Customer Service

We May Ask You for Your Account Number Again


Do your patrons rave about the service they receive when they contact your cause?  Do they talk about how easy it is to get the information they are seeking?  Or are they asked to key in their membership account and then asked for it repeatedly throughout the process?

Are you a call center or a cause?  Do you share a belief with your members or only a desire to be bigger, faster, and more powerful?

I am Sorry

Yesterday I turned off our cable TV service (keeping our broadband internet) and returned the equipment to the cable provider.  As I placed the digital cable box on the office counter the cable company representative said, ‘I am sorry.’  Sorry about what I thought?  Sorry that I am customizing the service to meet my needs?  Sorry that I will paying less money? The sorry was intended for the cable company, not me as a customer.  When a client interacts with our enterprise and we may have expectations about their needs that are not in alignment with the customer’s intentions.  We apologize or become frustrated when we believe they are not getting maximum value from our cause.  Yet in may be that they are receiving everything they desire and our sorry is misplaced and possibly awkward.

How do you measure and gauge your client’s needs?

$1 Coupon

 My father-in-law will not shop at a local market because they would not honor a coupon that he brought in a couple years ago.  He tells everyone about his experience and recommends they shop elsewhere.  I am certain the market has not idea of my father-in-law’s name and has experienced no real discernible loss of revenue but how much marketing must the market create to overcome one former customer who had a bad experience?  If you shop online and read customer reviews, how many low scores do you need to see before you move on to another product or website?  I find that it is the really dissatified customer reviews that I read to see if it the problem is the product or the experience.

How do you handle those who will not recommend your cause?  Do you know their names?  Have you ever called them up and asked them to tell their stories?  What do you have to lose if you invest some time in people who were once fans?

Meeting You Halfway

If you are providing a service to others and ask them to meet you halfway then you are essentially suggesting that the ball be placed back in the middle of the field.  Why not allow a client to put the ball inside the penalty box?

I want to do business with you when you talk about an arrangement that provides me with some recognition of what talents I bring and what services you offer.  If you are just about creating balance there are plenty of businesses in the world who can resemble that model.  If you are willing to standout for what you believe, then you are remarkable.

Just Listen

The moment I expressed my concerns with an online subscription service, the customer representative quickly apologized that I was not going to complete the transaction, rattled-off the toll-free number, and then hung-up.  Sounds familliar.

The funny thing is that had he just listened for a moment, my issue could have been solved and he would have closed the deal.  But his senses were so tuned to identifying a non-performer and getting to the next call that the opportunity was lost.

How do you make sure you really hear what your customers are saying?  How do you listen for their real needs?  If you believe what your fans believe then taking a moment to at least acknowledge your common belief.  It may be the starting point for a completely different type of conversation.

Like a Fine Bottle of Wine

When one orders a bottle of wine in a finer restaurant there is a well crafted ritual.  A sommelier will pour a taste into the glass of the patron, providing an opportunity to ogle, swirl, sniff, taste, and swallow the varietal.  If the wine is as anticipated then it will be served to the guests.  If there is a problem the sommelier will provide the patron with options.  The process carries a strong level of inherent trust that comes from a tradition.  When done well the presentation is an art form in itself.

I have noticed how easy it is to deliver a service (the bottle of wine) to a customer and consider the transaction complete.  Did we introduce the opportunities to our guest and allow them to pick the appropriate service (introduce the wine list, help orient them and make recommendations)?  Do we help the client get started (show them the label, open the bottle, and pour an initial taste)?  Are we immediately available to gather feedback (awaiting the nod of approval that the wine is as anticipated)?  Have we assembled the resources for others to share in the experience (placed wine glasses with the other guests)?  Are we alert to their needs (check on the patrons enjoyment of the wine and prepared to bring another bottle)?  Are we memorable (do we steam the label off a particularly memorable bottle or provide a patron with the business card of the proprietor of the winery)?  Are we available to join the celebration (be prepared for the guest who wants to pour us a small taste of an especially fine vintage).

Enterprises that treat the services they offer like a fine bottle of wine build loyalty, are memorable for their expertise, raise prices, and break out of the commodity race.

Secrets of the Sommeliers: How to Think and Drink Like the World's Top Wine Professionals 

Preferred Customer

Three telephone calls tonight that started with some form of the intro, “you are a preferred customer and therefore….”  I listened politely and declined the new limited time offer of additional service (insurance, travel protection, purchase protection).  Each call made me wonder, does being a preferred customer mean more harassment?  I cannot seem to opt-out of the offers from these corporations so now I must decide if doing business at all is worth-while.  

How does your enterprise treat its preferred customers?  Do you know what they wish to be contacted about?  Are you building a relationship on trust or transactions?

Your Customer Service Comeptition

I have returned items to Zappos, CB2 and REI in the past month.  These were items that either did not meet my need or in one case was a warranty issue.  Each return was efficient, orderly, informative and memorable.  The clear question from each vendor is “how many we help you?”

I find these experiences to be a great reminder of how the social sector needs to consider the service of its customers, members and fans.  Where there is a problem there is an opportunity to be memorable for your willingness to address the issue and take appropriate actions.  I am not sure what credit a team member at a Four Season hotel has when removing an objectionable item off a folio at checkout but rumor has it that they have a significant autonomy.  There is no need to see the manger when the employee you are speaking with has the latitude to solve the problem.

This does not discount the important of a Board Chair or CEO following-up with a phone call.  But isn’t is easier to ask, “I hope everything met your satisfaction in this matter?”  The alternative is, “I see you have spoken to two of our staff members with no resolution, what can I do?”  Two different philosophies and the impacts.