Tag Archives: customer service

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?

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?

How Would You Rate THIS Customer Service?

I am currently in residence at The Ship in Weybridge, England where it is costs, with exchange rate, just under $250 per night.

This morning there was no water. None.

All the guests received the following:

Dear Guest,

Please accept our most sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused to you this morning by the lack of hot and cold water within the hotel.

Further to investigation it appears that the main external supply had been interrupted overnight, resulting in the storage tanks on the property running dry. This was resolved as soon as we were able;however it did take considerable time for the water tanks to refill and heat. Please rest assured that the system is now functioning normally again.

It is extremely unusual for The Ship to encounter an issue such as this, and I appreciate your understanding with the disruption experienced.

Should you require any assistance for the remainder of your stay with us, please do not hesitate to contact either myself or a member of my management team, who will be delighted to help in any way possible.

Kind Regards,
A. S. ( name omitted out of kindness)
General Manager

You make the call, customer service success or failure?

If you would like a hint look here.

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 Service: Mike’s Camera vs. Bonefish Grill

Two critical reservations. Two failures to deliver. Two vastly different experiences.

In the blue corner Mike’s Camera.

This past week my son Nathan’s rugby team played in, and won, the Colorado state championship. I am more or less the official photographer for the team and because this was a night game I needed to rent a faster lens.

Mike’s Camera has typically served me well in that regard and although I am looking at trying another service for an event later this month I turned to Mike’s to help me out for the finals.

I reserved my typical Canon 70-200 f/2.8 via phone several days ahead of the event knowing that if Mike’s didn’t have it I could turn to the other service. They DID have it available so we arranged for it to be ready for pick up at their south store on Wednesday.

Wednesday morning I got a call from the rental dept at Mike’s telling me that didn’t have my lens!?!?  I immediately panicked, I needed it THAT NIGHT, too late to explore other options. Once my heart started again I discovered that they still had the lens available but that it hadn’t made it to the south store. I could get it, but I’d have to go to the north store which would mean about 2 extra hours of drive time.

So how did Mike’s handle their failure?

They apologized and took full responsibility admitting their mistake.
They provided a solution, the lens, even thought it came with a hassle.
They cut the rental price in half.
They allowed me to return it to the south store, an hour closer to my home.

In the brown corner Bonefish Grill

Let me start by saying we love Bonefish. We’ve celebrated a number of family milestones there and have always like the food and the service. That being said…

We were looking for a place for Mother’s Day dinner. Both my mom and Libby’s parents will be with us Sunday so we’ll need reservations for eight.

We went online this past Monday to get the phone number for the south Denver Bonefish and discovered that they now take reservations online. Our party size was accepted and out chosen time, 6:45, was available. Awesome.

Yesterday I got a call from Bonefish. Apparently they had taken too many reservations over the phone and that didn’t connect to their website which, by the way, shouldn’t take parties of eight but rest assured “we’re fixing that”, and the only time that had available was 2:00.

How did Bonefish handle their failure?

They provided and apology with a but, which we all know is no apology at all.
They took no responsibility.
They offered no solution or recompense. (Ok, you could argue 2:00 is a solution but no one eats dinner at 2:00 unless they’re over 98)
In short they had nothing.

So what’s the lesson?

When you fail, and we all probably will sometime, there are a couple MINIMUM requirements for salvaging the situation:

Take responsibility
Your “I’m sorry sir but the web site doesn’t work right” means less than nothing. That isn’t my responsibility, it’s yours.

Come up with a solution
You need for find a way to provide for the customer that you have just failed. Even if the best you can do is help them think through viable options. Bonefish is owned by a management company that has multiple chains. How about trying to locate one with availability?

Offer something in return
You’ve failed at a promise. You need to make it right. It doesn’t always have to be monetary but that does help.

Truth be told if I were the person at Mike’s the lens rental would have been free. They didn’t go as far as I would have but I appreciated that they took responsibility, came up with a solution, and offered something in return.

Bonefish not so much. I’m mad enough now, and get more angry with each restaurant I call trying to find last minute reservations, that I probably won’t go back there for quite some time. In fact I’m rather hoping that several of my social media savvy will re-tweet this post both to give Mike’s props and, even more importantly to me, help Bonefish feel the sting of what I can only call an abject failure of customer service.

Got any examples of either excellent saves or miserable failures in the world of customer service you’d like to share?