Saturday, September 27, 2008

Welcome to the Mac Family

And that is what they said to me. I didn't just buy a computer, I was invited into a community. From the minute I walked through the door, I could see that this was going to be a very different experience to all the other computer buying expeditions that I have been on.

I walked through the doors armed with all my "research" tucked under my arm, looking like I meant business. But I wasn't attacked by sales staff, just welcomed with smiles and greetings. They left me alone with their stuff, they didn't hassle me and they didn't try to intimidate me with their infinite technical knowledge. The store and customer service delivery was designed as if they wanted me to stay and play.

Now I'm not going to do the Mac Vs PC thing in this blog, it's Apple's customer service style that I want to draw attention to. The key winning features are:

1. Making the customer feel welcomed, not like a potential thief
2. Assume that the customer already knows what they want
3. Well trained staff that love as well as understand their products
4. Stores designed to welcome customers to touch, feel and experiment with what they are about to buy (yes, humans are basically curious, sensuous, tactile creatures)
5. Understand that if the customer doesn't buy today, they will come back and buy tomorrow if the exploratory experience was positive
6. Create a sense of community and belonging; that this is not a once-off purchase, but a relationship that will go on for years.

This was the best customer service experience I have had in years. And this is not a model that is difficult to replicate. So I think to myself, all those businesses offering crappy customer services, do they really want, or deserve, to be in business at all?


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Customers - are they relevant for CEOs?

Twitter is a cool tool:-))

So I got notice of the following article at HBR:

How CEOs Should Work With Customers

...there surely is way to more success and it leads to the customer and with the customer.



Customer stakeholder No. 1

Two days ago, while on the web chatting with somebody via Skype, the following flew into my mailbox:

... in the new edition of Business Insight"

edited by MIT Sloan Management Review (if you don't know it yet - check it out!).

The authors of the study bring the CUSTOMER into the focus.

To quote just the first three lines (link provided further down):

"NOBODY'S PERFECT. That's a fact, not an excuse.

Which is why it is crucial for companies to realize that the way they handle customer complaints is every bit as important as trying to provide great service in the first place. Because things happen. ...."

Have you with your customer/client "hat on" been valued in the past? What was missing?



PS.: The above mentioned article can be read at

Sunday, September 21, 2008

HR Electronic Information - over and over again:-(

Haven't you faced the same problem: applying for a new job via the web you ought to input your personal information into a HR portal!

Just imagine you have applyed for 10 such job. How much time has gone by and how much better could you have used it otherwise?

Lost time equivalent = 9 x 1 Hour x 100 €/hour/person x Persons applying online (for 10 applications you have initially put up one full completion) = 900 €/Person * Persons applying online (?)

Imagine there would be 5 Mio persons around the planet applying online in one given year. Then the lost time equivalent (LTE) would be 900 € * 5.000.000 = 4.5 Billion € per year!

Sounds a bit crazy, or? Just boil the 100 €/hour/person down to 20 €/hour/person and it still would be an LTE of 9 Billion € per year.

Enough for a business, don't you think?

Why do we have to give the information over and over again?

Shouldn't we rather see the following:

1. You provide the information once (as most employers use similar or even the same software for that)

2. Either the information is stored on your computer or a neutral clearing place from where your information can be transfered to the employers's HR programs

3. Updates possible - automatic notice to already transfered info

4. Providing a worldwide standard

What is lacking?

1. No knowledge exchange amongst providers of software, employers using it and its customers (US!)

2. Lacking trust on sharing information in the present communication ways

3. No connected software solution yet

4. Diverse single efforts around the world -perhaps!

So who is joining the new collaboration project?

Crazy ideas always start somewhere, and that is here!


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Recognizing your face:-)

Yesterday, it happened at Leipzig Main Station, I was on the way with my Finish guest from Team Academy to buy a ticket from Leipzig to Berlin-Tegel.

As I am owner of a Bahncard 100 (unlimited free travelling on German Railway Network) I have the privilege to be served on a special counter. Normally you have to show your Bahncard 100 to prove that you are allowed to use this special counter.

To my surprise the lady smiled and said, "That's not necessary, I know you from past events. You have bought several special travel arrangements in the past, haven't you?"

That was the moment when I felt well treated:-)

...and so the conversation around the buying of the ticket was a real pleasure.

Service could be so easy and doesn't cost a cent extra (on the contrary it gives more €€€ for the companies if its employees treat the customers in a welcoming way).

Quite inspired by what is possible I am looking forward to a enjoyable coming week -to all of us:-)



Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Customer service shake up

The revolution in customer service is underway and this has been largely driven by the growth of social media, networking and collaboration that have been enabled by Web 2.0 technology. Yes, customers are doing it for themselves and standing up to shabby treatment and a lack of imagination in product development and service delivery. And businesses, service providers and governments are finally listening...really listening. Those that are not listening will hasten their ride to the graveyard of legacy business models.

My collaborator in this blog, Ralf, asked the question, is service valuable and accountable? Let's keep this simple and round it off to three types of service providers:

1. The Good
These are providers that love what they do and care about their customers. They continuously train their staff and maintain a high quality product and service. This can range from small operators like my favorite cafe who know my name and how I like my coffee to large operators like Amazon who knows what books I bought yesterday and what I may like tomorrow.

2. The Bad
These are providers that have established a formula that may have worked once upon a time, but have not bothered to update or improve their products and service. Where flexibility or customisation are required, customers are forced to pay a penalty or put up with a sub-optimal product or service. These providers are usually a throw back to the Henry Ford business proposition: you can have any color as long as its black...These providers choose cost efficiency over customer effectiveness.

3. The Ugly
These guys promise you the world and usher you into customer lock in. Once you're in they throw away the key. A prime example here: I have a Blackberry from Optus here in Australia on a two year contract. Earlier this year the device developed a fault and needed to be fixed. To cut a long story short, Optus had to send it to a specialist in Sydney to get fixed. It took 10 weeks and they could not offer me another device as a replacement or while I waited. I have been a customer of Optus for 15 years and I effectively run my business off my Blackberry. Did Optus care? NO! No prizes for guessing what I am going to do when the contract is finished. Hasta la vista Optus.

For my own business I work very hard to keep it in the GOOD category. It must be working as I have a happy, growing and profitable customer base.

Which business are you?


Is service valuable and accountable?

Good morning everybody!

Isn't that happening that you feel not appreciated as a customer sometimes? Standing in a 50 m queue at a check-in counter at the airport? Waiting to be served in a Restaurant (perhaps even with a Michelin star)?

Of course it should be like:

1. Online-chat hotline at Yugma (a small and free of charge communication software tool to share your desktop with somebody on the other side of the planet to discuss a matter), where you get instant help by a real person - awesome:-))

2. Metro (a small freeware - doesn't cost a nickel- to find your way around in foreign cities, especially on buses, trams and trains), where you can send your personal improvement ideas and up-to-date data to the programmers in order to get it directly in the data

3. Danish Railway Company, where have leaflets at every seat which explain how to get out the window (in case of an -hopefully never to become true- emergency) - I felt save like on a plane. Still you can do more when you moving not 10.000 m above the earth.

....and there are numerous examples -bad and good- around the world. Let us share the stories and find out what could be done better for us -the customers- and give the companies perhaps some hints on how they could provide a better service (without spending more extra money).

See you and your stories right here;-))

Best regards