ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘customer service’

When a Company Won’t Give What it Clearly Has – Designing Customer Experience

Posted by Plish on September 25, 2014

Have you ever asked for a side of Apple Chips at Panera Bread?  These are the responses I usually get:

“Sure” (He/She then types in a special instruction on the screen and I get apple chips)

“Sure” (He/She can’t find the button on the register for ‘Apple Chips’ so he/she calls the manager who then responds:)

“I”m sorry but we can’t do that.” (after which I beg and plead to no avail, except for one time when a manager responded:)

“Since you’re getting a Fuji Apple salad, and that has apple chips on it, I can add another side of apple chips.”

When turned down once, I even offered to pay extra for apple chips. The response?

“Sorry, there’s no way for me to process that payment.”

Understand, it’s not like I’m asking for something that’s not on the menu.  It’s used as a garnish on the Fuji Apple Chicken Salad and Oatmeal.    But, somewhere there is an (un?)official edict that “Thou shalt not give apple chips unless with a salad or Oatmeal.”

I’m sure that it’s probably a cost issue.  The apple chips are more expensive than regular chips, and thus don’t provide the profit margins that Panera would like, especially when they’re being given away as a side.

 That still doesn’t explain the stupidity of not supplying them to a customer who offers to buy them!

This isn’t only Panera though.  Cable and Satellite companies do something similar but dress it up differently.

Become a Subscriber now and receive 12 months of service for $24.99* a month!

What’s especially painful about this offer is that people who have been subscribers for 5 years don’t get the offer.  They still have to pay $54.99 a month.  The loyal customer gets shafted, the newcomer gets rewarded.

How is this like the Panera situation?

In both cases, a company has something but will only share it on their terms, not on the customers.  Panera has apple chips, Cable/Satellite/Cell companies have price breaks that they’re not willing to give to loyal, long-standing customers.

Don’t get me wrong.  Companies have every right to portion out their profits/losses how they want. But, it comes down to these simple questions:

Are your customers important to you?

Do you want them to have an amazing experience of your services and/or food?

Do you believe growth is directly related to how you treat your customers?

Steven S. Little, author of the wonderful “The MilkShake Moment: Overcoming Stupid Systems, Pointless Policies and Muddled Management to Realize Real Growth,” makes a point for the importance of valuing the customer, the person, over policy and profits.  Profits will follow when the customer is placed first.

It’s not complicated.

It’s simply about having the guts to care about people, to be willing to act in simple, but profound ways that scream, “You are important to me!” without fear of being called on the carpet by Corporate.  It’s about making someone a milkshake even when it’s not officially on the menu; or in my case, giving me a cup of Apple Chips.

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Posted in Customer Focus, Design, Experience, Service Design | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Inspiration from “The Rebbe” into Redesigning Healthcare, Starting with the Word We Use

Posted by Plish on June 14, 2014

While driving to a 24 hour Walgreens in the wee hours of the night, I was listening to the radio and heard an interview with Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History.

Rebbi Telushkin pointed out that the Rebbe believed in the power of words and he made it a point to use optimistic, positive words.   So strong was the Rebbe’s belief that it influenced the author, Rabbi Joseph, to use the words “due date” as opposed to “deadline” when talking about projects.  “Due dates” are synonymous with births, “deadlines” with, well, death.

The Rebbe carefully chose his words and therefore used the phrase beit refuah, when he spoke of a hospital.  Translated it means ‘house of healing.’  Most people used the term beit cholim, which means ‘house of the sick’.

Think about that.

When you hear the word “hospital” what do you think of?

If you’re like most people, you’ll probably say, “That’s where the sick people are.” Maybe you’ll mention something about people getting better but, odds are, the first thing that’ll  probably come to mind is sickness, not healing.

That’s interesting because the word “hospital” comes from the Latin word hospes. The word meant a foreigner/stranger or guest.  It’s actually the root word for “hospitality”, “hostel”, “hotel”, and “hospice”.

Do you consider hospitals synonymous with hospitality?  While the Ritz-Carlton has given customer services lessons to healthcare facilities, and many hospitals are upgrading their food quality and redesigning their interiors, the cultural change hasn’t occurred yet.  People still don’t identify hospitality with hospitals.  For that matter, unfortunately, I don’t believe that healing is identified with hospitals. I’ve even heard of hospitals being described as those places where people get sick!

Some places are making the change and trying to change peoples’ impression of what healthcare facilities represent.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America has taken the step of using green colors and logo that has a tree and a person playing and a dog.  They clearly want to convey their commitment to life and living.  Their facilities are even designed in V-shapes, almost like open arms.  They really don’t look ‘hospitally’. Check them out some pictures here.

The lesson here is that language is important.   From healthcare terms, to renaming strategic plans, to renaming project ‘post-mortems’, I believe it’s important that we use terms that take us in positive directions and make us think of what it really is that we want to accomplish.  Too often we just use common phrases, seldom taking the time to understand the impact of those terms in shaping our worldviews and how we approach problems.

Whether it’s healthcare or a relationship you’re trying to improve,

think about the words you use,

think about the metaphors that describe your challenges,

think about the ramifications of words,

and choose words that build up, that inspire, that give life, that cause you to look at people and situations in new and exciting ways.

The Rebbe would be happy…

 

 

Posted in Customer Focus, Design, Healthcare, innovation, Religion, Service Design, Social Innovation, The Human Person, Wellness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

See You at FUSE14 in Chicago!

Posted by Plish on April 3, 2014

If you don’t have your tickets, make sure you check out Fuse 2014!

This is truly a great networking, educational and inspiring event.  Check out the line-up!

Fuse is about Innovation, Brand Strategy and Marketing, Trends, Design and more!  If you go, I guarantee you won’t be sorry.

Oh, and once the conference starts on April 7, tune in to the Seen page (It doesn’t go live until the conference starts).  It’s a great place to see a mashup of tweets for the conference.

If you’re going, drop me a line – would love to meet up!

Posted in Customer Focus, Design, innovation, Service Design | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What Makes Successful Products, Services and Brands?

Posted by Plish on April 27, 2012

“If I eat a pink cake, the taste of it is pink; the light sugary perfume, the oiliness of the butter cream are the pink.  Thus I eat the pink as I see the sugary.”

–(Jean-Paul Sartre, “The Hole,” in Existentialism and Human Emotions (New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1993), 89)

What do successful brands and innovative products/services have in common?

Hint: The solution comes via Sartre’s thoughts.

Answer: Consistency.

Think of it…

What would you do if you bit into an elegantly frosted, pink cake and it tasted of garlic?

How consistent is the message that comes from the experience of your company, service or product?

Do the textures, shapes, smells, sounds, flavors, and colors harmonize in creating the emotional experience that you want?

If your product is pink, does it taste pink?

Posted in Brands, Design, Emotions, Experience, innovation, Service Design, The Senses | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Designing Positive Experiences in a Doctor’s Office – One Bagel at a Time

Posted by Plish on January 12, 2012

It was a typical physical. The basic tests, some questions, some ‘turn your head and cough’-ing, a blood draw and the removal of a dime-sized, spherical cyst from my right shoulder.

As usual, the prep for the appointment included a fast from midnight.  This isn’t usually a big deal, except that I had the latest possible appointment that morning.

Everything went well. Even the cyst removal.  It wasn’t particularly painful, but the area was effectively numbed up prior to the mini-surgery.  That was, no doubt,  a good thing, as the cyst went deeper into the skin than one would think, based upon its size.  The doctor’s skillful excision left a clean, but surprisingly large, ‘glass marble sized’ crater on my shoulder.

After I was bandaged, I turned my head and started to get up. I was instantly greeted by a flurry of starry, firefly like speckles that twinkled for a few moments then faded.

“Whoa…stars,” I said.  It had caught me by surprise.

The doctor steadied me and I stepped down off the table.  “I’ll have my nurse give you something to help that,” he said,

As I was leaving the office, she handed me my prescription.  A coupon for a free bagel  at the bakery next door.

I smiled, left, and visited the doctor’s neighbor.

“This is the coolest idea, EVER!”  I thought to myself as I munched on a toasted bagel, slathered with honey-walnut cheese.

My shoulder wound was beginning to get sore, but it didn’t matter.  The crunchy, creamy-ness filled the 12 hour fasting void in my stomach, perfectly.

In the moment, I had thought the free bagel coupon was a sacred talisman, of which I was the sole possessor. The uninitiated would never taste the nectar of honey and walnut as I was able…

Only…

I wasn’t the only one to get a coupon. In fact, all my doctor’s patients who had to fast the day before their appointments, received a ‘get a free bagel’ coupon.

This was brilliance – Pure and simple.

It also wasn’t the doctor’s brainchild.  It was the bakery owner’s! (Though the good doctor did know a good idea when he saw it, and acted upon it.)  He proposed providing coupons for the doc’s prepping, fasting patients.  In the end, he not only benefitted from letting people try his bagels, he received remuneration for the drinks that I’m sure others, like myself, purchased as a sidecar to the bagel. Yet, he wasn’t the one in the limelight as far as I was concerned.  I was indebted to the doctor who thought enough of me to feed me when I was hungry (and smarting!).

I think about this little, customer service based, sleight of hand often.  It was a brilliant tactic that paid off in spades.  I respected my doc even more after that day, and the bagel baking prowess of his neighbor as well.  There are many lessons to glean from this experience, but the one that I personally come back to is this: The positive vibes I felt from that physical didn’t come from anything the doctor did, from a medical point of view, during my visit.  It had everything to do with the simple, person-centered action that occurred  after the physical was finished.

After – not during.

It’s important to finish experiences on a high note. This one was  the coda  of the sweet, Honey Walnut Symphony…

Posted in Customer Focus, Design, Emotions, Experience, Food, Healthcare, innovation, Service Design, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Starting an Empire – Sears’ Eye for Making People’s Lives Easier

Posted by Plish on June 9, 2011

It’s simple.

Observe>>Reflect on the Experience>>Act on the Insights(=Design Solutions).

Richard W. Sears, founder of Sears Roebuck, lived by that process.

His goal was to make life simpler for people and make a profit doing it.

In the 1880’s as the country was adopting and making sense of time zones (from 300 to four), Sears sold watches to rail travellers.  People who before had to calculate the time by looking at the sky and deduct or add a minute for every 12 miles traversed, depending on the direction being travelled.

His focus on making life easier for his customers is epitomized by this blurb in his 1908 catalog which made it clear that people didn’t have to be intimidated by the mail order process. 

Don’t be afraid you will make a mistake (on your order). We receive hundreds of orders every day from young and old who never before sent away for goods. Tell us what you want in your own way, written in any language. We have translators to read all languages.

And my favorite:

Observation: People placed their catalogs and books on coffee tables.  The books were often stacked when the house was cleaned.

Reflection on Experience: The Sears catalog had to compete with the Montgomery Ward catalog for space.  In order to get noticed, somehow the Sears catalog had to differentiate itself in some way.  As printing techniques for the catalogs were relatively simple, Sears took an entirely different route to differentiate his catalog. 

Act on the Insights:  He made the catalog smaller than the Montgomery Ward catalog so that when the catalogs were stacked on the coffee table, the Sears catalog would be placed on top. 

Building an empire is actually quite simple.

Posted in Customer Focus, Design, Experience, innovation, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Improving the Experience of Victimhood – Creative Customer Service

Posted by Plish on August 17, 2009

A "Certificate of Robbery"

A "Certificate of Robbery"

It’s not often that we think of creativity as being applied to crime. Check that.  Criminals seem to be pretty good at being creative.  What they’re usually not creative at is helping their victims…

Except for Ukrainian Pirates. These folks bring customer service to a new level.

As Ukraine’s borders opened in the 90’s, entrepreneurial merchants in Ukraine travelled regularly on buses to central European countries to obtain goods to resell in Ukraine.   The routes of these trips became well known to bandits of the underground who would raid the buses on their return legs and take the goods.  That’s all well and good but additional robbers would come by at other points of the journey home  and pirate the same bus again…and again…leaving everyone frustrated.

Enter the enterprising crooks. 

To prevent any misunderstandings with future bandits ‘Certificates of Robbing’ were issued to the victims after they were robbed.  That way, when the bus was stopped again by wouldbe pirates, the certificates were presented thus assuring the crooks that yes, this bus had been robbed and nobody was hiding anything.

There’s a lesson here about creative customer service….

somewhere…

Posted in Case Studies, creativity, Customer Focus, Design, imagination, problem solving | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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