According to a Wall Street Journal article, Best Buy is trying to convince consumers to buy at the retail store by improving its customer service, and the man spearheading the effort is Shawn Score, the Senior Vice President of Retail, who started out as a salesman in a Best Buy store. Showrooming is a serious problem for all brick-and-mortar stores, but its especially bad for electronics retailers. Just like Radio Shack, Best Buy suffers from the bad reputation that its employees do not know anything about the electronics that they are selling. To combat this notion and to improve customer service, Mr. Score “has boosted sales training to better educate workers on the products they are selling; begun incentive pay to reward workers who increase sales and help their store sections raise customer satisfaction scores; and made sure managers schedule their most-experienced workers on weekends, when stores are busiest.” Will these changes ultimately bring Best Buy’s margins back into the black? Its definitely a difficult sell, trying to convince consumers to buy in the store rather than cheaper online. I, personally, could be convinced to pay a little bit more if I got extraordinary service in the store, but only time will tell if better customer service will be enough to get others to buy in the store, too.
A few days ago I went to the Bank of America on Barrack Road in order to get a money order for my visa application. As I stood in line, I watched the young teller interact with her client. She was an older woman, who only spoke Spanish, and was using her little boy (either her son or grandson) to translate for her. Quickly, the conversation became too advanced for the little one to translate; what 5 year-old knows how to translate “withdrawal” or “savings account”? Luckily, there was another woman in line who was fluent in both languages and was able to help the teller, who was struggling to get the transaction completed.
It just struck me as (almost) irresponsible for the bank not to have at least someone on staff who spoke Spanish and could properly take care of this customer. It’s no secret that America’s demographics are changing. It’s not just L.A., Houston, and Miami that have growing hispanic populations. President Obama won his reelection largely based on his campaign’s ability to reach the hispanic voter. Washington is in the process of recognizing the importance of the hispanic community, isn’t it time that America’s corporations do the same?
Prudential is a PruDON’t
As we’ve discussed in class, it is really important that companies create synergetic incentive systems in order to drive greater affectivity and efficiency. For example, in order to make sure that Apple customers are provided the best customer service experience possible, Apple hires workers for their personable skill sets (instead of technology knowledge) and does not pay its sales associates based on commission. This strategy relieves pressure off of sales associates, maximizing their ability to help customers in friendly and genuine matter.
This is a lesson that Prudential should learn from Apple. A large part of Prudential’s business is to provide and sell life insurance, a service, or lack there of in Prudential’s case. As the world becomes more automated and technologically advanced, customer service can sometimes suffer as a result, especially for industries such as life insurance, accounting, or law where the its consumers may not be to familiar with all the detailed nuisances. Thus, in these industries, customer service should be especially important.
However, my recent experience has left me feeling cheated. In search of a more personalized experience in addressing my personal life insurance information, I took time to visit a local Prudential office to upgrade my life insurance policy. After spending an afternoon with the agent filling out forms and making calls to “corporate” I was relieved to finally be done with the task and confident in my decision to not do this online and risk not having it done correctly. Yet, I was so very wrong. 6 months later I was billed for something that should have been automatically taken care of. But after spending time at McIntire and learning about customer perceptions, I decided to be more forgiving and called the 1-800 number to resolve my issue. After going through the convoluted automated calling system, I was finally directed to a real representative who kindly told me that the papers I had signed 6 months ago had, in fact, not been filed and that my agent no longer worked for the company. Thus, my policy had not changed. The representative did, however, provide me with a solution and I was willing to give Prudential another shot. She advised me to fax in my re-signed form and gave me a confirmation number for our call and discussion.
This is where, however, the Prudential’s customer value system fails. No confirmation number or call was ever provided to me. Even when I took the initiative to call in the next day to confirm the reception and process of my policy change request, the representative told me that I needed to call back a couple days later and could provide me no further information on the reception of my request or its status. When I called back a week later my status was not still updated and I had to, again re-send in my request. As discussed in class, the first mistake can often be forgiven. However, the second and third, not so much, as I will never recommend the company to others in the future; the hassle is just not worth it for something as important and complex as life insurance.
Prudential really needs to evaluate its current customer value system as employees really aren’t taking responsibility for the services they’re providing to customers and there are no repercussions to this. This leads to a lack of incentives for employees to operate to the best of their abilities and can lead to greater customer un-satisfaction when problems arise. Although the company may not feel the negative effects in the short run, the long term effect is loss of current customers, as well as lost opportunities of potential future customers who have been scared off by scorned customers such as myself, using the internet to warn others and instigate justice.
Five years ago I never would have thought to look online for sunglasses. With products like that, it’s important to give them a test run in the store before making a purchase. My recent Zappos experience was enough to convince me otherwise.
Zappos has retailers beat on selection, customer service, and convenience. Zappos offers over 50 sunglass brands in thousands of styles. Consumers are able to sort through their vast inventory on the basis of brand, style, color, price, size, and material. In addition to in-depth item information, each style includes a video of a male and female model to give the consumer a better idea of how the product will look on his/her face. On top of all this, Zappos offers free 2 day shipping and a no questions asked return policy.
The first pair of sunglasses I ordered from Zappos was way too big for my face. They were too big for anybody’s face. All I had to do was print out the return label, slap it on the original box, and put it in the mailbox. Two days later I was credited in full. The second pair was more acceptable. I tried them out for about a week, took them to Foxfield, snapped a few embarrassing pics in them, and decided I could do better. I sent them back Monday and was credited for them today. I’m currently writing this blog post while shopping for my third pair and I’m really feeling it this time. I think I’m going to find a winner.
My point is, Zappos provides amazing customer value through its selection, customer service, and speedy deliver, but should they trust their customers this much? If I wanted to, I could have a new pair of sunglasses every week without paying a dime. While Zappos taking a big risk by trusting their consumers this much, their strategy creates powerful customer loyalty and brand resonance. It have certainly made me an advocate.
I grew up with a Qdoba near my house, and out of that experience it became my favorite Americanized tex-mex chain. Much to my surprise later on, I found out that this opinion was not shared very often. Chipotle is often the favorite of many people my age, and it shows when you see the constant line at their stores. I finally visited my first Chipotle this year, and despite the wait, it was indeed a superior experience. The slight improvement in the freshness of the food is probably not enough to make me forego the convenience and short line of Qdoba, which I was fine with for years of my life. The biggest difference is the store experience. The place looks fantastic, the staff is friendly, and it is easy to find everything you need. But the one thing that really helped me through my sodium and spice filled meal was the presence of an appropriate water cup. Qdoba gives you the smallest water cup I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure if this is because of customer mistrust, or if they really want to save money on water. Ultimately it gives you a rough feeling as you sprint back and forth to the water machine through the course of your meal, which is less of an issue at Chipotle or other fast food restaurants. This slight to the customer experience perhaps best depicts the many subtle reasons why so many other people with better access to Chipotle prefer it to the otherwise similar Qdoba.
A few weeks ago, I actually did go out to a RadioShack to buy something. I wanted a cable to hook my laptop up to my television, which only has an RCA hook-up (the one with the red, yellow, and blue connectors), so that I could watch the season opener of “Game of Thrones” on my TV. Although RadioShack’s business model has attracted a lot of skepticism lately, it is a testament to the enduring strength of their model that when I thought about my need for an uncommon electronic component, RadioShack instantly came to mind.
Still, I had fairly low expectations coming in, and not just because our class had had to write a report about how bad RadioShack was doing and how it needed to improve. I remembered the old RadioShack near my home in Northern Virginia, with its uninviting grey interior, surly staff, and poorly-organized jumble of products. I figured I would be writing a CVA post about my negative experience as I drove up. To my surprise, though, it seems like RadioShack has made some improvements since I last visited.
The store up Route 29 was well-lit, had a brightly painted green interior, and actually seemed very well organized, with a kiosk in the middle where the staff was waiting to take questions. I walked in to try to look around for the cable I needed without even making eye contact with the staff, but a staff member immediately walked up to me and asked me what I needed. As I described the kind of cable I needed, I couldn’t help but think that someone at RadioShack must have read The Apple Experience and taken it to heart.
As it turns out, they didn’t have the cable I needed; although it is possible to hook up my old cathode ray television to my laptop, the staff members explained why it would be bad for my laptop. Considering that I got my TV out of a dumpster around my apartment at the beginning of the year, I was not entirely surprised or unhappy. Even though I did not get the component I wanted, I was impressed with the improvement in my experience since the last time I had visited RadioShack. If they can replicate it in all of their stores, perhaps the company can stay competitive despite everything Wall Street says.
On April 2, Shirley provided a solid overview of Tim Cook’s recent apology to the Chinese market regarding Apple’s incongruous warranty policies in China. The controversial mishap elucidates the global imperative for businesses to increase their knowledge, confidence, and skills for serving customers across disparate cultures. This perspective implores globally integrated enterprises to seamlessly integrate best practices in customer value with multicultural awareness so that consistent value may be delivered to all customers, regardless of cultural differences. Anand Subramaniam, VP of Worldwide Marketing at eGain Communications Corporation, dubs this process Multilingual, Multicultural Customer Service (MMCS) and outlines six suggestions to develop it: (1) assess the importance of customer service, (2) assess target markets, (3) assess the scope of customer queries, (4) train agents, (5) adopt culturally nuanced policies and practices, (6) leverage technology. Although there is certainly no magical formula for serving a diverse customer base, Subramaniam’s recommendations illuminate the fundamental need to understand differences and act on commonalities. Realizing and responding to these points of parity and disparity lead to real cross cultural synergies in the customer value sphere. However, easier said than done. Developing and implementing best practices to leverage cultural diversity will undoubtedly remain a necessary challenge in today’s global business environment.
(CNN) Apple has published a letter (read the letter http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2013/04/01/heres-apple-ceo-tim-cooks-apology-letter-in-china/) to Chinese customers — signed by CEO Tim Cook — that addresses the growing controversy over the company’s warranty policies there.
Chinese government was pissed off by Apple’s double standards of customer service: in the US, Apple received many compliments about its outstanding customer service; while in China, customers never received such high quality of service and warranty benefits.
Since March 15, 2013, the Consumer Rights Day, Chinese government has exposed Apple’s behavior in media and encouraged consumers to boycott Apple’s products. Chinese government’s interference in this issue affected Apple’s stock price, forcing Apple to fix the problem. Apple is in a big trouble making an enemy in its second largest market.
Apple promises to fix the repair and warranty policies in Chinese market, and to train staff to improve in-store experience in Chinese Apple stores. Providing excellent customer service is an important part of the value that Apple delivers to its customer. Apple should never sacrifice it for other benefits in any market. Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/01/tech/mobile/apple-ceo-apologizes-china/
The customer satisfaction level is at all-time high now for retailers. However, there is still some retailers that are lagging behind the average level. (Surprisingly Walmart is the worst of all)
American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) has just listed 9 worst retailers in terms of customer service. More information on customer-service ratings came from the MSN Money/JZ analytics 2012 Customer Service Survey.
Another important fact is that customer satisfaction level with online retailers are much higher than with traditional retailers.
Click the link to check which 9 retailers are busted.
Let me rant for a moment about the portion control at Lemongrass, a local Viet/Thai restaurant we have at the Corner.
Needless to say, the food at this restaurant is pretty good and I go there often for both lunch and dinner. My personal opinion is that this place offers the best tasting Asian cuisine at the Corner, but every time I go, I’m always disappointed by the portions I receive.
Not long ago, I went to Lemongrass for dinner with several friends. The place is quite small, so our table right in the center of the restaurant is only a foot away from the table next to us. When our entrees arrived, my friend was dismayed to find that her Pad See Ew (stir fried broad noodles with soy sauce, egg, Chinese broccoli, and sliced meat) was much smaller in portion compared to the other times we ordered it. My own Thai Spicy Beef and side jasmine rice were also lacking in portion. An extra serving of rice costs $1.50, so they always have a tiny serving of jasmine rice in a small square plate. If you want value for your dollar, Gingko’s (the Chinese restaurant next door) gives you all the rice you want as well as large dish portions.
Twenty minutes later, as we sit happily chatting away, the three girls at the table next to ours also received their orders of Pad See Ew. Glancing over briefly, I gasped out loud in shock at the enormous portions they received. Their plates contained almost 3 times the amount on my friend’s plate.
Although this experience made us unhappy customers, we did not complain (as usual) and will probably soon return to Lemongrass again for more Pad See Ew. The food is reasonably good and the location is good, so the restaurant will probably not have many problems even if they give irregular portions.