Sunday, December 28, 2008

Customer Service as a Niche

Probably anyone reading this could give boat-loads of personal examples of their own on why "they too think this is a niche". We've all felt the sting of bad service, shoddy merchandise and under-performing products.

We(my wife and I) used to go to Hollywood Video all the time, normally renting 3-4 videos per week. Two things happened, 1.We got stuck with a late charge... twice for the same dam video that we inadvertently had put off watching, then returning. 2. We watched a movie that was so bad that I had asked for a credit, the movie really sucked. They said, "Tough bounce, they only rent the movies, they don't make them. Well between the two events we sort of got a "chip on our shoulder" about renting movies from them. So we went from spending $9-12 per week(40 weeks per year at $9 = $360) to ordering them off cable or just buying a dvd. I think "indifference and smugness" in retailers or just the failure to allow individual clerks a bit of leeway by management costs businesses many customers. How could Hollywood Video have kept us as a customer and maybe even boosted their bottomline? How about looking at our past history of renting when we are right there in front of them? "Oh geez these guys are really good customers, how about giving them a break and not only forgiving half a dozen late charges but that video they thought sucked, how about giving them a two movie credit?"

Have you ever done this dumb move? It's really dumb and I am guilty of it.
For a long time I was going to the deli at various grocery stores and buying sliced turkey, chicken or whatever. Every once-in-awhile I would get some meat that must have been 'bad' when I brought it home, at $8 or $9 bucks a pound and usually two pounds per week that added up. Well on one occasion I took it to Customer Service and they acted like I was the first person that had ever gotten bad meat from them... 'So I must be lying.' They refunded my money but grudgingly. This second one was "the dumb move that I spoke of earlier, that I was guilty of", I got some bad turkey and brought it to the deli and the guy pointed out that I had bought it at another store... which was true. I felt so stupid, so small, so dumb. But guess what? That was a Customer Service moment, not only did I end up going to the other store I refrained from going to that store for two months. I don't know about you but I spend quite a bit for our family of three each month on groceries. If that customer service person would have realized, "This guy's an idiot but we like his money and we don't want to alienate them from our store so we can donate some meat at 'our cost' and keep a steady customer..." Simple. Easy. We spend thousands and thousands each week on store ads, how about a few dollars to keep this guy from "losing face".

Starbucks, when we first started stopping they would automatically put whip cream on top of our drinks, or at least ask. Then they stopped atomatically doing it. Did they stop because of 'their employees forgetting to ask?' Or did most customers not want the whip cream? I don't know but big business's like them have success from 'systems' and one of them should be what to ask every customer every time. Burger King, Whataburger and McDonalds are made up of systems but they all have low-end of the totempole employees, kids just starting out, first time job candidates. They are failable as we all are. What I love though is getting a sack full of condiments (ketchup, salt, pepper, etc.) and ZERO napkins. "I wonder if when they make the various size sacks at the sack manufacturer if they could throw in one napkin for the tiny sacks and two for the mid-size sacks and 4 for the larger sacks if that would be a new smart system?" I would like it.

Well if you have some great or not so great customer service moments please throw them in the comments below.

Mike Feddersen


AZMike said...

This is sort of a P.S. to my article, I know I could go back and repost it but "Hey, this works."

P.S. I read one time that 1 out of 8 Americans has worked in McDonald's so please don't be offended at any remarks concerining my fastfood example above... 1 out of 8 stories offends somebody. Seriously though, my wife and multiple nieces and nephews have told me their tales of "whoa" from working at the fastfood places, you have my deepest respect... "That and $5 dollars will get you a Mocha Vente Hot w/whip cream... or not at Starbucks." @azmike

Anne said...

I've never been to a Chick-Fil-A restaurant, but a friend of mine told me that whenever you say, "thank you" you'll always get, "my pleasure" in response. In a world populated with people saying, "no problem" instead, my college-age son and I have adopted the Chick-Fil-A way. "My pleasure" may seem like a small customer service tip, but it conveys a totally different message, don't you think?

Carlos da Jackal said...

Great article on a very interesting niche. Across the pond, offering good customer service can often be forgotten behind offering a quality service/product. What people (and corporates and enterprises are more likely to forget this) often forget is that people buy from people, and in this day and age whereby customer retention consistently proves to be more valuable to companies, a little bit of 'bending over backwards' can go a long way.

SocialPMChick said...

Mike, this is great stuff! Get your blog on Facebook Networked Blogs if you are not already. I'd follow you there!

I especially relate to the deli/meat situation. You hit the nail on the head with that one. Spending $8 to keep a customer who will spend thousands over the years to come. Customer loyalty (especially in this day and age with our economy) is critical to our successes.

For me, if my customer are not happy, they don't sign on to have me manage their web marketing strategies - so I always admit when I'm wrong and work to correct any blunders - goes soooo much further.

Ps... How do I find you on LinkedIn?