Archive for April 30, 2013

Are You Stuck in 1980?

 

Have you ever walked into a store and you felt like you were in the middle of a Twilight Zone Episode? You look around and see items that your mom would have purchased back in the day. Employees are robotic and never smile and you wonder how long they will last. You leave thinking you will never visit again and next time you will make sure to go to the competitor. How many times can this happen before a brand becomes nonexistent?

 

Everything evolves, even brands, and if they are not willing to innovate they will be stuck in 1980 the same way Marty McFly was in Back to the Future! Recently I met with a large retailer who wanted to hear from their customers –  you know, listen to the voice of the customer. They had been using several different channels to accomplish this; however, their response rates were low. In fact, they really were hearing from the extremes; those who were their raving fans and those who had a gripe. All other others in between were being lost in the shuffle.

 

So we took a look at several things:

 

1. Online Presence (website): How easy is it to navigate? Does it make you want to browse? A recent study by Nielsen showed that by 2014, nearly 60 percent of the 142.1 million U.S. mobile population will access the Internet using mobile browsers. That means very soon, the majority of Web users will access it via phones and be less dependent on computers. This shift to mobile phone viewing also means that the size of your site is about to get much smaller.

 

2. Social Media: What type of social media presence do you have and are you engaging with your customers in an effective way? Are you reaching out to those who have made comments out there in cyber land about your brand or are you concentrating on only what customers post on your sites? Monitoring the web for your brand is more important than ever before.  The brand did very well in this area and used best in class software at a premium price.

 

3. Connect the Dots: Here is where they fall short. Big data is not rich data. When I asked if they were seeing reports on what customers thought of their brand online, I was met with empty stares. Did they not think of this? The answer is no. Why? Because that is handled by a different department. It is so important to make sure your customer dots are connected so that your data is rich and not just big. It will make a world of difference in your branding and your revenue.
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“Our Customer Service is Broken”

 

These were the words shared by McDonald’s last week during a webconference with franchisees. The company has been struggling as of late, and an increase of complaints has not helped.

 

While there were some complaints related to food quality, these were overshadowed by the other complains related to customer service and employee attitude. Namely, the most complaints revolved around:

 

1. Rude or unprofessional employees

2. Orders taking too long to be prepared

 

These are some major factors in customer service, and while McDonald’s continues to be a frontrunner in the industry, continued complaints and service related issues can hurt them in the long run.
One of their challenges lies in the franchised based system – it’s difficult sometimes to ensure all franchisees are holding the same standards as corporate does, and to make sure that all operational procedures are being strictly adhered to.

 

This increase in complaints has definitely gotten their attention, and they will be working hard to overcome the challenges, improve service levels, and get back to where they used to be as far as customer service and satisfaction.

 

What can a company do when this happens? Since an increase in complaints signals concern, there are some steps that can be taken to pinpoint, address, and fix issues:

 

1. Determine if it’s a company-wide or regional problem. It might be there are only some locations that are showing signs of concern, or it may be a particular region. Start with these areas and talk with district managers who are responsible for these locations; has there been a change in any way? Is the manager seeing similar issues when visiting locations? It’s time to work with management for a clear review and observation to pinpoint issues.

 

2. Look for training opportunities. There may be a slew of new staff that may not have been trained properly, or a similar issue causing the decreased service levels. Determine if additional training is needed.

 

3. Ramp up your mystery shopping program. Check to see that you’re measuring the right aspects of the business. With franchises especially, it can be difficult to get buy in, especially if corporate offers mystery shopping services at the franchisee’s expense.

 

If you’re not doing so, it might be time to incorporate an incentive program tied to the mystery shopping program. Rewarding good service can increase its likelihood.

 

4. Talk to your employees. if you’re seeing a decline in service across a particular location, region, or even company wide, implement an anonymous employee feedback survey to ask employees for their thoughts and opinions regarding their work, their satisfaction, and ask for suggestions for improvement. Based on responses, this could be a great starting point for additional conversations with your employees, or signal the need for more or different training to give your employees a chance to be successful in their work.

 

Employee morale and work satisfaction have a direct correlation to customer service levels; when your company is seeing an increase in customer complaints, it’s time to start paying attention.

 

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Celebrate Your Employees

 

Here’s a fun way, where possible, to celebrate employee milestones. Of course, this won’t work for every business model, but it’s something to think about and tweak to fit your needs, as it’s a fun, simple way to call out employees while evoking a positive environment for your customers.

 
I was recently shopping at a major grocery chain when I heard an announcement, “Attention shoppers. We’d like to bring to your attention someone very special to our team. John Smith is celebrating his 5th anniversary with us. If you stop by the meat department, please wish him a Happy Anniversary. Thanks for all you do John!”

 

It made me smile and I thought it was a great way to acknowledge this gentleman.

 

Then, over the next several minutes, there were a few more announcements, this time by employees. Some simply wished him a Happy Anniversary over the PA system, while others also said how they enjoyed working with him, he’s a great person, and other short, similar sentiments.

 

It was not disruptive in any way, and it gave me a positive feeling during my shopping experience. As I continued shopping, I watched for other customer reactions, and all were the same – some smiled during the announcements, and I overheard one couple talking about heading back to the meat department to wish him a Happy Anniversary because it’d be “fun to do.”

 

Such a simple thing, but an effective way of building employee morale and customer satisfaction, all in one.

 

 

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