CUSTOMER SERVICE CHAMPS

First, did you all catch the Senate hearings today on the Live Nation / Ticketmaster merger?  It was weird seeing people you have known well for 20-years testifying on Capital Hill.  Thought Irving was…well Irving and handled himself well.  Seth Hurwitz did a really good job.  Well spoken, facts at the top of his head, he represented the independent promoters well.  Although most senators present seemed to be negative towards the merger, it will probably still pass scrutiny, so everyone keep moving forward. 

My friend Scott Perry who writes The New Music Tipsheet http://www.newmusictipsheet.com/ sent a note about the March 2nd issue of Business Week.  The cover has SPECIAL REPORT printed on the top.  The topic, “Extreme Customer Service, In A Tough Year, 25 Companies That Get It Right”.  So what can we learn from these companies?  Just looking through the list will probably give you some ideas.  I’ve added some fun facts from the Business Week article to help.

  1. Amazon –“Some 30 % of sales come from outside retailers who sell goods on Amazon.”  Although there is more to that paragraph, you can take a lot just from that one sentence. 
  2. USAA Insurance –“Financial services firm for military families handled 150,000 catastrophe claims in 2008, double its average, as events such as Hurricane Ike destroyed customers’ homes and autos.  Still, USAA retained 96% of customers”
  3. Jaguar – “…Jaguar’s field teams for customer service were recently ranked best in the auto industry by the Nation Automobile Dealers Assn.”
  4. Lexus “…awards cash each year – as much as $50,000 – to dealers who have the best new service ideas.”
  5. The Ritz-Carlton – “To lure corporate event planners worried about high-end confabs amid the recession, Ritz will donate 10% of corporate meeting fees to charity.”
  6. Publix Super Markets – “To ensure customers always find what they come looking for, upscale Florida-based grocer Publix adopted an “automated replenishment” system in 2008 for fresh items.  Scanners indicate when inventory levels are low, and software automatically orders replacements.”
  7. Zappos.com – “With no monitoring of call times and no scripts, call centers have so much power it’s critical to make sure they’re a cultural fit.  To do that, CEO Tony Hsieh offers new customer service agents $2000 to leave the company after an initial training period if the new hires don’t think they mesh with Zappos’ zany culture.”
  8. Hewlett-Packard – “In 2008, Hewlett-Packard opened eight new customer service centers worldwide, including two in the U.S.”
  9. T. Rowe Price – To meet the customer service questions that flooded the company following the start of the financial crisis, “the company tapped 300 employees who formerly worked the phones to help meet call demand.”
  10. Ace Hardware – “…rolled out new technology that analyzes past shopping patterns to tell store managers what time of day is quietest for tasks like shelving products and cleaning rest rooms.”
  11. Key Bank – “In the past year, the bank unveiled new online tools that give entrepreneurs many of the cash-management services long reserved for large companies…”
  12. Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts – “…is outsourcing laundry to third parties at some properties and combining some hotel management roles to help save labor costs.”
  13. Norstrom – “Nordsrom’s famous return policy lets customers return any item at any store…”
  14. Cadillac – “Despite General Motors’ cash crunch, Cadillac has not scalled back on guaranteeing loaner cars to customers while their cars are in the shop.”
  15. Amica Insurance – “…CEO Bob DiMuccio says what sets the company apart is decades of investment in the staff, which has a turnover rate of less than 7%.”
  16. Enterprise Rent-A-Car – “…management pay and promotion are directly related to a store’s service performance.”
  17. American Express – New compensation model for call center agents…”offer them incentives tied to satisfaction scores and the flexibility to trade shifts.”
  18. Trader Joe’s Supermarket – “Some 99% of employees work in the stores, and even CEO Dan Bane doesn’t have an assistant.”
  19. Jetblue Airways – “…Jetblue created the industry’s first Customer Bill of Right – which includes providing compensation for passengers affected by problems caused by the carrier.”
  20. Apple – “Last year the company posted the largest one-year increase ever in the University of Michigan’s closely watched American Customer Satisfaction Index.”  Can you say Genius Bar?
  21. Charles Schwab – “A push to reduce the number of steps it takes to open new accounts has helped to shorten some call times, freeing up reps to answer calls faster.”
  22. BMW – “Now BMW ties rewards to how well dealers look after dissatisfied customers.”
  23. True Value – The company is expanding its online survey capabilities.
  24. L.L. Bean – “A simplified software system for entering orders has greatly reduced the training time for new hires.” 
  25. JW Marriott – “… tried to improve service by cross-training employees such as administrative assistants, who have been taught to serve food at banquets.  That keeps service leves high without having to hire more staff.”

Here is the short list of what I took from the top 25.  Some are the same old themes you always hear from me… I’m sorry, but it’s what I see above.

  • Use technology to serve customers, employees and save money
  • Hire the right people
  • Train your employees properly
  • Provide generous compensation packages for employees tied to customer satisfaction, not just sales
  • Have a philanthropic side that matches your customers’ concerns
  • Don’t keep customers holding!  Have a person answer the phone, not a machine
  • Treat your customers like gold…because these days they are worth a lot more

Talk with you soon…

Jim

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