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Posts Tagged ‘Customer Service’

An interesting example of how a ticklish situation was turned into an opportunity to impress and gain business advantage.

Udaivilas Oberoi

From HBR March/April 2017:

M.S. Oberoi and the front-line obsession

Successful founders understand the economics of customer loyalty. In their early days they know every customer by name. Keeping that up becomes impossible as they grow, but nevertheless they remain obsessed with making sure that someone is looking out for every customer at all times.

Few business leaders have developed this attention to the front line as effectively as M.S. Oberoi, the founder of the Oberoi Group, a chain of luxury hotels in India. Oberoi obsessed about every detail in his hotels that might affect the customer experience. Even in his eighties he kept visiting his hotels to make sure employees were getting everything right, and in doing so he established a culture by which all employees shared in his obsession.

Poornima Bhambal, the assistant manager of the front office at the Oberoi Udaivilas, in Udaipur, described for us the company’s empowerment program, which encourages all employees to do what it takes to delight customers and even gives them access to small amounts of money in order to do so. “We love to surprise and delight guests with little gifts and niceties,” Bhambal said, “and the empowerment program allows this to happen.”

One example, related to us by Vikram Oberoi, a grandson of M.S. Oberoi who now serves as the group’s CEO, was what happened when the staff at one hotel discovered that an American family occupying two rooms was taking all the toiletries — twice a day. This seemed a bit much to the housekeeping staff, and the manager’s first instinct was to go to the family and politely point out that they probably had enough toiletries.

But instead, says Oberoi, after some coaching, “He created a basket of soaps and shampoos and oils used at the hotel’s spa, and wrote a note that was signed by the housekeeping staff. The note said, ‘We notice you like our toiletries and wanted to give you a supply you can take home and share with friends.’ The family loved this. They wrote us after, saying that we were the most fantastic hotel and that they would tell all their friends to visit. That’s a wonderful business result from the investment of a box of lotions!”

Image of Oberoi Udaivilas from theholidayindia.com

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Every interaction with a customer including complaints is an opportunity to build or strengthen our bridges with our customers.  Very often we find our customer-facing staff blowing away this opportunity that lands on our lap for free. To better understand this gift recall what we go through when we go out to engage a customer unsolicited.  

And how do we blow it away? Usually by keeping our interaction down to a crisp and a minimal response demanded by the context.  Technically flawless, business-wise not so wise.  Of course at the other extreme, we might have a loquacious rep overdoing it pushing the customer to annoyance.

What then do we do with this opportunity? Well, there are several avenues to be explored: we could gain useful insights into his decision making process (why or how did he settle on our product?), his experience with competitors, his post-purchase impressions, what else would he like to see as features, does he see enough of our brand publicity… If it is a complaint, information about events leading to the failure could be collected.  Did he have other issues/signals before the failure occurred?  Does he have thoughts on how this failure could have been possibly averted? Of course what would work depends on the temperature of the call.

All of these cannot happen without orienting our customer-facing staff adequately, constructing different possible scenarios and outlining avenues for enriching the interaction.  

Note outsourced call-centers are optimized to enhance calls handled in a day rather than quality engagement with the caller, at once totally eliminating this opportunity.

Incidentally all of the above apply to our interactions with prospects too.

Here’s a short well-written piece from Art Petty on this same theme exhorting us to have transformational interaction instead of transactional. A personal experience included. So why settle for less when its potential benefits could be dramatic?

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Outside a hospital:

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This security guard’s duty is to instruct people to remove their shoes.

Why he was arranging shoes in the rack?

“Sir, this seat is my office and I want to sit in neat office.”

He also greets worried visitors with a reassuring ‘Everything will be fine, your patients will soon go home with you.’

In all likelihood he would not have had the benefit of any level of schooling.

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Source: Adopted from facebook.com/groups/101024580247213/ posted by Gautham Iyengar (here)

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A recent segment on the CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood had an amazing customer service story. Krystal Payne, at a Starbucks in Leesburg, VA, noticed that one of her customers, Ibby Piracha, was deaf. One day Ibby came to get his usual coffee and Krystal handed him a handwritten note, which read: “I’ve been …

Source: An Amazing Customer Service and Leadership Story to Learn From

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This reblogged post shows how often simple and inexpensive ideas create tremendous impression on customers. Here we go:

“An Amazing Experience My daughter came home from school to visit us over a recent holiday. She was flying on Southwest Airlines and checked a piece of luggage. When the suitcase showed up on the luggage carousel, we noticed the handle was damaged. Bummer! I’ve been through this before. Not happy, I walked into the …”

Source: Southwest Airlines Gives Us Another Lesson in Customer Loyalty

This article also has a reader commenting:

Stéphanie Langlet February 28, 2016 at 4:54 am
“It remembers me my experience with the indian company Indigo : exactly the opposite. The employee told me that my suitcase was certainly damaged before and even didn’t register my complaint !
…”

This comes as no surprise to us at all as the field staff  in our country are hardly trained and empowered to handle abnormal situations. Their workplace eco-system is not conducive for displaying any initiative.

If you think about it this is hardly an infrequent happening and should be figuring in the top-10-problems airlines face with their customers with ready/recommended customer-friendly responses.

A few days ago I had an usual experience. After running a series of errands my wife and I stepped into a restaurant. She ordered a ‘thali’ (a standard full meal with side dishes) and I settled for a single stuffed-roti. The head-waiter strongly dissuaded me from ordering the roti. He advised me the ordered ‘thali’ was quite sumptuous for one person and would easily cover me too. While this may be very normal in the west, it’s quite unusual in these parts.  One of these days I intend going back and ask this guy why he drove away additional business for his employer.

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