Did you talk about, tweet, email, or blog about customer service excellence today?
We have created new standards of service delivery, and in this post I ask if we have taken the concept of “anything for the customer” too far. Yes, pick up that jaw and let’s ponder the question.
Zappos is filled with best practices in their delivery of customer service excellence. Let me add a personal experience to the list. Sometime during the summer months, I bought a pair of all leather sneakers. Upon receiving them, I decided to put them away until the colder weather warranted a solid walking shoe of this sort. However, come November when I took the shoes out for walk, I realized that they were indeed very heavy shoes and made me feel like an old lady. I gave them one spin around the block for a total of some 40 minutes of outdoor wear. They continued to look mighty new, however they were used!
Calling Zappos, I explained to them that I had an unusual request that may necessitate managerial input. “No problem” said the happy CSR, “tell me what I can do for you.” Here is where my own jaw dropped to the floor. The CSR then directed me to my email where I would find a prepaid return postage form…And for this one time only…I would receive a full refund for my “worn sneakers.” This far exceeded my expectations and reinforced an already loyal relationship. My Zappos customer service experience will pay off in spades. I have little reason to buy shoes for my family elsewhere.
A similar situation happened to a friend of mine who knits with very expensive yarns. After discovering that she received some yarn skeins from another dye lot, the company graciously replaced the skeins. Unfortunately, the replacements were a completely different color of yarn. In turn, they once again replaced the yarns, being most careful to send the correct color and dye lot.
The extraordinaire part of the story, delivered by the Plucky Knitter, comes with the full refund that my friend was given for the totality of her expensive yarn order. This experience gives her little reason to go looking at other yarn artisans at this time.
A recent meeting spot with a friend occurred in front of the reception area for a bank branch located in New York City’s Grand Central Station. I was amused as people came into the bank to ask for directions, restaurant recommendations, bathroom locations, and so many more incidentals that were completely unrelated to financial services. This is not at all surprising considering the location of the branch. When the triage manager signed on-line to get a Google map for the individual inquiring about the nearest location of a Hale and Hearty soup restaurant, I was highly impressed. Unfortunately, in short time, I became somewhat disappointed. Why? Murphy’s Law made an appearance and a line at the triage desk was forming.
The exceptional customer service described in the Zappos and fine yarns examples are directly linked to potential business. Is the friendly banker example as clearly linked to a new deposit or mortgage application?
Here’s where the concept of “anything for the customer” can be taken too far. First off, it was not clear if the individual had a bank relationship—which is irrelevant when the bank triage staff is not busy with others. As the line formed, the triage staffer needed to make a business decision and take action: specifically, to take a quick inventory of the questions needing attention from those on line.
Human nature tends to supporting and helping others. In a front line role at a retail business center, the customer takes priority and in a major transportation hub like Grand Central Station, the triage staff is guaranteed to get a variety of esoteric inquiries. As I watched the line form and the impatient faces turn sour, I pause on defining the interaction I witnessed as customer service extraordinaire.
For quite some time, retailers have adopted the concept of triage in helping front line staff to direct customers quickly and effectively. In a healthcare setting, triage includes the identification of a patient profile so as to determine the urgency of the situation and the best way to deliver care. In our friendly banker example, we are reminded that retail triage also necessitates a qualification process, which is a process that should be used consistently with all interactions. Individually, we all know way too well that Murphy is watching us from the corner!
The first question a service manager or executive should be asking is, “What business are we in?” In the case of the bank example, that need to be asked and answered. If they want to be in the community service business, great; they have to staff for it. If they want to be in the banking business only, they need to figure out a way to redirect inquiries to the proper place.