Workplace Wisdom

24 Jul 2012

5 Steps for Helping Irate Customers Keep Their Cool

Even when customers are irate, companies have another chance to make things right. Irate customers are asking for the relationship to be salvaged — if they didn’t still want something from the company they’d just hold their complaints and go away quietly. Too Hot to Handle? Regrettably, some customers don’t believe they’ll get their due unless they strap on the conversational equivalent of gun belts and start waving their six-shooters around. They’re afraid they don’t matter to your company. Think […]

17 Jul 2012

An Example of Successful Service Recovery: A Real Apology

Sister had taken on the responsibility of ordering a big basket of goodies from Zingerman’s, the famous Ann Arbor deli and emporium, as part of the confab and celebration of Parents’ anniversary. Unfortunately, the shipment was somewhat damaged in transit. The big cookies were crumbled and a couple of the brownies were smooshed, but we know how to eat broken baked goods and were not deterred. And the treats that were still intact were diverse enough to satisfy three generations […]

03 Jul 2012

Most Dissatisfied Customers Don’t Complain — Including Me

I had an important presentation to make and needed to be compelling, persuasive — and although the clothes don’t make the consultant, they can add to or detract from both presence and self-image. I found something stylish, professional — exactly the kind of thing I wanted — on the website of a fashion-forward, high-end multichannel retailer whose catalog I had bought from a number of years ago. The jacket cost more than I had planned to spend, but I hoped […]

08 May 2012

Your Customers Don’t Want to Be Trapped by Your Silos

A customer arrives at a service department he visits frequently to take care of some account maintenance. Before he leaves, he asks the department receptionist if she can pass along a document to another department. What’s the receptionist’s answer? “I don’t take that. You’ll have to see So-and-So, who’s not here now.” And what’s the customer supposed to say in response? “Oh, of course you don’t take it. I know that! I’m an idiot! Let me go right now before […]

20 Mar 2012

The Customer Cares: Good Design, Poor Design

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I care a lot about how it feels to work in my office. (See The Pleasures of the Office.) My extensive collection of plants adds to my work satisfaction. I needed some self-watering pots for African violets and located four beauties online — asymmetrical and with a green glaze that complements the color of the African violets’ leaves. The pots were on sale, so the value was very […]

21 Feb 2012

Is It Really So Hard to Nail Down Customer Loyalty?

I’ve gone to the same tiny nail salon for a number of years. My visits depend on my work and travel schedule, but no matter how many weeks apart, I’ve always gone on a Monday morning to be able to see the same person. There’s a comfort in knowing how things will work. Sometimes I’ve wondered if I should change to a more modern place, a larger place, maybe even a more sanitary place, but it’s been easier to stick […]

31 Jan 2012

2 Powerful Steps to Improved Customer Service

The Customer is always right, comes first, and is King! And Service is our middle name, with a smile. These are lovely slogans and declarations of intent — but truthfully, people tend to pay more attention to them when they’re breached than when they’re followed. A Small, But Perfectly Representative Example Just yesterday I called a restaurant, and asked, “Do I need to make a reservation for lunch tomorrow at 1:00 for six people, or can we just show up?” […]

06 Dec 2011

Making Extraordinary Service Look Easy

I’m not a fan of inter-organizational benchmarking: It’s almost impossible to replicate someone else’s successes when you don’t have their operating model, or to replicate their practices or techniques when you don’t have their culture or copy their culture when you don’t have their founding experience or history. And yet whenever you experience excellent service — and the providers make it look easy — it’s worth gleaning whatever lessons you can. So here’s a story with a bit of analysis: […]

29 Nov 2011

Should There Be a Way to Standarde Exceptions?

I’ve been ordering a new drink at Starbucks lately. I’ve had this drink at one airport, one hotel, one highway rest stop, on two coasts, in three states, and at a number of local stores. It doesn’t appear on any published listing — and the price has never been the same. Starbucks has always varied its pricing depending on the establishment (airports, as opposed to storefronts, for example), geographic region (East Coast vs. West), and level of population density (major […]

16 Aug 2011

Lying on the Menu

It was a special lunch, and the three of us were a little excited. Daughter ordered the salmon, which impressed the waitress. I ordered the burger (Daughter’s second choice, as insurance). Spouse asked for a cup of soup and a fancy chicken sandwich. The waitress was friendly and interested, if not graceful, which fit with the tone of the establishment: traditional, comfortable, but not “fine dining.” She poured iced tea, brought the soup, and all was well. Spouse had just […]


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