Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Showing Initiative to providing better service

We (Alpha-Male and I) are some of the last of the species to have a “land-line” at home, we use Belgacom the local previously state-owned telephony provider; in an earlier blog post I have written about the disappointing Customer Service we have gotten in the past  (http://blondiesvision.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/setting-expectations-i-live-in-belgium.html). However recently we got fantastic service and I want to share that as well.

We needed to move a mobile phone from one account to another, so as we were shopping anyway we dropped into the local Belgacom store. Here we were served by Fred (not his real name but I do not want him to be in trouble) who seemed genuinely pleased to help us, but when some bureaucratic issue came up he really went above and beyond.
It turned out that to move this account we needed a copy of a piece of paper left at home, so Fred – who does not have a work email (Surprised that is even possible!) gave us his private Gmail address for us to scan the paper at home and forward to him, this way he could get all the papers and complete the transaction for us, without the need for us to come back. Of course this would have been much easier if this particular transaction was available on-line, but since it is not, we were very pleased that Fred showed initiative to be able provide great service.  And we were both delighted that we got this done with so easily.
However I think Belgacom has really missed a vital interaction format with their customers, if you cannot go to clerk in their store and then keep an online communication with the same clerk in order to finalize the transaction.

Monday, June 4, 2012

When have you seen all of London?

Defining your Customer Service Goal
Customer service has been done badly because it has been defined badly. It is important to decide what service you want to provide. Too often companies definition of what kind of service do we want to deliver are too fuzzy “we want to deliver world class/best in class service to our customers” is all good. But if you do not follow that up with clear definitions and goals – how do you measure if you are delivering great service? And what is best in class?

That is the equivalent to say “I want to see all of London”, when have you seen all of London?

When you have seen St. Paul’s, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, the statue of Lord Nelson and a red double-decker bus ?Or do you want to see all the museums as well? Or Oxford Street and Covent Garden, Or Bond Street or every single greasy spoon, green grocer, doctors waiting room?  

The goals needs to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely), when you have your goal defined you can start making a plan for how to reach them. What do you need to reach the goal? Genuine world class service does not come cheap – it will cost you money (but will also gain you money) and to a certain degree lack of control you need to give your frontline people some autonomy (this by the way should never ever be seen as a bad thing) – but if you are not prepared to give that – then world class service is not what you want to offer.

If you want to be available 9-5 (then make sure there are somebody to pick up phone/email/faxes 9-5) if you say 24/7 then make sure there are somebody 24/7 – unless you deal in some very critical products, customers are perfectly happy with a 9-5 approach as long as that means really 9-5. If you have chat functionality – make sure there are a knowledgeable person available for chat.
It is when you under deliver customers get disappointed. If you do what you say then nobody get really disappointed – granted some customers can hope for more, but they do not expect it.
When you have your goals defined and a way to reach them then you can try to extend yourself and the goals. But you have to start with a defined goal – otherwise it is just talk.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Should you have to pay for internet access? Ever…

My first inclination here is “No way”, when I travel whether it is on business or privately, I hate to have to pay extra for Wi-Fi. Most hotels have free Wi-Fi in the lobby and you can work there very easily, and quite often nobody expect you to buy anything although I will happily buy a drink for the privilege. But if you are a guest in the hotel clearly Wi-Fi is like having a TV or hairdryer in the room and should not be charged.  Yes I will choose a hotel on the basis of free Wi-Fi not only in the lobby but also in the room, (it is not a deal-breaker – but certainly a big influence).
In most cafes, pubs and resto you get free Wi-Fi. I find it perfectly OK that you might have to buy your drinks, and ask for the code – or you get it for free if you can sit through a minute of commercials.  On public transportation in Copenhagen amongst other cities you have free WI-FI.  And although I initially was “Wow – cool” I am now merely shrugging and thinking “Of Course…”.  So it is a complete mystery to me why you would not have free Wi-Fi in airports? (Except of course I realize it is a captured audience and because of that "easy money" - but it is not good service!)When do you think it is OK to pay for Wi-Fi – if ever?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Easy does it!

Yes you need to be easy. Just as good service should be easy to provide, easy is also good service:
Easy to do business with.  It is pretty straight forward if I make it very easy for my customers to do business with me I make it difficult for them to go elsewhere!
If you are happy with what you get – the whole package, you keep coming back – exactly the same reasons we all have favorite restaurants we keep going back to: we know what we are going to get and we are happy!
But what does easy mean? It means that a customer can reach you easily, ordering is straightforward, and delivery is smooth, that there are no surprises in the invoice and if something does go wrong I know you will fix it.  
How can you make it easy for your customers to reach you?
  • Be where the customer is Facebook, Twitter, Myspace… although they are not equally suited for customer care it is a place to start and the conversation can move to a better suited platform.
  •  Simple things like a on a webpage – make it easy to find contact information – it is astonishing how many homepages it is too difficult to find any contact information – and no a generic email address is not enough!
It is easy to order and pay?
  •  How many hoops does a potential customer have to jump through to order? What if there are questions is it easy to get help? When I do business on-line I love the live -chats were you get help from a customer care representative.
  •  How easy is it to pay? In Belgium for ex many time if I want to pay with credit card I need a small “digi-pass” to pay online – I hate that as I do not always have it with me – so if possible I opt for “paypall” – and if not possible there is a big chance that I won’t buy anything.
Delivery smooth and on-time
  •  As with anything else make a promise and keep it! If you say 3 days delivery – keep the 3 days delivery!
Nobody, not even your customers expects you to be perfect. But when things go wrong they expect you to fix it.
  •  Make it easy for the customer to reach you (see above).
  •  Always always always react quickly if something goes wrong if a customer contact    you – get all the facts and quickly find out how to make it right again! And tell the customer!
By giving good service you make it easy for your customers to stay with you!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Small World - do we need local languages?

As the world gets smaller, is it OK for big multinationals to serve their customers in one or two languages?
In Europe even in pan-European shared service centers customers are served in multiple languages. But as we get more and more used to self-service via the web or mobile applications which more often than not only comes in a couple of “big” languages, are we now at the point where we want to serve  ex the Nordics and Benelux countries in English or German only.
The argument to support this is
Most people in these countries speak English anyway , they use the internet more than in south Europe for ex and are used to dealing in English so it should not be a way off. Most documentation is in English anyway and as a company it saves money not to have to find the small language speakers – that saving can be passed on to the customer.
But of course there is a different argument
Even if you understand English and can use a webpage (and have easy access to Google translate) it is so much more intimidating to have to string together sentences or understand the spoken word which might be with dialect or some “slang”. That saving is never going to be passed on to the customer anyway.
I believe that if you are in the B2B you can probably get away with it (although I doubt it is good service), but certainly in a B2C environment it is still comparable to shooting yourself in the foot – you will lose business.