As the Frog heads off on a well-earned break, she leaves us with the humorous...and bizarre of customer experience. A fun way to lead into this historic Olympic evening...
For the past week, I’ve been making the most of this fantastically warm weather and having fun in the sun. Therefore, I thought it would be apt to extend the spirit of merriment to this week’s blog… and share with you one of my favourite customer experience sites: www.notalwaysright.com
You’re probably starting to wonder why I’ve signposted you to a customer service experience site for the purposes of amusement. You’re also probably starting to question whether my interpretation of “merriment” is the same as yours. All I can say is that the site shares frank tales of the customer service experience from an employee perspective… often with much hilarity ensuing.
And while the stories are always entertaining (and frequently quite alarming), I’ve also found them surprisingly enlightening and thought-provoking. For example:
A Light in the Darkness
(Our lighting store is very hands-on with service. On a slow day, I see a customer standing near our counter. She is looking at some lights displayed on the roof.)
Me: “Hi, can I give you a hand today?”
Customer: *angry* “NO! You know, you’re the fourth person in ten minutes to ask me for help! I just want to look at the lights. I don’t need any help. I just want to be left alone!”
Me: “Okay, then.”
(I walk away, rather surprised by her reaction. I see another customer, an elderly man, and decide to approach him)
Me: “Can I give you a hand, or were you just having a look?”
Elderly Customer: “Just having a look, thank you. You know, you’re the third person to ask me that. What great service you guys have!”
But getting back on track, merriment is what I promised and so merriment is what you shall have:
A Pack of the Clones
(Instead of having a definite job role I am just expected to help out wherever the restaurant is short. On this day, I have been cleaning)
Customer: “Excuse me, could you tell me where your toilets are?”
Me: “Just through there, sir. Just give me a moment to get the cleaning stuff out of there.”
(I clear the toilet and leave. On my way downstairs, I am asked to open the bar up for the customers. I change and do so)
Same Customer: “Oh, weren’t you just upstairs?”
Me: “Yes, sir. Can I get you anything?”
Same Customer: *nervous look* “Uh, I’ll just have a coffee. I’m sitting over there…”
(After serving, I change again and start waiting tables)
Me: “Hello again. Can I take your order?”
Same Customer: *upset* No…no…I think I’ll have to leave…”
Me: “Are you okay, sir?”
Same Customer: “I can’t eat in a place that employs CLONES! CLONES! CLONES EVERYWHERE!” *leaves*
So grab an iced cold margarita, deckchair & space in the sun and treat yourself to an indulgent evening of "consumer research". Enjoy!
Have a great Olympics...from all at Marianne Page Limited.
This Friday our Frog is frustrated when a business fails to recognise that her needs as a customer are more important than an upsell.
A few weeks ago, I reluctantly ventured out to a local electronics superstore. I say reluctantly because I absolutely hate going to certain shops. Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I’m a confirmed internet shopper. Indeed, I haven’t purchased a Christmas present offline since 1942. There’s something quite soothing about being able to make a considered and informed purchase.
However, that changed a few weeks ago when I became the very proud owner of a colossal 3D TV. The anticipation of being 'almost' elbowed in the face by a giant Norris from Corrie, led to an overwhelming urge to purchase a 3D Blu Ray DVD player as well...so I could be 'almost' run-thru' by Jack Sparrow. The exhilaration of it all neutralised my hesitation to such an extent that I braced myself for a flying visit to my local Curry’s.
Early signs upon arrival suggested this was going to be a positive visit. The official “greeter” was congenial and the salesman made an effort with some genuinely interested small talk. Furthermore, when I declined his offer of help, he respected my response, letting me know where I could find him if I needed assistance and then leaving me alone. This has never happened to me before. Usually, salespeople say they’ll leave me and then stalk me around the shop… surreptitiously peaking over laptops and jumping out from behind fridge freezers. Yes, early signs indicated a very constructive experience indeed.
Now, it’s a universal truth that the availability of assistants is negatively proportionate to how much you want to speak to one. So, when it came to the point that I needed help, it took me quite some time to locate someone...anyone...to talk to. A very bubbly saleswoman was eventually located in the Breville toaster and irons section. She was chirpy and friendly – again everything looked good.
I’d visited the shop to purchase three things – a DVD player and two HDMI cables. I’d researched it all online (naturally) and selected the DVD player before I’d arrived; but I required a little help with the cables as I had different requirements for each of them. It was when I tried to convey these requirements to the saleswoman that my difficulties began.
I’d only half expressed my requirements – “I need two HDMI cab…” – when she ran off Usain Bolt-like, towards the in-store media centre, with me in hot pursuit. When we arrived at the cable display, she then proceeded to peel the price tag off an HDMI package and blind me with random technological terms (flux capacitor, warp drive, tardis etc) intended to impress.
I pointed out that this cable didn’t meet my needs... she dragged the art of upsell into the equation to press the sale. I re-clarified my requirements...she explained that this was the best cable on the market. I pointed out that while the item she’d chosen might indeed be fantastic, it failed to meet the requirements of either cable I actually needed...she continued to tell me why I should purchase the one she had in her hand.
As I listened to fantastic tales of how the item had been reduced from 1.5 million pounds to £45, how beneficial it was to have a cable 13 times the length of what I actually needed and how luminous pink is what all the celebrities have these days, it dawned on me that my bubbly saleswoman was not in the least bit interested in what I actually needed and was only interested in getting me to spend more of my hard-earned cash.
After half an hour of battle, I left the store with two cables which met my needs and did not cost the earth; but still I left unhappy. The exchange left me so overwhelmed and bamboozled that I wondered whether I’d just had a bargain… or just been had. Despite the friendliness and approachability of the assistant, it was quite clear that her primary driver was how much money I spent before I left and spoke volumes for the underlying message from the company...we care more about our sales than our customers.
The irony is that if that initial focus had been on meeting my needs, I possibly would have spent more money - I had my eyes on a rather wonderful (and very expensive) surround sound system. A slight shift in focus to something like “equipping the customer to maximise the quality and enjoyment of their viewing experience”, would have resulted in a far happier customer. And, as we all know, happy customers are returning customers who spend more.
So, my question to you today is: what is the primary focus of your business? A one-off big sale...or a loyal, lifetime customer?
The Frog finds herself back at the hospital musing on the goodwill to be gained from putting yourself in the customer's shoes.
A few weeks ago I found myself back in the hospital, accompanying a friend to yet another appointment. We arrived a little early, only to be informed by a cheery nurse that the Doctors were running approximately 45 minutes behind schedule. The waiting room was packed and sweltering; the only available seats being either side of a woman who was telling anyone who’d listen the precise details of every ailment she’d had since 1964 whilst vigorously knitting what looked like a shocking-pink mohair cardigan. Everything suggested that this Frog would quickly become a very grumpy toad! But...fast forward 5 minutes and my friend and I were sitting contented and happily nattering away while we waited.
When the Doctor eventually called her into his office, I found myself wondering how a potentially negative experience had turned out so well. While I try to be an excellent customer, I am by no means the customer equivalent of Mother Teresa… so how did an experience so loaded towards a negative reaction result in positive acceptance?
For contrast, I compared my experience a few months ago (you’ll recall from my previous blog that I had a similar delay in a hospital environment while accompanying a friend). On that occasion I’d reacted very differently; slowly bubbling into a raging mire of frustration. Indeed, the only reason I hadn’t complained and become quite challenging was the fact I wasn’t the actual “customer” in that situation.
My analysis of the two very similar situations with two very different responses left me puzzled… until I remembered something I’d read about the psychology of customer contact. Richard Gallagher, in his book “Great Customer Connections”, discusses a technique where the service provider switches their perception to that of the customer and reflects that in their communication. That was the reason these two experiences had resulted in two very different responses!
Possibly unbeknown to the cheery nurse, she’d applied this approach and successfully neutralised a very probable negative reaction. When she proactively came over to us to explain and apologise for the delay, she’d wrapped it up in disarming dialogue “I’m sorry - I know it’s not nice being conscientious, turning up early and then having to wait even longer. That always frustrates me. Especially on a nice day like this; I know you’d prefer to be anywhere but here. I’m doing all I can to try and get you in a little quicker”.
In changing her mind-frame from her own (as a service provider) to that of her customer, the nurse anticipated our reaction and communicated to us from that perspective before we’d responded. Looking back, I now understand my unconscious response: her words were those of a considerate service provider who clearly understood and genuinely empathised with our situation – after all, she didn’t even need to be told about our feelings, she demonstrated that she already knew - plus she’d shared with us how she’d felt in the same situation. And as this woman knew what it was like to be in our shoes, we knew she’d try to resolve the situation if she was able; and if the delay remained it wouldn’t have been from her lack of effort.
The ultimate result of her communication and our unconscious response, was that, where we probably would have huffed and grumbled for the next 45 minutes, we thanked her, accepted what she said without question and took the opportunity to have a good chat.
In contrast, during my other experience the receptionist had maintained her own perspective and disregarded the customer view when she simply informed us to “take a seat until the Doctor calls you”… the eventual result of which was, of course, the negative reaction that she anticipated all along.
Changing focus from your own perspective to that of the customer is a very powerful, straightforward and yet seldom used technique, consisting of three simple steps:
So, my question to you this week is: Do you speak as a customer to your customers?
Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)