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Tag Archives: client responsiveness

It’s time for the next customer service revolution

Customer satisfaction and customer service has been on my mind lately, primarily because I have experienced two situations first-hand recently in which two banks just didn’t get it!  Last November, I had an unfortunate interaction with ScotiaBank, and just earlier this month I blogged about how an employee at the Royal Bank couldn’t grasp the big picture.  Which got me musing about how customer service has changed significantly in just the last forty years, making it a moving target for those who aspire to exceptional levels.  When it came time to pen my regular column for The Globe and Mail, I guess it’s not very surprising then that I ended up writing about customer service. My column in this morning’s edition challenges you to envision three progressive possibilities that will ensure that your organization is at a significant competitive advantage.  You can read it here:

Artificial intelligence is the next revolution in customer service

customer service


Customer service has undergone at least two significant revolutions in the last forty years.  First with the invention of the 1-800 toll-free number, and then with the pervasive use of email.  Despite the significance of each of these two innovations, the underlying premise in customer service has always been to fix an issue identified by the buyer.  But it is 2018, so it is time to finally change that paradigm!  It’s time to fix the problem before your customer tells you about it.  The technology to power this transformation exists; it is called artificial intelligence, or AI.  And many companies have already harnessed its potential.

So, are you keeping up?  Or are you the company that makes your customers wait for hours on the phone for an issue to be resolved, or days for a response to an email query?  I would love to hear your perspectives on which organizations are ahead of the curve, and which are seriously far behind.  Please share your thoughts by commenting below.

Customer loyalty – easy to lose, but just as easy to keep

Just a few months ago, I blogged about a specific situation I experienced where a few ill-chosen words by a bank manager were able to destroy long-term customer loyalty in a matter of minutes.  Well, I’m sad to report that it’s happened again, another situation this time, but ironically still involving a(nother) bank.

One Friday afternoon in February, I was catching up on my banking and processed four transactions within three hours of each other.  Two were deposits into an account and two were transfers out of the same account.  What is key here is that all were intra-bank transactions, moving funds from one Royal Bank account to another.

Fast forward to last week when I was reconciling my bank statement and realized that I had been charged an account overdraft fee of $4.09.  Puzzled, I called customer service to find out what happened.  Turns out that while the two transfers out of that one account had been processed before 6 pm, the first deposit into the account had been posted at 6:01 pm and the second about 30 minutes later.  Apparently the rule is that transactions posted after 6 pm are recorded on the next business day, in this case on the following Monday.  So, in the system, the withdrawals were logged on Friday and the deposits were logged on the following Monday, three days later.  Ergo, the overdraft fee.

Customer loyalty is easy to lose …

While the overdraft fee was logically accurate because of the computer algorithm, it clearly didn’t make common sense, at least from a customer service perspective.  It was a simple timing error, and one that had zero impact to Royal Bank as all funds had been moved between Royal Bank accounts.  So I fully expected the phone agent to willingly acquiesce to my request to have the amount waived.  Imagine my surprise when he “put me on hold to talk to a supervisor”. Continue reading

Lack of client responsiveness … pushes customers to your competitors

It’s mind-boggling to me that so many companies still don’t understand the importance of making it easy for their customers to buy from them. In fact, I outlined two specific examples of customer service failure in Are you easy to work with? – a lesson in client responsiveness just less than a year and a half ago. Well I’m back again today with yet another stellar example of how to push revenue out the door and directly to your competitors.

WoodFurnitureJust recently, I was in the market for solid wood Canadian-made furniture, specifically six pieces for the bedroom. Since wandering from store to store is not my idea of a good time, my husband and I pored through manufacturer’s catalogues, both print and online, for months, looking for ideas and styles that caught our attention (and that were within our budget). A few weeks ago, we narrowed our interest down to three specific furniture lines. Despite the fact that I adore the convenience of online shopping, I knew that it was now time to look at them “in person” before we made the final purchase decision. So I fired off emails to the manufacturers (using the contact info on their websites, no less) asking them if there were any dealers in my area who had the specific lines in their showrooms. Two manufacturers wrote back to me within 24 hours, letting me know the names of stores that carried not only the lines I was interested in, but also information about several of their other products. One of them even let me know that they’d let a local store in the area know of my interest, and the next day, someone from the local store called me to follow up to see if I had any questions. The third company, well, I never heard from them. Continue reading

Are you easy to work with? – a lesson in client responsiveness

Frustrated business man waiting on the phone in a hotline queueBack in 2009, I blogged about how lack of client responsiveness led to a difficult experience trying to make an online purchase from the U.S. arm of the mega-company Costco.  Essentially, the company (at least back then, hopefully not now) was driven by its systems rather than the needs of its customers.  I was once again reminded of that situation with two recent experiences which gave rise to the topic of today’s blog … which is a question – Are you easy to work with?  And I don’t necessarily mean just as an individual, but also as a department, a division, or even a company?  As a leader, you have an area and scope of responsibility and my question relates to that as well – do your clients, customers, co-workers find you easy to work with?

Here are the two experiences that got me thinking about this question.  The first happened to a professional colleague who wanted to hire a service provider, but had to jump through hoops to even talk to this person.  Continue reading

Exceptional customer service starts with small actions

As leaders, we have the responsibility to nurture and maintain organizations that deliver great customer service – where our employees are responsive to our clients so that they not only have wow experiences that keep them as lifelong customers, but also compel them to tell others about us.  Which is why I am always very excited when I experience companies that get it!  In the past I’ve blogged about G Adventures’ commitment to their values, the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani’s unusual personalized approach, and Hai de Lao China’s way-and-beyond customer service.  An interaction with the travel clothing company Tilley Endurables was a recent pleasant surprise.

NeedleThreadIn April, during a visit to Toronto, I stopped in at their main store to purchase a pair of zip-off pants.  If you’re not familiar with Tilley, this is a company that designs and manufactures top-notch travel clothing with many unique features.  Zippered and Velcro closures, secret pockets, reinforced stitching in key areas, extra loops and buckles, all design elements that are a blessing to those who travel a lot.  Despite purchasing these pants in April, I didn’t actually get a chance to wear them until late last month … which is when I discovered a small shortcoming.  Continue reading

A disappointing interaction with Kraft highlights an important component of written communication

Form letters – we all use them, mainly because it makes life easier. After all, it’s a lot simpler to “cut and paste” a canned response to questions that are asked frequently. But … and this is a big BUT … it’s VERY important to read the question first. Too bad Kraft hasn’t figured this out!

KraftI often visit the Kraft Canada site to peruse recipes, look at new products, and download coupons. The other day I attempted to print off a coupon that required a newer version of Java. But the link on the Kraft website put me into an incorrect subroutine and I couldn’t download the software and coupon I needed. I sent off an email to their technical support and received a response the next day.

Hi Merge,

Thank you for visiting

Unfortunately, this promotion was so popular that the coupons offered were depleted.

Thank you for contacting us and please add our site to your favourites and visit us again soon!

Kim McMiller, Associate Director, Consumer Relations

Huh? Clearly Kim McMiller had sent me the Dear Coupon User letter – the same one that anyone gets when they write to Kraft asking about coupons. And it was obvious that no one had even bothered to read my email! Continue reading

Personalized service (even if it’s low-key) attracts customers

About a year ago, I wrote about how Hai de Lao, a popular chain of “hot pot” restaurants in mainland China, has used above-and-beyond personalized customer service to differentiate itself from its competitors. While the Hai de Lao experience is definitely “up there”, a recent low-key experience in Honolulu reminded me that you don’t have to necessarily do it in the Hai-de-Lao-up-in-the-stratosphere style to achieve a similar result.

So what was the experience? The elevators at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani resort in Honolulu. Or more specifically, what was on the walls of the elevators. Three times a day, in each of the six elevators in the hotel, a hand-made quilted original wall-hanging with a greeting is replaced to reflect the time of the day. Each wall-hanging is original and different from all the others.

It’s just wall-art, right? Nothing to get excited about? Or so you’d think. Continue reading

What brings your clients back? Is it what you sell or is it your customer service?

This past August, I was in Shanghai China for several speaking engagements. One evening, my host took me to dinner at Hai de Lao, a very popular chain of “hot-pot” restaurants. If you’re wondering what “hot-pot” is – basically, you’re brought a boiling pot of soup and you spend the rest of your dinner dunking in and cooking as many different kinds of vegetables and meats that you want. Needless to say, the food was fantastic, but it turns out that Hai de Lao is making its mark on the restaurant scene not just for their food, but also for their customer service! Since it’s not uncommon to have to wait up to an hour for a table during peak hours, the restaurant seeks to keep you entertained. Continue reading

Why it’s so important to return phone calls

Recently, a colleague suggested I contact a specific company because she’d been made aware that they were seeking leadership development training for their people.  Given what I do, it seemed like a perfect fit.  While my colleague couldn’t direct me to a specific person, she was quite familiar with the company and so was able to direct me to the right department.  I called and spoke to their receptionist, who promptly transferred me to the appropriate manager, who I’ll call Kara Close.  I left a voice mail for Kara, explaining who I was and why I was calling.  I acknowledged that she may not be the right contact for this particular matter, or the company may have already met their requirements through alternate means, but asked her to call me back to let me know or to direct me elsewhere.  I also gave her my email address.  That was two weeks ago.  I’m still waiting for a response.

Now I know all the likely reasons Kara Close didn’t call me back – she probably gets hundreds of phone calls from potential vendors, the company doesn’t need my services, I called the wrong person, she is too busy.  But here’s why she SHOULD have responded to me.  This company is a well-known corporation in the cruise industry.  And so I am not only a potential vendor, but I am ALSO a prospective customer.  Kara Close’s lack of response to me as a possible vendor is ALSO a very visible indicator of what kind of customer service I might expect from this organization as a consumer.  The cruise industry is fiercely competitive with many top-notch lines aggressively battling to get vacation dollars.  So, the next time I plan a cruise holiday, how high on my list do you think this company is going to be?

Kara Close may not have the words “Customer Service” in her job title, but she is definitely (not) a customer relationship ambassador.  It doesn’t matter what jobs your employees do, they are always representing your company, your brand and your organization’s values.  By not responding to my call, Kara Close gave me an unexpected insight into this organization’s values and culture, and in the process, did her company a great disservice.

So what do you think?  Am I right?  Or am I being too sensitive?

How promptly do you respond to client and stakeholder queries?

So for the last week and a half, I have been blogging about how some people just don’t “get” that client focus and strategic thinking are important to the success and long-term health of their organizations.  Well, it’s a message that has resonated strongly with many of you.  In fact, it prompted one of you to send me a copy of a recent study published in the March 2011 issue of Harvard Business Review.  In this research, the authors looked specifically at how long it takes companies to follow up on business inquiries and sales leads that come to them over the Internet.  The results may flabbergast you.  The researchers queried 2,241 American companies through their websites and:

  • 37% responded within 1 hour
  • 16% responded within 1-24 hours
  • 24% took more than 24 hours
  • 23% never responded AT ALL!
  • Of those companies that responded within 30 days, the average response time was 42 hours

I too was initially bowled over by the results: almost half (47 percent) either took more than one day or never responded at all!  But then I remembered something that I mentioned in my last blog post.  When I was trying to find an ACT consultant to help us with a remote installation, I left messages for three different vendors.  One called me back within 2 hours, another took one week, and the third … well, it’s been 2-1/2 weeks and I’m still waiting!  So my small microcosm of experience exactly mirrors what the researchers found.  Not so surprising after all!

In today’s competitive world, one of your roles as a leader is to make sure that your organization succeeds in the long-term.  It doesn’t matter whether you lead a for-profit organization, government, or even a non-profit charity, responding to queries from your clients and stakeholders is critical to your continued success.  And I’m not just talking about queries from potential external clients who can create cash flow; I’m also talking about interaction with internal clients and stakeholders that may be reason for your department or division’s existence.  Are you creating an environment where responses are timely and helpful?  Do you have clear expectations of your employees that they will respond (even if they cannot resolve) to queries and concerns within 24 hours?  Why or why not?