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Service Failure: Samsung June 19, 2013

Posted by David Dirks in Building trust, Customer Service.
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DirksProPhotoI own a great Samsung DLP TV and have had it for about five years.  Just recently the color started faltering so I went online and sent a request on the Samsung service site for some…service.  A few days later I received an email from someone from the CA offices of Samsung.  Their email stated in part that they would make three attempts to contact us to arrange service.  He noted in his email that this was their first attempt.  So…I emailed him back the same day – thinking time was everything.

The next day – after only the first attempt – Samsung sent me an email to let me know they cancelled my request for service.  No reason.  Just canceled.  So, I emailed the nice fellow (had no phone number or otherwise I would have just called him).  I let him know that I had just rec’d a note from Samsung stating they cancelled my service request and that I in fact WANTED service – a paying customer!

Result:  Nothing.  No email response.  No nothing.  And of course, no service.  Well, that was the end of my efforts to work directly with Samsung and their dedicated service provider.

Ok.  So the next day I go online and find a local TV repair service.  I fill out the service request form and send it via  their website.  Result: No call since and it’s been three days.  I guess they are just too busy for a PAYING CUSTOMER like myself.  What business are these people in?

What to do?  I turn to Sears.  I go online and within a few minutes am able to schedule a service appointment.  Done.  Now let’s see if they show up.  I’ll let you know how this saga plays out in a subsequent blog post.  Stay tuned.

UPDATE 070213: So Sears won the day.  Not only was I easily able to set up an appointment for a repair person to come out to my house they also called to confirm the appointment (on top of the email confirmation).  The repair person was professional, clean and knew his stuff.  Problem solved for only $99.00 (which is credited to any repairs too).

Those other guys who never called me?  I found out later that they are just about out of business.  No wonder.


Do CEO’s Get It? May 19, 2011

Posted by David Dirks in Keeping Your Customers.
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The Conference Board recently asked CEO’s which business priorities they ranked from highest to lowest. I’ll tell you right now that I was a bit surprised and disappointed to see how CEO’s view their world. Here’s how the overall rankings came out across multiple industries:

1. Business Growth
2. Talent
3. Cost Optimization
4. Innovation
5. Government Regulation
6. Corporate Brand and Reputation
7. Customer Relationships
8. Sustainability
9. International Expansion
10. Investor Relations

I don’t know about you but you know what surprised me? Customer relationships didn’t even make it in the top third of the rankings. That’s very interesting in light of all the decades worth of attention, studies, books, workshops, conferences and a host of other resources that have put customer relationships at or near the top of the ‘priorities’ list.

Now I’m not saying that the other top rankings like business growth or talent are critical issues. They are but I’ve always subscribed to the practice of putting your customer relationships in the center of the engine for business growth. Everything within an organization from sales, marketing, operations, and servicing are all connected and integrated into the customer relationship.

Interesting that CEO’s find that ‘cost optimization’ is far more important that customer relationships. Well, it’s more like an astounding fact. Sure, cost optimization is always an ongoing focus but do you build an organization around that?

And for all the talk (and there’s been a lot of that) on ‘sustainability’, that ranks even lower than customer relationships. Then on the bottom of the CEO rankings are the poor investors aka shareholders. Remember that the next time you hear a CEO talk about building ‘shareholder value’.

Retail Mega Giant without Brick & Mortar? September 23, 2010

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Solving Business Problems, Strategy.
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The era of brick & mortar is being tested by some of the biggest players in brick & mortar stores.  Now Wal-Mart, in its drive to capture more urban market share, is experimenting with shipping online purchases for free from its website.  Working with Fedex, Wal-Mart is offering free delivery of online purchased products directly to a Fedex location.

So, without having to invest in urban brick & mortar locations, Wal-Mart gets a chance to sell product to those mostly younger buyers who are not inhibited to make online purchases.  This is also a smart move for Fedex who gets to develop the same distribution service for other large retailers as well.

I like this on several levels.  First, it proves that you can weld an idea from common elements.  Merging online selling with the distribution power of your delivery service is great example of this.  Secondly, it proves that even big dogs like Wal-Mart can think out of the box to solve key challenges.  Third, It once again proves that there are other ways to conduct business than by investing in retail structure.

Wal-Mart and Fedex are thinking beyond the usual in looking for ways to grow their businesses.  So should we.

Another Lost Opportunity for a Sale May 3, 2010

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Keeping Your Customers, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics, Solving Business Problems.
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There are times when you realize that it’s the little things that count more often than not.  That’s no less true when it comes to businesses who miss an opportunity to capture or in this case, recapture a sale.  Let me explain.  A few weeks ago, I made an appointment to take my car into the dealer for service that it really needed.  For whatever reason, I was not able to make the appointment.  Worse yet, I forgot to make a call to let them know that I wasn’t going to be there.

Here’s the service opportunity lost: no one from the dealer bothered to call me back to find out if I needed to reschedule.  It’s happened before with the same dealership.  The service manager there would find comfort in taking a page from the sales & service book of my dentist, who handles this transaction entirely differently.

If I make an appointment for dental work, the office calls me a few days before to remind me of my appointment.  If I should miss it, you can count on the dental office calling me the next day to find out when I want to reschedule.  Then I do and I go for the dental work.  In effect, the dentist has recaptured a sales opportunity that would be otherwise lost if they didn’t bother to call me back.

The service manager at the car dealer is missing out on a lot of business over the course of a year just simply by NOT calling customers back if they miss an appointment.  Recapturing that service sales should be just as disciplined a process as we see from the dental office.

If you’re in a service business that books customers by appointment, make sure your have a mechanism in place to recapture those of us who forget to make the first appointment.  Don’t count on customers to call you back and reschedule.

Building a Frontline Profit Machine: Podcast November 12, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in Uncategorized.
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Note:  This is a podcast of a recent Dirks On Strategy show that aired on November 11, 2009 on WTBQ in New York.

The economy is in shambles. Competition for the same consumer buck is global and fierce. But one sales management consultant takes a unique approach to addressing the sole area that requires minimal improvement but can yield tremendous profit growth. Ziad Khoury, with nearly two decades of helping major companies reap profit windfalls, has authored a new book that centers on the frontline – entry level sales positions, call center agents, customer service staff– and shows how the most substantial new revenue opportunities involve those not traditionally associated with sales rainmakers.

“Indirect sales opportunities are ones that tend to be the most overlooked in many organizations,” says Ziad, author of FRONTLINE PROFIT MACHINE:  The Blueprint For Exploding Profits with your existing Sales and Service Team. “The positions that offer them are often viewed as entry-level, with little thought to the profit influence they have:” Executives of great companies like Nordstrom’s and Enterprise Rent a Car understand the impact of the Frontline and know what an incredible competitive edge that can be in your business.

Ziad helps turn order-takers into sales professionals and poses the question every company must ask itself, “Will we invest in creating a thriving, nearly matchless service-based sales culture that will give us a leg up on our competitors?”

No Sales Goodwill Here April 10, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in Dealing With Competitors, Keeping Your Customers.
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David DirksThis morning I went to a local printer I use for to a quick print job I needed for a presentation.  I walked in the shop and begin to explain what I have and what needs to be done.  The woman at the counter simply says, ‘we’re closed’ and points to the sign on the outside near the door…yup the sign says you are closed.  However, the lights are on in the shop and the door is open.  Not only that, the sign says they are normally open from 8am to 5pm on Fridays.  How would I know they decided to ‘close’ today?

What’s worse is the part when I ask here if she knows of another printer who could do the job.  She meekly says a name of a office supply store which I won’t name but you wouldn’t have your resume printed there.  It’s not there thing.  No big deal right? Well, except that the store she named wasn’t even close by.  And right next store, in the strip mall next to theirs is a Minuteman Press.

So I’m thinking to myself, you will send me to some schlocky outfit rather than your competitor next door?  Is that the best you can do for me, the customer?  I think not.  So, I took my business over to the Minuteman Press.  He was open and took care of me right way and, pretty much by default, he earned my business today.  By the way, the job I had in hand was worth several hundred dollars.

So, here are a few points worth noting from this sad tale.

  • If you can’t do the job, recommend one of your competitors who can.  This was the ‘moment of truth’ that the first printer flunked with flying colors.  I would have appreciated the close proximity of the press next door and my ability to get the project done today.  I would have felt gratitude to them for helping me find the appropriate printer.  It would have earned them much goodwill.  Instead, it made me mad and bought them no goodwill whatsoever.
  • If you are going to close your store on a normally busy day during your regular business hours, don’t close unless you absolutely have to.  Except for an emergency, your customers are expecting you to be open.

Trust me when I say this:  the first printer didn’t seem to care about my need for immediate, high quality printing.  “We closed”, is the only advice I really got.  Well, keep that up and you will be closed…only permanently.

There.  I feel better now. 🙂

Don’t Do this In Your Business! December 23, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Local Brand Development.
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David DirksMy furnace needs to be looked at because it’s not operating well.  So I do what I usually find helpful and call a friend who told me a while ago that they found a great furnace guy.   He is local, very good technically, reasonable, and “very nice”.  So far so good.  I called and was told that he may or may not be taking on new clients.  A couple hours later I get a call from his office saying, “he’s too busy and can’t help you”.   That’s it?  Ok, I know it’s winter and he’s bound to be busy…probably a one-person furnace repair show.  However, he and his business missed an opportunity.

What was his opportunity?  For starters, he didn’t even try to take on a new account.  He could have very easily asked me if I could wait a few days.  But even if he is booked solid from now until 2020, he missed an opportunity to build some local goodwill and improved his ‘local brand’ appeal.  Gee, I’m OK if you can’t do it, but how about giving me a name or two of someone else I could call?  Wow!  He would have improved his average with me by 150% if he’d just had made a referral to another furnace repair place.

I understand that if you’re in a small business, it’s often hard to see the forest of opportunities when you can only see through the trees.

Here are some lessons learned from todays episode:

  • Try to save the sale and make it work if you can.
  • Don’t leave your potential customer without options.  Make an effort to steer them to another solution, even if it means giving business away to a competitor.  They’ll remember you for it and probably be very thankful.
  • Think bigger.  If this guy is so booked that he can afford to turn down business, then he might want to think about expanding his business.  Maybe hiring someone to pick up the business he can’t cover?  Think. Think. Think.

Of course, I did ask if they could recommend anyone else.  “Nope”.  Great.  Not only do you NOT want my business, you don’t want anyone else to have it either.  Like the American General during the WWII Battle of the Bulge said in his reply to the German General who asked for his surrender: NUTS.

I feel better now.

How Not To Sell Pizza April 15, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Keeping Your Customers, Solving Business Problems.
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Last Friday I went to a local pizza joint near my home to pick up my daughter from a b-day party being held there. Somewhat hungry, I went in to get two slices of pizza. The line was only 3-4 people deep so I found my place in line and waited. And waited. And waited. And waited some more. Finally, my turn on the counter. I ask for two slices to go. Sorry, says the lady behind the counter, we don’t have any counter pizza. It’ll be about 10 minutes she says before one is ready. Ok. I’ll wait this out. And wait. And wait. During the waiting period, I wanted to know just what the route causes were of this waiting snafu for two simple pieces of pizza.

I observed pretty much chaos behind the counter. It was certainly near the dinner hour, so I could understand why they were busy. But they just couldn’t seem to keep up. As people came to pick up their phone orders, I hear people behind the counter say things like, “What time did you call?” or “What’s your name again?”. Or they would frantically search for the persons order, unsure of where or what happened to it. Chaos.

So, I waited and waited…10…15 minutes…then I go to the counter. Looking directly at the lady who spoke to me before, I noted that I was simply waiting for two pieces of pizza to go. She looks down at the counter pizza stand, which is still void of pizza, and says, “We don’t have any right now”. She looked at me like she had never laid eyes on me before. Good grief. Game over. I’m out of here. Sell the slices, whenever they get here, to someone else. I’m going outside to chew on some tree bark instead.

All I could keep thinking was, “this place stinks”. Now, they have pretty good pizza, but what I just went through was enough to drive a sane person over the edge. Is this the way to run a business? One woman who saw me standing there told me that she went through the same chaos the week before. Apparently, peak order times are a problem for this business. Fortunately, it isn’t the only game in town. We have other good choices with far less chaos.

Here are a couple of takeaways:

  • Always be ready for prime time. This pizzeria was not running even close to optimal during peak order times. If you’re in the pizza business, you live for these times when orders are streaming in by phone and people are at the counter, etc. This is your business and people expect you to handle the peak times with efficiency, not chaos.
  • Tell customers the truth. Don’t tell a customer that the pizza will be ready in 10 minutes when 20 minutes later there is still no counter pizza still! Perhaps “10 minutes” is the mechanical response. “Can I get a soda?” Response: “Ten minutes.” “Can I use your bathroom?” Response: “Ten minutes.” “I think I’m having a heart attack.” Response: “Ten minutes.”
  • Recognize an opportunity to make things right when you see it. I don’t think it mattered much to the folks at the pizzaria that I walked out and left a customer who will not go back there again. Had they done the right thing and said, “We’re sorry sir to keep you waiting. Have a soda on us.” That would have certainly taken the edge off me. Don’t just ignore the situation (in this case, me) and hope I’ll just go away (like I did).

There’s a very busy pizza place near my office in NJ. They are crunched at lunch time. However, no matter when you show up or how busy it is, you get great service. They almost always have a pizza available on the counter for slices or one is really within a minute of coming out of the oven. In other words, they have long ago figured out how to run their business efficiently. And, their pizza is great too!

Delivering Superior Customer Service: The Grand Hyatt of Tampa December 14, 2007

Posted by David Dirks in Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff, Increasing Your Profitability, Keeping Your Customers, Uncategorized.
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dirksphoto.jpgI’ve just witnessed/experienced a text book example of delivering on superior customer service. At the moment, I’m in Tampa awaiting a flight back home, wrapping up a three day business trip. I’ve been staying at the Grand Hyatt in Tampa during this time. The hotel is a living & working model of creating and delivering consistent superior customer service. By the way, ‘superior’ customer service is defined in my book as that level of customer service that is so obvious that you’d have to be dead to miss it. It’s a level of customer service that you recognize the moment you’re picked up at the airport to the hotel until the time you check out.

Any business, large or small, intent on delivering superior customer service quickly recognizes that it’s your ability to pay attention to the ‘small things’ that makes the difference. It’s the ability to continuously aggregate small but significant ‘moments of truth’ that build on one another during a customers experience with you.

Here are a few examples of the Grand Hyatt in Tampa delivering on superior customer service:

1. Every, repeat, every interaction with any level of Hyatt employees in this hotel was delivered in a consistent fashion. The always friendly smiles, personal & friendly banter, and the constant scanning for opportunities to serve are just a few examples of superior customer service. On the last point of scanning for opportunities to serve, everyone on the staff is trained to find ways to help hotel guests enjoy their moments there. Hotel employee’s are not hiding from guests. Some are even strategically posted around the common areas of the hotel and are constantly scanning the area for opportunities to help customers.

2. The Grand Hyatt has figured out how to insure that all employees are trained effectively to deliver customers service when they are in the line of duty. That’s not an easy thing to do but the Big Dogz do it all the time and invest in it deeply. You can’t create a superior customer service experience by skimping on constant training.

3. It’s clear to me, as a guest of the Grand Hyatt, that they have figured out how to monitor customer service levels constantly. They have to be great at spotting team members who could become the weak link in the customer service chain. Their response to less than superior customer service performance is probably two things: a) retraining the team member and/or b) showing them the door.

4. There were no lulls in the delivery of superior customer service. I noted that no matter what the time of day, early morning or late at night. They, like many of the Big Dogz who are best at this game, have built into their people, culture and business processes, the ability to deliver superior customer service CONSTANTLY, 24/7.

We have choices in our business models:

– deliver awful customer service all the time

– deliver mediocre customer service all the time

– deliver inconsistent customer service all the time

– deliver superior customer service inconsistently

– deliver superior customer service all the time

I could go on and on but you get the idea. There are no ‘secrets’ to consistently superior customer service. It takes a coordinated, dedicated, and well invested focus on the part of everyone in your business, no matter how big or small. By the way, superior customer service has many advantages. Here are a few:

– Creates a ‘buzz’ around your business. The Big Dogz who execute on this are able to create such a high level of service that their customers are a key part of their marketing and sales process. Built in. No extra cost other than your investment of time, money, and intellectual capital on keeping your customer service ‘superior’.

– Allows you to keep your pricing at higher levels. Your customers will come back again and again for the experience. They won’t generally take the next lowest cost provider. They value the customer service experience they get. It’s a loss to them when they can’t get it, for any price.

– Attracts the best and the brightest. No one wants to work with a second rate provider of customer service. Who wants to work for a business who doesn’t care about providing superior customers service? Answer: People who don’t get hired by places like the Grand Hyatt in Tampa.

Is it easy to create superior customer service? No. However, if you want to build a business that will stand the test of time and profitability, you have no choice. Do it.