Customer Service

A Lesson In Customer Service

I received an email this week calling my attention to musician Dave Carroll’s fight with United Airlines. It seems, while on a flight from Canada to the US Carroll watched, helplessly, as baggage carriers tossed around his precious guitar before loading it into the plane. When he got to his destination and retrieved his guitar from the baggage claim he wasn’t terribly surprised to find that the neck of the $3,500 Taylor had been broken. When he attempted to seek compensation from United through their customer service channels he was continually passed from person to person, each claiming they had no power before passing him along to the next person. Finally he reached someone willing to give him a concrete response: No. United Airlines would not compensate him for his damaged guitar. 

So, Carroll took things into his own hands and did what he does best; wrote a song, made a video and posted in on YouTube.


United Breaks Guitars quickly became an internet hit. As of today it has been viewed 7,682,624 times, spawned two more videos and been made available on iTunes. Carroll also made a slew of appearances on news programs as the video made the social networking rounds. After four days of a rapidly growing negative PR storm United’s stock dropped 10% costing investors (in an already weakened industry) $180 billion. United could no longer ignore the claims of this angry customer and, after Carroll refused any money – he felt it was too little too late – they made a $3,000 donation to Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. What is the moral of this story? Social networking has made consistent high quality customer service essential to controlling your brand image.

YouTube, Yelp!, Four Square, Facebook, Twitter they have all given customers a forum to voice their praise and, all too often, complaints. The ripple effect of a singular bad experience is no longer limited to a person’s immediate social circle. Now, after notably bad table service you can hop on any number of sites/aps and voice your disdain therefore broadcasting your ills to, potentially, millions – as uneducated or unchecked as they may be – and immediately influencing that restaurant’s image.

This new customer service dynamic poses a number of challenges for businesses; how to get a bad review removed, how to politely respond to a negative tweet, what to do about an unwarranted attack. All of these questions now haunt small and large businesses alike. However, the answers aren’t as high tech and complex as you may believe. The answers can all be found in establishing and maintaining exemplary service from the very first moment of customer engagement. Spend the extra money to train your servers properly, take the time to revisit customer service values, enforce high standards of worker responsibility and review and promote easy to use customer friendly channels of communication. If United had spent the time to consistently train and review the work of their baggage handlers, stewardesses, and CSRs they would have avoided the drastic market response and costly image saving campaign. If you invest in high quality service, anticipate problems and determine solution methods you not only prepare yourself properly for when they occur but, most likely, you will find you don’t have many problems to fix. 

Going For The Discount During A Recession

Are you a bit confronted or tempted to cut your prices during this economic downturn?

J0400966 If so, you are not alone. Professional services companies are faced with this reality, too. Today, I'm here to spare you the anxiety of possibly cutting prices. Freddy Nager over at
Atomic Tango, a creative strategy agency, gave these reasons why cutting your prices could do more harm than good:

1. It sends the message that you've been ripping your customers off all this time.
2. It means you'll have difficulty increasing your prices to "normal levels" when the economy starts jamming again.
3. It kills your profit margins, so you won't have the cash to do what might really make a difference to do during a recession: better marketing.

Freddy's blog also shares the importance of marketing the value of your services. Which leads me to my next point...

Yes, times are tough in this country, but don't lose sight. Remember who you are, what your product or service brings to the market, and how it's making a difference in the businesses of your current customers. It's time to visit Sales 101. Don't let a prospect pigeonhole you into lowering your prices, instead gently remind them of the customers your product or service has already helped (name-drop) and stick to your story.

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What's Good Customer Service Worth?

A huge part of business is about relationship so why not invest in the relationship approach with our customers? I usually measure my customer relations factor with a simple scenario: Following up well after the sale has been completed, and the invoice submitted and paid. That takes some dedication and it’s not easy. Staying in touch takes time and commitment and it‘s easy to get bogged down in getting new business and being most concerned about the next
“big deal”.

There’s no escaping the fact that we must have a plan in place to touch our customer base. Coffee once a week, picking up the phone and calling from time-to-time, an eNewsletter or mailing out a holiday card every year, something must be done and it has to be planned or it just won’t happen.

When the economy is at its peak, many companies take a slash and burn approach to customer service because it seems that under every rock there are new business prospects just waiting in the wings. With the state of the nation slowing down, a slash and burn approach can upset end of year projections.

What is the cost of good customer service? Dollars aside, I think it’s about understanding what your customers value – it’s about sticking your neck out to give them what they want. Many things in life are measured by time or money. Most of us are more willing to give of our time than we are money and in the case of offering good customer service, I think it requires a little of both. It takes time to plan what you’re going to do and actually implementing the plan. The money part is usually consumed by the actual plan or by you taking the time to put the plan into action.

Whatever you decide, don’t let the cost of good customer service discourage you, get creative. There’s an abundance of options and ideas out there that have been created with people like us in mind who are out to take things to a different level when it comes to how we run our business. See what you can find.

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Where Has Good Customer Service Gone?

First, let me start by saying Happy New Year!

I’ve been spending most of my holiday with family and friends and overall, the experience has been refreshing.

On New Year’s Eve day, I decided to eat breakfast at a local restaurant. The experience left me thinking, ‘Where has good customer service gone?’ After being seated by the host, I decided another available location in a booth was more preferable than the table I was initially given. I asked if I could move and was surprised to hear the host say, “That’s another section, I’m not sure, let me go check.”

I didn’t need to hear the turmoil of the host not knowing and that being another section. I was expecting something like, I’m sorry that’s reserved or “Oh sure, sir, go right ahead!” Whatever happened to that?

This leads me to this post today. They say in life you should never waste an experience. Always use what you’re going through for the greater good of someone else. So I guess it’s safe to say that my turmoil is for your good.

What does it cost to retain customers vs. acquiring new ones?

According to authors Emmett C. Murphy and Mark A. Murphy’s Leading on the Edge of Chaos, acquiring new customers can cost five times more than satisfying and retaining current customers, a 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect on profits as cutting costs by10%, the average company loses 10% of its customers each year, a 5% reduction in customer defection rate can increase profits by 25-125%, depending on the industry and the customer profitability rate tends to increase over the life of a retained customer.

There you have it! That’s it in a nutshell. What are we doing to keep our current customers happy? It’s a matter of sales and excellent customer service. Many times the sales team is there to close the deal, then the customer is passed on to a formal customer relations program to ensure that the customer’s overall experience is managed. This is all good. In fact, I highly recommend having systems in place for retaining the customer. That’s ‘getting it’ when it comes to the profitability and success of your department or business.

I’ve been a customer of L.L.Bean for years and my experience has always been excellent. They go out of their way to accommodate my needs and they guarantee their products. Sure, I bet they get new customers logging on or entering their stores everyday to make a purchase, but they understand the value of paying attention to the customers they already have, and how profitable customer retention is to their bottom line. That’s being better than good.

The New Year is here...2008 is upon us, how are you planning to be better than good to your customer? Leave me a comment, I’m open to how we can maximize the lost art of “good customer service.” At Bizucate, we plan on making that a focus of ours for the new year.

Keep the learning going...pass it on.