Posted in Customer Service, Mystery Shopping, Selling & Persuasion, Strategy

Sex, Success and Isopropyl Alcohol

If you had to pick a retail category that would deliver the highest level of service (consistently), what would you pick?

We have recently completed a massive project where we completed about 1600 mystery shops for a client. Retailers competed for an award in several categories in several regions and Moonyeen firmly believes that the category that consistently delivers the best service would be Hair & Beauty.

Having thought about that, we made the following key observations about the Beauty industry:

One: They work personally and physically with the customer on a very intimate level. They physically touch the customer and take great care in your physical and psychological comfort.

Two: Almost all of the staff chose ‘beauty’ as a profession (trade) so they are comfortable in this environment and really believe in the value they provide. They are also often their own best advertisement.

Three: They have to understand exactly what the customer wants before they start plying their trade

Four: Because they physically alter the customer’s appearance and it cannot really be easily undone, the consequences of a mistake are serious and very visible.

Five: And (in case you were wondering) Isopropyl Alcohol is a pretty toxic (pun intended) ingredient of many beauty products. This industry thrives on selling toxic substances to customers. The reality is they sell poison, but the perception is quite different – and beauticians really get that.

Six: Not only that, they also thrive on selling a promise – rather than something ‘real’. They truly ‘get’ it that people do not go to the restaurant for the steak, but for the sizzle. You don’t go to the beauty salon to become beautiful, because lets face it (pun intended) you need a scalpel for that.  (To understand this notion of core product, read this post on the topic.)

The truth is, they sell something that is unlikely to eventuate (ugly à pretty) and they promise to achieve that by applying poisonous substances to your skin and hair. In short, it is a tough sell. (I would rather sell shoes…)

  • The question is whether your employees in your business have the same beliefs, attitudes?
  • Do you apply the same principles and processes to your customer treatments?

Read that list again – and consider whether you could appropriate a few ideas to change something in your business?

Because the honest and inconvenient truth is that in our recent experience great service was very much the exception. And on a diverse sample like this, over several months, the validity of this conclusion cannot be questioned.

It seems great service remains the last differentiator for retailers to conquer.

 

Posted in Customer Service, Marketing, Mystery Shopping, Research

Customer Service: The numbers you can quote

Often people repeat (and probably make up) numbers about the ‘impact’ of customer service on the business. The numbers below was sourced reliably – and now you know 😉

BAD SERVICE

81% would stop doing business & 69% would NEVER return

  • 74% tell others about poor treatment
  • 20% have posted negative feedback online
  • 61% have directly complained
  • 37% have returned products

GOOD SERVICE:

  • 53% would recommend
  • 52% would feel encouraged to spend more
  • 50% will always/often pay more for better

 

Sticking to the facts: Just the way we like doing things around here.

Source: 2008 Customer Experience Impact Report (RightNow Technologies & Harris Interactive)

Posted in Customer Service, Mystery Shopping, People

Customer service that money can’t buy

A photo of a cup of coffee.
Image via Wikipedia

Do we really believe in customer service strongly enough to take the actions that are required to make the changes?

In my experience, the answer is that in the majority of the cases, unfortunately not. And the reason for not making the changes is not because they shy away form doing the hard things necessary.

It is because people (managers, executives and staff) think their service is OK when it actually sucks.

Moonyeen and I witnessed the rare exception.

We took a break from our office and had a quick bite to eat at Red Rooster. (I know, I know…)

We were planning g on buying a roll there (each) and then have that and our coffee as a lunch in the park. (If you have been to Kiama, you know what a treat it is – even if you live here.)

I bought the coffee from our favourite coffee shop, while Moonyeen got the rolls. We then headed to the park. As it happens, it started drizzling, so we headed back to Red Rooster where we could sit al fresco, bit under their awning.

An elderly couple were trying to cross the street, when the owner came out from behind the counter. She approached the passersby (note – they weren’t even customers) and:

  • warned them about he slippery paving
  • offered to them to sit down to wait out the rain
  • AND specifically said they did not have to buy anything

In the meantime, we were sitting there too. We had a coffee form a different shop; and while we were eating her rolls, I know of many places who would not hesitate to move you on if you dared bring food that was not purchased on the premises onsite. She did not blink an eye.

On the other hand, we went shopping for some new beds. We were in a hurry and had limited time to make comparisons. We had been into 2 shops when we walked into a national chain, where we proceeded to wander through the store.

My 12-yo son was walking down another aisle, and his eye was caught by a touch screen unit. He pressed it and looked at what was on offer. (We were buying him a bed as well, and in our family he would have some say about the final purchase.)

BEFORE we were even approached by a staff member, one of them chastised him for touching the unit – which presumably was installed for that very purpose. I know that kids can run riot in a shop, but you will just have to take my word for it that his behaviour was in fact no different than mine would have been if I had used the unit.

My wife and I turned around in unison, called him over and walked out of the shop. No scene and no fuss. We returned to shop 1 and promptly spent $7k.

  • What is REALLY the difference between these 2 businesses?
  • How many times a day does that happen in your business?
  • And do you know if and when it does?
  • Or do you just think… good riddance?

I know which of these two people I would rather have working in my business.

Because the honest truth is, an attitude like that is something money can’t buy.

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Posted in Customer Service, Mystery Shopping, People

Customer service that money can’t buy

A photo of a cup of coffee.
Image via Wikipedia

Do we really believe in customer service strongly enough to take the actions that are required to make the changes?

In my experience, the answer is that in the majority of the cases, unfortunately not. And the reason for not making the changes is not because they shy away form doing the hard things necessary.

It is because people (managers, executives and staff) think their service is OK when it actually sucks.

Moonyeen and I witnessed the rare exception.

We took a break from our office and had a quick bite to eat at Red Rooster. (I know, I know…)

We were planning g on buying a roll there (each) and then have that and our coffee as a lunch in the park. (If you have been to Kiama, you know what a treat it is – even if you live here.)

I bought the coffee from our favourite coffee shop, while Moonyeen got the rolls. We then headed to the park. As it happens, it started drizzling, so we headed back to Red Rooster where we could sit al fresco, bit under their awning.

An elderly couple were trying to cross the street, when the owner came out from behind the counter. She approached the passersby (note – they weren’t even customers) and:

  • warned them about he slippery paving
  • offered to them to sit down to wait out the rain
  • AND specifically said they did not have to buy anything

In the meantime, we were sitting there too. We had a coffee form a different shop; and while we were eating her rolls, I know of many places who would not hesitate to move you on if you dared bring food that was not purchased on the premises onsite. She did not blink an eye.

On the other hand, we went shopping for some new beds. We were in a hurry and had limited time to make comparisons. We had been into 2 shops when we walked into a national chain, where we proceeded to wander through the store.

My 12-yo son was walking down another aisle, and his eye was caught by a touch screen unit. He pressed it and looked at what was on offer. (We were buying him a bed as well, and in our family he would have some say about the final purchase.)

BEFORE we were even approached by a staff member, one of them chastised him for touching the unit – which presumably was installed for that very purpose. I know that kids can run riot in a shop, but you will just have to take my word for it that his behaviour was in fact no different than mine would have been if I had used the unit.

My wife and I turned around in unison, called him over and walked out of the shop. No scene and no fuss. We returned to shop 1 and promptly spent $7k.

  • What is REALLY the difference between these 2 businesses?
  • How many times a day does that happen in your business?
  • And do you know if and when it does?
  • Or do you just think… good riddance?

I know which of these two people I would rather have working in my business.

Because the honest truth is, an attitude like that is something money can’t buy.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Posted in Customer Service, Mystery Shopping, People

Customer Service Mystery

On a mid-week evening somewhere in suburban a mystery shopper enters the restaurant. It is early, just after 6pm, and she is a little self -conscious being the only one in the room.

The owner seats her in a great spot, offers the menu – the usual drill. Upon his return to take the order, she declines a drink and opts for a meal only. He dismisses that option with a genuine and gentle refusal and suggests just a glass of wine.

It is difficult to describe, but the shopper reports that the feeling conveyed was NOT that he wanted to sell an extra drink, but that he had a real empathy for her ‘aloneness’ (not loneliness) and genuinely felt that a glass of wine would be a treat and  help with the overall experience.

As it happens he suggested a Sauvignon Blanc (the preferred white wine) and the wine turned out to be excellent.

The second restaurant (different brief) was an hour later. By the time she arrived, the place was already filling up because a local band was playing.

The owner (again) seated her at a small two-seater, right next to the stage and pulled up a chair that would have her facing towards the restaurant. She declined and opted to have her back to the restaurant. (Can you see why?)

He enquired if she was ‘alone tonight’ and when she answered affirmatively, he responded with a ‘oh, really’. One guy understood the art of hospitality and the other just ran a business.

The differences were subtle.

The impact was vastly different.

The foundations for the overall experience had been laid long before actual food had been served. How does this apply to you?

It reminded me of the (anonymous quote):

If you do what you love, you will never have to work again in your life.

I wonder how many retailers love what they are doing.

Check out this picture outside a newsagent in QLD to see an example of someone who definitely does not love what they are doing.

Our latest newsletter has been published here – subscribe if you like it. (If nothing else, enjoy the joke.)

It is not too late to register here for your free copy of an EBook on Visual Merchandising.

Posted in Customer Service, Mystery Shopping, People

Customer Service Mystery

On a mid-week evening somewhere in suburban a mystery shopper enters the restaurant. It is early, just after 6pm, and she is a little self -conscious being the only one in the room.

The owner seats her in a great spot, offers the menu – the usual drill. Upon his return to take the order, she declines a drink and opts for a meal only. He dismisses that option with a genuine and gentle refusal and suggests just a glass of wine.

It is difficult to describe, but the shopper reports that the feeling conveyed was NOT that he wanted to sell an extra drink, but that he had a real empathy for her ‘aloneness’ (not loneliness) and genuinely felt that a glass of wine would be a treat and  help with the overall experience.

As it happens he suggested a Sauvignon Blanc (the preferred white wine) and the wine turned out to be excellent.

The second restaurant (different brief) was an hour later. By the time she arrived, the place was already filling up because a local band was playing.

The owner (again) seated her at a small two-seater, right next to the stage and pulled up a chair that would have her facing towards the restaurant. She declined and opted to have her back to the restaurant. (Can you see why?)

He enquired if she was ‘alone tonight’ and when she answered affirmatively, he responded with a ‘oh, really’. One guy understood the art of hospitality and the other just ran a business.

The differences were subtle.

The impact was vastly different.

The foundations for the overall experience had been laid long before actual food had been served. How does this apply to you?

It reminded me of the (anonymous quote):

If you do what you love, you will never have to work again in your life.

I wonder how many retailers love what they are doing.

Check out this picture outside a newsagent in QLD to see an example of someone who definitely does not love what they are doing.

Our latest newsletter has been published here – subscribe if you like it. (If nothing else, enjoy the joke.)

It is not too late to register here for your free copy of an EBook on Visual Merchandising.

Posted in Customer Service, Mystery Shopping

10 Lessons in customer service [cross-post]

They don’t work in an easy environment, and their (primary and secondary) customers are pretty demanding. They don’t get paid particularly well either. But the business category that very often produces the highest aggregate score AND consistently has the lowest variance in their scores:

It is not quite retail, but the category is …Child Care.

Almost without exception will the childcare centre score very highly on all the dimensions of customer service.

WHY this category scores so well is subject to interpretation, and I would like to hear your thoughts. To kick-start it, here is my take on it:

  1. The government legislates a certain minimum standard that the environment must adhere to, so the score on these functional aspects of the business (the hygiene factors) are usually high. (I am not advocating legislation, but if we acted as if there was legislation…maybe?)
  2. The penalty of non-compliance is severe, unlike in the retail environment where you get to keep your business irrespective of the poor service.
  3. The employees are trained and consider themselves to be professionalism and concomitantly take pride in what they do.
  4. The employees actually chose it as a career and are passionate about what they do – they did not just ‘fall into it’.
  5. They really do think (and act as if) they have precious cargo onboard – and they treat their users with kids gloves (pun intended).
  6. They have quite rigid systems to deal with every eventuality and they stick to the plan to make sure there are no nasty surprises.
  7. They are not just there to take the money. Whilst it (the child care centre) is a commercial enterprise, they also keep their eye on the bigger picture.
  8. They understand the ultimate consumers (parents) are not just paying for the safekeeping of their child. (Just like a furniture store does not just sell a chair for you to sit on, but are helping you create a home; the child care teachers actually take their higher-order job seriously.) Remember the discussion we had about what business you are in here on IR; and of course this one about your product?
  9. The staff receive non-monetary rewards which further encourages them to act in a certain, affirming way. (What wouldn’t you do to get a smile on a toddler’s face?)
  10. They give something of themselves every time they interact with one of the little ones.

 
Can you come up with more reasons why the service levels in these businesses are so good?
Are there lessons that you can apply to your business?

Looking forward to your comments…

Posted in Customer Service, Mystery Shopping

10 Lessons in customer service [cross-post]

They don’t work in an easy environment, and their (primary and secondary) customers are pretty demanding. They don’t get paid particularly well either. But the business category that very often produces the highest aggregate score AND consistently has the lowest variance in their scores:

It is not quite retail, but the category is …Child Care.

Almost without exception will the childcare centre score very highly on all the dimensions of customer service.

WHY this category scores so well is subject to interpretation, and I would like to hear your thoughts. To kick-start it, here is my take on it:

  1. The government legislates a certain minimum standard that the environment must adhere to, so the score on these functional aspects of the business (the hygiene factors) are usually high. (I am not advocating legislation, but if we acted as if there was legislation…maybe?)
  2. The penalty of non-compliance is severe, unlike in the retail environment where you get to keep your business irrespective of the poor service.
  3. The employees are trained and consider themselves to be professionalism and concomitantly take pride in what they do.
  4. The employees actually chose it as a career and are passionate about what they do – they did not just ‘fall into it’.
  5. They really do think (and act as if) they have precious cargo onboard – and they treat their users with kids gloves (pun intended).
  6. They have quite rigid systems to deal with every eventuality and they stick to the plan to make sure there are no nasty surprises.
  7. They are not just there to take the money. Whilst it (the child care centre) is a commercial enterprise, they also keep their eye on the bigger picture.
  8. They understand the ultimate consumers (parents) are not just paying for the safekeeping of their child. (Just like a furniture store does not just sell a chair for you to sit on, but are helping you create a home; the child care teachers actually take their higher-order job seriously.) Remember the discussion we had about what business you are in here on IR; and of course this one about your product?
  9. The staff receive non-monetary rewards which further encourages them to act in a certain, affirming way. (What wouldn’t you do to get a smile on a toddler’s face?)
  10. They give something of themselves every time they interact with one of the little ones.

 
Can you come up with more reasons why the service levels in these businesses are so good?
Are there lessons that you can apply to your business?

Looking forward to your comments…

Posted in Customer Service, Mystery Shopping, Selling & Persuasion

Is service too much to ask for?

[Posted by Moonyeen]
I sometimes feel that I want to give up on this whole customer service thing. Am I the only person who just wants someone, anyone, to talk to me when I enter the store? And I am not talking about the swooping seagull (“can I help you”) approach. I don’t know about you, but that is the phrase that I most hate as a customer.

Recently I was looking for an evening dress to wear to a function where retailers and businesses were rewarded for excellent customer service. I was the ‘judge’ who had to evaluate customer’s service levels.

I have to confess I generally hate shopping, and waited until the last moment to get a dress. I started with a positive attitude thinking that I would magically find the dress, with some help, and within the first hour of shopping. Not to be.

I entered the first store through the Gen X section. Do they care about you? Nope. Do they talk to you? Nope. They stared at me as if I do not belong there. Their body language shouted “get out of my area”. Whilst I mightn’t be the target customer, there is just the remotest possibility that I was shopping for someone else…

Eventually I found the right section, no one within a kilometre to assist me. I looked lost, I looked upset, and around me were at least half a dozen customers also looking lost and needing assistance. In that time 4 ladies walked away me included. Well actually at least $1000 walked away. The store could have paid their rent and some staff for that department.

I could not find anything and thought let net give the other stores a go. I visited at least 20 stores. My goal to find a dress within an hour turned out to be a mission to find a sales person to assist me to find the dress, and the actual dress became a secondary concern. What a miserable day only 2 staff members approached me, albeit with the dreaded “can I help you”. Three hours later, no dress, grumpy and with sore feet I bumped into two of the girls whom I had previously encountered in the first store, still with the same lost expression on their face and still without dress.

At lunch on Saturday before the function I told my story to a few girls and to my surprise (I am a little worried that I am a difficult customers and expect too much of people) all the girls agreed that ALL they require is for someone to care, someone who takes some time out to assist them, someone to asks how their week has been.

EVERYONE agreed they sometimes will spend their money, me included, even if it is not always the perfect dress, shoes or handbag, but it is something that has been sold with care and a little love.

Posted in Customer Service, Mystery Shopping, Selling & Persuasion

Is service too much to ask for?

[Posted by Moonyeen]
I sometimes feel that I want to give up on this whole customer service thing. Am I the only person who just wants someone, anyone, to talk to me when I enter the store? And I am not talking about the swooping seagull (“can I help you”) approach. I don’t know about you, but that is the phrase that I most hate as a customer.

Recently I was looking for an evening dress to wear to a function where retailers and businesses were rewarded for excellent customer service. I was the ‘judge’ who had to evaluate customer’s service levels.

I have to confess I generally hate shopping, and waited until the last moment to get a dress. I started with a positive attitude thinking that I would magically find the dress, with some help, and within the first hour of shopping. Not to be.

I entered the first store through the Gen X section. Do they care about you? Nope. Do they talk to you? Nope. They stared at me as if I do not belong there. Their body language shouted “get out of my area”. Whilst I mightn’t be the target customer, there is just the remotest possibility that I was shopping for someone else…

Eventually I found the right section, no one within a kilometre to assist me. I looked lost, I looked upset, and around me were at least half a dozen customers also looking lost and needing assistance. In that time 4 ladies walked away me included. Well actually at least $1000 walked away. The store could have paid their rent and some staff for that department.

I could not find anything and thought let net give the other stores a go. I visited at least 20 stores. My goal to find a dress within an hour turned out to be a mission to find a sales person to assist me to find the dress, and the actual dress became a secondary concern. What a miserable day only 2 staff members approached me, albeit with the dreaded “can I help you”. Three hours later, no dress, grumpy and with sore feet I bumped into two of the girls whom I had previously encountered in the first store, still with the same lost expression on their face and still without dress.

At lunch on Saturday before the function I told my story to a few girls and to my surprise (I am a little worried that I am a difficult customers and expect too much of people) all the girls agreed that ALL they require is for someone to care, someone who takes some time out to assist them, someone to asks how their week has been.

EVERYONE agreed they sometimes will spend their money, me included, even if it is not always the perfect dress, shoes or handbag, but it is something that has been sold with care and a little love.