Any single step can make or break you

Oak Leaf Raindrops
Creative Commons License photo credit: peasap

The process of returning my son’s iPod for warranty replacement has been interesting.

I talk to Costco customer service, now called “concierge service”. That experience was outstanding.

By the way, just calling it concierge service sets the expectation for a good experience, doesn’t it? It also means that you have to deliver.

The Costco guy connects me with Apple service and stays on the phone with me until I’m done, then confirms that I’m happy with the result.

The Apple customer service guy is just as good, and takes care of things quickly. He tells me that he will email me instructions and that I can just take the box to any UPS Store and they will pack and ship it at no charge.

Later, I go into the UPS Store and mention that I have an Apple return. I’m the only one in the store.

Before saying “Hello” or “So….UConn or Butler?”, the UPS store lady hears me say “Apple return” and says “Crrrrraaaaaaaaaap”.

After making a call, she took the box and said it’d be taken care of the next day, but the last impression I have for the moment – which also reflects on Costco and Apple – is….”crappy”.

I tweet something brief about it before leaving the parking lot and head for home. I’m not annoyed about it, mostly because I’ve come to expect stuff like this from retail businesses. I am a little surprised to hear that come from a woman – particularly one that I think is a generation older than me.

Rebound

By the time I get home and settled at my desk, Lindsay with UPS Store care corporate (or a fairly smart automated bot) is on top of it and sends me a Twitter message asking me to email her with details.

12 minutes later, I get a personal reply saying they’ll take care of it.

I didn’t tweet to get support from UPS. That just happened.

The point is that they were paying attention.

Paying attention

The result of paying attention means that Lindsay’s tweet and the email that followed the detailed reply she requested turned a less-than-positive last impression into a good one.

Never forget that every interaction gives you an opportunity to either reinforce/strengthen your relationship or lose a customer.

Every. Single. One.

Stuff like this is a form of marketing that’s the most expensive you’ll ever invest in: Employees.

Automation *can be* personal

Run, Motherfucker, Run
Creative Commons License photo credit: JOE MARINARO

Like I suspect you do, I get a number of automated emails asking how someone’s service was, or reminding me to deal with this or that before a deadline.

Most of these are innocuous emails that were done with an honest effort to help, but because the process was left unfinished, there’s very little long-term or accumulating value in them.

More value *could* come with a little more automation salted with a little personal touch.

For example, if I take a box to the local UPS Store (which recently reopened in our town, thankfully), I have an email waiting for me before I arrive home from the 3 mile drive from their shop.

The email includes the tracking number, a link to check on my package, an estimated arrival date, and perhaps the destination and a brief thank you.

Right up to that point, this is a minimum that should be getting done. There’s value in this email because I can check the link and perhaps put the email in my calendar so I remember to check the status later. Yes, a link to an iCal file to auto-add the delivery date to my calendar would be a nice option.

And then….silence.

Silence isn’t the right answer. It’s unfinished business.

Why silence isn’t golden

In many businesses, there is no email confirmation going on.

When doing business with those firms, I have to call (or they do) in order to find out what’s going on, when my work is done, what the estimate amount was and so on.  For those businesses, this post is a bit of a what-to-do checklist.

So why is the silence after that first email “unfinished business”?

Because it doesn’t complete the task at least as well as you would if you were standing in front of them when the package was delivered. An email isn’t an excuse to get out of work. It’s a way to give your customer the choice of being better informed.

But still, unfinished?

Yes, because (for example) I don’t get an email when the package is delivered and signed for.

That means they’ve missed an opportunity to confirm that the transaction completed as promised while subconsciously reminding me I use them because their job is to set my mind at ease.

It also subconsciously plants yet another seed that I can trust that business to get my package where it’s going safely and on time so I can consider the job delegated successfully.

That’s a big thing if you’re in the service biz.

In addition, they miss the opportunity to add a comment that…

  • Reminds me that 9 packages have been shipped this month and all arrived on time for less than USPS or Fedex rates (or similar).
  • Reminds me that customers who ship as often as I do can save time by opening a monthly-pay account at the store, allowing me to walk in, drop the package and leave rather than wait in line to ship and pay.

And so on.

Note that none of these emails require any manual labor once the templates are setup. The automated shipping notification systems are doing all of the work from that point forward. The result is that your business is more productive (given fewer calls re: package status) and your clients are better informed.

The next step: Those “How was our service?” emails could be of far more value to your customers and your business if someone paid attention to them. More on that tomorrow.

PS: These references to email could just as easily be text messages to my phone. Wouldn’t be lovely if I could choose one or both?