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    Customer Experience Week Continues: The Apple Store

    Posted by on March 23, 2009 - 8:50 AM
     

     

    I am now totally addicted and dependent on my iPhone.  The thought of being without it gives me shivers, so you probably can relate when, on a Saturday morning, all my songs went mute and I realized the problem was with the phone itself instead of the earbuds.

    Long story short:

    • I called Apple’s technical support and, despite the not-so-short wait time, the call-center rep listened to my description of the events, confirmed the actions I had taken already and didn’t seem to be reading from a script where she would make me repeat every single action I had already described in the beginning. (They seemed to understand that Not All Customers are Equal.)
    • She told me that I would need to go to an Apple Store and promptly told me the 3 nearest ones with the expected waiting time at each.  She then recommended scheduling a time with her so, by the time I arrived at the store, I wouldn’t have to wait any longer.
    • At the store I was received by an “Apple Genius” who tested my phone with several different earbuds until he was sure the problem was with the phone.  He asked if he could try to restore the system to its factory default (to make sure it was a hardware problem instead of software) and he was very conscious of setting the expectations of the process (I would have to restore my backup later on iTunes).
    • 15 minutes later, with the system reset, he confirmed that the problem was indeed with the hardware and asked me to wait 5 minutes while he checked something in another room.  At that point my expectation was that he would ask me to leave the phone to be analyzed and fixed (it was just a minor problem after all) and I prepared myself for the inevitable time I’d have to spend without my phone.
    • Instead, he came back 5 minutes later bringing a box with a brand new iPhone.  Opened it, tested it and gave it to me, asking me to sign a simple one page document confirming that I had received a new phone in replacement of the defective one.  That’s it! No down time, no hassle, no stress, no questions asked.  Just take your new phone and enjoy.
    • I left for home happy with the outcome and suddenly the prospect of having to restore a backup with my data and applications didn’t seem at all daunting.

    My rational side quickly considered the whole situation and I realized 3 things:

    • Their systems were probably integrated (call-center and stores) to help even out downtimes during the hours stores are crowded. 
    • My broken iPhone will probably be fixed, refurbished and sold to someone for less, certainly minimizing the cost of the process (and that’s why we buy extended warranties after all).
    • While I waited, everything around me in the store was nudging me towards getting an Apple computer.

    The key point here is that they achieved all these points by being focused on ways to provide the customer with a better experience.  A REAL focus on the customer creates advocates of the brand, induces loyalty and increases retention.  As a result, your business is more efficient and profitable.

    See original post at Vox Inc - Customerspective Blog
    Follow Luis on Twitter at www.twitter.com/luiserpa

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    It Must be Customer Experience Week… Or Something

    Posted by on March 20, 2009 - 9:13 AM
     

    It’s sad to admit it, but good customer experience is rare.  So rare that when we get one we feel all warm, fuzzy and surprised and run to tell everyone about it.   So rare (unfortunately) that even working this field, I don’t see good examples of CX quite often enough.

    This weekend, I had some exceptional customer experiences.   There must have been some sort of CX event happening around town at the time, a kind of “Treat Your Customers Well Week,” or something.  If there was one, I have to say:  it worked! 

    Exceptional Experience #1: GEICO Auto Repair Xpress® Shop

    A few weeks ago, I hit a tall curb and broke my wife’s Civic’s bumper.  Nothing big, but enough to need the whole bumper replaced and to have that dawning sensation of insurance-time stress rushing at you at full speed.  I was able to find a Geico Auto Repair Xpress® Shop close to me and schedule the work for last week.  Long story short: 

    • The adjuster noticed that we arrived early and immediately came to talk to us.  She saw we were in a hurry and started the process right away.  We were out of the body shop even before the time we were officially scheduled to start.
    • Nice welcoming and explanations.  She seemed honestly concerned if anything serious happened and if everyone was okay.
    • She was good at understanding our needs and then setting the right expectations.
    • The work was done before I expected (again, the right expectations were set in the first place), and I found myself in an odd situation:  I was alone when I received the call that the car was ready.  I couldn’t just drive there to get the car since then I wouldn’t have anyone to drive MY car back home.  From my perspective, my only options were to walk there, call a cab or leave the car there another week until my wife was back in town.  The adjuster again promptly asked me, “Do you have a spare key for this car?” I said yes, and then she suggested that they drive my car to my home and leave it locked in my driveway with the keys inside.
    • When I got home, later that day, the car was safely locked in my driveway.  Inside it was the car key, a complete list of the services, my receipt, a Thank You note and a box of cookies…

     My rational side quickly considered the whole situation and I realized 3 things:

    • In each circumstance, it was already in their best interests to get me in and out as quickly as possible.
    • Nothing they did incurred an extra cost or service they didn’t already provide (well, maybe the cookies, but that’s negligible).
    • These were all simple actions that, when combined, minimized the stress factor of the experience and eliminated possible conflicts or attrition points.

    The key point here is that I don’t believe they were thinking in those terms.  They achieved all these points by being authentically concerned with how they could provide me with a better experience.  A REAL focus on the customer provided them with a more efficient process and, I would dare say, more profitable results.  

    Tomorrow, I’ll tell you another exceptional experience and let you know what happened at the Apple Store.

    See original post at Vox Inc - Customerspective Blog
    Follow Luis on Twitter at www.twitter.com/luiserpa



    The Wisdom of the Crowd

    Posted by on March 17, 2009 - 8:29 AM
     

    Every once in a while a site comes up with a new UI (User Interface) concept or idea that forever shifts the paradigm of the market and redefines people’s expectations on information architecture and element positioning. In other words: sometimes an unexpected new design element may change the way you see things enough to make you think that was the right way of doing it all along.

    On the other hand, some UI patterns and best practices are so ingrained in users’ minds that eventually every site just surrenders to it.

    The “Search Box” on the top right of the screen seems to be one of those UI paradigms tested through times and never relenting.  Twitter is the very last example of this that comes to my mind.  In their new design (released couple weeks ago) several modifications were acclaimed by users as a much needed evolution to this emerging tool and, in between all those modifications, one stands out right away: The Search (care to guess where it was placed?).

    Twitter Page Screen Shot

    No big findings, just the subtle fact that most of the time you don’t need to come up with big game changing solutions for everything you do.  Usually, if you already have a good product or service, all you have to do is to keep evolving it by listening to your customer needs and giving what they want through the conscious use of UI best practices

    See original post at Vox Inc - Customerspective Blog
    Follow Luis on Twitter at www.twitter.com/luiserpa



    Don’t Try to be Genuine

    Posted by on March 9, 2009 - 9:15 PM
     

     In a recent post,  The “ART” of Being Genuine,  Kathryn Jennex (aka @northernchick) generated a very passionate discussion about what it is to be “genuine.”

    It is a great post and I recommend reading it with all its comments but, apart from the insight on human relationships and perception, the post really got me thinking about how the urge to be genuine can affect some companies and their brands.

    Like any individuals, companies and brands also fail sometimes at trying too hard to be original or genuine without actually trying to understand WHOM they are trying to reach.  They usually forget that being “genuine” has nothing to do with how you want to project yourself and everything to do with other people’s expectation of how you ought to be.  Our perceptions (and choices) are distorted by so many unconscious inferences and feelings that it is impossible to ascertain one’s true aspect behind all these irrational filters.

    So, what should a company do to become genuine? I’d say NOTHING.  You either ARE or ARE NOT genuine already in your niche.  Trying to be genuine beats the purpose of being genuine.  By trying to be something different than what you are now you get farther away from your true self and thus become less “genuine.” Also, the attempt to change (at least in that context) is just a lame attempt to reach outside your own niche.  If that’s not what your company is really about, all you will achieve is to disengage your loyal customers and look fake to your prospects.

    The only real way to reach outside your current niche is to EVOLVE beyond what your company may represent to them today. By listening to your current customers and addressing new needs, your company can improve on its core and become more than it was before, WITHOUT losing its originality.  If that happens, you will be genuine to both current and prospect customers, even when each group is seeing a different aspect of your brand.

    The customers are the ones judging how genuine we really are.  In the end, it is all about the Customer Experience.

    See original post at Vox Inc - Customerspective Blog
    Follow Luis on Twitter at www.twitter.com/luiserpa



    Be Better by Being Wrong!

    Posted by on February 23, 2009 - 10:21 PM
     

    I don’t know anyone who would want to be wrong. 

    Our culture is wired with a deep, primal need to always be right, which leads us to deceive ourselves into believing we actually are always right, which again leads us to believe that everyone else is wrong.   (Wait… WHAT??!?)

    Normally, one would think this is just another eccentricity of human nature and actually a pretty good defense mechanism in a competitive world (it takes a lot of confidence and determination to be successful, to win), but when it comes to Customer Experience, being right won’t necessarily do much good for you.

    You see, at the root of most customer experience problems you’ll often find two opposite sides, both believing their view of the issue is the right one. The problem here is perspective. Anyone in customer service is fundamentally wrong in thinking that service has anything to do with whether or not the customer is right(In fact, as customers we are often wrong, but that’s not the issue!)

    The important thing to understand is that the customer’s feelings are always right!

    It doesn’t matter why they’re angry, irritated, frustrated or upset, just that they feel that way.  Your job, as a representative of your company is to acknowledge those feelings and do whatever you’re empowered to do in order to make them feel better. Focusing on trivial details, like who did or said what, is irrelevant. The only things you should consider are: “what can I do to help this person?” and “what can I do to make sure nobody else will feel that way?”  This perspective will not only resolve the immediate problem but make your job easier in the future.

    Some of the best examples of GOOD customer service come from situations where someone was honestly willing to discard his original perspective.  In my experience, a good customer service professional always assumes he could be wrong while listening to consumer complaints. Not fighting to be right is the only safe way to achieve true empathy.

    Put yourself entirely in the customer’s shoes, and consider the problem from their perspective instead of your own.

    I know some of you will say that this could be bad for business, or that it is imprudent or risky to think others are always right, but let’s consider this for a minute:

    Always thinking you may be wrong:

    • Eliminates the pressure to compete or to “win” the debate as a way to successfully resolve the situation
    • Allows you to be less defensive and more open to what the customer says
    • Removes emotional attachment you can better listen to the problem and understand how it affects the customer
    • Actually helps to find a solution that will please the customer
    • Gives the customer a sense of being victorious, successful and confident about engaging your brand/company again in the future
    • Makes loyal customers happy and make happy customers loyal (note:Happy customers won’t bad-mouth your company to friends and may in fact praise you on your conflict resolution skills!)

    Needing to always be right:

    • Automaticallyescalates the conflict by upping the stakes of winning or losing
    • Makes both sides defensive and unwilling to actually hear the other side’s perspective
    • Inflames strong emotions and irrational behaviors that have nothing to do with the real problem being discussed (like wanting to fight just to feel justified and complain to everyone about the terrible experience you had with that company)
    • Masks the underlying causes of the situation, making it even harder for the company to discover potential problems that will soon affect profitability
    • Makes a resolution only achievable by defeating one party and rendering both sides frustrated
    • Extends the length of the conflict,wasting more of the company time and manpower.
    • Makes upset customers more frustrated, even after getting what they wanted. They will spread the word about the terrible experience they had to endure!

     

    So, my suggestion to all of you is: When it comes to handling your customers’ experience, strive to be wrong.  It’s good for your business. It’s good for your customers’ experience, and it’s good for your success.

    If nobody wins, then nobody loses. And that’s really how everyone wins.

    Am I right?

    See original post at Vox Inc - Customerspective Blog



    Don’t Try to Guess Customer Behavior (or… Customer Experience, Gunslinger Style)

    Posted by on February 13, 2009 - 9:55 AM
     

    It’s interesting how you can find Customer Experience wisdom in the strangest places. The message I got for this post came in fact from a novel I was reading yesterday (The Dark Tower III, by Stephen King).

    In it, two of the main characters were discussing odd human reactions to certain situations when making decisions. 

    The dialogue went more or less like this:

    Character 1 (Ed): “I was just thinking about how stupid some people can be. You put them in a room with 6 doors and they’ll still walk into the walls… And then have the nerve to bitch about it!”

    Character 2 (Suzanna): “If you are afraid of what might be on the other side of the doors, maybe bouncing off the walls seems safer…”

    That got me thinking immediately on how similar this dialogue could be to any number of companies receiving complains on their Customer Experiences:

    Company Manager (Ed): “I was just thinking about how stupid our website users can be.  You offer them 6 different product views and they still prefer to call the 1-800 number to get the information…  And then they have the nerve to complain they couldn’t find it online!”

    CX Expert (Suzanna): “If they don’t know how to use those 6 views or are overwhelmed by how to find the product in the first place, maybe calling the 1-800 seems safer and faster…”

    The moral of the story here is that nobody should guess Customer Behavior based on what customers “bitch about” when they speak to you.  What you are hearing is how they see and rationalize YOUR problem and not what motivated theirs. Customers are irrational and they don’t really care about what drives them to do something, they just do it.

    Real behavioral knowledge comes from observing your customers and understanding their basic fears and motivations. Without a sincere effort to understand Customer Behavior, what you think would be a solution for their grumble might exacerbate the exact problem you are trying to solve.

    So it doesn’t matter how many features (doors) you put in front of your customer.  If they don’t know what they are there for and you are not trying to address their real motivations (fear of what’s on the other side), you will end up watching your customer bouncing off the walls, refusing to use the doors and still blame YOU for a lousy customer experience. 

    And guess what?  They are absolutely right… 

    See original post at Vox Inc – Customerspective Blog



    Company Brands After Recession

    Posted by on February 7, 2009 - 6:25 PM
     

    I received these images in an e-mail the other day and it made me literally laugh out loud.

    I have no idea who created them or if they are already posted anywhere else, but I think they are too good to pass without sharing them.

    Anyway, below are some criative versions of some companies brands after being hit by the recession.

    Enjoy!

          

           

                                            

     
    .


    (If you know who made those or what site has first published them, please let me know so I can update this post with a link and/or the proper credit)

    .



    Belkin puts a price on its Customer Experience: 65 Cents

    Posted by on January 22, 2009 - 8:58 PM
     

    Some companies may say that a good experience is priceless, but it seems that someone at Belkin really thought that he could get a few good experiences for a lot less and now the company is paying a steep price to recover their customers’ trust.

    The (dumb) idea was simple in concept: use Amazon’s Mechanical Turk Cloud Service to recruit “reviewers” for Belkin’s products.  The hired reviewers’ task was pretty simple: give the highest possible rating available to the products as if they had bought them.  The price tag for each review: just 65 cents!  (see full description of the offer in the image below)

    Belkin's offer on Mechanical Turk

    The history was first published by The Daily Background and then reported on TechCrunch. Looks like it was all the action of a Business Development Representative named Michael Bayard and not a company-wide strategy, but the damage it caused is still the same.  After the spread of the article through the web, Belkin posted a reply taking action to fix the situation without denying or explaining how it happened in the first place.

    The point of the story here should be obvious but I will spell it out it anyway: A good Customer Experience CAN’T be produced artificially!  It is always the result of good services and care provided to your customers and the results you get will always mirror your real intentions.  Alienated and wronged customers usually spread the word pretty fast. The whole incident is being called now “The Mechanical Turk Shilling” and the negative comments about it on the Blogosphere and twitter have been growing exponentially since Saturday.

    I am betting that Belkin will be paying way more than 65 cents now to fix the situation, and nothing guarantees that their product reviews will ever be totally trusted again…

    **UPDATE: It seems that Belkin was not the only one to try to leverage Mechanical Turk’s services to unethically increase scores. There are people paying good money to cheat a Twitter competition, the Shorty Awards.

    See original post at Vox Inc – Customerspective Blog