The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Monday, August 01, 2011
Volume 17 | # 389
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Note how good you feel after you have encouraged someone else. No other argument is necessary to suggest that one should never miss the opportunity to give encouragement. » George Matthew Adams

Communication Breakdown

As a general rule, I think you can tell a lot about a company’s focus on customer service by how hard or easy it makes it for you to simply communicate with it. And these days, I don’t even believe that means actually talking to a human being.

A live chat may be best, but more and more folks are absolutely comfortable with quick replies by email or even text. (Automated responses don’t count and sometimes do more harm than good.)

What often stuns me are the companies that make it incredibly frustrating to even ask a question. And companies with the most employees seem to make it the hardest to actually reach one of those employees.

Case in point, the airline that has merged with the airline I fly most had me pounding my keyboard this week. After I was booked on one of their flights, I tried to get a seat assignment.

After navigating its web-maze, I found the proper page, but it wouldn’t assign me a seat. Sure, it said the seat was available. It would let me click on it. Then in tiny red font, it would say, “There was a problem.” I came back the next day and tried again.

After 3 attempts, I tried to find a number to call. And I tried. And I tried. Apparently, they reeeally don’t like talking to folks. I eventually found an “email us” link.

Three days (not hours…days) later, I received an automated reply thanking me for my email. My question was never addressed.

It’s hard to believe that I will be moved by any of their future claims of how they value my business.

Conversely, the contractor who handled a backyard project for me recently texted me daily to make sure I knew what was going on. If I called or texted him, I’d hear back within an hour. Even when there were a couple of “hiccups” on the job, I never really had a chance to get worked up about it. He was on it, addressing it, and was in touch with me.

I know I'll hire him again down the line. I will try to avoid that airline if at all possible in the future.

Regardless of how easy or difficult your larger company may be to communicate with, how easy is it for your own customers to reach you individually? What is your personal policy on timeliness in responding to a customer? Do you have one?

It’s when customers want to reach you that they truly learn where they rank on your priority list. Where will your customers feel they rank on yours?

The Signs of Leo

Until this week, it had been a while since the actions of a service provider actually motivated me. I had just returned my rental car and was walking across the parking lot in 105 degree heat.

As I approached the rental car van, a young man came bounding out of the vehicle and met me half way.

He exclaimed, "Let me get that bag for you, sir!" I tried to tell him that I was okay, but I saw that he was determined to help with my bag. I thanked him and got on the shuttle.

As we pulled out, he turned and asked us if we would be okay with being dropped off at "arrivals" instead of "departures". He explained that the traffic on the departure level was terrible and vans were sitting 10 to 15 minutes in line.

But he told us he could zip us right into the lower level and we could simply take the escalator up to ticketing with no wait.

We agreed and thanked him for the heads-up. He thanked us for choosing his company and told us he'd have us at the airport in no time at all.

When I looked up from my Blackberry, I noticed a sign Scotch-taped to the window. It had a big "Welcome" and a smiley face, with a five day weather forecast. It also read, "Wish you a nice and safe trip. Greetings, Leo – Bus Driver."

As I smiled and reached for my camera to take a picture, I noticed a different sign near the luggage rack. It was another personalized sign from Leo next to a stack of individual hand wipes.

The sign said, "My courtesy for you, use one wipe to sanitize rental steering wheel and gear shifter. Take care of your wellness. Regards, Leo – Bus Driver."

I think the interesting grammar actually made the signs more personal. It was obvious these signs and gestures were the work of Leo and not the marketing department of that rental car company.

When we came to our stop, he jumped to unload our bags and wished each of us a great day and safe travels. As opposed to many folks, he actually sounded like he meant it. I had to smile.

I gave him a tip equivalent to what a cab ride would have cost me. He enthusiastically thanked me. I just smiled and said, "Nah, thank you."

That brief shuttle ride reminded me of the powerful impression even one engaged employee can make.

Personal gestures usually make a stronger impression than even large and "sophisticated" marketing campaigns. How will you impress today?

People who do not succeed have one distinguishable trait in common. They know all the reasons for failure and have what they believe to be air-tight alibis to explain their own lack of achievement. » Napoleon Hill

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any affiliated entities or sponsors.
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