Providing WOW it really that difficult?

I read a great article yesterday - came across it via my TweetBeep alerts - which often throw up some gems I would never have naturally found had I not set these useful alerts. Anyway - that aside, the article (which is here is you'd like to take a peek) focused on the power of social media and Twitter (viral word of mouth - or rant of mouth!) and how organisations should be considering this powerful platform when delivering their customer service.  

Even typing the words - delivering customer service - doesn't feel right to me.  Surely all businesses consider the customer when creating products and services?  (Not a trick question - but certainly seems tricky for many businesses to comprehend!).

The same article reflects about businesses seeing their team/staff as an expense and making them feel grateful they have a job (fear and repressing) rather than encouraging them and thanking them for hanging in , keeping their spirits up and giving their all through these difficult times - 'should be seeing them as their greatest arsenal' - is the message in the article.

After all - service isn't something that is disconnected and broken down into sections or departments - it doesn't have a beginning or an end - surely it's the entire 'customer experience' - the thread running through a business which connects owners, management and team (all stakeholders) not to mention the people who buy, return and talk positively to others about your business - the customers.

It doesn't matter if you've got the best website and ecommerce platforms in the world - if a customer gets stuck and makes a call and gets met with indifference - negativity (poor service delivered by demotivated employees) then believe me the customer is going to remember the attitude of the brand not the technology!

Before I started my own business, I used to work for a consultancy which was headed up by a very inspirational Australian (@PaulDunn) a CEO who firmly secured service excellence and WOW service to the core soul of the organisation.  Every single employee of the consultancy (global US, Aus and UK - so pretty sizable) was inspired, motivated, and trained on the importance of the entire service experience.

KPI's included not letting a phone ring for more than 2 rings before answering!  Never asking who was calling - if someone was calling to speak to a specific person, then the least one could do was be courteous and put them through (without vigilant and, sometimes hostile, gatekeeping).  If a client had a challenge (not a problem but a challenge!) then all team were empowered to deal with it - right then and there.  No passing through to 'supervisors', no 'well get back to you' - but empowered to listen, respond and recover - whatever it took (each team member was set a budget for recovery - if they thought the customer deserved a bunch of flowers to say sorry, or thank you - then that's decision was down to the employee.   It was a WOW service culture.  And it thrived, thrived, thrived.

So how come some businesses get this - and others (the majority I hasten to add) don't!.  I always remember my best friend booking a trip to New York for my 30th birthday.  Unfortunately, a bereavement in my friend's family meant that we needed to switch dates.  Her husband had called Virgin to explain - yet to no avail. Nothing they could do to switch the dates!  She was distraught, so I said I'd give them a call to see what options were open to us.  After what seemed like hours on the phone - I was passed along (probably for the 6th time)  through to a senior supervisor (it was a while ago now so can't remember the detail - but the negative memory sticks!).  This woman did have the power to change things - and having heard our story said she would endeavour to see what she could do.  My question to her was this:  "Why have I had to speak to 6 different people - and why was my friend's husband told 'sorry, nothing we can do' - when there are actually people along the 'hierarchy' that can make a change!  I also left her with the fact that regardless of the outcome - even if positive and we could change the flight dates - my overall view of the brand had been damaged.  I asked her to consider how I, my friend and her husband would have felt about the brand - had they said that they'd look into seeing what they could do from the outcome - and not only that - but then had sent a bunch of £20 flowers to my friend - wishing her well!  The WOW factor doesn't cost much eh!

And just this morning - I went to put the milk from the doorstep into our fridge - only to realise that the fridge wasn't cold anymore...(and having been away last week) we'd just stocked up on a family shop yesterday - so the chicken, sausages and all matter of other delights to feed my ever hungry children - were also rather luke warm!  Great.

Fortunately, the fridgefreezer relatively new, was still under warranty - and so the saga of getting the service recovered commenced.   After pressing 6,000 buttons and queing for 20 mins before actually speaking to a human being - my husband was presented with the fact that Monday 8th June - anytime between 9am and 5 pm was the earliest someone could get to us.  Of course, he relayed that info to me - and me being me, decided to call them to query why it took so long - and what were we to do in the meantime!  The number I called was the service number which they'd given my husband.  When I called them - they advised that coming tomorrow shouldn't be a problem but they just had to wait until they got the official order through from the Main Office.  Ok - so now keen to secure my slot for tomorrow, I called the main office and eventually got through to a customer representative.  I explained the great news that the local service people have confirmed that they can come out tomorrow - however, they needed the Order on their system before they could book the appointment - and so I was querying when they could process the order.  Surely, in these days of email and websites, or even fax, it wouldn't take too long.  And this is where the fun began - the customer representative gave me 5001 reasons why he could not do anything, guarantee anything, tell me anything, make any decisions - poor guy actually, how totally soul destroying to be given so little responsibility.  He then passed me on to a supervisor because only she was able to make anything happen.  And then it was resolved.  She confirmed the order was already on their website - the service people download them at 10 am and they will then contact us to confirm an appointment.  They can't guarantee when this is as it is dependent upon the service team so they say 3 days - but it may happen sooner.

Now - none of that is difficult - so why on earth couldn't the first chap have told me exactly that.  Why is that first point of contact not trained and empowered to be able to make the customer experience a positive one?

This happens all the time - just two examples above - but believe me, I have enough examples (particularly from my liaisons with Orange) to write an entire 50,000 book on how not to create a positive customer experience.

In my opinion - it really isn't that difficult.  Empower and train your staff.  It's good for them and it's good for you!

Liked this article?  If so, why not subscribe to my blog for more marketing views, news, tips and advice.

And follow me on Twitter

Michelle Carvill is owner and Marketing Director at Carvill Creative - a graphic design and marketing services agency based in Maidenhead, Berkshire.  The agency covers all aspects of graphic design and marketing - covering social media marketing and website planning and website design.