and I decided we needed a new bed and mattress set. Well, actually she decided and like a good support system I followed along and helped her in her research and purchase.

As always I am constantly on the look out when it comes to customer service and in furthering the concept of "The Total Customer Experience". None the less, as usual, I was some what disappointed.

The store we went too first was a chain department store. Here we were hopping to get a general knowledge of mattress types and brand pros and cons. Well guess what? Like so many other large retail firms not one floor employee, which numbered 7 including the department manager, could tell us the first thing about mattress construction or the differences in the various brands of mattresses they offered. Most firms hire and train people in minimal knowledge about the operation functions of their store and rarely about the products they sale, how to compare them or how to help their clients compare them. The emphasis seems to be "oh hi, you're here so buy or don't bother me". They do know how to follow you around and smile when you can find them. Now this may not be totally fair to the occassional employee that does it right because there are exceptions. Not a great approach for customer service or in creating an overall positive customer experience.

When I asked why I should by my mattress there instead of somewhere else I got a shrug of a shoulder and a very poor apologetic attempt at why without any real sincerety. Hint: Train your employees about the products or services they sell and why buying it at your store is better than at someone else’s. You may not want to know, But your customers do.

Now that shouldn't take a real brain storm to set up, but it is a major issue. Next we decided to check out a bunch of small furniture dealers on their pricing, furniture styles and mattress selections. You know the quality and style stuff. My wife usually leaves those issues in my hands. Whether or not that's a good decision on her part only she would know.

We went to eight small furniture stores staffed at between two and eight people. They all new their pricing and terms and of course that's a good start, but they were very short on the knowledge end and the customer service and identifying customer need really sucked. You would think tha smaller businesses would be more customer sensitive since they are competting with each other and chain pricing from the big stores.

The first store we went into gets my 5 star approval ratting. To my surprise the clerk that helped us was extremely knowledgeable. We were looking for a solid wood bedroom set of above average quality and unique design so we were in somewhat of a special niche market.

The sales person was standing at the door as we approached and greeted us with a smile and friendly sincere greeting. Then she asked what we were looking for and we of course told her. Yes, a lady sales clerk, who put all the men that day to shame. Now the store specialized in teak furniture and I will have to agree it was nice. What impressed me was her willingness to understand our needs (through a meaningful conversation) before even showing us the product. She actually cared about the customer first and not the sale.

Hmmm, she then showed us two selections of beds that they had that met our requirements. Now this gal in her late twenties new everything you could imagine about the wood, where it came from, the cut of the tree the lumber came from, the construction of the furniture, how and why various jointing techniques were used and more. She could explain why her Teak furniture (which was from Burma) was superior to other teak and why buying from their store was a better choice. If I was intending to buy the style of furniture she had I would have looked no further. She answered all my questions professionally and treated us with honesty and respect. I still may go back end of the year for something else I saw.

The other seven stores and some twenty sales people later couldn't even come close to our 5 Star Sales Lady. Some couldn't even tell me what the name of the wood the bed frames were made of let alone anything else. None could tell me about the construction or any other issue and most of all none could tell me what made their product better than someone else’s. In fact not one other clerk even bothered to ask what was we actually wanted let alone get up to greet us. They seemed to be glued to the couch, chair or lost in a closet. Talk about an other bummer experience.

The first sales clerk was trained in the basics of furniture construction by her company and then she researched and found out the rest on her own. Don't you wish she worked for you?
I may go back and do an interview with her just to see what else sets her apart from the rest. But knowledge of her product and why it was superior was a big start and it certainly made a dent in my armor. She was ready to meet her customer’s needs and educate them so that they could make an informed choice. Yep, FIVE STARS for the furniture lady.

The point here is your clerks, sales team and even the receptionist should be trained in your products. They need to answer questions and educate your clients/customers so that informed decision can be made especially if they are comparing you with others in your field. Everybody in the organization should be able to explain with some authority why your company and products are the best for the customer who is asking, including the accountant. This applies to chain stores as well as small stores, service businesses and B2B businesses. If you have one employee please train them. Don’t let the lack of information be the one thing that turns away your customers. It would surprise you how this one issue destroys your ability to finalize a sale.

If you would like to read more on understanding and creating a better customer experience you can go to The Customer Service Experience Blog written by Glenn Ross or go to The Customer Development Center. Both are great sources and give insight on customer service and the "total customer experience".

As always, we invite your comments and opinions.

Monday, May 29, 2006

What's happened to our email

It doesn't take a madman to notice that the email industry is in shambles from all the trash that's floating around on the net these days. The effectiveness of email and newsletter campaigns is diminishing as people are starting to tire of the job of filtering through all the junk mail just to get what they want to read. Even with a double opt in email or newsletter many of the newsletters and emails are ignored and many are caught in the spam filters set up by corporations, ISPs or the system operator themselves, what to do?

It certainly doesn't help the customer's experience with your company when your percieved as part of the problem. In fact many customers quit many of their lists because instead of quality emails or newsletters that they signed up for they get an onslaught of up selling and needless marketing from the people they trusted. As a thought market sparingly, but effectively. Customer love real communication and information. They will tollerate some direct marketing, but will turn off to you and your company when faced with to much of it.

Talk about a bummer experience. The idea behind the customer experience methodology is to create contact points in which the customers trust is enhanced and the relationship they have with your company is a positive relationship they can count on for a number of issues, the least being privacy. Building an over all best customer experience is what it is all about.

There are a number of ways actually that you can reach your client and eliminate a number of issues that are all on the negative side of receiving email including opt in list you can't always opt out of. That is the use of a Desktop Marketer. This solution gives your client full control of what comes across their desk from you and by empowering your client with final say they turn around and give you the trust and buy in you need to be effective.

What is a Desktop Marketer? It is a software solution that allows your email and newsletters to go strait to your client's/customer's desktop. Talk about revolutionizing the effectiveness of email. Yep, you can send it strait to them by passing filters, spam traps, black holes and other such nightmares. The customer has complete control over what they read and you can market directly to the customer or market niche unlike with RSS feed solutions.

What really makes this software so hot is that the client sees it as soon as it arrives. It is separate from the normal email bag and is not mistaken for the garbage or unwanted solicitations that so often get in the way. Have an important message to get them, no problem send it and they see a notification icon on their screen immediately. Talk about a command performance.

the Desk Top Marketer creates such a powerful customer experience that it sends your customer/client's trust right through the roof, the same with newsletters and other email communication. This is such a powerful tool. I can't count the number of emails sent and not received. If you’re running an online business communication has to be a number one priority.

There is no special technology to learn or prep for as there are with other solutions like RSS feeds. The customer experience is so positive that the effectiveness of the email and newsletter campaigns run by those using this software went right out of sight, often with 100% response rate. Such responses mean higher conversion ratios and much better effectiveness ratings on communication. Check it out, if you don't try it your crazy. Especially new businesses that are coming online really need to use a .Desktop Marketer to enhance and strengthen their growth. As you build your email list you need to have a way to push your response rates and this is the best way out there. Enjoy your success with the Desktop Marketer

As always we ask for your response and comments.

To learn more about the customer experience and customer service visit "The Customer Development Center.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Part of the great Customer Experience is the Employee

I had the privilege of reading a good blog by Glenn Ross at "The Customer Service Experience Blog". Once again he brings to the forefront a problem that is probably the main root in establishing good customer service programs and customer experience strategies, and that is the employee connection. When ever I have a chance to escape the confines of the office or home for that matter, I always take the time to probe the employees where ever we take our time to shop, eat or just relax. It could be a coffee shop, a small family business, a local manufacturer or a large upscale store with multiple departments and regardless of the country, culture, or the size of the business the patterns are the same.

Employees get the rough end and are rarely included in decision processes and their feedback goes almost always ignored. Generally the employees single out the managers as the main issue. As a consultant who usually works with these managers I will second this appraisal of the leadership from the rank and file.

The single most destructive force in any size business comes down to the managers (leadership) taking responsibility for what happens or doesn't happen in any given business, this includes manufacturing as well. Managers are more focused usually, owners too on how they look instead on how to help those below them function and work better.

When something goes wrong it is always passed down from the owner, CEO, or chairman down to the bottom. If they could blame it on the janitor they will. This is the BIGGEST flaw in the development of consistent customer service programs and strong customer service strategy development. The fact that those who should lead the way aren't allowed to lead and when those who initiated ownership of a project or policy do screw up, they blame others for not doing their job in the first place.
Every business owner and employer is responsible for seeing that there employees are happy, well trained, listened to and included in the decision making process. Managers are facilitators not dictators. Little can be done effectively in the way of customer centered policies and strategy development without the full involvement of the employee. This is especially true since they are the primary contacts at every department level and the prime implementers of all policies.

So if your customer loyalty sucks, your retention rate is somewhee south of the south pole and when you say customer service your customers say what? Tke a look at how you are inlvoving and rewarding your employees. If you want a great customer response, effective policies and outstanding performance you better look to your employees and maybe listen to them, involve them and reward them.

As always your opinions matter a great deal to us and to those who read our blog. Please feel free to share your feelings and opinions.

If you would like to learn more about customer service and customer experience strategies please visit "The Customer Development Center"

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Customer Experience - Atitude is everything

First and Foremost, may I wish a

BIG Happy Mothers Day

to all the moms who may read this blog and to those moms who are busy doing other things.

I had the opportunity of walking into our neighborhood police center the other day, and no I wasn't in trouble. I was seeking information. I was greeted by two very sharp looking officers at the desk. They greeted me with pleasant warm smiles, and were ready to answer my question, or to address my needs, what ever the task was. When asked questions they answered politely, and they were well versed in their knowledge.

Wow! if only the businesses that we own or do business with every day could get a load of this. They were also quick to smile, and even laugh in response to the customer; putting even the most tense people at ease. Yes, there were some very tense individuals that came through the door, while I took care of my concerns.

They were professional and human all at the same time. I know no less than 1200 businesses that I would recommend them to immediately take over employee training.

My curiosity got the best of me so I asked some relevant questions as to training and such. To my surprise these were street cops, the ones that drive cars, walk the streets and knock on doors. They are, as part of there shift work, put on desk rotation for two hours out of their shift. Yes, they were trained in community relations and in dealing with tense people, and no they were not trained in customer relations or in help desk procedures, but they did a superb job anyway. Why these were men and women who cared about there job outcome not about themselves, who had made a commitment to excellence and had a passion for what they were doing. Is every cop this way? No, but I would bet there are a higher percentage of individuals in the ranks of this police force than there are in the employees you hired.

The point is customer experience management is managing all aspects of customer interaction with a given business or company, and hiring the right people that can embody this, and show genuine sincerity to your customers is (should be) the prime number one step to great customer service. If who you hired employee that can do what these guys did in handling people coming through the door then you hired the right people/person.

Customer service that aids in the developing of high customer retention rates,developing strong customer loyalty and long term strategic cash flow growth isn’t an illusion, if you develop your business with the basic foundation of skilled employees that have the right attitude and are well trained in the scope of your business, including customer care. In other words use smart customer experience development. I don't think I need to relate how this would affect someone’s business. Even if you only have one employee in a whole in the wall key shop you need to focus on more than just tasking skills. Hey sure they can make great keys, but they aillienate the customer.

If you have a machine shop and two lathe operators they should not only be the best you can get at running a lathe, but they should be well versed in customer relations development and be able to answer all questions that effect your scheme of work as a company including customer help desk skills. If not, then train them.

Your businesses success depends on it. Then of course if you just want to struggle for your contracts don't. This would apply to large, regional or small firms. If your struggling making your target numbers or would just like to do more than breakeven follow the above advice.

Please feel free to comment. We are always willing to learn from you.

If you would like to learn more about customer service or customer experience management please check out "The Customer Development Center"

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Are Your e-mail Marketing Efforts Reaching Your Customers

Customer communication is the lifeblood of any business and industry. It is so important a topic that millions of pages of online and offline content have been devoted to the essence of proper expression, format and etiquette. Yet it seems like no matter how much was said before it still needs to be addressed. In the perspective of the customer experience communication has played an even more important role than in business days of yore. Meaning, that last week when we took it for granted and today we need take another look at it.

For all businesses email has become a method of quick exchange and reaffirmation of appointments, commitments; delivery of packages and of course the main exchange medium of ideas. So what’s the big deal? Well, email use has declined some 20% in the last few years because of spam, fraud, identity theft and other issues. So now to ofset the trend, at least of the spam content, the industry and government have gotten together and come to terms with an email authentication process. This is significant enough that if you’re not online with it now you better get there. The ISP industry is now supporting and driving this initiative. What does it do? It identifies the sender and provides that identity to the ISP and the receiver of the email.

The problem is that it creates more catch alls for legitimate mail and newsletter marketers who are trying to reach their primary clients and Opt In list members. An ISP may screen your e-marketing effort based on the ISP criteria for authentication enforcement. Meaning, you will be rejected if you met certain profile or behavior types. Every ISP or email provider such as Yahoo or AOL has similar, but differing ways in which to interpret and apply the authentication measures. No matter what you do you will most likely never be 100% effective in your e-marketing and newsletter marketing efforts.

With this onset of email authentication the world of email is entering into a new stage of reestablishing the email as the primary communication tool of business and personnel content mediums. Big problem is that it’s just starting to be used and it isn't a cure all to an ongoing industry wide problem. It is however a much awaited start and the article that is provided by b2b emailmarketing helps to explain the necessity of adhering to getting with the program.

Now DON”T worry. Yes, there is another alternative and that alternative has powerful implications for your business success. Thee is a new direction in the industry that can if not supersede the side effects of email authentication measures by bypassing them altogether. The power of the direct desktop delivery program is enormous. Desk Top Marketing solutions such as Desk Top Marketer Pro guarantees 100% of all mail and newsletters being delivered and read by those targeted in your marketing audience. This process absolutely is a must to increasing and enhancing the customer experience of captured customers. You can get it to who you want when you want without outside interference and be assured of accurate and on time delivery.

Check Out Desk Top Marketer Solutions. Where authentication can't guarantee delivery or that spam filters or ISP blocking won’t stop your mail, desk top delivery software such as Desk Top Marketer Pro can guarantee it will get through.

Imagine 100% open rates of your email and e-marketing news letters

As always we invite your comments and suggestions.

If you want more information on Customer Experience Management please visit "The Customer Development Center"

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Why we provide "Customer Service" even for the Bad ones

Have you ever wondered why we go out of our way to make even mean customers happy? Or why we bend over backwards to create return policies, build customer experience policies and facilitate refunds. There are so many nightmares stories out there about customers who have created unbearable or unfair situations and unfortunately there will be others. The real issue here is in understanding why we respond the way we do to make them happy now and later.

For the moment I’m going to concentrate on online businesses while what I share applies to all businesses including the traditional. In most online businesses the focus is on the product and the sales cycle. Why is that bad? Well first it concentrates only on first time sales never on loyalty, customers needs and return business. Customer satisfaction levels were at an all time low this Christmas for online companies and the previous is the reason why. If a business is to survive on line then the focus has to change to being customer centered. Why well the above story can be used as an example.

The web is growing fast, but only a small percentage of that growth has sustainable resources to buy on line. In other words to succeed we need repeat customers. This is especially true in niche markets. If you are rude and insistent on poor customer handling policies you will loose the repeat business.

Studies show that you really don't make money on the client until the 2nd or 3rd sale. The 1st one is just a process of cost recovery. By allowing the package to be returned and facilitating it gracefully the customer was left with a mental tag inviting him back to do business again. He knows that the company can be trusted and I guarantee you he will share that with others.

Then he will also share the bad experience as well and he will tell far more people. And online the word of a bad experience will spread faster and farther than it will in person.

Please feel free to comment. We value your thoughts, ideas, and wisdom.

If you would like more infomation on the custome experience please visit
"The Customer Development Cente"

Monday, April 17, 2006

Foolproof Customer Service Strategies

(that only a fool would try!)

I came across this article today at http://www.thehappyguy.com/customer-service.html"> The Happy Guyand I couldn't help but laugh and then empathize with the position and observations of the author. What we as business managers or owners see as customer service more times than not isn't close to what the customer sees and most likely not even close to the kind of service they want.

Think about it, if you are a small business owner when is the last time you talked to your clients other than to sell them something. Most likely it is no more than a “hello, how are you”. The idea of building customer relationships and getting to know the customer is, or at least it should be a primary activity if you are on going efforts to sustain long term development and business growth. Learning to understand the customer in their terms requires multiple non sales contacts that are centered on client profile development. Yes, the sales and acquisition cycle is important, but if there is nothing there to build or sustain long time customer value or loyalty they will be out the door and soon will be someone else client.


In this somewhat humorous article the realization that not all businesses are equal or even smart comes storming home. Take a read and ask yourself what kind of customer service you provide. In my terms I'll restate this as to what kind of customer experience do you provide because creating customer experiences of value have a different implication than just customer service and certainly from the customer perspective much more compelling. If you need to take a refresher on just what is the The Customer Experience,just follow the link. Have fun and get ready to either laugh or cry.To read the article follow the link at the top of the page.

Please comment as this is an open forum and we really do want to hear what our viwers have to say.

If you want more information on the customer experience please visit"The Customer Development Center

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Split decision - A Customer Experience

If you went into a Coffee house such as Starbucks and saw a customer you had just met an hour before, what would you do?

This an interesting question and it ask us to measure the impact of something that is normally outside the normal customer impact area. Everyday we are seen and measured people who see us without us seeing them and some of these observations carry very negative impacts in the context of business. How do we manage them or do we even care.

If you run a true customer centered organization the management of such incidental contact would be of prime concern. If I were in the above situation I would walk up to my customer and ask if I could buy him the coffee and then sit down and pick his brain. I wouldn't concern myself with sales, but I would focus on what were his concerns, likes and dislikes and whatever else would let me build a stronger relationship and insight into his needs in relationship to the position he holds and his companies needs. Something to think about.

Your comments are always welcome and if you would like more information on the customer experience please visit The Customer Development Center

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Customer Service - Last Thoughts

In looking back at the great food that we enjoyed and the wonderful service (Check out the previous two blogs) there are a few things that stand out in my mind that set this particular restaurant apart from others.

1. On thing that impressed me as I talked to the manager was the thought that went into picking not only the type of restaurant that they wanted, but the type of food and the way the restaurant would be presented. Although it has changed with time they purposely went after a certain niche market and new who their customers were. In other words they set up a business plan that identified what they wanted, where they were going and how they would get there.

2. They were dynamic in the application of their plan. They were pro active in the way they responded to their identified market and expanded to acquire new market niches by making innovation a part of their business and operating philosophy. They would change and refocus their business plan to meet market needs (the customer) and would from time to time even readjust their strategic goals to enhance their ability to respond to the direction the restaurant would take.

3. They made R&D an inherent part of the business and customer acquisition cycle. Focusing on the way they developed their food, their environment, and served their customer.

4. They weren't afraid to interact directly with their customer and gain first hand insights and feed back that would allow them to identify and meet their customer's needs.

5. They hired open and friendly staff and set a profile for hiring requirements from the beginning as part of their business plan. To get the better employee they paid above scale in wages. What they lost in wages they gained in increased market share.

6. They would sit down with their entire crew including Directors and discuss the business once a week. The employees were empowered with the power to drive the feedback. In other words the employee was their primary feedback instrument. They were the first line of interaction in engaging the customer and the primary resource to recieve customer feedback. This allowed the employees to drive the primary change in the business based on their engaging of the customer and what they learned.

Note: There were many other things they could have done to enhance what they were doing and that would strengthen there market position and maybe at a future date I'll address those. The thing is it wasn't the manager that made it great or was it the owner, but it was the empowerment of the employees and allowing them to be the driver in how the business would react and change. They were not into power plays or wee they afraid of open criticism. All businesses need to take a look at this and this is especially true of small businesses were responding to markets and being proactively involved in dynamic development will either make or brake their business and customer relationships.

Please feel free to comment. If you would like more information on customer service please go to http://www.customerdevelopmentcenter.com

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Custome Experience - The Rest of The Story

As promised I am returning to finish the tale of my Journey to the restaurant. One must remember in all customer centered activities that the customer is always first, not necessarily always right, but always first. This should help to determine the order in which prioritizing business goals should be done. In most businesses it is centered around the product and the end sale.

When we came into the restaurant, we were greeted by a cheerful and warm manager who then personally introduced us to our hostess. Our hostess for the next 10 minutes didn't once center on her or the business, but centered the entire conversation on us our daughter (4 1/2yrs) and what we liked or disliked.

As we walked toward our chosen destination in the restraint we were continually and quietly taken in by the culture and ambience of our surroundings. True, there aren't a lot of businesses that can build an environment like a restaurant, but they can build an atmosphere of cooperative enthusiasm within the organization, provide a conducive atmosphere for customer/clients to feel relaxed in and the desire to comeback.

Actually If you are in retail, building an environment that brings in the customer and captivates them is no more than providing an increased customer experience. In doing so it will encourage them to stay longer and spend more. The idea isn't to encourage them to spend more, but to develop an enveloping experience that strengthens the customer relationship focusing on their needs. In focusing on your customers they will reward you with loyalty and increased spending, fulfilling the relationship promise.

Back to the restaurant, her first stop was to bring us by the kitchen, hmmm I thought, I have to cook my own meal? Then we were introduced to the chef and staff that would fix our food. Now, remember this is not an expensive, high end restaurant, however, nice touch team. To our surprise they were fixing a delicious seafood kabob. It wasn't what we had in mind in fact it isn't what we ordered, but according to our waitress it was part of the ongoing development of dishes to offer their clients.

Now R&D is an important part of any industry, but here, they involved their customers in this event. Something every business should keep in mind regardless of size or type. No, not focus groups, but real involvement where ideas can be driven by the customer. As part of the R&D experience we were offered a kabob as a free treat just for being there providing we offered feedback. We were then seated and felt as though we were part of the family.

In my next blog I’ll add a few more observations worth mentioning.

As always we invite you to comment or to add your views to this and any other blog. If you would like more information on the Customer Experience please visit"The Customer Development Center".

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Customer Service and The Business Environment

Over this past weekend I had the delicious experience of eating at a most delightful restaurant in south Singapore. For those who didn't know, Singapore sits at the southern tip of Malaysia. It is a beautiful and modern tropical city state. Foremost of you Singapore is probably on the other side of the world, but in business terms it is no different than the restaurant next door or down the street from where you work or live. Perhaps you own a restaurant in which case it is very much the same. Regardless, customer service and creating the Total Customer Experience" is much the same in theory for every business regardless of the country.

The ambience was great, a definite plus in offering a great customer experience. It radiated an open party and festive mood and it delivered. In any business it is important to make your customers feel like they belong, this also includes employees. If your store or office etc is always dirty and clutered with files boxes and old furniture many clients or perspective clients will go elsewhere where they wil feel more comfortable. It is this feeling of comfortable, relaxed, belonging or whatever you want to call it that provides the first fulfillment of the customer experience. This is also a very big first step in the delivery of customer service. The condition of the side walk, parking lot and other outer facilities are also a big part of this first offering of customer service and the development of "The Total Customer experience".

In the case of the restaurant, the environment was perfect. The environment of any business is always key in the customer’s internalization of its products and/or service fulfillment. In the case of a restaurant, the food and those who serve the customer, including the kitchen and other support staff, are big part of this. They all serve either an indirect or direct role in creating the business environment in which the sales or acquisition process is fulfilled.

This could be applied to any product or business. From a hair salon to an auto body shop, from a small book store to a large department store what a customer visually sees in the visual apperance, smells and sounds the expectations of experience fulfillment. The will see the fulfillment or lack of fulfillment in this perceived quality, service and sensory delivery. Some would call this fulfilling the brand promise, but I believe that it goes beyond this and is embodied in the fulfillment of the “Total Customer Experience. From a small architect’s office to an accountancy or law firm this principal is worth taking notice of.

In my next blog I’ll discuss other aspects of my night out experience. There are many aspects of how customer service helps to fulfill not only the brand promise, but more importantly the promise of the “Total Customer Experience”

We invite your comments on any of our postings. They add depth and perspective. If you want to find out more on the "Total Customer Experience" please check out
The Customer Development Center

Thursday, March 16, 2006

email and the Customer Experience

In a blog from the University of New Jersey a professor was reminiscing on the task of teaching students proper e-mail etiquette. With a "smile" I also remember the task that I have in teaching my clients the importance of e-mail etiquette.

What we often forget is that customer experience management goes beyond the most obvious of experiences enjoyed by a customer/client and it is in those less obvious experiences that we create perhaps the longest lasting impressions. E-mail is a perfect example of this. After all it is what isn't said that sends the biggest message.

Remember such things such as;

Proper titles, spell check, grammar
Keep it short (if it’s going to be long email, please write a letter),
Don't abuse the privilege, (in other words don't take advantage of a customer/clients trust by selling or sharing the address or by constantly up selling),
Broadcasting e-mails to vague audiences is rude,
And use, opt/ opt out email list

How you treat your customer with the message that is sent is reflected in the way you write and use your e-mail. This sends a huge message to your customer/client or your potential customer/client and they push you away without you ever knowing why. Email is an informal medium with formal taste. It is a great way to reach people, but it is never to replace the use of a formal letter. It should contain a formal structure i.e. heading, greeting and signiture, but it also delivers an informal message.

Making an email a positive customer experience can provide another peg in the development of long term customer loyalty and customer value development (long term sales potential)

As always we invite comment and respect your position. If you would like more information on customer experience management please visit the The Customer Development Center,
or
If you need help with your e-mail and its distribution check out this superior email program

Creating email based positive experiences

In a blog from the University of New Jersey a professor was reminiscing on the task of teaching students proper e-mail etiquette. With a "smile" I also remember the task that I have in teaching my clients the importance of e-mail etiquette.

What we often forget is that customer experience management goes beyond the most obvious of experiences enjoyed by a customer/client and it is in those less obvious experiences that we create perhaps the longest lasting impressions. E-mail is a perfect example of this. After all it is what isn't said that sends the biggest message.

Remember such things such as;



How you treat your customer and the message that is sent by the way you write and use your e-mail sends a huge message to your customer/client or your potential customer/client. Email is an informal medium with formal taste. It is a great way to reach people, but it is never to replace the use of a formal letter.

Making an email a positive customer experience can provide another peg in the development of long term customer loyalty and customer value development (long term sales potential)

As always we invite your comment. If you would like more information on customer experience management please visit the The Customer Development Center,
or
If you need help with your e-mail and its distribution check out this superior email program.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Brand, The Customers Experience and Positioning

In a recent post by Laura Ries in here blog "The Origin of The Brand" (Original post “Alta is for Skiers”)she injects the premise that it is more important to position the brand than to serve the customer. This is pretty much a very traditional middle of the road position in the marketing and branding industry. She also suggested the reason that the "Alta" ski resort in Utah (subject of her post) used a brand positioning strategy to position themselves opposite of the current trend of snow boarding. They did this to distinguish their brand from others who follow the trendy side of snow boarding thus giving themselves a stronger marketing position. Snow boarding vs. skiing and they found it in skiing.


Below are my comments in reply to her post.
___________________________________________________
Positioning isn't always as important as the customer experience. The Brand offers the promise or at the very least hope, but if not delivered it alienates the market (customer). The customer needs to be the prime focus in the success formula.

Alta new this, they kept getting more and more ski enthusiast from other slopes and were smart enough to realize that for that market segment others (competing slopes) were alienating their market. Alta was astute enough to capitalize on the trend and focus on their core competency (key) and that was concentrating on and delivering a superior product to their particular segment of the market, the skiing enthusiast.

By the way they had considered snow boarding and had made a decision to open up one of their runs to the boarding public. In doing so they also lost most of their cross over market. Thank goodness they didn't follow the trend. Purest need the real thing and they new this.

This market segment is large enough for now, but upward market pressure may still eventually force a change. Pure skiers are a dying breed and as they mature and move out of the market a younger more board centered user will move them back into the mainstream. They will survive at the top regardless because they put the customer ahead of the brand.

Alta's positioning strategy wasn't their main concern, but delivering on the brand promise and continuing to provide a great customer experience was.

Now I agree that positioning can be a great tool, but not always, and when you create an enemy or go the opposite direction to distinguish your brand it may backfire and alienate you from the very market you’re trying to attract. Yes, you made a name for yourself, but it left a negative impression and a bad customer experience.

As always we invite you to post your comments and share in the blogging experience. You don't have to agree, but please comment.

For more information on the customer experience and its management you may want to visit The Customer Development Center

Using "The Customer Experience to Define Product Development

In a recent article by Karl Long “Features don’t Matter Anymore” that appears at “Experience Curve” he offered the following list as the “10 fundamental rules for the age of user experience technology”, or what might be called the “10 truisms of customer experience:”

This list was obtained from an article entitled by the same name that was offered by the “Association of Computing Machinery” Now of course I don’t totally agree with the list because it fails to recognize the customer and second it was developed by IT people and we all know they have no clue as to the real world of business and its relationship to customers.

So I will break down each of the ten in attempt to correct the misperceptions that would come from allowing this to exist without challenge.

1. More features isn’t better, it’s worse.

In the terms of IT people who get bothered if a client ask for more than two options this is a true statement, but in the terms of real world customer diplomacy and customer use variations it is rather simplistic and narrow minded. Now, I agree that a load of features that do nothing to fulfill my need as a user are quite useless. However, what would happen if in the product development cycle someone actually involved the particular user market in developing and designing functionality and features they want? Probably sell a hell of a lot more units wouldn’t you think?

2. You can’t make things easier by adding to them.

There goes the controlling ego of technology again. What they are really saying is that it isn’t easy for them to go back and do it right the second time and those customers really are second class citizens without a clue so we will decide for them. Well maybe they should clue into the 21st century concept of customer experience reality. Developers and solution designers hate to have non industry customers involved in their work. No wonder 80% of their deliverables are miserable flops.

3. Confusion is the ultimate deal-breaker.

Well in this case I agree. If you aren’t sending a clear message and you are communicating on a level not in tune with your client the deal is off. In an IT context this is a real truism because they can’t lower their standard and drop out of their industry based clich├ęs and buzz words to really explain to their potential client what is going on. Ever read a user manual written by a techy and one written by a market or customer centered writer? There is a BIG difference. One makes sense and the other doesn’t

4. Style matters

Style does matter, but it has to have potential customer input or more often than not it will be rejected by the majority of the designated target market. I don't no if they added this because it was a self afirmation or they saw as piece of new enlightenment.

Customer developed design and functionality are now a perquisite for new products that are delivered to the market. If not then there is a substantial amount of redevelop cost that are associated to the design and manufacturing development of the product. Ops, there goes the ROI.

5. Only features that provide a good user experience will be used.

Now this really does make sense if the user experience is defined by the user and not by the designer. Most industries ignore the user in the design and functionality concept phase of product and service development. Remember what the user wants as an experience outcomes and what the IT technocrats want are no different. Just the roads they take. Then end result usually ends up in an end user nightmare.

6. Any feature that requires learning will only be adopted by a small fraction of users.

If the customer wants the feature or product they will have the desire to go through a learning curve and that includes the majority of users. How you design the learning curve (customer experience) and the associated materials will determine their acceptance. If again you include the customer or target market in this process the buy in is much greater than if you ignore them.

7. Unused features are not only useless, but they can slow you down and diminish ease of use.

Well yes, another truism out of the annals of technology development. This would not be the case if they created user interactive development and feedback in a proactive environment. Not only would all the uses be relevant to the potential user they wouldn’t have unused elements developed by a design team that thought they would show off by installing something tricky or in other words “garbage” to the end user.

8. Users do not want to think about technology: what really counts is what it does for them.

Actually users do think about technology and dream great things that involve it. They think about it in terms that relate to them in their perspective. SO, when designing look at it through your customer’s eyes, the view in which your target market would view it. IT development companies never starts with the client view and rarely ends there. Maybe they should think about a change in their approach.

9. Forget about the “Killer Feature”. Welcome to the age of the killer user-experience.

“Killer features” = “Killer Customer (User) Experiences”. Only if the killer features was designed to solve a particular issue or need of the client not as some techy star war show off piece. Of course if you were a Star War follower that would be pretty cool. There is nothing wrong with developing a master feature especially if it differentiates you from the competition. Leave out the customer or potential customer in the design and development process and you can kiss your “Killer Feature” goodbye. Of course if you accidentally discover a masterful relationship between your killer feature and your target market no matter how it happened all will be forgiven and you will be called genius.

10. Less is difficult, that’s why less is more

I assume a non responsible moron made this non-sense statement. If they mean simplicity is defining value ok, I can work with that. If they are trying to justify their down sizing customer options because they can’t cope with the customers complex need and intelligence then it is no more than another industry copout, which is more true than not.

Micro technology is difficult, but sensible and customer centered technology isn’t difficult if you make the customer a part of the process. If in doubt read customer 101.

We as always want to encourage your feed back and comments as part of the blogging community.

If you want to learn more please visit The Customer Development Center and explore the many articles that are written on the diferent aspects of customer service and customer experience management.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Delivering the Customer Promise Through Marketing

In marketing/advertising it is not uncommon to use children, mothers, families to show a human link and create acceptance with or for a product or company. Professionals in Law, doctors and even CPAs have taken to the camera to provide unconventional form to provide a humanization to their roles and thus change the stereotyping of the markets they serve.

Showing the human side lets people, especially the client or potential client, see a perspective that is not seen in a courtroom, or office and this is good. My only worry is that the image is relaying a certain promise to the potential client that may not be fulfilled in most cases.

Marketing is responsible for delivering messages and perceptions that the potential customer/client will associate with moving them to action in completing the sales cycle. This is the perceived and sometimes elusive brand promise.

Delivering the brand promise is a key in creating a powerful customer experience that can fulfill a customer’s trust or shatter the trust through the broken promise of a marketing illusion. Marketing departments and small businesses are constantly creating an illusion that may create a first time buy in to the brand by or with a potential customer/client, but will destroy any potential chances for retention or for that mater any customer loyalty. Such advertising, which covers most adds and commercials, is becoming more and more less effective with today's savvy customer markets.

Even if the intention of the marketer is to show determination, reliability, purpose or just the soft side of humanity demonstrating the positive side of life the chance of total fulfillment is small and again it will leave the intended target with the same results of shattered trust.

Honesty in delivering a message or the perception of the brand is a central key to bringing the brand promise to the potential customer/client. In being creative in the portraying of a perceived image the brand can betray the trust of the customer/client or potential client. Creativity and innovative messaging is important to the enhancement and acceptance of the message, but only if what it delivers is true and ethical in its deliverance and allows the fulfillment of the brand promise or perception.

Perhaps before creating an add campaign marketers should provide some customer experience analysis from the customers perspective. Deriving real need and focusing on the customer’s reality instead delivering a false reality that promises temporary fulfillment. Customer perspective and realization have to be central in providing marketing solutions and customer experience management. In the traditional context of marketing this issue plays little if any significance other than assisting in the creation of experiences to solidify a sale.

Customer experience management goes way beyond this and encompasses the entire customer relationship life cycle. It includes the total spectrum of customer interaction on both direct and indirect levels through out the company and is at times brand independent. This is not perceived in the marketing environment and is even less understood. As result both the brand and the marketing message confuse the customer/client pushing them away from the attended goal of inclusion in the sell or company process of lifetime retention.

Where is your marketing headed? Is it still held in the contemptible halls of traditional marketing arrogance or is it centering itself in the promotional environment of developing honest customer experiences that drive life time loyalty and fulfilled promises.


As always we invite you to share your comments.

For more information on the customer experience plaes check out
The Customer Development Center.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Lawyers-Customer Service and The Brand

I had recently read a post where a law student at a symposium was asked what she thought about all the various recruitment pamphlets sent to her from various law firms. Her response was of course predictable. You appear to be all the same was her reply. And of course real world customers or potential client customers see it the same way.

I had to really think about this one and after researching all the appropriate links my take on lawyers and law firms in regards to branding and customer service hasn't changed. This is of course based on my experience as a customer experience architect and customer service consultant.

Branding and customer service is an accumulation of various customer experiences and the result of their direct interaction with the customer with or on those experiences.

Law firms or individuals are not customer sensitive when comes to meeting and understanding needs and this comes out of the arrogance born of the aristocratic methods and attitudes of teaching in various law schools and the focus of personal achievement in attaining milestones or case awards over customer service. Rarely is their focus on the customer as a customer and in the development of experience management.

I know you and the 100 or so attorneys that I know are going to yell and scream over this. The Law industry is product focused, not customer or client focused, never has been and in this lies the issue. The Law student very simply and powerfully underlined this in her statement and when law professionals work with the client it is also demonstrated in the relationship that is formed.

If you want to take it a step further perhaps the lawyer jokes could be used as another broad market indicator. These exist because of the self centric view and function of those who are members of the law bar.

Branding is then built around this perception of self and takes a somewhat arrogant position in relationship to the client or potential client. The negative view of attorneys is because of the constant unfulfilled promises of the brand.

Branding is only a part of the equation. However, it is the visible part. The other and stronger part of the equation is centered in the perception and relationship to the client and those experiences that are either directly or indirectly influential in the clients interaction with the firm and its members.

For law firms or individual Lawyers to really move to effective branding and customer centered experience management they need to change their perspective and the perceptions perpetuated by the general society in which they function i.e. promise fulfillment.

There is a great misperception about the power of the brand and loyalty as well. Although somewhat associated the brand only delivers the perceived promise (effective, efficient, reliable, low cost, always win etc) the resulting performance of the firm or individual will determine the fulfillment of that promise and the extent to which a trust bridge is drawn between the lawyer and the client. It is the experiences of the client that build this trust bridge that determines customer loyalty and/or the return of the client. If the promise of the brand, and subsequent marketing meets the need of the client and is fulfilled then trust is extended.

The problem is that most branding in this area either offers no promise (law student observation) or its perceived promises are often misleading and unfulfilled i.e. customer expectations and customer need.

The result is that the Law profession will keep struggling in understanding and determining brand identity. As a result, in the customers eyes all brands are the same.



Please feel free to leave your comments or observations as a part of the blogging and business community.

For more information on customer service and customer experience management please check out The Customer Development Center

Customer Service Goals - Planning for Success

“Those who succeed are those who are willing to do what others aren't.”

All around us businesses are failing to asses and address their failing customer service policies, if they have any at all.

I constantly get mail asking how to address various customer service issues. As I probe into their policies and planning I almost always find that there were no formal customer service plans with goals or policies. I normally get the response, “oh! I don’t write down my plan it takes to much time. I have it all in my head”.

Keeping the plan in your head is no plan at all. There is nothing realized until it is formally put down on paper and organized into a working physical document. I have had large companies that had a committee write down their policies and haven’t changed them in twenty years and we wonder why our customer satisfaction indexes and retention ratings are falling faster than a thermometer at the North Pole.

To succeed you must have a plan and that goes for succeeding in customer service. This is of great importance, because it is in customer service where the real opportunity lies for small businesses to compete heads up with larger institutional organizations.

It is here that large organizations can set themselves apart from their competition and solidify strong brand recognition.

A plan should include not only include the goals of your policies, but also the implementation or call to action of those policies. It should also spell out who has authority to solve customer service issues as well as how to train employees in the implementation of the plan.

This is not at all exhaustive. Your plan should be dynamic , always changing to meet the needs of your customers. Visit often soliciting input from staff, clerks and others that are in contact with the customer.

The point is to succeed at customer service and customer experience management you need to provide a formal plan that spells out as precisely as possible your customer road map for success. Leaving it in your head is a road map to disaster.

As always we invite your comment and feedback as part of the business and blogging community.

For more information on customer service or customer experience management please try"The Customer Development Center

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Perception - A Customer Service Nightmare

I was having a conversation with one of my clients and the topic of customer miss-understanding. We have all had them I'm sure and they are enough to rip your hair out from dealing with them. The cause is poor communication. You are looking at the issue from your need to create sales and generate cash flow and this has little if any to do with the customers need. From a customers perception that is where they are coming from. It’s good to remember that communication is 99% of a sale. It is also the center of any relationship whether personal or business.

He had run a special as a leader to bring in additional traffic into his store. The ad was reviewed and reviewed before printing and distribution. In fact when it was published it was exactly as it was presented. The problem was that many of the clients read it differently than it was intended and when they came into the store to do business their perception of what the ad was about didn't match the intended proposal of the ad.

Every marketer in the country who has written copy has to deal with this. My research shows that they really don't face up to the issue because the individual isn't as important as the group. Yet statistically there is a sizeable niche that is affected negatively by mis-communicated ideas, which has a negative impact on customer loyalty and the brand. This runs true for sales people as well when they present their pitch. In fact, a fair share of the sales rejections comes not as I don't want what you have, but as they were never understood. The customer’s perception of the message was not inline with the intended message as was the case with my client’s ad.

The reason for this is that in marketing our products, brands, or services we focus on generalities, the one size fits all approach. This is the same with direct marketing. The reason why it works is a numbers game and the percentage that get the message are generally enough to keep business going.

In reality focusing on the micro niche and developing specific targeted messages would be of much greater benefit than business as usual in the marketing department. The importance of developing specific groups of organized customer interactions that send the right message can’t be emphasized enough. Creating the right perception and reaction to any given set of experiences adds to the influence of the brand.

As I proposed this to my client he rolled his eyes and argued that this would cost him a fortune. Yes, it does raise the cost, but you also significantly reduce your abandonment rates and defection rates while increasing significantly your customer loyalty and satisfaction indexes. Basically said the individual is more important than the whole. With large customer bases or small ones the results seam to be consistent.

Return increases at an average of twice the expenditure with results as much as 5 times the expenditure. Long term customer value increases and the cost of having to constantly develop new markets as a primary income generator are significantly reduced.

Creating meaningful customer experiences that focus on needs and perceptions is a very powerful approach to success. What you see very often isn't what the customer sees or understands because of their focus and that's a real problem for sales, relationships and the brand. Maybe to really drive successful businesses we need to change our focus and the position from where we are viewing the customer relationship.

As always you are invited to leave your comments and share your opinions. After all you are the community.

If you would like more information on customer service or customer experience management please visit
The Customer Development Center

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Customer Service vs. The Automated Phone System

In today's world of business our customers have placed the terms of engagement as a mandate for better customer service. So why do we feel that we need to rely on automated phones and support machines to dehumanize them. This is literally a slap in the face with nothing less than a steal bar. To make things worse when we hear the comments we ignore them because we are saving money, right?

With the lack customer satisfaction becoming a global epidemic maybe we need to listen a little harder when someone says "Your---- phone system sucks" I don't know about you but I hate automated systems. I hate being derailed from the reason why I called in the first place. I hate having to select options that have nothing to do with what my intentions were and no, I don't know my account number, nor the extension of the person I want to talk to. Hey! I want a warm fuzzy human that can give me real service and real answers.

As a consultant in small business customer service development I have found that customers respond much better to real people. People need touch, feel, smell, taste, and listen experiences. People relate to people and the message you are really sending with a robot system is we really don't care about what you have to say. Go away don't bother us. While that might be a real sentiment for a small minority of customers it surely can't be how you feel about the rest.

Studies have shown that us humans respond to these kinds of experiences with a more positive nature than we do to machines. These touches of human interaction actually are critical to building trust bridges, a key element in customer loyalty and retention development. To make my point let me ask you a question? Have you ever tried to empathize with a machine or still better yet have one empathize with you?

It's interesting that businesses view these systems as cost cutting measures when in reality they cost them far more than they would save due to unhappy and unsatisfied customers and clients. This actually is epidemic when you factor in our growing reliance on systems and software to make our management decisions and manage our customer loyalty and retention programs. No I’m not anti IT, but I am against over reliance.

Damage to the brand from negative experiences can take generations to heal especially those generated from bad customer experiences such as those often suffered with computerized phone systems and automated support systems.

It's interesting that businesses view these systems as cost cutting measures when in reality they cost them far more than they would save due to unhappy and unsatisfied customers and clients.

Damage to the brand (business image) can take generations to heal because of bad customer experiences such as those often suffered with computerized phone systems.

This applies to all business but especially to small and medium size businesses since there is a growing trend to adopt automated phone technology. Small and Medium size