Aliveatwork's Blog


Customer Loyalty: “Let Me See if I Understand You …”

Maybe this has happened to you …

You walk into a restaurant when you receive your bill and along with it comes a request to join an elite club.

And like all elite memberships yours comes with special deals, points for free meals, bonuses, and all the things that one would expect when you belong to an elite club… AND IT’S ABSOLUTELY FREE!

Recently my friend Pamela and I were having lunch at Claim Jumper Restaurant here in Phoenix. Claim Jumper is part of the Landry Group of restaurants which include the likes of Morton’s, McCormick & Schmicks, etc.

While we were there where we received an opportunity to become a member of their elite club.

We learned how we could earn points for discounts and free meals all for the low, low, non-refundable, one-time, membership fee of $25.00!

EXCUSE ME … LET ME SEE IF I UNDERSTAND YOU?

You want me to pay you $25.00 for  the privilege of having the opportunity to dine in your restaurant? You want me to pay you for something that you should be providing for free. You want me to pay you for being a loyal customer?

Somewhere along the line somebody thought it was a great idea to bring customers back by offering them the opportunity to pay for being loyal … I would love to meet that marketing guru!

5 things you can learn about this to help you in your business:

  • It is 6 to 7 times more expensive to find a new customer than it is to keep one.
  • Unhappy customers tell other people about you and they simply tell other people and they tell other people … and you damage your brand.
  • Loyal customers tell other people about you and those people in turn become loyal customers … and your business grows.
  • Customer loyalty is something you earn … it’s not something you charge your customers  for … don’t ever believe that your customers should pay you for their loyalty.
  • A loyal customer is worth their weight in gold!

Prior to this experience I made Claim Jumper a regular part of my dining out experiences.

Will I ever go back? Maybe  …

Has my perception about their brand changed? Absolutely …

The gifts in all this is that it should remind you to never lose sight of how valuable your customers are to you.

It also is a great reminder that in this day and age when customers can turn on a dime (literally) … customer loyalty is more valuable than gold!

And that my friends … is a claim I’m willing to jump all over!

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Taken To The Cleaners …

Have you ever taken your clothes to the dry cleaners …

Only to find that and they come back in worse condition than when you dropped them off?

I started taking my dry cleaning to Delia’s Cleaners here in Phoenix, as the one I was using was getting pretty pricey.

The article in question was (yes, wuzzzzzz) one of my favorite Tommy Bahama shirts.

Since it was a short sleeve shirt, it had been sitting in my closet for awhile. I wanted to wear it the other day but when I was removing the plastic and paper from the dry cleaner I found a number of giant white marks where the heat had damaged the silk.

I brought it back to the store and explained that this is the second time I’ve had to return shirts. 2 months ago they shrunk 2 long sleeve Tommy Bahama shirts.

A few days later I received a letter explaining that my shirt had been “restored to it’s original condition” along with with a $5 dollar gift card … very nice!

I go to pick up my shirt and find that it still has melt marks. I explained that it was unacceptable and they needed to replace it or make it right.

A few days later I get a phone call from Anthony … “Sir I apologize and I think your going to like what we did,” “Really, are the marks gone?”  “No, but there hard to see!”

“If it’s not right, why don’t you replace the shirt?” “Well you brought it in last October.” “Oh, so that means you can burn it?” (I didn’t know their was a statute of limitations on bad service) “Well sir, we’re not sure what you may have done with it in the meantime.”

He goes onto explain that they never get complaints from “other” customers who bring in their  Tommy Bahama shirts.” “That’s interesting, you had to restore 2 others that you recently shrunk!”

I went to pick up my “restored to its original condition” shirt … the burn marks are still there.

3 Lessons if You’re a Service Provider:

  1. If you provide a service to your customers stand behind your product … not behind a policy that causes you to lose a customer.
  2. Customers who are having a problem with your service don’t want to hear about your other customers who aren’t … they simply want their issue resolved.
  3. Make sure you understand the math of the issue: Don’t try to resolve a $128.00 problem with a $5.00 solution.
3 Lessons if You’re a Buyer:
  1. You always get what you pay for!
  2. Stick with what works … I tried saving a few bucks by switching dry cleaners and it ended up costing me a lot more money than I saved.
  3. When you get great service … tell everyone … when you get lousy service  … do the same thing!

By the way … if anyone is interested in purchasing a men’s, slightly used, partially melted, black, silk Tommy Bahama shirt … I know a guy!



Isn’t that Special …?

I just booked a reservation at a Hilton Garden Inn.

After booking my reservation and for being a loyal Hilton Honors member, I was informed that I was entitled to a “special” promotion.

A “special” promotion for “special” people … just like me!

I get transferred to the department for “special” people where I am asked 3 quick marketing questions:

  1. Where did I book my hotel reservation?
  2. Am I single or married?
  3. What is my income?  – “I will not answer that question”  – thinking that’s really none of their business!

Without a nanosecond of hesitation the sales person for “special” people goes right into his script …

“Sir thank you very much and have a nice day,” and hung up!

“Wait a minute, wait a minute … you can’t hang up on me … I’M SPECIAL … you told me so your self … don’t you remember???”

So that got me thinking:

  1. If you tell your customers they are special, treat them that way … otherwise they won’t be your customer for long!
  2. If a complete stranger tells you you’re special – RUN – they are peddling something and you’re just a number (this is not an epiphany – just a reminder)!
  3. It used to be that if you upset a customer they would tell 5 people. Nowadays when you treat your customer poorly they tell 3000.

And isn’t that special …



Energy Level … Going …. ?

The other night I had a potentially energy draining experience at the local Shell gas station.

After realizing that gas was .15 per gallon more than the local grocery store (I should’ve bought it when I was there)  I filled the tank up.

As I waited for the pump to finish processing the transaction so I could get my receipt, I wondered to myself …

So why the big price difference? Better quality gas? Better service? Hey wait a minute this is self-serve isn’t it???

The transaction was completed and up on the screen the message flashed … Would you like  a receipt – yes or no?

Why of course I would, so I pressed yes! Up on the screen a new message flashes … Please see attendant for receipt!

Are you kidding me!!!! I went inside and stood there for 6 minutes while the cashier who had giant discs wedged in his ear lobes tried to impress  the cute young lady in front of me as he slowly and painfully  rang up her single can of Red Bull.

He finally gets to me and says “Can I help you?” “Why yes you can … not only is your gas .15/cents a gallon more than Fry’s you inconvenience me by making me wait for a receipt that I should be getting at the pump!”

“Pump number?” he replies.  It was then I lost my cool. “Pump number?????? I don’t know … I don’t care … I don’t even want a receipt at this point … All I want is an apology for being inconvenienced!”

Just when you think it can’t get worse … “I didn’t inconvenience you sir … the company did!”

I could feel the anger rising in me and the negativity starting to drain any happiness or joy I was feeling 15 minutes prior to stopping for gas.

DECISION TIME …

As far as I could tell I had 3 choices:

  1. Jump over the counter and rip the giant quarter size gauges out of his ear lobes.
  2. Walk out and never buy gas there again.
  3. Decide that I would not allow an external factor (person, situation, etc) drain me of one of my most valuable resources … MY ENERGY!
Door #3 please … yes the box where Carol Merrill is now standing!!

Every day we are faced with decisions and how we respond to those decisions determines whether our energy level increases or decreases.

Giving negative situations or people access to our energy supply will most certainly rob you of this precious resource. Negative factors drain energy at a very rapid rate.

Protecting your energy supply by responding in a positive manner can actually increase your energy level. Sometimes you just need to laugh and let it go!

So what about you …

  1. Are you aware of the energy draining people or situations in your life?
  2. What if you only had a lifetime limited supply of energy (units) in your life? Would that change how quickly you let go of  those negative situations or people?
  3. Imagine what your life would be like if you made a conscious decision to let go of the negative people, situations, customers, and beliefs that are robbing you of your precious energy? And you did it in a positive, loving way?

I think Aristotle had it right when he said … “The energy of the mind is the essence of life!”

So what direction is your energy headed … going up?



Hey Mr Postman … Listen and See!

P.O'd at the P.O!

Monday of this week I sent an audio CD on managing your energy via the U.S. Post Office to one of my clients.  Tuesday, I found the same envelope that had I dropped off at the post office the previous day in my mail box with a stamp on it that read “Returned For 43 Cents Additional Postage.” This, on top of the $1.28 cents I had already paid.

Why? Because they couldn’t  bend the 9 1/2″ by 11 1/2″ padded envelope that was stuffed to the brim with one small  5″ by 5″ audio CD. And why would you need to bend it I thought to myself?

Well let’s just say at that particular moment in time, the envelope wasn’t the only thing that was a little bent!

Walking back to my office, I envisioned going down to the Post Office. And then I remembered my last visit. There I was standing in line behind 25 people watching multiple post office workers walking around or sorting mail while just one worker waited on customers.

When it was my turn to be waited on, I brought up the issue of poor service to the person behind the counter. What I heard next shocked me. She told me that Postmaster at this location does not allow more than one line open regardless of how many people are waiting. Then she added, “It’s only going to get worse!”

There must be a better way!

Once I was back in my office and  after a little research, I compressed the audio file from iTunes and uploaded it to a free service called You Send It. Next, I typed in the appropriate email addresses and hit the send button. Within 2 minutes I received a confirmation of delivery. I called the client to let him know that he had an email with an attachment waiting for him in his inbox.

It was then I realized that this process took less than 5 minutes and my client could learn how to start increasing his effectiveness while he was driving home … TODAY!

Meanwhile … back at the Post Office a Postmaster and her colleagues are on their way to extinction because they do not understand two basic business principles … take care of your customers and stay ahead of the competition. So that got me thinking …

3 Questions To Ask Yourself:

  1. Are you holding onto to people, processes, or policies, that prevent you from providing an extraordinary customer experience?
  2. Has technology left you and your business behind your competition … because you’ re afraid to embrace change or the unknown?
  3. Are your customers being inconvenienced because some of your employee’s have a personal agenda or a misaligned belief?
Everyday 1000’s of customers are deciding to stop doing business with a  particular company. The reasons are usually the same … poor service, poor product, or poor value. Are you giving your customers reasons to stay?
Remember: It’s much easier and far more cost effective to keep a customer than it is to find a new one!
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Here’s a few resources to help:

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Exceeding Expectations and Beyond …

It was late in the day and I had just found out that a dear friend of mine had returned home from having back surgery earlier that day. I wanted to send flowers however,   there is a 2 hour time difference between Phoenix and Chicago and it was already 3:45 PM in Illinois! Oh well looks like a delivery for tomorrow … not so fast!

I searched the web and found Donna’s Custom Flowers in Mundelein, IL,  I chose her store based on the great reviews I found on Google. 3 minutes later I was     entering an order online with special instructions to add some of my friend’s favorite flowers and colors. At 4:36 PM Central Time I received an email from Donna (the owner ) with a picture attached of the arrangement. At 5:35 PM I received a text from my friend thanking me for her beautiful custom floral arrangement that included all of her favorites!

Apparently, Donna decided this order was important enough to make sure they were delivered today …  so she delivered them … HERSELF!

I was shocked, Donna had totally blown away my expectations! So of course this got me thinking …

3 Questions To Ask Yourself:

  1. As a salesperson, leader, or business owner, when’s the last time you took the initiative to blow away a customer’s expectations?
  2. Does stuff like this happen in your business with your employees or is your business about exchanging a product for dollars?
  3. Donna’s Custom Flowers now has a customer for life … how many of your clients would say the same thing about you and your business?

Sometimes we get so caught up in the “busy-ness” of our business that we forget to focus on the reason we are in business to begin with … our customers!  Or maybe we get so wrapped up in our “stuff” that we lose sight of the fact the we don’t generate revenue … our customers do! And yet some of us spend more time trying to meet our own needs that we leave our customers needs unfulfilled … and we lose revenue and customers.

So here’s my challenge to you this week … do one thing that blows away your customer’s expectations and see what happens … who know’s somebody might blog about you!

And by the way if you want to send some amazing flowers to one of your customers go to:  http://donnascustomflowers.com/index_home.html



I Was Sick … But I’ve Been Keured!!

I’m Sick!

Approximately 14 months ago I had a routine physical. It’s now over a year later and I am still trying to get the insurance company (Aetna) the lab (Sonora Quest) and the doctors office to cover the cost of the blood work on a routine physical examination which is included in my plan.

Over the course of the year on multiple conference calls about improper coding and who’s to blame between the 3 of them, I have on numerous times heard the following statements:

  1. “I’m so sorry Mr. Contrera, I promise I will get this handled”
  2. “I promise to call you back”
  3. “We value you as a customer!”

The most recent conversation went something like this: “Mr Contrera has anyone ever told you that your plan has a $200 limit for a physical examination and that includes the Doctors visit, consultation, and any blood work associated with your visit?”

My response, “So let me see if I understand you, I’ve payed you over $6000.00 in premiums, I go to the doctor once a year for a physical, and it’s not covered because you limit the cost to a paltry $200 which barely covers the cost of walking in his office? AND it took you 14 months to come up with that brilliant answer? Well to be honest … that’s makes me sick!”

The Problem:

  1. The issue is still not resolved.
  2. No one has ever called me back when they said they would, I’ve always had to call them back to follow up.
  3. I will never do business with the doctor, the insurance company, or Sonora Quest Laboratories again!

I’ve Been Keured!!

Over a year ago I bought a Keurig coffee maker which just recently stopped working. When I called on March 17th and was asked when I purchased my machine I told them the truth, March 10 th of last year (It carries a 1 year limited warranty). Bottom line: I was beyond the warranty period.

To my surprise Amy the young lady on the phone turned me over to Frank the technical expert who walked me through a process and then said, “Well Mr Contrera looks like we’ll have to replace the machine,  let’s get you taken care of!”

Today is March 23rd I have a brand new Keurig coffeemaker sitting on my counter … it showed up yesterday, within 5 days of my conversation with customer service. It carries a brand new 1 year warranty.

The Lesson:

  1. Buying a new Keurig coffee machine over a year ago … $154.00.
  2. Enjoying a freshly brewed cup of chocolate raspberry coffee on my brand new Keurig coffeemaker this morning …. $0.00!
  3. Having a customer for life … priceless!!

Why is it that some companies “get it” and some companies don’t? You and your company make decisions everyday that communicate to your customers whether you value them or you don’t.

How you treat your customers determines whether you find yourself continuously replacing the ones that you’ve lost (as a result of delivering poor products or providing lousy service) or actually growing your loyal customer base and your sales revenue.

How Do Treat Your Customers?

  1. Do you make it difficult to resolve problems your customers have with your products or your service?
  2. Do you misrepresent the truth or hide it in the small print or in a fast talking words of the announcer at the end of a commercial?
  3. Are you flexible with your policies living by the spirit of the law rather than the law?
  4. Are the people who interact with your customers the most (customer service, inside salespeople, accounting, etc.) trained and knowledgeable or do they make promises that they don’t keep and give answers simply to get the customer off the phone?
  5. Do you have customers for life or customers for the moment?

Remember: It costs 5 times more to find a new customer than it is does to keep an old one!

One last thing: Did I tell you that my Keurig coffee machine makes the best coffee I’ve ever brewed at home … I highly recommend that you buy one … it is well worth the investment!