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.