Archives for December 2012

Has The Holiday Customer Experience Bar Been Raised?

As I sojourned through my holiday shopping adventure, several random ideas struck me that I hope to explore through the next couple of posts here.
First, I wanted to share a couple of shopping experiences that got this whole train of thought started.  After all, this is a blog about customer service stories.  
Five days before Christmas, my daughter decided to announce, to anyone that would listen, that her brother was getting a Wii U as a gift.  We had not planned on the big man delivering one of these.  But, since my three year old declared it with such conviction, we figured we had no choice.  So, as I sat at dinner in Applebee’s (shocker), I went on Walmart.com to order said mind-melting console.  They had it.  And they said it would be delivered in time for Christmas.  
Just after I hit the order confirmation button though, I had this pit in my stomach.  “This is Walmart.  Are they really going to deliver?  Should I go buy one someplace else just to hedge my bet?”  I admit.  I had very little confidence that the delivery promise would be met.  Even though I’d ordered from Walmart.com before and had nothing but positive experiences.  This was Christmas.  This was my kid.  I couldn’t take that chance.  Oh! The guilt.  The years of therapy down the road.
So, for three days, I lamented.  I rolled the dice.  And then.  The FedEx truck pulled up in front of the house.  And, out popped the driver.  Box in hand embossed with the Walmart.com logo.  It came!  With two days to spare!  It came!  
Step back a week prior.  A friend of mine introduced me to this new iPad stylus.  I’m on a constant quest for the perfect one (I have a computer bag full of various models).  So, based on his recommendation, I logged onto Amazon Prime and ordered it in the middle of a business meeting – at 4pm.  The next morning, the delivery driver arrived – at 9am.  I couldn’t imagine what he was here for.  He delivered the stylus.  17 hours from order to delivery.  17 hours!
So the point is this.  In each case, I had different expectations.  The bar was set lower in my mind for Walmart.  While Amazon Prime has made a commitment to a higher level of customer experience.  But, in both cases, they knocked it out of the park.  I don’t necessarily now have the same expectation every time I order something from either of these on line retailers (the notion that customer expectations have to be continually be exceeded).  However, I now have a greater level of confidence in doing business with both of these companies.  Not every transaction has the high stakes of Christmas.  Nor, do I need every item delivered in 17 hours.  
But I know that, if required, these companies can deliver.  For that, they are both on my nice list.
I’d love to hear your favorite Christmas shopping experience.  What made it special?

Are You Really Ready To Be A Customer Experience Company?

So, those of you that stop by often, know I get on these Zappos kicks every now and again.  I supposed this would constitute as one of those periods.  This time around, it’s because I think Zappos, to the general public and to many of those perhaps that tout its praises, is a highly misunderstood business.  It’s not for lack of transparency. 

The founder of the company Tony Hsieh puts it all out there.  All you have to do is read his book Delivering Happiness.  And, its within the pages of this book, among other places, if you read with intent (like I’ve done four times through), you realize that starting a business with the goal of becoming a customer service giant is one thing.   But, transforming an existing company into a customer experience powerhouse is a Herculean task.  Perhaps that’s the reason we’re always referencing the usual suspects (love that movie) in this dialog.

I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago questioning why you’d want to be like Zappos.  In it, I suggested that, unless your business is a online retailer selling shoes and other apparel, trying to copy Zappos doesn’t make too much sense.  Specifically, because just focusing on the “wow” cultural part of the equation won’t even get you close.  Transforming into a true customer experience company is a massive, risky undertaking.

More specifically, what you need to realize is that Zappos entire business model is build around enabling that wow culture.  About a third of the way through Tony’s book, is the nugget.  He tells a story of how he and his partners made a business-altering decision to stop drop shipping product and to inventory everything themselves.  This bold move, which at the time, jettisoned a highly profitable revenue stream and could have easily bankrupted the company, was the only way they felt they could deliver on one of the core elements of their customer service model.  The ability offer next day, free shipping.  The second giant move required to execute on this service model was to pick up and move their distribution center from California to Kentucky.  Becoming next door neighbors to UPS.

So, think about your company.  Think about every business process.  Every function.  Every touch point that could and does impact your customers’ experience.  Yes, even those functions that, on the surface seem so far removed from your customer.  Unless you’re prepared to toss out suppliers, take on functions that you may have outsourced for cost savings, turn your org chart on its head, and essentially remodel your entire company, no amount of “customer is king” rhetoric or window dressing, no matter how pervasive within your organization, is going to deliver the type of results that are the stuff legends are made of.