August 8, 2016

Great customer service by Duluth Trading Company! Read on to hear the rest of that story.

Call me old-fashioned if you like - I believe it's impossible to have a conversation by electronic data exchange, that is, by email or text messaging. With those media, you can exchange information only; a conversation requires an active two-way interchange of ideas, thoughts, emotions, and information. The bare words are less than 10% of the import in a typical conversation.

To me, few things are more aggravating than to run into some technical issue with which I need help, and when I click the "Contact us" tab, I find only an email form to fill out. So I send a description of my issue, and 8 hours or two days later, when my mind is totally focused elsewhere, I get an answer which may or may not address my concern. Even if it does, it takes a few minutes or hours to get my mind re-focused on where I was in the process when the issue cropped up. If the answer doesn't address the issue, or if tech support needs more background information to provide help, then we must reiterate the hours- or days-long exchange. In most cases, a 10-minute, or possibly 1-2 hour, conversation would have cleared the slate. A "Chat Room" can improve the timeliness of the interchange; however, the issue of bare words vs. total communication remains.

It may be that the arms-length data exchange results in somewhat more organized or "efficient" use of support staff. My question is, at what cost does this approach to "customer service" come?

So, we come back to my title question - are you serious about customer service? What do you aim to accomplish with your customer service? In most organizations, I would suggest that the goal of customer service is to resolve issues to the point where the customer is as happy as if the problem hadn't occurred. Often, if a complaint is resolved with careful attention to the customer's needs and wants, it can elevate the customer's opinion of the company when the transaction is concluded. It is highly unlikely that, after a drawn-out electronic "conversation", the customer's attitude is any better than mildly frustrated...and likely, he or she is far more annoyed than that. Plus, you've used his or her time very selfishly. What does that mean for your ongoing relationship with them and, more importantly, what they're telling other current or potential customers of yours?

Now, let me share an example of how great customer service works. A few weeks ago I ordered a long list of clothing items from Duluth Trading Company. A few days later, when the package arrived, I found two pairs of pants had smaller waist sizes than I thought I had ordered. (you'll note that I'm not mentioning numbers - even if the smaller ones fit, I'm not particularly proud of the sizes I'm wearing these days!). Well, the smaller ones didn't fit so I called the customer service phone number and explained the situation to the very pleasant lady on the other end of the line, and said I wasn't sure if I'd mis-ordered or they'd mis-picked. "Well" she said, "obviously your intent was to order the size pants that matched the other items. We'll just send you the correct size pants, along with a prepaid label to ship the others back to us." That's exactly what happened, and here I am singing their praises. If the same transaction had taken place by email, it would have taken far more time and effort on my part. I wouldn't have had the pleasant conversation with a human being whose obvious priority was my best interest. I'm pretty sure, even if the outcome had been the same, that I wouldn't have found the incident noteworthy, as I do now.

Your business' most valuable assets are your customers. (Next most important are your employees - I plan a future segment on employee care). Taking care of those customers, especially when they may be frustrated by a problem they can't resolve by themselves, should be "Job One" for you. How better to invest your customer-care budget than turning a frustrated customer into a champion of your company? Wouldn't it be great to have your customers telling stories about you like I am about Duluth?

Customer service is one of the things we might end up discussing when you call us. Before we get into specifics of that sort though, our first question will be, "What's most important to you?" Then, when you hire us, we'll team up with you to discover new ways to achieve that end. O ur specialty is helping you clarify the definition of the Purpose of your business (the single most important thing you want your team to focus on), which can help you and your company become more Productive...and that leads to more PROFIT. We abbreviate this as P3B -  Purpose Productivity , and  PROFIT  in  Business . If this approach sounds interesting to you , why not  sign up for a NO-CHARGE strategy session? And let's talk. Check out the details here. Again there's no cost or obligation to you for this initial exploratory conversation, and I'm happy to spend as much time as it takes for us to get to know each other and discover what we can do together to improve your business. 

Please be assured that, when you call Unity Consulting, I will be your coach - I won't pass you off to someone else with less experience or less commitment to your success.

Your comments are tremendously important to me (while I'm teaching, I'm also always anxious to learn) - please let me know what thoughts or questions these ideas trigger for you. In particular, this week I'd love to hear how you provide customer service, and how well it works. If you're feeling "stuck" or your results aren't up to your expectations, perhaps I can help you find some answers - I'd love to hear about what's happening in your organization - again with no charge for our first conversation to discuss your situation and find a way to help YOU improve things. If you email a question or comment, please give me a phone number or a Skype address, or send me (see my Skype address below) a Skype contact request referencing my weekly emails (this reference is important - I'm fussy about my connections on networking services and, if your name doesn't ring a bell with me, I'll accept your contact request only if you tell me why you want to connect with me). This week I'll let my opening tirade address the relative merits of email vs. telephone, on which I usually expound here.
If you find a topic here you think will be interesting to a friend or colleague, you're welcome to pass it along to as many people as you care to. If someone forwarded this to you, and you would like to hear more, please send me an email and I'll be glad to add you to my mailing list, which I never sell or rent. On the other hand, if you find these messages irrelevant, or they clutter your inbox in an unwelcome way, please click the "unsubscribe" link below - I promise you won't hurt my feelings. My desire is to send these ideas only to people who find them interesting and helpful.
So...give some thought to how you're handling customer service and see if it's accomplishing what you want it to, and contact  us to learn how we can help you add value to what you do. Remember, the initial strategy conversation is without charge or obligation. Join us again right here next week for more unique ideas on how to get more done in your life and business, while enjoying it more. 
Thanks for reading. Have a wonderful week!
John Stevens
You and your team can  maximize  purpose , productivity and profit in your business with Unity  Consulting
Visit our website:
Weare, NH
Office and cell phone: 814-590-3854
Fax: 603-529-8474
In Argentina: +54 9 386 845 9586
Skype:  johnbstevens1943 

About John
Throughout a career spanning over 40 years John Stevens' management style has been one of building teams to bring several competent people together to focus on a common objective.

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Contact Info
John B. Stevens, Leadership Expert
Unity Consulting
Weare, NH 03281
Phone: 814-590-3854