The Compete Through Service Symposium

I’d like to take a moment to tell Customers That Stick™ readers about the 25th annual Compete Through Service Symposium (online brochure) put on by the Center for Services Leadership at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business.

The Center for Services Leadership is a leader in customer experience higher education and has one of the few programs at a major university dedicated to customer experience. I am proud to say that I have a Certificate in Customer Experience from the W.P. Carey School, and I want to help spread the word about the good work the CSL is doing.

The Compete Through Service Symposium is an annual conference held in Arizona that brings innovative minds in business and academic thought leaders together to further the science of service. It is a three daylong conference, with each day focusing on the following topics:


Day One: Service Innovation

This day features CX pros such as Mary Murcott, President of The Customer Experience Institute and Erik Peterson of A.T. Kearney. Topics include: Read More

3 Customer Service Lessons I Learned From Kids

When we opened and closed our first backyard restaurant in 2012, we had no idea it would become an annual event. It was just my family of five _M4A2950
entertaining and acting on our then 7-year-old’s desire to skip over the summer lemonade stand and do a full-fledged restaurant instead. He drew the logo, made the menu, and set the prices (the place was a steal.) We agreed all the proceeds from the restaurant would be dedicated to a Columbus charity of the kids’ choosing.

We just wrapped up our third year, having grown from 40 guests to 150 guests this August for our one-night-only event. The neighborhood kids, along with our own, prepare food, work the kitchen, wait and bus the tables, and earn tips. Reflecting on this annual event, three customer service lessons really stand out.

Display Genuine Enthusiasm

The day of our first backyard restaurant was mass chaos; we had never done anything like this before. But once the customers started to arrive, the energy in the place took over. Read More

Great Customer Service Marriott Courtyard Pioneer Square Seattle

A Well-Trained Staff Shows at Marriott Courtyard Pioneer Square

I never intended to stay at the Pioneer Square Marriott Courtyard in Seattle.

I was speaking at a conference in Seattle and fully intended to stay at the hotel where the conference was scheduled. However, there was a mix-up, and by the time I tried to correct the error, the conference hotel was fully booked. This left me trying to find a hotel in downtown Seattle that was walking distance to the conference. The conference hotel suggested the Marriott Courtyard.

Now, I’ve stayed at a number of Marriott Courtyards over the years, but none have ever stood out for sheer service excellence like the Pioneer Square location in Seattle.

The Great Service Began on the Phone

While this post is primarily about the staff at the Pioneer Square location, I should note that the great service began with a call to the Marriott Courtyard’s reservation line. The reservation associate took great care in walking me through how close the hotel was to the conference, the amenities at that location, and the room options. She must have spent 15-20 minutes speaking with me.

As I was about to disconnect, the rep said something like, “I’m not trying to pressure you, but I just wanted to let you know that we are almost fully booked for that week and that downtown Seattle hotels are really tight during the summer. You might want to call back pretty quickly.”

I decided to hedge my bets and booked the reservation on the spot. Read More

Rolling out Technology to Frontline Staff | Handheld Device

6 Steps for Rolling Out New Technology to Frontline Staff

We live in a world of ever-shifting customer experience technologies. From RFID inventory chips to mobile point of sale, from geofencing apps to touch screen store fronts, the technological landscape never stays the same. It is a perilous and exciting time, both for organizations that have to make tough decisions about technological investments and for frontline staff who have to adopt to a constantly changing work environment.

Organizations must wrestle with a number of issues when evaluating new technologies. What value will it deliver to our customers and what return will it produce? What happens if Apple changes it’s IOS and our yearlong, multimillion dollar mobile phone app initiative gets zapped overnight? Should we invest in this year’s technology, which is proven but we know will be obsolete, or invest in the five-years-from-now technology that is unproven but showing promise.

These decisions are not easy ones, and often keep executives from a variety of departments up at night.

However, those responsible for rolling out new technologies are not the only ones faced with the promise and peril of new tech. Frontline teams have the same mixture of excitement and trepidation. One reason frontline teams fear new technology (or react to it in ways that mystify the C-suite) is because it is often presented poorly or executed poorly. Below are six steps to help avoid some of these challenges and to effectively roll out new technology to frontline staff.

#1: Make Sure the Technology Works

Rolling out Technology to Frontline Staff | Handheld DeviceAt the recent Future Stores conference, Mark McKelvey of REI discussed how putting mobile point of sale items in the hands of their associates before the tech was ready caused significant adoption problems. After a few failures, the frontline staff simply stopped using the devices.

When rolling out new tech it needs to be as well-tested as possible. Employees who have an embarrassing moment using the new tech in front of a customer will forgive it once. The second time they’ll complain about it in the break room, where they may find agreement from other associates. After the third time, the associates will simply stop using it or, at the least, begin to look for workarounds that they consider more reliable.

Technical readiness is a complex issue and has to be balanced with speed, early feedback, and many other factors. However, for frontline staff, you want to make sure the new tech is as ready for prime-time as possible. When rolling out tech to new frontline employees, you never get a chance to make a first impression. Read More

Frontline Customer Service Book Announcement

We Have a Book Deal!

Frontline Customer Service Book AnnouncementWe are super excited to announce that we officially have a book deal!

The book is centered on frontline customer service and is meant to provide customer-facing employees the mindset, strategies, and techniques to provide Hero-ClassTM Customer Service.

The publisher is AMACOM, a significant publisher of business books for over 50 years. AMACOM has published books from a wide variety of customer experience and customer service authors, including my buddy Jeff Toister (Service Failure), Steve Curtin (Delight Your Customers), and John DiJulius (Secret Service).

It’s a tremendous honor to join such a reputable publisher and such an esteemed tradition of service professionals. But the honor is not mine alone. I say we have a book deal, because this book would not have happened without the CTS community, my team here at CTS (particularly Donna Gurnic), and a number of amazing friends. Publishers look for platform, and this blog and all of you are a part of that.

I think of people like Kaarina Dillabough and Bill Dorman both of who entered this wacky world of blogging at the exact same time I did (Feb/Mar 2011) and who have remained friends and supporters ever since.

Or my friends Shonali Burke and Gini Dietrich, both of who generously offered counsel as I was in the process of seeking publication. (Check out my review of Gini’s awesome new book in our March 31st post!)

Or Erin Feldman, a great freelance editor, whom I knew for years through blogging and who helped edit the proposal that landed the deal.

I’ll save the detailed thanks for when there is an actual book, but this is why I say we. Sure, I have to do the work, but you get to share in the accomplishment.

Q&A: About that Frontline Customer Service Book

Instead of an expository post telling you all about the book, I thought I would present a Q&A section that includes a number of the questions I have received so far. If you’re pressed for time, make sure to jump to the bottom to find out how you might be able to be a part of the book. Read More

Your Data Is Only as Good As Your Perspective | Triple Line Chart

Your Data Is Only as Good as Your Perspective

Great customer experience strategies must inevitably be formed around good data. Even for smaller organizations that might not have the data quantity or research resources to perform statistically sound analyses, the importance of good data, even if only anecdotal, cannot be overstated.

I am not a professional researcher, so I will just say that in my opinion good consumer data must be accurate, timely, and relevant. It should also address a question whose answer can lead to a tangible business result.

Any training on consumer research should include these items and more; however, if you are a receiver of data, there is another dynamic you should be aware of and that is perspective — both your own and that of those who produced the data.

Let’s use a few simple graphics to illustrate power of perspective when evaluating data.

Which annual performance below is the most volatile and which is the most steady?

Your Data Is Only as Good As Your Perspective | Triple Line Chart

Most likely, you answered that #1 is the most volatile and #3 is the most steady. Or, since the beginning of this post probably set your antenna off to a trick, you might have answered that there is really no way to know without the scale markings to designate the range.

The answer actually is none of the above. None of the data sets are more volatile than the other, because all three lines represent the same data. Read More

Are You Easy To Do Business With

Are You Easy to Do Business With?

Are you easy to do business with?

This business maxim has been around for a long time, but the concept has been gaining more formal attention in recent years.

The Corporate Executive Board (CEB) has done some noteworthy research on customer effort – the idea that the more effort customers must exert throughout a service request or transaction, the less loyal they will be. In fact, the CEB has determined that customers who are forced to put forth high effort with a company are 96% more likely to be disloyal.

Are You Easy To Do Business WithEven great customer service companies make the mistake of hassling their customers or being difficult to do business with. In our most recent Salesforce post 7 Customer Service Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them), we discuss being easy to do business with and six other common customer service mistakes that companies make and how to correct them.

Check out the post here at Salesforce!

Also, for more great information on customer effort check out my interview with Matt Dixon of the Corporate Executive Board.

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Get 3 Free Customer Service Tools from Customers That Stick

We wanted to take a moment to talk about some exclusive content we’ve been developing over the past few months for subscribers to our e-newsletter: The Customer Conversation. We know that our community does not all meet on the same channel, so we thought we would talk about the subscriber-only content we’ve been developing the past couple of months.

If you haven’t signed up already, we encourage you to click here to subscribe for this great (and free) content! When you do subscribe, you can expect to see the following free tools land in your inbox.

7 Secret Customer Service Techniques Every Expert Knows

7 Secret Customer Service TechniquesHow do hero-classTM organizations provide consistently great service, WOW their customers, and maintain a profitable business all at the same time? They have secret techniques in their toolboxes.

This free eBook will equip you with 7 “secret” techniques that many experts know and use to provide great customer experiences. For example, in Secret Technique #6, we discuss the concept of brand deposits — positive interactions that customers have with your company. The more deposits your organization makes with a customer, the more goodwill is stored up in your customer’s “account” to offset a negative experience. Read More

Free Customer Service Webinar | Mastering the 7 Service Triggers

A Free #CustServ Webinar: Mastering The 7 Service Triggers

The time for this free webinar has past. If you are interested in having this webinar presented to your group or organization, please contact us here. If you want to learn more about the 7 Service Triggers, pick up a copy of Be Your Customer’s Hero. The 7 Service Triggers are covered in depth in section 3 of the book.

Let’s face it every one of our customers has been burned before. Somewhere, somehow, sometime, an organization gave them a terrible customer experience — one where they felt abused, disrespected, and even taken advantage of.

Free Customer Service Webinar | Mastering the 7 Service TriggersMost likely, it’s happened more than once.

The challenge for us as customer facing professionals is that these experiences do not disappear from the customer’s mind when the experience is over; they leave a lasting scar that eventually becomes a defense mechanism.

“Won’t get fooled again.”

“Once bitten, twice shy.”

“Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice shame on me.”

As the above phrases demonstrate, no one likes to feel like a fool, and people erect significant defenses to prevent it from happening.

Human beings are wired more simply than you might think: we seek to find pleasure and avoid pain. When we have a bad experience, our defenses rise to try to avoid having the same experience again.

Ironically, these defenses result in customers tending to expect bad treatment and unintentionally receiving more of it as a result.

As customer facing professionals, this lands squarely on our doorstep.

Back in January 2012, I wrote a blog post entitled Why Your Awful Customer Service Sucks for Me.  In that post, I addressed a fictional business owner that had provided poor customer service: Read More

Your Service Is Only as Good as Your Systems | Call Center Operator

Your Service Is Only as Good as Your Systems

A few weeks ago I was caught in a tug of war between two large multinational banks — My Bank and my general contractor’s bank, Receiving Bank.

I had written a check to pay my general contractor for a retail buildout. Since it was for a construction job, the check was fairly large. (The landlord was paying for it, but the funds had to go through me. Long story.)

The Receiving Bank had held up clearing the check while it tried to personally confirm its authenticity, and I was dragged into a black hole of unaccountability while I tried to get the issue resolved.

I won’t bore you with the details but, suffice it to say, I had less than a pleasant experience trying to sort the issue out with My Bank and had a valuable customer service lesson reinforced in the process. Read More