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Archive for the ‘Steve’s Articles’ Category

Customer Experience Lessons From A Luxury Resort That Failed To Meet It’s Brand Promise

Walt-Disney-it-takes-people-to-make-the-dream-a-reality

I have been referencing that great Walt Disney quote regularly to my training clients over these past 10+ years since I started Sale Away. To use Walt’s word, I have many examples of great ‘places’ delivering less-than-great, and sometimes just plain poor, customer experiences.  This 2012 family vacation certainly comes to mind.

Sadly, this recent account has joined the my list of great places diminished by a disappointing customer experience. 

2 Tickets To Paradise..

To celebrate our upcoming 20th wedding anniversary we decided to leave our teenage kids home and take a long weekend to somewhere special that we had never been before.  After much research and deliberation we decided on the Waldorf Astoria Casa Marina Resort in Key West. As you can see on their site here, the place is just beautiful.

A gorgeous setting and that world-renowned Waldorf Astoria name set high expectations for a top notch customer experience. What could possibly go wrong in paradise?

Here’s a few examples that left us with less-than-happy memories:

 1) Special Requests

Preparing for our arrival, the Casa Marina emailed me a reservation confirmation with details on the resort and included a request on any “special occasion” that we may be celebrating on our visit.  Using this “Pre-Arrival Assistance” form, I informed that we would be visiting for our 20th Wedding Anniversary. I fulfilled a similar request at the Casablanca Hotel in Times Square for our 15th Anniversary and fondly recall how we were welcomed appropriately (“Happy Anniversary!”) by the check-in staff and pleasantly surprised by a bottle of champagne and card in our room.

Apparently, this was ignored as nothing was ever mentioned or offered during our entire stay. I know what you’re thinking.. they never received the request. They would never ignore it and, in fact, had they received it then no doubt they would go to great lengths to ensure it was acted upon. That what I was thinking too but, as I later discovered, this was only the beginning of a troubling trend. 

 2) The Beach Incident

First off, if anyone ever asks you if you want to drive from Miami to Key West.. SAY NO. Anticipating a pleasant scenic drive for 3 or so hours, we decided to fly to Miami International Airport and drive to Key West. Ended up being a 5+ hour mostly stop n’ go ride with plenty of time spent traveling traffic light to traffic light in, you guessed it, traffic. Of course, the resort awaiting us had absolutely nothing to do with our experience at this point.

Then, finally, we arrived.

After our surprisingly unceremonious check-in (see #1), all we wanted to do is relax so, after a brief room pit-stop, we visited the private beach.  Around 5:45 at this point, the beach was fairly empty with plenty of chairs and cabana beds available.  Not ones to pass up an opportunity to be extra cozy, we laid out on one of the cabana beds. I was dozing off rather blissfully when, not 15 minutes later, a resort employee abruptly asked us to get up so they could move all the chairs back for beach grooming later (not right then). I sat up in bewilderment.. there were easily a few dozen other chairs/beds spread about that they could of moved before even considering disrupting our peace. Not a good second impression of service..

3) Breakfast On Us

Our first morning there, we decided to walk the 1.5 miles or so down to Duval St. and had breakfast at a funky little restaurant there. Pretty good eats for about $40 with tip. 

The next day we decided to stay onsite and have breakfast at the resort. Upon checking-in with the hostess, she advised that their rather extensive breakfast buffet was included in the package I had already paid for when I made our reservation. Well now, wouldn’t that have been a nice reminder at check-in? “Mr. Ferrante, I see you have purchased the package that includes our buffet breakfast. It’s really great and served just around the corner in our main dining area with additional seating on our outdoor patio. The hostess will be expecting you. Enjoy!”

Instead of that, nothing.

It’s worth noting that I regularly stay at Marriott’s all over the map for business, and occasional pleasure, travel. I cannot recall the last time the check-in staff did not welcome me as a Marriott Rewards member and inform me of their free breakfast. The Casa Marina is part of the Hilton Honors program. I am a long-standing Hilton Honors member. Although my reservation had my HHonors number on it, my membership never came up and there was certainly no distinction between ours and non-members service.  

4) We Don’t Give A Tweet

As I often do with poor customer service interactions, I broadcast the post below on Twitter and included the resort wondering if anyone was paying attention there.  

The next day after incident # 3.. 

Apparently no one was paying attention as no reply was received on either tweet. Compare this lack of response to my recent experience at the Marriott and it becomes painfully apparent that there is a valuable customer service component lacking at this establishment. 

Upon departure, I requested to speak with the resort manager to discuss our experience and, when he could not be found, the front desk employee cordially provided his business card. I emailed him, along with Hilton Honors customer service, a detailed account of our experience. When no reply was received, I forwarded the email to them again requesting feedback for this article. That was 3 weeks ago now. No reply has been received.

A beautiful place may bring customers in but their experience is what brings them back

The Gap Between Us  

The gap between a business and its loyal advocates is the experience customers have when interacting with the brand. Every service interaction will either add or subtract from the customer’s overall experience. If poor interactions outweigh the good ones, as was the case here, then the customer’s memory of their experience will be tarnished and the likelihood of securing their future business jeopardized. 

In most cases, customer service interactions come down to the employees tasked to deliver them and whether or not they demonstrate PRIDE on the job. 

Still, even when PRIDE is present, employees can be limited by the organization itself, not having a true customer service culture and/or not being properly trained on what to do (and how to do it) to effectively contribute to it. Reflecting on our time at Casa Marina, I suspect this played a major role in the service shortcomings we experienced. 

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how nice your business looks if your service is substandard. As Walt Disney said, People make the difference.

Steve Ferrante is the Grand PooBah & Trainer of Champions of Sale Away LLC. As producer and host of Pinnacle Performance Training, Steve delivers sales, customer service and winning team culture training, speaking and professional development services to success-driven organizations throughout North America. For detailed information visit Sale Away. Steve can be reached directly at 866-721-6086 ext. 701 or via email at steve@saleawayllc.com

This article is also on LinkedIn here

Jaromir Jagr’s Success Formula

some-people-dream-of-success-while-others-wake-up-and-work-hard-at-it-22

It goes without saying that being a professional athlete in any sport is not something that is easily achieved. Sure, some people are born with genetic gifts that made them tall or especially strong but, as I wrote about in The Truth About “Born Salesman”, they must still apply themselves and continually work on their game to master their craft and truly achieve greatness. 

And, as referenced in the video below with regard to hockey, once the average athlete does achieve professional status, their tenure at that level is usually short-lived. All that makes the story of hockey great Jaromir Jagr all that more remarkable. 

Have a look and listen to this brief ESPN Spotlight video:

 

As I often say in my training and speaking engagements, success has a formula. Jaromir’s success is certainly no accident. He does indeed have, and more importantly, adheres to a formula.

Let’s breakdown a few key points Jaromir made in the video that speak directly to achieving and sustaining success:

Constantly Adjust

Good yesterday doesn’t equal good today. You have to adjust. – Jaromir Jagr

One of the biggest threats to progress and ultimate success is complacency. While high-achievers like Jaromir are constantly striving for higher levels of performance, average folks get to a point and settle for good enough. As I referenced in the previous post.. If good enough if good enough for you, then you’ll never achieve greatness. To avoid complacency and keep moving forward you must constantly adjust. 

Consistent Practice Equals Consistent Results

The body is like a computer, I believe you can program it.  – Jaromir Jagr

One of the biggest problems I see that stifles growth with many businesses, and consequently the employees in them, is that they are inconsistent with their training efforts. As I wrote about in 4 Seldom Considered Reasons Sales/Customer Service Training Fails, training works with consistent exposure to the training. 

As Jaromir pointed out, you have to keep practicing to program your body and be best prepared to perform at a high level. That type of programming also applies to sales and customer service training. When folks do not consistently practice they gradually deprogram themselves and are not best prepared to capitalize on sales opportunities or provide the highest quality of customer service.

I wish I didn’t have to do anything and be good but it doesn’t work like that, it would be too easy and everyone could do it. – Jaromir Jagr

You Can Have Your Muffins but…

Like Jaromir, I also like muffins. There’s nothing quite like the savory deliciousness of a warm blueberry muffin with a little pat of butter. No great lesson here.. just an intriguing food fact.

Seriously, if you’re gonna cheat with the sweets then you better offset it with regular workouts. Unless, of course, you’re not really concerned with peak performance. Then diet, and just about everything else, doesn’t really matter. 

Be 100% In It

Whatever I love I have to be 100% in it. – Jaromir Jagr

This speaks directly to commitment and passion for your job. As I wrote about in Passion Powers Performance, most folks don’t have it.

You will never achieve the level of success you’re capable of achieving if you’re not 100% invested in your work. Put another way, you’ll never achieve the level of success you would have achieved in something you were 100% invested in.

Like Jagr, in order to be a great you need to be 100% in it .

Jagr Stanley Cup

Steve Ferrante is the Grand PooBah & Trainer of Champions of Sale Away LLC. As producer and host of Pinnacle Performance Training, Steve delivers sales, customer Service and winning team culture training, speaking and professional development services to success-driven organizations throughout North America. For detailed information visit Sale Away. Steve can be reached directly at 866-721-6086 ext. 701 or via email at steve@saleawayllc.com

Marriott Gets Social To Deliver Great Service!

Bill Marriott if-you-take-care-of-your-employees

Marriott has long been known as a leader in the hospitality industry. Like the Ritz-Carlton, which Marriott International purchased in the mid-1990’s, Marriott understands it is the customer experience that drives customer satisfaction and, ultimately, loyalty to the brand.

Marriott also knows that the quality of the customer experience is only as good as the culture of the business and the employees that interact with guests. So, like the Ritz-Carlton, Marriott trains every employee — from concierge, front desk, housekeeping, to maintenance — to interact with guests with a focus on enhancing the customer experience. 

The remarkable success of the Marriott brand and their customer service culture is detailed in the highly recommended book by J. W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr., The Spirit to Serve

More recently, and as a tie in to my recent experience chronicled below, Bill Marriott spoke about the role of social media in the customer experience:

Today, social media makes it easy for organizations like ours to ‘listen’ and ask questions of our guests. Our guests and associates have lots of opportunity now to let us know what they’re thinking and how we’re doing as a company. – Bill Marriott

The important part of what Mr. Marriott said is ‘listen’. These days, most reputable companies have some sort of social media presence and the capability to listen to their customers. Of those companies, the impact on the customer experience is in how they turn that ‘listening’ into action. 

Case in point:

Two weeks ago I was back on the beautiful Big Island of Hawaii for another round of in-house training with a very-valued client of mine.  As was the case on my previous two visits, I stayed at the beautiful Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa

While working on my laptop from my room balcony I tweeted this >

About a half-hour later I received this tweet back:

Good Stuff! Someone there was certainly ‘listening’ and responding in a positive manner to enhance my customer experience!

The next morning I left for my client early, was out of the hotel all day, and returned to my room early that evening to find a fresh fruit plate, 6 slices of banana bread, 2 bottled waters and silverware on my desk:

Waikoloa Marriott Treat

As shown, it included a card from the Director of Sales & Marketing, John Dominguez, with a thoughtful message:

Aloha Steven, If you have to work on your lanai, we hope you will enjoy this small treat.

Waikoloa Marriott Card

WOW! Now that’s exceeding expectations! Impressed and delighted with John’s consideration, I tweeted again:

Seemingly immediately, Marriott ‘liked’ the tweet and, not long after that, I received an “ENJOY!” retweet response. I sure did!

This is a great example of harnessing the power of social media to engage and, along with taking action, personalize and provide a memorable customer experience.

Well Done Marriott!

Steve 🙂

This story is also on LinkedIn @ Marriott Gets Social To Deliver Great Service

6 Resolutions for a More Successful New Year!

Here’s a timely article I originally published last year. The year has been updated, my advice remains the same..

6 Resolutions for a More Successful New Year!

As we come to the end of 2015 we arrive at the intersection of a new beginning, a clean slate and opportunity to be even better in the new year.

While the vast majority of New Year’s resolutions tend to fade away by the time February rolls around, here’s six I hope stay with you for greater success and improved well-being in 2016 and beyond.

In 2016,  I resolve to:

1) Focus On What I Can Control

More often than not, we experience grief, anxiety and/or frustration from situations that are beyond our control. Obviously, this is counterproductive. In 2016, minimize external issues and focus on your attitude (see # 5), your behaviors (what you do) and your execution (how you do it) to best control your destiny.

2) Be Grateful

As I published at Thanksgiving, gratitude is the best attitude for success. Grateful individuals focus on the positive aspects of life/work and do not take them for granted. They express heartfelt thanks and appreciation to others and their genuine gratitude positively attracts others to them.

3) Be a Student of My Profession

High-achievers, in any occupation, are true students of their profession. For sales/customer service professionals, realize that you are in the people business first and your product/services second. That means learning everything you can about improving your ‘people skills’ to better communicate and connect with people, build rapport, trust and relationships. Top performers continuously invest in themselves through training, reading and professional development to further their skill set.

4) Exercise Regularly

This is perhaps the most neglected New Year’s resolution of all time. Although the vast majority of folks do not stick with their resolution to exercise regularly the benefits of doing so are indisputable.  Regular exercise improves heart-lung and muscle fitness, helps prevent heart disease and diabetes, relieves stress, improves sleep, controls weight and generally improves your chances of living longer and healthier. 

5) Be Happy

 As I often say, positive attracts positive in everything you do. You will certainly gain far more in 2016 being happy than you would being miserable. I once read that the ‘grand essentials’ of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. For greater success in 2016, make sure you’re aligned for this and be happy.

6) Make Each Day Count

The Champ Himself, Muhammad Ali, once said “Don’t count the days, make the days count”. This principle is directly applicable to having a successful year… don’t count the days on the calendar, make each day on the calendar count. When you focus on making each day a success your year will take care of itself!

Commit to a Successful New Year 2016

All The Best To You For Success In 2016!

Steve 🙂

Steve Ferrante is the CEO & Trainer of Champions of Sale Away LLC., providing Pinnacle Performance Sales, Customer Service and Winning Team Culture training, speaking and professional development services to success-driven businesses throughout North America. For more information on Steve and Pinnacle Performance services for your team visit saleawayllc.com

Amazon.com Customer Service and the Curious Case of the 1 Eared Giraffe

Back in May of 2013, I published this article on Amazon.com’s world-class customer service.

Happy to report that since then I’ve continued to frequently purchase a wide variety of items from Amazon and they have continued to provide the high quality customer care I teach and often preach about.

And that brings us to this latest example of Amazon customer service and the curious case of the 1 eared giraffe..

Seemingly out of nowhere my daughter, Ava, had an urgent need for these animal onesie pajamas. With Christmas fast-approaching, I tried to reason that we could get her this as a present. That offer was met with agonizing opposition as evidently the nearly 8 week wait for the comfort of animal sleepwear would simply be too much to bare. 

Given a selection of colorful creatures to choose from, Ava decided the giraffe would be her ideal mate so I went ahead and ordered.

Here’s the picture from Amazon.com:

Giraffe Onesie PJ's

While most of my Amazon purchases are eligible for their Prime 2-day shipping services this product was being sent from a distributor in China and Prime was not available. 

Eagerly awaiting her cozy companion, every day for 2 weeks Ava would ask me if “the package” had arrived. Finally, on day 15, it did. 

In what was likely the quickest turnaround of all-time, Ava disappeared momentarily then reappeared in our kitchen like this:

1 Ear Giraffe

Notice anything peculiar? At first, neither did we but if you look closely you’ll notice the giraffe has no right ear. If you refer back to the first picture, you can see the girl is actually holding the giraffe by the ears. Apparently, they didn’t try that with this one.

Attempting to avoid a catastrophic meltdown (likely felt where you are now), I assured Ava that I would contact Amazon and was confident they would resolve the issue in short order. 

Below are the series of email exchanges between myself and Amazon.com customer service.

Beginning with this request for return:

 Item: LATH.PIN Unisex Costume Animal Cosplay Onesie Adult Pajamas Anime Cartoon Sleepwear Medium, Giraffe
> Qty: 1
> Return reason: Defective/Does not work properly
> Customer comments: Arrived with only one ear and appears to have been created
  that way. My daughter is quite upset and doesn't want
  to wait several weeks again for a new one to be delivered

Reply received:

Dear customer, we have received your return request. We are so sorry you received
damaged item. You don't need to return the item, you can keep it. We will make a
full refund for you tomorrow. Could you please kindly send us the photo of the
one ear giraffe. We will send it to our QC. Thank you very much.
Please feel to contact us if you have any problem, thanks again.
 Have a nice day.

That’s great.. I don’t even have to return the item, they’re just going to ‘take care of the customer’ and refund my purchase price. Still, Ava really wants a fully functional giraffe so I sent the picture I posted above along with this reply:

Thank You for your prompt response and offer to keep item and refund amount paid.
I have attached a pic on the 1 ear giraffe. Will the anticipated 2 ear version
be sent? My daughter prefers her giraffes to not be hearing impaired..
--

Not long after I received this reply:

Dear customer, thank you for your photo. We will send a new one to you tomorrow.
We will send you the new tracking number later. Thank you very much.
--

As I often say…

The True Test of Customer Service

This is another great example of customer service recovery done right and why Amazon.com continues to earn my business and accolades.

Make a Great Day!

Steve 🙂

Also on LinkedIn Pulse @ Amazon.com Customer Service and the Curious Case of the 1 Eared Giraffe

Being Unremarkable Is Hurting Your Business

REMARKABLE

Unless you are somehow fortunate enough to have a one-of-a-kind product and/or no competition in your market space, then being remarkable matters. 

As consumers, we are flooded with advertising and marketing messages. Precious few of those messages make it through the noise and stand out in our minds. They’re unremarkable. 

The same goes for shopping. We shop around with very little to distinguish one business from the next so we default to the cheapest price for the item we’re seeking. Losing on price or discounting is perhaps the single biggest consequence businesses suffer for being unremarkable.

Of course, I’m not the first Jedi to write about the importance of being remarkable. Seth Godin literally wrote the book on it in his bestselling Purple Cow.

While every business is capable of being remarkable, only a small minority actually achieve it. The majority play it safe, stick to the norm, and deliver ordinary unremarkable customer experiences.

Always Remember..

You Can't Be Extraordinary Doing Ordinary Things

So ask yourself, are we truly remarkable? Do we stand out in a positive way and make people take notice? Or do we simply blend in and fade away as just another (fill in your business type) in our market? 

Here’s a great example of a business (Ember) that is standing out with not only an innovative product but a remarkable ad for that product. 

At the end of the day, a business’s success is largely determined by it’s ability to stand out from it’s competitors and attract more customers. Being unremarkable just won’t cut it.

Make a Great Day!

Steve 🙂

Steve Ferrante is the CEO & Trainer of Champions of Sale Away LLC., providing truly remarkable Pinnacle Performance Sales, Customer Service and Winning Team Culture training, speaking and professional development services to success-driven businesses throughout North America. For more information on Steve and Pinnacle Performance services for your team visit saleawayllc.com

Customer Disservice Lesson from American Airlines Seat 36F

When Your Business Fails At Customer Service

I’m typing this latest case of customer disservice from seat 36F on American Airlines flight 226 from Boston’s Logan Airport to Dallas en route to Tulsa.

For those of you not familiar with this seat on AA 757 I can tell you first hand that this is the proverbial “back of the bus”, the very last seat in the very last row.

AA Back Row

Of course, on a full flight (like this one) someone needs to sit way back here in the corner but, given my situation, should that someone be me? You decide…

Let me start by saying I try and avoid American Airlines and usually fly one of my recommended “customer service champs” like Jet Blue, Southwest or Virgin Atlantic but, on this trip, none of those options were available.

Besides it’s been awhile since I’ve flown with American… maybe they’ve improved since the last time when my flight was delayed an hour and 45 minutes and no one seemed to care or even acknowledge that I then missed my connecting flight and spent about four extra hours at Chicago Midway waiting for the next flight.

Or maybe it’s just business as usual…

My saga began at the ticketing check-in kiosk when I attempted to print my boarding pass but instead received a slip that read “no seat assignment available”. Taking this slip to the ticket counter to check my garment bag, the agent informed, “they’ll assign your seat at the gate.. let them know you have a connecting flight and they’ll try and sit you close to the front”.

Shouldn’t they know (at the gate) that a customer with no seat (me) has a connecting flight and make the appropriate seating arrangement without that customer having to provide instructions?

In any event, I left the ticket counter feeling like I didn’t have a ticket to ride because, at this point, I didn’t. Instead of the sit down lunch I had envisioned I now made my way from security straight to the gate where I stood in line behind 10 or so other customers, presumably some also dealing with the same situation as me.

15 or so minutes later I was face-to-face with the gate agent explaining my presence there. The woman, let’s call her Mabel, told me in a very matter of fact way, “we’re overbooked.. still can’t assign you a seat.. I’ll call you before we board with something”.

Remembering my message, I responded “I have a connecting flight in Dallas to Tulsa.. the ticket agent told me to let you know so you could try and sit me close to the front”.

“I’ll do my best Mr. Ferrante”, Mabel said as she read my name off the slip.

So I left the gate counter still with no ticket to ride and thinking about what Mabel’s “best” would be as I stood in line to grab a Tuscan Pesto Chicken sandwich to take on board.

It’s worth noting that this is not the first time this has happened to me and surely many frequent flyers (perhaps you) have experienced this “no seat” dilemma as well.

Not long ago, this happened on an Air Canada flight from Toronto back home to Boston. On that flight they upgraded me to Business Class and I enjoyed priority boarding, a complimentary cocktail and a moist warm hand towel. Quite a difference, eh? (purposeful Canadian reference). Indeed. Air Canada turned an inconvenience into a most pleasurable and rewarding experience.

I returned to the gate ( sandwich in tow) as they were calling out names with seating assignments. Sure enough, five or so names in they called me. Mabel handed me the boarding pass nonchalantly saying “36F”.

I took the ticket and the seat location didn’t fully register as I walked away. Then they started boarding… Priority seating, families with small children, first class, business, ruby, gold then Group 1, Group 2, people who love wind chimes, then me in Group 3.

Midway through Group 2 boarding they made an announcement that the flight was sold out and on board storage space was limited so folks with carry-ons (like me) should check them at the gate. So I stood back in line again… this time determined to ask Mabel about my curious seating assignment.

Maintaining professional composure, I questioned Mabel “You had told me that you would do your best to get a seat towards the front of the plane so I could get off quickly to catch my connecting flight… I think I’m at the back?”

No reply.. Mabel just stuck her hand out like she was receiving a summons to appear in court. Looking at the boarding pass she said, “this should be fine.. we’re only running about 9 minutes late”.

As we prepared for take-off the captain came on and announced, “we’re running about 20 minutes late”.

Sure enough, we touched down 22 minutes late. By the time I deboarded as the very last passenger I had to scurry through the terminal to make it to my connecting gate just as they were beginning to board. 

Does AA have to provide a first class experience for inconvenienced customers (in this case, me) to be happy? Not necessarily, but several options presented themselves during my flight.

They showed a movie on the flight and announced “as always our in-flight entertainment is free”. Moments later, they came down the aisle selling headsets for $6.00. Apparently, it’s the watching part that’s “free”, hearing is $6.00. Then there’s that “enjoy WiFi on this flight” announcement. They left out the $15.00 an hour part I discovered trying to connect.

This would be a great value-add for all but, to stay on point, what if they made exceptions and gave passes to folks that have, up to this point, had a less than a pleasurable experience?

How about a free cocktail or, better yet, a voucher for a discount towards a future flight?? Surely that would help alleviate the pain, something my non-reclining up-against-the-back-wall seat failed miserably at doing.

One thing is clear, American Airlines does not effectively train customer service or understand that the customer experience is not getting a passenger from point A to B. Any airline can do that. It’s what happens from point A to point B that matters most. Until they figure that out and make customer service/customer experience part of their culture, they will continue to alienate customers and lose business to the airlines that do. 

Steve

* On LinkedIn @ Customer Disservice Lesson from American Airlines Seat 36F

Steve Ferrante is the CEO & Trainer of Champions of Sale Away LLC., providing Pinnacle Performance Sales, Customer Service and Winning Team Culture training, speaking and professional development services to success-driven businesses throughout North America. For more information on Steve and Pinnacle Performance services for your team visit saleawayllc.com

Building Success Momentum

In my training and speaking engagements, I often talk about how success breeds success on both on a business and personal level.

In sales, as an example, high-achievers win more business more often. This success builds confidence, creates momentum and they continue to succeed. It’s no coincidence that so many salespeople are at their best and often succeed immediately after they’ve had a prior successful sales interaction.

On the other hand, failure breeds failure.  As salespeople face rejection on a regular basis, and typically lose far more often than they win, they can lose confidence and momentum, consequently becoming vulnerable to ‘falling in a rut’ and failing for an extended period. 

The same is true of success in any endeavor. 

People who succeed have momentum. The more they succeed, the more they want to succeed, and the more they find a way to succeed. Similarly, when someone is failing, the tendency is to get on a downward spiral that can even become a self-fulfilling prophecy. – Tony Robbins

I believe a key to sustained success is two-fold:

1) Learn from your mistakes and take swift action to correct your course.

2) Capitalize on your wins and maintain your positive momentum.

At the end of the day, success is like a snowball.. You have to get it going and the more you roll in the right direction the greater it gets!

Success is like a Snowball

Make a Great Day!

Steve 🙂

SEARS: A Case Study On How Terrible Customer Service Can Ruin A Brand

sears-customerservice

There was a time when Sears was considered America’s greatest retailer. Sadly, that time has long since passed and today the company is in state of serious distress and, short of a complete overhaul, inevitable collapse.

As I wrote about Radio Shack’s failing back in December, it would be easy to point blame on the changing retail landscape but there are just too many retailers doing well (in the same conditions) to justify that case. 

From my standpoint, and countless thousands of disgruntled past customers, the problem is painfully clear; Sears has long lost its customer focus and anything resembling a customer service culture.

According to Consumer Affairs, an astonishing 86 percent of customers are unsatisfied with Sears’ customer service. That puts them at the bottom of the rankings under their primary competitors Macy’s, JCPenny, and Kohl’s. 

Here’s the Consumer Affairs link to over 1250 bad reviews of Sears Customer Service

Here’s a couple of my recent personal (painful) customer experiences:

How To Lose Friends And Alienate Customers

Incident 1:

On a recent business trip to Indiana, I ripped the seam on my garment bag while attempting to unzip it in my hotel room. Although the timing was terrible for this wardrobe holder malfunction, that bag serviced me well over several years and many thousands of miles of travel. Normally, I would have just ordered a new one on Amazon.com and waited the 2 days for my trusty Prime membership delivery. But, being on the road, and faced with a bag that would no longer close properly, I decided to stop in the Sears in Terra Haute the night before my departure to secure a new one.

The first thing I noticed was how empty the place was. Only a handful of cars out front and only a few people noticeable on my walk through the store to the small luggage section. As I perused the bags for the 8 minutes or so, not one employee was seen but I could hear what sounded like two girls laughing not too far away.

The only customers I could see were in the mattress section directly next to mine, a middle age woman pushing an elderly woman in a wheelchair. About 2 minutes after I arrived, the woman asked me “Do you work here?” When I advised I was “just a shopper” she apologized and said “I can’t find any employees”. A few minutes later I heard her call out to a quickly passing by employee, “Excuse me.. do you work here?” The employee, who looked like he was being verbally assaulted, replied “Yes, but I’m leaving now..” “We’ve already been here 15 minutes”, the woman interjected”. “I’ll call someone to help you” he replied barely breaking stride as he rushed away (I assume for his vehicle). Several more minutes passed and, when nothing materialized, the woman sat on one of the mattresses holding the arm of the wheelchair.. “this is crazy Ma.. nobody will help us.. GUESS THEY DON’T WANT OUR BUSINESS” she just about shouted in a very frustrated tone as she wheeled out of sight. Another one bites the dust.

When I located a suitable garment bag, I made my way towards the laughing sounds just around the bend not 15 feet away from where I and the mattress shoppers were. There I found 2 twenty-something female employees behind a cash register, one standing the other sitting, both on their dumb-phones enjoying something far more interesting (to them) then their job.

It was painfully evident that they could care less about any shoppers experience as the one standing appeared visibly annoyed with the recess interruption as I approached to help fund their paychecks.

Sears Fail

Incident 2:

As a customer service/customer experience consultant, I am always on the look-out for how businesses and their employees perform in these areas. This is especially important when it comes to managing problems because, as I wrote about here, the true test of a business’s customer service fitness is not when things are going right – but rather what is done when things go wrong.

With that in mind, here’s the unedited message I sent to Sears customer service last week:

I’m writing to let you know about the terrible experience and utter disappointment we have had with the Kenmore dishwasher we purchased at Sears nearly 2 years ago. 

The dishwasher never performed as advertised when brand new and internal (plastic) parts broke within months of ownership. I tried to comment on my disappointment back then but my review was considered “too negative” and was never posted. 

The situation only worsened afterwards..

We have had a professional appliance repairman in twice to replace broken parts and the top rack still hangs down to the point of hitting stacked plates on the bottom preventing proper washing. 

Even after pre-rinsing only 50% of the dishes are ever clean and we’re constantly re-washing everything.  Despite using several recommended products, the washing liquid never dispenses properly and the entire inside door is a constant mess of soap gunk. 

I’m happy to send pics of the inside of the unit along with our should be clean dishes. 

In a nutshell, this is not only the worse dishwasher we’ve ever had but the worst appliance of any kind. 

As we’ve given up investing anymore money into this machine and must replace, I’m wondering how Sears will respond to this situation and, at this time, a Very Unhappy Customer? 

Steve

The next day I received this reply:

Dear Steve Ferrante, 

Thank you for contacting Sears. I am sorry to hear that your Dishwasher is not cleaning the dishes completely. After reviewing your account I have scheduled a service for your Dishwasher on 08/14/15 between 1 PM to 5 PM. The technician will call prior to his arrival.

We value your relationship with Sears. Please feel free to contact us back, If you have any further questions through email or calling the below provided number.

Sincerely,

Oggy D.

Realizing the dishwasher was now out of warranty, I must admit at this point I was surprised and impressed that not only did Oggy express proper empathy but he also took action and, on behalf of Sears, scheduled a service technician to come out and ‘take care’ of the customer (me).

Seeing as this not-scheduled-with-me service was now scheduled for that afternoon, I replied:

Oggy,

Appreciate the scheduling of a technician to assess/service dishwasher but today is not ideal… can  we move to Monday afternoon?

Nothing. No reply. Oggy over and out evidently.

At approximately 3PM, I received a call from the Sears tech who told me he was a half hour away. Apparently unaware of my earlier request to reschedule, I let him know I would be there to meet him.

When the tech arrived, he dug right in to the machine.. taking the top rack out.. pulling the bottom drain thingy out.. spinning the lower spray arm. It looked like progress! Then he commented on how the plastic pieces that hold the top rack up were broken and needed to be replaced. Being well aware of this I inquired, “what exactly did Sears tell you?” “What do you mean” he responded with a bewildered expression on his face.  I let him know that I didn’t request service and that his visit was something Sears scheduled, not me, and that I assumed this was a courtesy call.

The tech was quick to tell me that he wasn’t aware of any of that, I would “have to pay for it”, and that even if I didn’t want the machine fixed there would still be a $75 fee for the visit.

Isn’t that special?

So I grabbed my iPad and pulled up the email I originally sent to Sears and reviewed with him. I pointed out the “I’m done investing into this machine” part and asked him what he thought. He admitted to being perplexed as to why he was sent but that, as far as he was concerned, this was just another service call.

It really wasn’t the serviceman’s fault so I called Sears Customer Service and attempted to get Oggy on the line. No can do said the representative, but she could help me. I explained the situation and let her know that I was now standing next to the technician who expects to be paid for a service call I did not ask for or, at this point, want.

She let me know that they don’t schedule courtesy service calls and I would indeed need to pay for the visit. I asked if she had access to my original email and she replied they do not have access to email (evidently still telegraphing in her department). I politely asked to speak with her manager. She let me know that she had “manager responsibilities'” and there was no one else there that could help me. I asked for her name. Maria said she could not provide her full name, instead offering me a 7 digit ID number. I asked if the call was being recorded and, if so, how I could obtain a copy. Maria at first denied then admitted the call may be recorded but there was “no way” I could receive.

Ultimately, Sears turned my request for feedback into a sales call and stuck me with the bill. Adding insult to injury,  their customer service representative, in a manner befitting a bill collector, made me feel like I had stolen something from them.

There have been some real doozies in the past but this was the worst service recovery I’ve ever personally experienced.

Sears has clearly lost its way and sight of its 2 most important assets: it’s employees and customers. Suffering from a poor corporate culture and no signs of an effective customer service training in place, Sears is left with disengaged employees alienating existing and would-be customers on a daily basis.

Tragically, at this rate of rapid decline, it likely will not be long before Sears joins the list of once-great failed retailers.

Steve Ferrante is the CEO & Trainer of Champions of Sale Away LLC., providing Pinnacle Performance Sales, Customer Service and Winning Team Culture training, speaking and professional development services to success-driven businesses throughout North America. For more information on Steve and Pinnacle Performance services for your team visit saleawayllc.com

This article is also on LinkedIn Pulse > SEARS: A Case Study On How Terrible Customer Service Can Ruin A Brand

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