February 20, 2008

Extraordinary Service

Filed under: Customer Service Strategy — Mark Sanborn @ 10:44 am

My friends at Impact Innovation sent some great stories of exceptional customer service. Here is one of my favorites:

Scenario: A family holiday celebrating special anniversaries and birthdays. !2 people went and had all been given personalized matching baseball caps and T-shirts as souvenirs before going.

On the last day of the holiday 8 of the party went on the Log Flume in Disneyland. One of the party was upset to lose his baseball cap which had blown off during the ride. With not much hope he went and reported it to their Info/Customer services office, saying that we were going home the next day but he left his name and address. Ten days later a dirty but otherwise undamaged hat arrived in England having been found in the filter.

February 19, 2008

A Blockbuster Service Failure

Filed under: Customer Service Strategy — Mark Sanborn @ 8:34 pm

My wife Darla rented two movies for our boys to watch. One was scratched and played erratically. When she returned the movies to our local Blockbuster in Highlands Ranch (the Broadway location), she asked for a credit on the scratched movie. “I can let you watch it again on a different DVD but that’s all I can do,” was the response.

My wife pointed out that they’d viewed the substandard DVD enough to get the gist of the movie and she’d like to see a manager. All the managers (how many does a local Blockbuster have?) were in a meeting.

“Okay,” Darla says, “then credit me for the inferior movie.” The employee said she couldn’t and would need to get a manager. Suddenly the “managers are in a meeting” was trumped and a young gal named “Emily” (who refused to share her last name) showed up.

Darla said she like a credit on the $4.49 movie. “Nope,” Emily responded, “I can’t.”

“Fine,” says Darla, “you just lost a customer.” Emily didn’t seem to care.

Emily and her team of customer service zeros thought once they stonewalled my wife and kids their troubles were over. They were wrong. I’m contacting Blockbuster corporate–not because of the trivial $4.49 rental but because of the grievous travesty of customer service–and will let you know how they respond.

February 18, 2008

Be Clear About What You Don’t Do

Filed under: Selling, Customer Service Strategy, Speaking and Communication — Mark Sanborn @ 9:12 am

Lately I’ve had some email correspondence with Impact Innovation, a small firm in the U.K. As I was surfing around their website to learn more about them and their services, I ran across a list of things they don’t do.

Comparison and contrast are effective communication tools. A list of what you don’t do can be very successful in focusing your audience more clearly on your service or product offering. It can save time and spotlight your differences and distinctives.

Not all the clients I work with are necessarily clear about their core strengths, what they do best. A starting point exercise would be to eliminate those things you either don’t do, don’t do well or don’t want to do. From there, search for the sweet spot of what you do best (and, ideally, enjoy doing).
Too often we succumb to the temptation to take money from clients we shouldn’t. We know we won’t be able to make them happy, or that it will be painful trying.

Be clear about what you do and do well, but be even clearer about what you don’t do.

January 29, 2008

Experience Autopsy

Filed under: Success, Customer Service Strategy — Mark Sanborn @ 3:57 pm

When I checked into my hotel last night, I asked (as I always do) if my room was relatively quiet. And I used these words “…it isn’t up against or right next to an elevator is it?” The woman behind the front desk said it wasn’t. She then gave me directions to the elevator bank. “Just take two lefts at the top of the escalator.”

Ten minutes later I was on a house phone trying to find the elevator bank. I’ve adventured travel in Borneo so I’m pretty good at finding my way around. Her directions sucked.

When I finally got to my room, I discovered it was indeed up against the elevator shafts. Many people were using these elevators, and every press of the button set into motion a mechanical cacophony that lasted throughout the night.

Also, there was a message light on my phone. The client had an amenity for me, but since it was after 11:00 p.m. I’d need to call the hotel to get it delivered. They didn’t want to interrupt my evening. I called. They said they’d deliver. 90 minutes later (literally) I was on the phone with the delivery people. “We’re pretty busy and your room is a long way away…” No apology. At 1:00 a.m. my basket of goodies arrived.

I called the manager on duty. I related my experience. He asked if there was anything I wanted him to do. I resisted the urge to be a smart aleck. That was the last I heard from anyone in the hotel about the various service delivery failures.

Nobody is too surprised when things go bad, but customers, colleagues, friends and relatives live with the optimism that whoever caused the problem will do a little something to make things right. Even a simple apology is a good place to start.

Next time you are involved with a serious experience failure, do an experience autopsy. It doesn’t take long, and the insights can be most helpful. Here are the questions:

1. What went wrong?

2. What can we do to make things better right now?

3. What have we learned that we can use to do better in the future?

Making mistakes isn’t a criminal offense. Making the same ones over and over nearly is. When someone–anyone–brings a legitimate problem or concern to your attention (and if they’re bringing it up, it is legitimate to them), take action. Ask some simple questions. Prove to the person you value them by responding rationally and helpfully. And learn something that will prevent you from making the same mistake in the future.

January 24, 2008

Night Auditors Rock

Filed under: Difference Makers, Customer Service Strategy — Mark Sanborn @ 9:52 am

This morning there was a handwritten note slid under my door at the St. Petersburg Bayfront Hilton. It was from the chief night auditor, John Darr. It read: “I see you’ve already enjoyed our Starbucks. Please have a coffee drink on the  night audit staff.” There was a coupon for a free Starbucks beverage included. Obviously he’d reviewed charges from the day before and seen my room charge from the in-hotel Starbucks. I quickly took advantage of his hospitality and redeemed my coupon.

I share this little anecdote because it is more proof that you can add value to any job. I’m guessing most people wouldn’t think a night auditor was a key link in the chain of service delivery. This night auditor created the single most memorable part of my stay. Why? Because it was an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

What are you doing to add value to your customer’s experience?

December 12, 2007

Treat Everyone Like a Regular

Filed under: Customer Service Strategy — Mark Sanborn @ 8:38 am

They know me at my local Starbucks. They use my name, remember my order and we talk about what’s going on in the neighborhood. I’m a regular customer.

You’d think everyone was a regular. They obviously don’t know new customers’ names, but they greet everyone with a hearty “good morning!” and often ask for a name, not just for the order, but for future reference. Most of the employees are friendly and outgoing so it is pretty easy for them to be nice to everyone.

How would you feel if you were at a restaurant or bar and they were nice to everybody except you?

One key to great customer service is to treat every customer like a regular. Treating them like they were a regular is the best way to get them to become one.

December 6, 2007

‘Tis the Season to Quit Being Cynical

(The following is a requested reprint from The Fred Factor ezine 2006 www.fredfactor.com)

I’m probably preaching–or more accurately writing–to the converted. But my guess is that you might work with someone or know someone who thinks being a “Fred” is a corporate plot to extract more work for no more money, that there’s no reason to be a “Fred” or that the whole concept is dorky.

I’m no stranger to criticism or critics. When you speak and write books, some people like your work and others don’t. I don’t agree with everyone so I don’t expect everyone to agree with me.

What is a bit of a crazy-maker are the mean-spirited critics who aren’t content to disagree but who feel the need to demean those with a positive point of view. I had one Amazon reviewer suggest I’d written another book because I needed more money, and another suggest that using the principles of The Fred Factor at work would make people think a manager was an “uber-dork.” Speaking and writing is my profession (does the previously mentioned critic not go to work every day because he needs more money?), but fortunately, both are my passion. The message is more important than the messenger, and if I can provide good ideas and encourage listeners and readers, I count that a blessing, whether or not I get paid for it. And if encouraging excellence in your work and making a difference would make one an uber-dork, sign me up. That particular critic might disagree with slogans, pins and tee-shirts, but don’t throw the message out with the medium.

Someone once said that a cynic is a passionate person who doesn’t want to be disappointed again. I hope that is true, that underneath the skin of a cynic is a person who wants to believe in the good, right and praiseworthy things in life. Skepticism is fine by me because is says “Explain it to me. Show my some proof, some examples.” The skeptic doesn’t want to buy into anything without good cause, and that make sense.

The cynic isn’t open to being shown. Rather than being willing to consider, they stay on the offensive and attack what threatens his or her opinions or beliefs. And they deflect genuine dialogue with sarcasm and glib statements that make them sometimes seem clever but mostly flip.

“The Fred Factor” is a concept, a label, a phrase. It uses fun language (and if someone is opposed to a little levity, God help them) to express a serious point: nobody can prevent you from choosing to be extraordinary. You and I aren’t always encouraged, recognized or rewarded for our efforts, but that isn’t an excuse for not trying. Great sculptors in the Renaissance often spent hours on details that would never been seen by the viewing public. Why? Because the artist saw and believed that God would see, too. Those artists had a commitment to art and excellence that was as personal as it was public.

The Fred Factor is also about looking beyond one’s self as the measure of all things. Self-absorption can become pathological, and those who subscribe to the concept of The Fred Factor see themselves as being part of a large world where the feelings and well-being of others are important as well.

So why be a Fred? There are several reasons, and the first, in my mind, is because it is a better way to live. Philosophers have spent hundreds of years grappling with the question, “What is the good life and how do we live it?” Maslow believed that there might well be something higher on the hierarchy of needs than self-actualization, and that was self-transcendence. I have come to believe that we become self-actualized through self-transcendence, a paradox I’m not going to delve into here. Doing all you can to build meaningful relationships, make a positive difference and add value to your work and those around you—those are components, I believe, of the good life.

Another great reason to be a Fred goes back to a quote from Helen Keller I use frequently: Is life not a thousand times too short to bore ourselves? Living life like the real guy, Fred Shea, makes for an infinitely richer, more interesting and fulfilling lifestyle that going with the flow of mediocrity. There are personal benefits one enjoys from
practicing the principles of The Fred Factor.

I doubt if I’ve converted the true cynics, as I doubt there are many cynics reading this blog. Maybe there are a few. So what have I gained? Maybe you find yourself doubting from time to time, as I do, about whether your efforts are worth it. Is there really good reason to keep trying to make the ordinary extraordinary? Are the cynics possibly right? Why does it seem my best efforts and intentions are often met with resistance and criticism?

The Holidays are a wonderful time to celebrate the best and highest ideals of life and people of diverse faiths and beliefs pause for a time to celebrate the goodness to be found in the midst of adversity, struggle and even tragedy. My hope is that in the short time it took you to read this article, you’ve been validated and confirmed. I hope that you know that your efforts are appreciated, even if that appreciation isn’t always adequately expressed. I hope you know that the cynicism of another should never prevent your own optimism, and that the highest reward of doing good work and good works is always found in the doing itself. And I hope that you know that the resistance and struggle makes us stronger, and makes the accomplishment of the extraordinary even sweeter.

Just remember, not only is it the season to stop being cynical, it is, more importantly, the season to be hopeful and to be of larger service to others.

November 26, 2007

Here’s How to Do It

Filed under: Customer Service Strategy — Mark Sanborn @ 11:43 am

Ever get annoyed when a waitperson or cashier asks to see some identification when you try to use your credit card? We all know it shouldn’t bug us, but something about that request is bothersome.

One of the world’s greatest bartenders goes by the name “Meatloaf.” He works at the New Belgium brewpub location at Denver International Airport. The guy is so good I plan to include him in my next book.

The first time I used a credit card, he pleasantly said, “For the security and protection of the cardholder, may I see some ID?”

Who can argue with that?

That’s how to ask to see some ID.

Here’s How to Ask to See Some ID

Filed under: Customer Service Strategy — Mark Sanborn @ 11:41 am

Ever get annoyed when a waitperson or cashier asks to see some identification when you try to use your credit card.

One of the world’s greatest bartenders goes by the name “Meatloaf.” He works at the New Belgium brewpub location at Denver International Airport. The guy is so good I plan to include him in my next book.

The first time I used a credit card, he pleasantly said, “For the security and protection of the cardholder, may I see some ID?”

Who can argue with that?

That’s how to ask to see some ID.

November 16, 2007

Dirty Glasses Update

Filed under: Observations, Customer Service Strategy — Mark Sanborn @ 10:08 am

I emailed my blog about the hotel dirty glass expose to six different hotels with a request for a response. To date I’ve only received one response, and that was from the Renaissance Hotel at the Atlanta Airport, one of the hotels shown in the report. I applaud them for their prompt response (despite misspelling my name in the body of the email). The email follows:

Dear Mr. Sanborn,

Thank you for your candor regarding the Fox 5 story on glassware at the Renaissance Concourse Hotel. Mr. Sanford, our policy is to provide clean, sanitized glassware daily to all guest rooms. Our housekeeping staff is trained at the time of hire on this standard. While this is an isolated incident it has allowed us to re-focus our efforts on training and monitoring compliance to ensure this does not happen again. This is also followed up at our daily hotel briefings.

Thank you again for your candid feedback and we look forward to seeing you in the future.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me directly.




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