Ginaherald's Blog

May 28, 2010

Customer service is great

Filed under: Uncategorized — ginaherald @ 1:51 am

When it comes to efforts like the ones I referred to in my last post, I’ve had people say to me “well sure, that’s fine for you; it’s just how you are when it comes to customer service.” “My people aren’t like that; don’t have that attitude toward service.”  To that I say:  “Why not?”  “Why do you let them think that it’s OK not to have an all out service attitude when it comes to taking care of your customers?”  Sure, I’m probably a bit over the top in my expectations but in my own experience many more things are possible than we are sometimes led to believe.  I’m not sure if it’s just my natural inclination to take on a problem and solve it because I love a challenge.  That may play in to it.  I’ve never been one to be able to wait on someone else to take care of something or make something happen.  Therefore I chose to equip and empower myself to take care of my clients versus waiting for someone to give me permission.  Of course it was the culture at Nordstrom which is probably why I enjoyed working there so much.  It is a culture that can be created in any company that wants to commit to doing some work to create it. 

 If we examine a couple of the 4 “E’s” of great customer service (mentioned in my first few postings) they are things that are pretty easy to do.  First is set the Expectation.  It’s communication that calls for clarity around what customer interactions should look like. Second is Equipping.  What equipping takes is teaching, on the part of those in management/leadership, about the resources and information that are available to team members when it comes to solving problems. I think sometimes those on the front lines simply don’t know what kind of latitude they may have on behalf of the customer and they are too cautious to just make a decision.  Understandable for sure.  It requires a time investment in training and communicating with front liners on a regular basis.  Using teaching opportunities as they arise in daily interactions. And that requires leaders that are on the front lines with their people.  Are you there?  If not it may be affecting your service levels.

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May 22, 2010

When it comes to customer service it’s not that people can’t it’s really more that they won’t

Filed under: Uncategorized — ginaherald @ 1:43 am

An old customer service story that illustrates a point.

 My first real job out of college was at NIBCO in Elkhart, IN.  A national company headquartered in my hometown.  At the time they manufactured copper piping and fittings and industrial metal and plastic valves in various locations around the country and in Mexico.  I worked in marketing/customer service at the corporate office.  Now I have a degree in fashion merchandising and I knew nothing about industrial valves and fittings. However, I did have background in various retail and restaurant jobs which allowed me to develop plenty of customer service skills. 

 One of my marketing companies called late one afternoon with a plant shutdown. They had a client who needed an emergency shipment of several (3-4) 8” iron butterfly valves to get the plant back on-line.  We didn’t have any available  in any of our warehouses in the system.  Rather than tell them that we didn’t have a solution for them and let them give the business to another manufacturer I shifted in to problem solving mode.  I really do love a challenge and enjoy the process of solving problems.  I asked them to give me some time to see what we could do. 

 Since I was in the corporate office I had access to all the company resources to help me solve my client’s problem.  I had made a point of developing a rapport with all the schedulers for our various plants as well as the engineers who shared our offices.  The primary reason for that was that I always wanted to know as much as possible about how things worked.  I hated to have to rely on someone else for information if I had a situation or problem to solve. I’m a pretty quick decision maker and I like to get things done and cross them off my list.  I’m not really fond of having to let things drag on or revisit them multiple times.  Now don’t get me wrong, I do realize that’s not possible in every situation but I chose to empower myself to handle things for my clients by having all the knowledge and resources available to me.  Was it easy, sure, but it did require going above and beyond the average job description.  I’m not saying this to toot my own horn.  I’m saying it to illustrate that one can empower oneself if they are so inclined. 

 Long story short, since I like to keep these posts short………is that I checked with the scheduler for the Arkansas plant where our butterfly valves were produced to see when the valves the customer needed were coming off the production line.  As it happened there were some coming off that day.  They were allocated to a stock order for another customer.  However, since we had an emergency I was able to work thru the scheduler to get the valves reallocated and shipped via FedEx to the plant where the shutdown had occurred.  They got them the following day and were back up and running in 48 hours.   The scheduler rescheduled/added and additional run for the original stock order and that customer never knew what happened and didn’t miss their reallocated valves. 

 Happy ending.  I got a box of chocolates from my marketing company because we made them look like a hero to the customer.  The point of all this is to say that when most customer service people say they “can’t” do something or take care of something or solve your problem my feeling is that it’s more a matter of they “won’t” because it’s too much work.  What say you?

May 13, 2010

How would you have handled this customer service situation?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ginaherald @ 1:48 am

My husband decides that he wants a burger on Saturday night so we head for one of our favorite local burger joints (emphasis on the word “joint”).  A true hole in the wall and don’t they generally have great food?  Voted best fries in town too (and they pretty much are) and it’s close to home which is perfect.

Now we are not frequent visitors of this establishment, however, we’ve been there on multiple occasions when only a burger will do.  This place is so small – I’m talking ½ a dozen tables maybe – that the bartender also serves the food at all the tables.  We dropped in about 8ish I’d guess with my husband’s daughter and her boyfriend in tow.  There was a small round table available (under the stairs mind you) so we grabbed it just as the band was setting up (they do live music on the weekends). 

The bartender made her way over to greet us wearing her best “tip shirt”.  And it wasn’t even so much that the shirt was just over the top, but she wasn’t even trying to be welcoming or pleasant.  I guess we should have just gotten up and left, but we were there and wanted a burger so we ordered a couple of beers and some waters while we perused the menu.  She came back by, slapped the drinks down, demanded our order and marched back to the bar to put it in.  Her whole demeanor was maybe best described as hostile or confrontational. 

 I have no idea what we may have done to cause her to be so openly uninterested in “serving” us.  My husband’s daughter and I have both had extensive restaurant experience and we tend to go out of our way to be polite and as low maintenance as possible when we go out.  Realizing of course, that many others are not. 

 She brought the food, forgot a couple of condiments and when we politely asked for them she all but snarled at us.  She came back to the table and again, slammed the lemons down and slung the ranch dressing across the table to my husband’s daughter.   Maybe she thought that the “attitude” reflected the fact that we were eating wings and burgers in a “joint” and shouldn’t expect much more than that.  Who knows?

 Regardless, my husband (who is normally an excellent tipper) was insistent that he send her a message and only left her a 10% tip.  Normally he’s a minimum 20%er and is always very respectful and gracious to anyone who is serving him. It’s actually one of the reasons I continued to see him after our first few dates.  I felt bad about the whole thing and I plan to write the owner a letter because we like the place and think he should know about the level of service we received.  I’m curious as to how you’d handle it?

May 7, 2010

If you think it’s customer service but it’s not……..

Filed under: Uncategorized — ginaherald @ 2:01 am

It may be an experience similar to the one some friends of mine shared with me a while back.

 They were in a restaurant where they have lunch on a fairly frequent basis.  It’s near their office, the food is good, reasonably priced and the menu offers a good variety.   On this particular day, the server dropped butter on Bill’s pants while she was delivering their lunch.  Of course she was appropriately apologetic and offered to remedy the situation.  Naturally he had just picked the pants up from the dry cleaner earlier in the week.  In any event, she disappeared in to the kitchen and shortly thereafter the manager appeared at the table.

 They exchanged the usual “how’s the meal?” banter.  The manger apologized for the mishap, told Bill to take the pants to the cleaners and bring the receipt in to the restaurant at which point he would be reimbursed.  Now my issue is not that the manager didn’t try make it right, fix the problem, deal with the situation (however you want to say it).  The issue is that Bill has already had the inconvenience of his pants having butter all over them for the rest of the work day and now the manager thinks BILL should be the one to take them to the cleaners, bring in the receipt, etc.

 My thought process is that there may have been some easier way to “make it right”, that was more convenient for Bill.  One would be, just comp his lunch and say “that’s probably about the cost of having your pants cleaned.”  Seems like the easiest thing to me.  Not sure why that wouldn’t be standard operating procedure in a situation like this.  Secondly, albeit more costly, would be to offer to come by Bill’s office tomorrow, pick up the pants, run them to be cleaned and deliver them back to his office (maybe I worked for Nordstrom for too long………).  And the other issue for me is why didn’t the server have the “power” via empowerment to just do what she thought was best?  She could have asked her customer “what works best for you?”  Seems like common sense to me.  He probably says, “hey just cover my lunch and we’ll call it even”.  Then nobody has to do any extra work.  Problem remedied. Customer satisfied. 

 I mean, if I’m the manager I want my people handling little problems like this one and not bothering me with it.  Just take care of the customer.  I’m not sure what the company customer service culture is but clearly this young lady didn’t feel comfortable stepping in and solving the problem.  Is it lack of confidence to make the right decision?  Lack of training? Lack of understanding of what customer service means?  Maybe she was new and just unsure of how to deal with the mishap.  I say, set the service expectation, equip your team, empower them and show them how it’s done thru your daily actions.

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