Letters of Reference

It should be an obvious tactic, but for most people it’s just an afterthought that occurs too late. I’ve recently started asking each of my clients for a letter of reference that I can use in my portfolio. All are willing and most are even eager to provide one, which is for me a sure sign that the client is happy. If ever one weren’t this would be a good way to uncover and address an issue… another reminder that a wrap-up meeting is a good idea at the end of a project. This is the natural time to review what’s been done, do any training necessary, and plan future steps. My favorite email response though, was this one:

Reading the Signs

I’m sitting in a downtown Starbucks in Winnipeg, doing some online work, drinking a coffee. There’s a sign on the door outside, and another one on the second door in the entryway that says “Attention Customers: Due to technical difficulties we will ONLY be accepting credit, debit, or Starbucks cards. NO CASH!! Sorry for the inconvenience – Team Broadway”. I should mention that the all-caps words are highlighted in orange and green, and double-underlined.

Everyone (well, almost) stops to read the first sign, standing outdoors, sometimes holding the door open as they read. Those who skip the first sign will usually do the same process at the second sign. And in case you ignored both of those, there’s one on the cash register.

Are You Giving More than You Bargained For?

Counting MoneyYou get what you pay for.

You got more than you bargained for.

Ever notice that phrases like these mean something negative when on the face of it, they shouldn’t? You pay for something, and you get it. Naturally. You bargain for something, and get a little extra. Who wouldn’t be happy about that?

Yet these phrases don’t mean good things. These phrases mean there’s an unanticipated shortfall in the deal, and you’ve been shortchanged in one way or another.

Money-back guarantee. In other words, if you don’t get what you’re supposed to, you can return it for a refund. This is your bare-minimum: both sides of the ledger balance out, one way or the other. Dollar-for-dollar, equivalent value.

The Customer Has the Podium

united-airlines-logo.jpg Customer service will never be the same, thanks to the Internet. Those who deal with the public — especially in the complaints department — need to remember that failing to impress the customer at a critical moment could backfire in a very big way. In Internet time it’s already old news, but the aftermath of United Airlines declining liability for a guitar they broke is going to cost them far more than the cost of a guitar. Even a custom-built one. Maybe they didn’t know that Dave Carroll was going to launch a viral video. Maybe they weren’t paying attention to Terry Heaton’s visit to CompUSA. In contrast to United, Taylor Guitars responds with helpful information about traveling with your guitar — they’ve also offered to repair his damaged Taylor 710ce, and have given him his choice of a new guitar.

Little Things Put You Over the Top

Contrary to what you may keep telling yourself, it doesn’t take a huge effort to put your business over the top in the mind of the customer. We tend to think such things require something grand, but it can be as simple as Warming the Mug before serving the coffee. Small efforts — an ounce of pressure in just the right places: the ones that your customers don’t expect. Little extras. Big payoff.

Let the Customer Exclude Themselves

I was reading Seth Godin talking about What to do with special requests, 632229_decisions_no_thanks and as I often do, related it back to my own practice to see whether I was doing the same thing or something different, and why.

When I was in the general insurance industry, clients with a poor claims record or high-risk properties were quoted higher rates and/or higher deductibles. Sometimes very high… but we tried not to say “no.” Sometimes clients would accept the rates or terms offered, and sometimes they’d just keep shopping and place their coverage elsewhere.

The Starbucks Screwup Story

As I tweeted this morning, starbucks_logo I was appreciating Starbucks customer service. But it didn’t start that way. I ordered a Venti Pike Place and a low-fat blueberry muffin, and paid with my prepaid Starbucks card, but the coffee hadn’t quite finished brewing. No problem, at least it’d be fresh. The barista was going to bring out my coffee when it was ready, so I took a seat in the comfy armchair and opened up The Whuffie Factor, which I’m still reading and enjoying. I dug into my book, thinking after a while that my coffee must have been ready a while ago. I admit I was a little annoyed… the last time I had to wait for a coffee at Starbucks, they told me it would be complimentary. I was impressed with that — different location though.