Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Just figure it out!

I was in charge of planning the recent meeting of my Mastermind group. Our group of 8 speakers and authors has been meeting three times a year for 13 years. This meeting was held here in Atlanta and happened to be on the night of the Super Bowl.

I had arranged for us to meet at the Atlanta Airport Hilton and eat that evening at their restaurant, Andiamo. They agreed to bring in a TV so we could enjoy good food and the game. I took a break from the afternoon meeting to visit the restaurant and confirm our 6:15 arrival. The manager informed me that no cable was available in the dining room. I had spoken to him personally the night before and had been assured all was set. However I was double teamed quickly, he and the food and beverage manager immediately offered me 3 options. All involved setting up tables in unusual places with the required television – all were creative and acceptable choices. We chose the concierge lounge where tables were set beautifully and menus were ready at kickoff. Steven, a server and bartender from Andiamo, arrived to care of us. He was personable, fun, had opinions about the menu and the game. Steven knew we were set to enjoy our evening and he matched our mood. Andiamo offered complimentary appetizers and desserts due to the surprise change of plans.

Here’s the lesson –

When things aren’t what the customer expects, just figure it out -- fast. This was not really a recovery situation as the team never let it meltdown. They had anticipated and planned options. They provided the right person, Steven, to deliver exceptional service. Next time you face a disappointed customer or soon to be disappointed customer, what will you do to “just figure it out”?

By the way, have I told you about Steven lately?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Boy, was I surprised!

Customers expect you to do the big stuff right the first time. But the way to win their heart is to surprise them with the little stuff. Your goal is to create a positive customer experience that deepens the relationship.

Here are 3 surprises that happened to me over the last two weeks –

* One of my favorite Atlanta restaurants is Bacchanalia, www.starprovisions.com . It is an expensive special occasion place. All through the meal, you are given unexpected gifts from the chefs. On my recent visit those items included a special soup, chocolates, a smoothie and cookies. But here is the real kicker, Bacchanalia operates a food shop and bakery during the day. So as guests leave the restaurant, a staff person hands out a bag of goodies from the bakery. Our bag was filled with a loaf of walnut cherry bread. Our friends received cupcakes and a baguette. What a lasting impression to an already stellar evening!
* I ordered a pair of shoes from Zappo's at 4 o’clock one day and they arrived at my door the next morning at 11am. I paid for normal shipping, not overnight. Their emails are signed “With love, the Customer Loyalty Team”. When you make my life this easy, love is an appropriate emotion.
* During carpool at our daughter’s school, a teacher loves to surprise the drivers and any traveling companions. Ms. Haigler hands out dog biscuits and tootsie roll pops. I love when she is working the carpool line.

It doesn’t take much to surprise your customers because most companies don’t even try. Be different. Surprise them and create a positive memorable experience.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Show Your Love for the Customer

As Valentine’s Day approaches, it is a great time to ask if your customers are “feeling the love?” Most of the same principles that make for a healthy personal relationship apply to your customer relationships.

Here are some thoughts to create an emotional connection with your customers –

1. Customers want a real relationship – one that is mutually beneficial. Loyalty happens when the experience connects them to you. They may be your customer today but if you are not engaging them in a proactive manner then their loyalty is up for grabs.

2. Customers want you to talk to them and must be able to talk to you via their preferred way. Make it easy. Is your 800 number on everything? Stop hiding. Two way communication is required. Listen, listen and then listen some more.

3. Think and fret over their needs. Show your concern and train your team to be empathetic. Look at processes and ask along the touch-points, what is important to our customer?

4. Show the love. Recognize and reward loyalty. Call them and thank them, acknowledge their years of business, send out a unique and customized gift – the idea is to do something that is unexpected to renew the relationship.

You know you shouldn’t wait for a special day to show your love, however Valentine’s Day provides a great excuse. Customer loyalty is fleeting. You must prove yourself with each transaction - one that connects and engages the customer.

Start showing some love!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Have I told you about Tony?

What a delight to experience service that is so deeply woven into the culture of an organization! It is easy for companies to give lip service to the fact that their people are at the heart of their customer service. And for years, I have defined customer service as, “Service is adding people to the product”. However it is still rare to see it in action from top to bottom. Make sure you get that – from top to bottom, from first encounter to last encounter. A few days ago, our daughter had a fall during basketball and we had the “opportunity” to visit the emergency room of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, www.choa.org.

The experience started with complimentary 24 hour valet parking a true sign this hospital understands no parent should face parking a car when dealing with a child and an emergency. The check- in process was easy and simple administered by a caring and friendly team. Here is a hint, ALL the employees worked to create a seamless experience.

However there was one employee that I can not stop talking about, Tony Richardson. Tony is the “cast guy extraordinaire”. From the moment he introduced himself, his professionalism, pride and personality shone through. He was patient answering all the questions posed by a very curious and slightly drugged 10 year with a broken arm. We watched him redo bits of the wrapping process to meet his exacting standards. He even suggested and gladly put on his famous custom cast with both blue and red wrapping. His attention to the details was amazing – tone of voice, eye contact, sincerity, attitude and competency. Tony is a stand out in an organization that is already jam packed with service stars.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is once again on Fortune Magazine’s Annual List of 100 Best Companies to Work, http://tinyurl.com/yhsqp8l.

My story about this hospital is not unique here in Atlanta – rave reviews abound. But I really understand how it is woven into the fabric after my chance meeting with the CEO, Donna Hyland. Forty hours after our emergency room visit, I was introduced to Donna at church by a friend. Remember how I can not stop talking about Tony so I took the time to relate my experience. When I got to Tony, she was able say his last name along with me. She knows her team. No wonder CHOA is a repeat star of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies list. The service culture is evident from top to bottom – from CEO to valet parking.

CHOA is #74 this year and in my experience they are #1. By the way, have I told about Tony?