As we wrap up our spring semester and our Customer Value Analytics class, one main take-away sticks in my mind: “The customer is always first.” It seems like such a simple and obvious concept, and it is one that many companies tout as a priority guiding value. But in reality, a majority of companies do NOT do this well. Consumers are often seen as “cost centers” rather than “profit centers,” and actions are often taken to cut back and eliminate efforts that would dramatically improve customers’ experience with a brand or company, but are seen as too expensive.
One of the most prevalent examples is that customer service representatives and salespersons are often paid minimum-wage. Additionally, most of these employees are often part-time, and do not receive an attractive benefits and retirement package. However, given that these employees are the face of the company, as well as customers’ most direct touch-point and interaction channel with the brand, investing in these employees and ensuring that they love and are loyal to the brand can also be seen as an investment in customers.
One company who does customer service right is Chili’s. I came across this article which detailed a happy customers’ grateful post on Chili’s Facebook page. Long story short, the waitress and manager at a local Chili’s did everything in their power to ensure an autistic child’s satisfaction with her meal, by replacing her “broken burger” (which had been cut in half) with an entirely new one. This post not only went viral, but Chili’s also got nearly a million likes, not to mention tons of free PR. As Chili’s saw, small actions on the part of employees as well as adhering to the idea of “the customer is always first” can truly pay its dividends.
To read the full story, click the link below.
Recently, I read a piece of news on the website that Microsoft has announced that it is launching a preview of Skype for Outlook.com starting in the UK. The service will be available in the U.S. and Germany in the coming weeks.
After Skype was acquired by Microsoft for $8.5 million in October, 2011, the company has been kept thinking how to corporate Skype’s strength – VoIP service to the current Microsoft’s suite. The novel approach that adding audio or video calling into the inbox of Outlook will not only facilitate consumers to make conversations but also attract more consumers to use Skype and Outlook. Here is the detailed introduction of this service: http://blogs.skype.com/2013/04/29/type-less-talk-more-make-skype-calls-directly-from-your-outlook-com-inbox/#fbid=HHAWQJ1iWVz
Word of Mouth Marketing is infamous for the value it brings to a retailer or product. One key aspect of word of mouth marketing is that it can’t be paid for, it is created by truly satisfying the customer and giving them an excellent customer experience. It is only when this high level of satisfaction is reached that customers will recommend the product or place to their family, friends and peers.
I recently was amazed by the way in which word of mouth marketing has fueled the success of a local restaurant in Charlottesville. The restaurant establishment, Continental Divide, is tucked away on Main Street with a sign reading “Get In Here.” There are no signs with the restaurant’s name and their advertising is non-existent. After finding out about Continental Divide from a friend, I immediately searched online for their website but came up empty handed. However, I did find a wide variety of customer reviews amongst different social media websites. It seemed unreal to me that a restaurant in today’s world could survive without a strong online presence. What amazed me further was that in spite of Continental Divide’s lack of official presence on the web, there was much chatter scattered throughout various social media platforms praising the food and atmosphere. After reading a few blurbs about the food, I decided I had to try it for myself.
I decided to go during the middle of the week because my friend had warned me of the weekend crowds and the restaurant’s no reservations policy. Continental Divide was filled with customers despite it being a Wednesday night. There was a wait for a table but it was well worth it. Not only was the food delicious, but the customer service was excellent. The staff was efficient but also very personable and outgoing. The atmosphere was filled with chatty customers who all seemed to be regulars.
In an article in Businessweek, Shawn O’Connor writes about the word of mouth phenomenon “while there’s no single formula for word-of-mouth success, I’ve found it often starts with creating a culture that encourages your clients to consider themselves valued partners in your business. Word-of-mouth referrals stem naturally from an unparalleled customer experience that fosters clients’ identification with your brand.”
I feel strongly that Continental Divide provides this type of unique dining experience for their customers. Due to their lack of advertising and marketing initiatives, there is a mysterious element to their brand that creates appeal and wonder. Yet, once a customer steps inside Continental Divide, they are witnesses to an intimate atmosphere full of loquacious, happy customers and staff.
Today’s discussion about customer service at car dealerships reminded me of an experience I had last month. Surprisingly, despite all we discussed today about dealerships not actually prioritizing the customer experience, I was actually delighted with my experience at Flow Audi. Maybe J.D. Powers was in town…
Right before returning to Charlottesville in January I realized that I needed to get my car inspected by the end of the month. I bought my car last year so I knew I could get a free inspection at my local dealership in Richmond. However, when I called them I was told they could not fit me in for a week, by which time I would already be back in Charlottesville. Bummed that I would not get the benefits I paid for in my car’s service package, I returned to Charlottesville and figured I would take care of it somewhere nearby.
I called the local dealership and had the opposite experience. Rather then being put on hold, my call was answered right away and I was told I could bring my car in literally any time, any day. Pleasantly surprised, I told her I would be in on Friday.
I showed up a bit early for my appointment but that was not problem. I handed over my key and was offered snacks and beverages in the waiting room. After about an hour I got a bit impatient and went to the desk to ask how much longer I would need to wait. Before I even reached the counter, the service manager was apologizing that my car had been held up as they topped off the fluids and washed it so he just needed to do the paperwork. Then, he asked if I needed a receipt and when I said no he said, “nevermind, you can just go then.” Kind of confused, I said I needed to pay and he just said, “don’t worry about it!”
Having been slightly annoyed at the wait, I was very pleased with the dealership’s service recovery. With a free inspection, fluid change, and car wash, I felt more than compensated for my extra wait. Despite the horror stories we discussed today, Flow Audi was successful in creating a positive customer experience and I will likely return there for future car service needs.