Tag Archives: customer-service

You can have this one for free…

Over my 12 or so years working in market research I have come across the odd brief that aims to understand key drivers of customer loyalty, or conversely how to halt customer churn.

Here’s my answer; and you can have this one for free…

Don’t piss your customers off…

Respect their time…

Create a culture that is about helping them with their issues, not make them worse

It’s not rocket science.

Here is my story…

This morning I received a text from Virgin Mobile Australia saying that I am coming close to my agreed credit limit. Weird. So I went on-line and discovered my account was at some ridiculously high amount. Checked my data charges and they were all good. So it must be something in my call charges. I have never reached my limit, so I wanted to find out what was going on. At this stage I am still open to the fact this could be my problem. I am on a new plan so I’m not sure how it’s all working out. Maybe I have made more calls than I normally have, although I am not sure I have.

So I call the customer service team. My experience with the Virgin Mobile customer service team in the past has been frankly terrible. Appalling. Hair-pulling-frustratingly crap. You get the picture. But there has always been light at the end of the tunnel via their very responsive and most-excellent social media team. The person (or people?) who handles their twitter account has helped me out on more than one occasion, or at least been a sympathetic ear to my issue.

But just once I’d like to call their “customer service” team and not be frustrated enough with their handling of my issue. To not be forecd into asking their social media guys for help. Just for once for them to listen to what I need, and be able to deliver it.

I’m not sure why I had any basic expectations with this call, as they’ve never been able to help me, but yes – I have a 20 minute plus phone call that instead of just answering my question (“is it actually me who has made all these calls or is something gone awry in the system”, “Am I on the wrong plan?”) I get to talk to two members of their team who have not been enabled in any way to help me.  In fact, they get me so angry and frustrated that if I could walk away from Virgin Mobile right now I would.

It’s all good and well to have a great social media team to monitor what is being said about your brand and help customers out if needed, but hey, here’s a radical idea – why not create a service culture that means that things don’t have to be “escalated”?

I am singling out Virgin Mobile Australia here as I am a customer – an unhappy one, and my experience is still a fresh and ugly wound . But I have these same experiences with a whole lot of other service businesses and I’m sure you do too.   Frustrating and annoying.

So I sit and wait for someone to call me and tell me why my bill is so high this month – who knows? Maybe it is my calls? Maybe it’s not. But the fact that no one can tell me until my bill is created in four days time seems a bit stupid. Especially as they send out a message telling me it’s high. If you don’t want me to ask why it’s so high or you can’t tell me, don’t send the flipping message! Is the message designed to hep alleviate what they call “bill shock”?  Trust me, I am already shocked but also now frustrated and really, really angry!

So yes – a simple story to help stop churn.

So service businesses of Australia. If you want to stop churn…Get your service culture right. Offer us a great product. Don’t piss us off. Be great to us instead. If all that fails, your sexy new marketing campaign won’t turn me around. In fact, whenever I see it it will just remind me how disappointed and cross with you I am.  There, I just saved you about $200,000 in research costs, and god knows how many squillions in a fluffy new ad campaign to try and make me feel good about you.

(Right now I am looking at a box from Zappos that says “powered by service”. I’d like a little bit of that culture right now. It’s a great line and from what I hear they deliver to that.)

No amount of free pies will make me happy right now Virgin...

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a well-timed email

Mixing Pot

Some time ago I wrote about a great meal mm and I had at The Mixing Pot – a classic Italian “old school” restaurant in Glebe with the fantastic service and food, and how I had received a well timed email telling me to come again soon – which made the experience even better.  

Well, they sent another very well timed e-mail to coincide exactly ten days before my birthday.  Probably the time someone may ask what you want to do for dinner that night. And with the email again the offer of a complimentary bottle plonk; this time Seppelt Salinger – not too shabby for a freebie. 

So, tonight I am looking forward to some great pasta and some of that limoncello with mm. The perfect birthday.

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Apple pie in my eye

I dragged mm into the shiny new apple store in Sydney, to make a visit the geekgenius bar to get a second battery replacement in 2 years for my macbook and for them to look into a “fatal” error picked up while doing one of those surface scan things. Sitting at the geek genius bar with “Forrest” was fun – he was my distracted geek for the afternoon. 

my mac - at it's unboxing

I ignored my compulsion to buy…well, just about everything in store (I’m a sucker for design man) and even walked calmly by the i-phones (who I have vowed to step away from for at least the next 12 months).  But what made my heart sing was the fact it was 5pm on a Sunday afternoon, and I could cruise in with a pre-booked appointment and get someone straight away to look at my white elephant.  I sort of begrudgingly love my little macbook, and probably if I got off my arse sooner to get it seen to I wouldn’t have such mixed feelings about its precocious performance, and temperamental freezing spats.  Even when it lost a whole bunch of drunken pictures I felt it had maybe done me a favour.  I was even more excited that I could take it home again last night to back up some stuff and drop it off again at another pre-booked time at 7:20am! Now, people overseas may be used to that audacious level of service, but here in Aus, you had to call the apple line, get a number, take it into an apple re-seller, be amazed by their indifference to your problem, then wait for the call to go in and pic up your fixed kit.  Now, you can pre-book and speak to someone who at least appears to care about your problem and more often than not it appears it’ll get fixed then and there. It made Sydney feel sort of, well like a big city.

So this morning mm and I jump off the bus right out the front of the store – I’m all still “big-city-buzz” and SO HAPPY to be able to do this before work and about to BURST into the store with all their shiny, happy, product and we were stopped by a secutiry guard.  Seems the store doesn’t open until much later. No probs.  We tell the guy what we are there for, and he takes a while to wander around and find soemone else to come and help us. He then comes back to tell us he can’t find anyone. He’s nice about it, but it’s COLD outside. I want in! Eventually someone comes down and takes us up to the bar (that serves no drinks as noted by CapitalD) and we get served.  But I was SO LET DOWN! The magic had been broken, the mood had been quashed…my gay little skip was reduced to a shivering hover.  The guy who did help me was really very good, and he took my white elephant away to remove the “fatal error”…whatever that means, just sounds bad.   But I figure if that they are letting people make bookings before the store opens, then someone should know about it.  The guy upsatirs was expecting me, so they knew about it somewhere.  Why not shoot down a little list to the hired guy down front?

So, I’ll wait and see how long it takes me to get the white beast back, and I’m hoping that if I pick it up before work I won’t be stopped by the dude in the parka at the front door. He’s doing his job, but apple should be helping him do it better.

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Good Old Fashioned Service..

A few weeks ago mm and I had dinner at The Mixing Pot – an Italian bistro in Glebe. You know the type of place – waiters who treat you very well, a classic Italian menu, amazing quality, lots of lovely attention to detail. Not the sort of place that gets a lot of attention or press in “what’s hot” lists, but a place where there is a lot of loyalty and love. 

We got there at about 9pm, and it was packed. No problem! We have a table! Some Australian-Italian chatter with the waiter. Food arrived quickly with a flourish. Laughter and apologies about a mislaid salad. Shared tirumasu that made me cry. And a shot of house limoncello at the end to top the meal off.  I don’t know how else to describe it – I was charmed!  And with the bill arrived a little survey about the service and food etc. Being the surveyaddict I am I dutifully filled it in.  I’ve since found out this place is a bit of a gem; been on the scene for a long time.  Has a very good reputation etc.  And on the weekend I received in my inbox a sweet email from the Mixing Pot with the subject “welcome”.  They said how appreciative they were for the feedback, and I am now considered a “preferred guest”. And to say thank you when I book my next table there I will receive a complimentary bottle of wine (and not a crap bottle, a relatively good one).  I see this is a service that is driven by an outside supplier (impact data), but it was personal and sweet and although delivered via email, felt kind of hand-done and low-tech…it only worked because my experience at the restaurant itself was so great. If I had had a shit time, and the food was nasty then the email would have just served to remind me of how rubbish the whole evening was. But irrationally I imagine the nice man who served us doing up that email himself.

The more I look into the Impact Data site I see it’s not just sweet service, but simply hard-nosed business…make a connection with me, offer me something to come again, and probably in the future offer something more to refer a friend. But it really hammers home that it only works for places like the Melting Pot because they provide something that I want to tell people about – I’ve only been there once, but I love the place.  We only had a quick dinner, but I’m looking forwardto eating there again.  We only ordered one course and shared a desert, but the sweet, professional waiters treated us like we were just as important as the people who ordered three.  I’ve told so many people about it since we’ve been. 

A few months ago I posted my fear of word of mouth killing something that was dear to me, and its lack of “scalability”.  Is Mixing Pot scalable? Yeah, absolutely! I reckon those sharp Italian guys have that all wrapped up.

(oh, and I recommend the Linguine con Gamberi, Cape-Sante E Rucola…mm had the Spaghetti alla Chioggiotta – Spaghetti with fresh Cuttle fish & Calamari in squid ink sauce – but the squid ink gave him an eerie resemblence to Danny Devito as The Penguin…)

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A tale of two hotels

Last month I was doing a bit of work over in the states and managed to jam in some fun time with mm in New York and San Fransisco on the weekends in between the project stuff. I met mm first at The Hudson on West 58th Street. I was prepared for the size (or so I thought) by a text message from mm telling me my closet at home was bigger than the room.  I had stayed in NY loads of times – I knew all about the pokey, expensive rooms, but the last few times visiting I had stayed at The Dream Hotel which was small but really comfortable – and apart from a strange night of screaming teenagers in the corridor during one stay it is generally pretty good.  But the Hudson was something else…it wasn’t actually the room that really bugged me. It was the mood of the hotel.  I never felt comfortable there.

I’m not a dag, and I’ve stayed at some pretty cool places around the world, but this place took the cake for attitude.  Sloppy front desk service, security guards who acted (grunted) like they were on human growth hormones, and a night desk clerk with the worst service ethos I have ever experienced.  If Russel Crowe was stuffed around at the Mercer in the same way that I was by said security guard and night desk clerk as I did one night at the Hudson, then I understand why he hurled the phone.  The room and its lack of facilities (no fridge, a joke of a desk) really was just the icing on the cake.

So the following weekend when I met mm at The Clift (part of the same chain – or should I say – group as The Hudson) I didn’t really have high expectations. “Oh well”, we mused, “We don’t spend much time in the room anyhow…”

 Room At The Clift

But this room rocked. This hotel rocked.  I arrived to find mm having a cocktail in a dramatic but inviting foyer after my flight was delayed and my luggage lost.  After a swift and seamless check in I joined him and got served really fast by a great waitress.  We had a few very soothing drinks, then went up to check out the room (which was substabntially cheaper than the Hudson!) and it was huge! Big soft bed, i-pod docking station, full mini-bar, big bathroom, robes.  Lovely!

So, a tale of two hotels and two cities. The Hudson – trying too hard to be too edgy, with staff who are equally “too kool for skool” in a city that I actually find the opposite. I love NYC complelety – the service you get in bars and restaurants is normally second to none, the people are generally friendly, and while there is a NY attitude, it’s not rude and arrogant.  While at The Clift – possibly one of the coolest places to stay in SF – the whole vibe is warm, inviting and comfortable.  And both from the same chain.

At the Lift of The Clift

How can they be so different? Maybe the Hudson has high enough occupancy rates that it doesn’t need to worry about actually making guests feel welcome.  But surely the Morgan Group has a consistent level of service and staff training – indeed – a service style.  While each is branded seperately they still are part of the same parent brand, and any great service brand needs an ownable and recognisable service style. 

So, next time I’m in NYC I won’t be heading back to the Hudson.  It sucked.  But I would stay at The Clift again in a heart beat.

(One of the best places I’ve actually ever stayed in NYC was the Pod Hotel but it’s great rates guarantee it very hard to get in – you have to book well in advance.

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