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Archive for the ‘customer service’ tag

You’re gonna like the way we constantly badger you…

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I guarantee it.

So, I dread going into Men’s Wearhouse. Aside from my overall hatred for clothes shopping, I also can’t stand over-zealous retail employees. And Men’s Wearhouse combines those two entities better than anyone.  I don’t even have my second foot in the door, and I have someone in my face, “How can I help you?” I know what I’m looking for, so I say, “Just looking, thanks.”

I head for the rack of discount shirts, and peruse for, oh, two minutes when I hear “Can I help you find anything, sir,” asks a different salesman. “Nope, I’m good.”

A few more minutes dissecting which bargain-bin shirt I’ll wear to my next formal event,  I decide to look up and see if they have any other shirts around the store that might be up my alley. “Sure I can’t help you find anything buddy,” the second sales associate inquires. “No, I’m still OK, thanks, though.”

I’m trying like hell to get out of this store as fast as possible, but I won’t let their anal sales practices drive me into a shirt purchase even I won’t wear. So I pick up a couple of shirts and hold them up…”Hi, have you been helped,” the polite, teenage girl asks. Yes, she’s the third different employee within a 7-minute period to ask me if I need help. Oh, and there are about 6 employees working, and only about two customers in the store.

Finally, I pick out two shirts that will hopefully last me 20 years so I never have to do this again (I had a gift card and it was buy one, get one, which is why I was there in the first place.)

I get to the checkout counter and hear, “Did you find everything OK?” And I’m thinking to myself “What do you think?”

Listen, I get it. You want to have great customer service and be attentive. But you have to draw the line somewhere. Now, Men’s Wearhouse line is apparently nowhere to be found. Hopefully, you aren’t running your business like this. It’s one thing to be attentive, it’s another to be ridiculously annoying.



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November 7th, 2011 at 6:55 pm

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“Have we spent enough time focusing on your issues?”

Seth Godin is solid gold.


October 3rd, 2011 at 11:00 am

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The nuance of good follow-up

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I got an email today from Zappos. It seems it’s been a year since I ordered my last pair of Converse All-Stars, so they sent me a note.

It was brief, to the point and a great bit of follow-up. Just a few lines describing what I’d ordered and links to the same pair, as well as a page of other, similar shoes I might be interested in.

Here’s why the note was well-executed and not creepy:

  • It’s timed right. A year out, the shoes could stand to be replaced.
  • It’s handy. With just a few clicks, I’ll have a new pair in a couple of days.
  • Most importantly, in the year since I’d ordered the shoes, this is the only email I’ve received from the company. No newsletter, no coupons.

Follow-up calls, letters and emails — while a great way to get repeat business and strengthen client relationships — can be a minefield. They’re a balancing act between helpful and bothersome. With a little thought and effort, you can turn them into a solid source of business. And not be creepy.

Image courtesy Magnus D


May 25th, 2011 at 11:44 am

How much do you pay your receptionist?

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How much do you pay for print ads in your local shelter magazines? Radio spots? Flyers and mailers and postcards and rented lists and door-to-door salesmen to sign up new customers?

Or, if you rely on word of mouth: How much effort do you and your team put into your work to ensure Mrs. Jones tells her book club about how much she loves her new patio?

Take a minute this morning to think of all the time and hard costs associated with a great referral program, landing new business and keeping current clients happy.

Then listen to your receptionist answer the phone.

Seth Godin describes the bad side of this process bluntly:

When a new referral shows up, all that work and expense, and then the phone rings and it gets answered by your annoyed, overworked, burned out, never very good at it anyway receptionist, it all falls apart.

Marty Grunder always asks his audiences why the (often) lowest-paid person on your staff is (usually) the first person new customers deal with.

You spend a lot of time each day with your foremen and crews and suppliers. But your customers spend most of their time interacting with your folks on the phone.

The more effort you expend pusing people to call in, the more you should work to make sure the folks answering those calls are doing it right. Otherwise you’re wasting a lot of time and money.


May 18th, 2011 at 9:10 am

Don’t KISS integrity goodbye

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I won’t bore you with the gory details. Let’s just say as a youth, I spent a massive amount of money on anything KISS related. By massive I mean my allowance for the week. And this was the early 90s, (yes, I realize I was a little late to the game on the whole KISS thing) so that meant a solid $5 a week.  So, when I recently read an article where bassist and co-founder Gene Simmons essentially said that most people don’t care who performs in the band’s trademark makeup now, I was a little miffed.

You see, they’ve taken the character makeup of original members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, and slapped it on two other dudes, basically duping people into thinking they are seeing the original KISS. Simmons’ point is people are there just to see the spectacle that is KISS and really don’t care who’s in the make-up. Well, sorry to burst your bubble Gene, but as a former die-hard fan, I care, and that’s why I’ve grown to dislike the band.  

So what does this have to do with your landscaping business? Everything. Because you are a brand, and you need to act with integrity, and not insult your customers by taking shortcuts. Your “die-hard” customers are paying attention to everything you do. You may be doing things that you don’t think matter, but your best customers notice it.  Maybe you’ve stopped taking trash cans to the back of the house, or cleaning up the hard-to-get grass clippings. The customers who just want their lawn mowed don’t really care about that. But the customer who is going to continue to invest in your company because they value your service will notice the change.  

While the majority of your customers may be happy with your work like the majority of people who buy a KISS ticket don’t care who’s in the makeup, remember that your best customers are paying attention to how you’ve gotten better…or worse. Don’t have the attitude of Mr. Simmons who is shunning his true fans. Always remember that your integrity of your work will take you further than just trying to make a quick buck.

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May 11th, 2011 at 6:14 pm


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Here’s an e-mail I received recently when  I checked out of my hotel. It came through on my phone as I rode the elevator down to the car to head to the airport:
Dear Charles Bowen,
On behalf of our entire staff I would like to thank you for allowing us to be your host during your recent stay in Phoenix. Our goal is to exceed your expectations at every opportunity. We genuinely hope your time with us was comfortable, efficient and enjoyable.
We know you have a number of hotel options when you travel, that’s why we are constantly striving to improve our accommodations and service. We want you to think of us first the next time you are traveling to Phoenix. Whether it’s a quick business trip, a vacation or a national convention we want to be your hotel of choice.
Again, we sincerely thank you for choosing the Wyndham Phoenix.
Warm Regards,
Steve Cohn
Managing Director
This type of thank you isn’t terribly hard to do – this one is entirely automated and not personalized at all. The manager didn’t leave me a hand-written note with my bill, and he doesn’t need to – our interaction wasn’t that personal.
But a quick (albeit automated) message that recognizes the fact that I could have stayed at a number of other hotels and mentions that they appreciate my busines is certainly welcome. I never get that from Marriott or Sheraton or Hyatt – and I’m a member of their reward programs.
I ordered a jacket from Land’s End for Christmas, and they sent me a hand-written note in the box to say thanks. Every time I get my oil changed, the owner of the family-run shop calls me the next day to make sure the service was top notch.
Steve Cohn and Land’s End and my mechanic don’t have to do that. But they do, and that extra 10 percent goes a long way. I can highly recommend all three of them to anyone in need of a hotel in Phoenix, a solid sport coat or an oil change on Cleveland’s east side.
As you and your employees interact with your customers, there are a few things you can do to stand out from your competition, and you could do a lot worse than a quick thank you.


February 10th, 2011 at 9:27 am

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