Tag Archives: customer delight

International Cycling Union: 3 EPIC Failures

This week the International Cycling Union stripped Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles as a result of their investigation into his use of performance enhancing drugs.

While I am sure they feel quite good about their pursuit of “justice” allow me to point out the ways in which this is an epic, epic failure.

1. The failed their Purpose
Professional sports organizations are in the entertainment industry. They may indeed promote healthy exercise and provide competitive outlets for a small group of elite folks but at the very core of what they do they are there to entertain. Bicycle racing is a fringe sport at best, not nearly the following of the three biggies, football, baseball and basketball, not any where close to international sports like Soccer, not even approaching NASCAR in terms of popularity, mind-share, or revenue.

The biggest thing that has happened in the world of cycling in the last decade was Lance Armstrong. He put them on the map of sport. He brought them a larger audience. He added entertainment value beyond what they could have hoped.

And this is the thanks they give him.

When you fail at your purpose you risk becoming irrelevant.

2. They failed at Parity
Of course there is an argument that says we don’t want cheaters to win. That has been the argument that has fueled the pursuit of Armstrong even though he passed all the required drug tests when he was competing. So let me ask this:

What if they found out that EVERYONE in the races was taking performance enhancing drugs? Is it really cheating then?

In an article in the New York Times, Travis Tygart, chief exec of the US anti-doping agency said, there was still more to do to clean up cycling because there were “many more details of doping that are hidden, many more doping doctors, and corrupt team directors, and the omerta has not yet been fully broken.”

If that is the admitted case why aren’t they still looking at ALL the competitor’s blood samples? You can’t hide behind fairness and parity when you only go after a select few people. There are probably hundreds of competitors who will remain on the record as Tour finishers who cheated just as badly but didn’t win.

When you fail to adhere to your own trumpeted standards you risk becoming irrelevant.

3. They failed their Patrons
I may be alone in this but as a member of the viewing public I am not happily cheering for the pursuit of pushing doping out of cycling. I only got interested in it the entertainment value of the sport because of Lance’s pursuits. I don’t care that they’ve finally “proven” he used drugs.

They’ve lost me as a customer.

Not because of the scandal’s, not because of any supposed taint on fairness, but because they taken the guy who made them all the money and tossed him under the bus in some sort of holier-than-thou crusade. They’ve put the sport ahead of the consumer. They’ve tried to reconfigure their “product” right out there in the eyes of the viewing public and in my humble opinion they’ve screwed up the product as a result.

When you fail at understanding the customer you run the risk of becoming irrelevant.

Simply put, for me as a customer, the world of professional cycling has become irrelevant once again. Lance brought them to my attention and I watched even after he finished competing but this latest round of circus performances has turned me off completely and I doubt they’ll get me back.

Where has you seen other businesses fall prey to these kinds of failures?

Customer Communications: Where to Start

How many time have you looked at the front page of a company web site and read something almost exactly like this:

The market leader in providing innovative solutions that transform businesses. Serving more than 67% of the fortune 500.

Drives me nuts.

Too often the starting point for customer communications start with the question, “What do we want to say?”

When you start there you suddenly find yourself with all kinds of due diligence facts, historical anecdotes, feature, functions and benefits…and so do all of your competitors. As a result everyone starts sounding very much the same.

The game changes though when you start from the position of asking, “What do we want the customer to do?”

Yes, it seems quite simple, particularly if you think the answer is, we want the customer to buy. But do you really just want them to buy? Aren’t you really MORE interested in them “succeeding”?

Typically we don’t just want customers, we want satisfied customers. So the answer to the question” what do we want them to do” is, “we want them to use our product or service to solve their problem.”

Of course in order to be able to start communicating from the perspective of solving the customers problem we have to now what the problem is and how your product or service solves it. THEN you have to let the customer know that you understand the problem.

So instead of:

  • We have
  • We are
  • We provide

You start with

  • You want
  • You need
  • You can

Try this experiment:

Take any of the communications you currently use to describe what you do and set them aside. Start the piece over with a description of the problem you solve. Next throw in a few lines about how your solution is unique in terms of what it does for the customer. You only get to talk about the problem and the unique solution, NOT your organization.

Now go look at your competitors communications and see if you don’t recognize how this approach starts to make you stand out.

When was the last time you saw a company talk more about you as a customer than they do about themselves?

 

Poor Customer Experience…at Disneyland?!?

Hello, my name is Curtis and I am a Disneyland fanatic.

Friends call me for advice on how to best experience the parks. They get a two page email back.

I live in Colorado and I have an annual pass.

It’s just that bad.

We were just in southern California for freshman orientation at Azusa Pacific University. After a tearful good bye with our oldest son we headed over to the park for some “amusement”.

I never thought I’d say this but I walked away significantly underwhelmed by our visit.

I can remember not too long ago when you could get in for under $50. The price for visiting one park for one day is now $87. Okay, I get the fact that costs rise so, it hurts but I’ll still play along. Of course if you want to visit BOTH Disneyland AND California Adventure on the same day that will set you back $125.

So you would think you’d see the service level rise to match the price increase wouldn’t you?

Nope.

We experienced no fewer than five ride outages in one day. Mind you that’s only counting the times we were in line for a ride and it went out. Who knows how many there were when we weren’t looking.

Queue management, something Disney is known for, was sorely lacking with lines spilling out into walkways more often than not on a day that was busy but no where close to the worst we’ve seen.

Worse yet cast members in those situations seemed continually put out by the trouble of having to manage the flow of people.

Three different times we were told that a clearly displayed offer of a discount didn’t apply to our situation because of some fine print that was not readily published.

I walked away feeling like Disneyland was telling me that I was fortunate just to be able to be in their presence so I should overlook the inconveniences.

Now, you could argue it was a hot day, large crowd, a couple of less than stellar cast members working queues, etc but those would all be excuses not reasons. There is no “reason” for poor service.

You might argue that I’ll go back so there is no real pressing need to fix any of these issues. You’d probably be right, I probably will go back. But then…I’ve never talked bad about Disneyland before and I am now.

How often do we allow circumstances to move from being excuses to being “reasons” for failed service? How often do we portray to customers that we just can’t care for EVERYBODY? How bad is one negative blog post about poor customer experience?

If hot temperatures, large crowds, and less than stellar cast members are becoming the norm I won’t need an annual pass any longer. I’ll just go one or two days in the off season to get my fix and keep my fond memories of great customer experience at Disneyland in tact.

When was the last time a company failed to meet your expectations as a customer?

When Should You Delight Customers?

Perhaps it seems like a bit of an obvious question. “You ought to delight customers ALL of the time!”

Funny thing is the research seems to go against that. You see, there are times when customers just want things to be easy. Hence, the rise in the idea of customer effort.

But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. While most folks still see customer delight as a problem solving, customer service approach, as I discussed in Customer Delight Revisited, there are plenty of opportunities to delight customers outside of trying to make up for a mistake.

But if customers want to be left alone sometimes and delighted at other times how do you know when to delight them and when to let them be?

Let me suggest a possible perspective, in terms of a siple mathmatical analogy, that you can use to determine when you ought to delight customers. If we think of customer delight as a multiplier we can start to look across any product or service offering and start to make educated guesses about where to apply effort in delighting customers. It all starts with the customers expectations.

ALL customers come to the table with a set of expectations, even if they can’t clearly articulate them. Let’s view those expectations as being characterized by four levels of effort:

  • Level 0: I expect this part of my experience to be seemless, the provider should make it effortless.
  • Level 1: I’m willing to expend some effort here
  • Level 2: I expect I will have to exert a moderate amount of effort to accomplish these kinds of tasks.
  • Level 3: I expect some faily significant effort

By way of example, paying my cell phone bill ought to be seemless. I want NO effort in interacting with the provider, however; when it comes time to configure my cell phone service I expect that I am going to exert a moderate amount of effort in determining which plan is best for me.

If we think of delight as a multiplier then where is the best opportunity for delighting the customer? Certainly not in the bill paying, the mathmatical equation, where D= delight,  would be D x 0 = 0. On the other hand if we try to delight them in the configuring service scenario we get D x 2 which yields some significant gains.

In this simple example we start to see that where a customer anticipates no effort I need to leave them alone, customer effort IS king. But, when the customer expects to do some level of work I can look for ways to surprise and delight them that will provide some pretty good returns. Some examples of the different levels of customer expectations might look something like this:

  • Level 0: bill paying, continuing service, renewing service, basic troubleshooting.
  • Level 1: Adding a service, purchasing complementary products, upsell or cross sell of products, locating a vendor web site OR locating a brick and mortar location from that web site.
  • Level 2: Configuring service, choosing from multiple product options, bundling, creating re-order templates, troubles hooting
  • Level 3: Customizing a product or service, complex configuration, design

In order to discover the best opportunities to delight your customers you can take three simple steps:

  1. Begin by mapping their experience in interacting with you from discovery to purchase, to service.
  2. Assign each step in that experience an expected level of effort. Not YOUR expectation, the customer’s expectation.
  3. Focus your efforts on the higher levels.

What ARE the steps a customers goes through in moving from discovery, through purchase, to service with your organization? Where are your highest multipliers based on expected effort?

Two Crucial Components of Customer Service: The Word and The Will

When a product or service fails to meet the customer’s expectation they are in a state where they feel the “contract” has been broken.

As I mentioned last week when comparing Mike’s Camera and Bonefish Grill there are certain basic customer service actions that must take place in order to “make the situation right”. Today I want to look more closely at two components that make up the customer service response.

Compare these two examples:

Kid at Kohls

When my oldest son Nathan was about eight he went on a shopping trip to Kohls department store with his mom. Money in hand Nathan picked out the item he had come to purchase. With mom watching in the background Nate took his place in line at the cash register.

The customer in front of him in line was served and he stepped to the fore, item on the counter, money and coupons in hand. The woman at the register COMPLETELY ignored him, failing to even acknowledge his presence and began ringing up items from the customer behind Nathan in the line. As an eight year old taking his first shot at doing this on his own Nate was more than a little confused on how to proceed.  He even tried to speak up, “Excuse me but I think I was next”, and was STILL ignored.

At this point his eight year old reserves had been spent. Starting to tear up he moved to where my wife was in line at the next register over…and EVEN NOW the woman behind the register he had left did not acknowledge him…where he took care of his transaction.

Because we generally like to recognize good service when we get it we also take the time to point out where our expectations have been grossly missed. My wife wrote to the management at Kohls explaining the situation.

Kohls management responded promptly, within a few days, by:

  • Sending a letter of apology to my wife, explaining that they had discussed the situation with the specific employee.
  • Sending a separate letter of apology to Nathan for his having been treated poorly.
  • Including a $25.00 gift card for Nathan along with their apology.

 

Chaffed at Chipotles

A good friend of ours went into a Chipotles restaurant to get an outside meal for her father who was confined to the hospital struggling with the last stages of cancer. Her simple request, “I’d like a chicken burrito bowl but can you please split it into two portions. My dad is in the hospital with cancer and he can’t eat a whole burrito in one sitting so I’d like to be able to save some for later.”

After first dealing with a couple of employees whose English was insufficient to understand the request she was handed over to the manager who refused to split the portion into two, even after our friend offered to pay extra for the use of a second “bowl”. Beyond being unwilling to be helpful the manager even managed to look put out by the request.

Needless to say my wife once again wrote a letter. I love her for that.

Chipotles responded, after a week or two, with a letter to our friend that included:

Coupons for a couple of free burritos wrapped in a photocopied note that proclaimed:

“I call a do over.”
Though we strive for perfection
we don’t always get there.
Please accept these Burrito Bucks
and give us another chance.
We’ll be waiting for you…
fresh cilantro in hand,
(it’s the closest thing we have to roses.)

No recognition of the situation, no apology, not even a personal word or two.

These two examples also serve to highlight the two important components of balance. Let’s call these two components the Word and the Will.

The Word refers to the culpability and the apology that is offered. The Will refers to any material compensation that is given. If we look at this through the metaphor of a set of balance scales that have been shifted to the negative, the Word unlocks the scales to allow them to swing freely and the Will represents what we put on the scales to cause them to swing.

In the above examples the management at Kohls understood that both the Word and the Will were of equal importance. They took responsibility even making mention of the actions they had taken to make sure the situation was corrected AND THEY APOLOGIZED. Having thus unlocked the scales they added a $25.00 gift card. (Which is a HUGE sum to an eight year old.)

Chipotles on the other hand barely managed to take responsibility. The actual language they used and the format in which they chose to present their words all acted to minimize their culpability and thus rendered their minimalist apology even weaker. At that point had they even offered a month’s supply of free product the scales still would have been locked.

Too often organizations fail to realize that both the Word AND the Will are important. The truth is that in most cases just applying the Word comes across as a cheap apology while just applying the Will comes across as an attempt the buy the customer off without truly addressing the situation.

It’s funny how well this applies to personal relationships as well. Any examples come to mind?

Customer Delight Revisited

It wasn’t all that long ago that business journals were all abuzz with the notion of delighting customers. “Creating real loyalty”, they said, “is all about Customer Delight.”

Fast forward to say…now…and delight has been eclipsed. You no longer want to delight customers, now you just want to make things easy for them. Customer Effort is now the thing that creates loyalty.

I’m not sure I agree…well, let’s be honest really…I don’t agree.

Most of what you read in favor of Effort over Delight cites studies that seem to indicate that customers don’t want “something free” they just want customer service to “be easy”. True, but myopic.

Allow me to suggest three truths of Customer Delight that I believe paint a much more colorful picture on a far broader canvas.

1. Delight starts with your product.
A simple truth but oft overlooked. You can delight customers with elegant design, innovative features, good cost to value ration and yes, even ease of use.

Some people refer to this as the “human factor”, creating products and services that don’t just “solve the problem” but bring a sense of happiness, well being, or balance to the user as well.

Obviously Apple is a leader in the art of human factor design. iPhone was SOOOO cool compared to other smart phones when it first hit the market. Even now the competition is more trying to out iPhone the iPhone than they are truly innovating.

2. Delight continues when you go the extra mile.
This is not as difficult as it seems. Simple ways to provide delight in this category:

  • How effective are your assembly instructions?
  • How comprehensive is your user manual?
  • What are your policies on replacement or repair?
  • How easy are they to find?

Providing information that allows customer to answer their own questions, and providing it in detail, has the capacity to delight customers. Yes, it is interesting on how closely this plays to customer effort, but in this case effort CAUSES delight.

My son is now driving my old Nissan Altima. I love that car. But early on I ran into a bit of a confusing problem with it. One morning, out of the blue, it wouldn’t start. I tried a couple times before it finally sputtered to life. Then, for weeks, no more problem.

Until it happened again. I can’t remember if it was cold, or water, or cold water…but there was nothing that made me think there should be a problem. I did a little digging and not only did I discover this was a randomly occurring issue for other Altima owner’s as well but, I ALSO discovered the secret code to fixing it!!

I kid you not you had to do something along the lines of: Turn the key on and off three times, turn it to the on position for 15 seconds, take it all the way out, put it back in and start normally. Apparently this resets something in the computer. Works every time.

What bugged me was that I had to find that out on the internet. I know it would go against Nissan’s grain to admit there might be an intermittent problem but I wish THEY would have had the information available for me.

  3. Delight is about exceeding expectations…sometimes.
There are times when customers expect you to be invisible. They do NOT want to have to get into the weeds on details. Think in terms of your cell phone bill. You’ve set up all the options as you’d like them and now you just want it to run like clockwork.

If the only time you attempt to delight customers is when you’ve failed at invisibility it feels like you’re trying to buy them off.

Find ways to anticipate your customers expectations and be waiting to meet their needs at a point that is down the road ahead of them.

Later this week I want to look at Customer Delight as a multiplier, but for now consider these truths and ask yourself where your best opportunities lay for elegant design, superlative support, and anticipatory solutions.

Where are your best opportunities for delighting customers today? Where would you like them to be tomorrow?