Transperia Group, Inc.
Transformational Experiences That Drive Business Results

Archive for the ‘Customer Experience’ Category

The Power of Person

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Personal connection is powerful. And it’s foundational, if not the cornerstone, to creating a great experience.

I’m always amazed at how much my experience at a store, restaurant, with a vendor, or wherever is affected by how I’m treated by the front-line person. It can literally make or break the experience for me (and determine whether or not I do business there).

I refer to it simply as “the power of person.” People want to be treated like a real person, by a real person. Not a number, not an interruption, not a nuisance, not a means to a sale. A person. It’s shocking how much we’ve lost sight of that in our culture.

Creating transformational experiences for people does not always have to be a huge endeavor. Simply put, our people are one of the biggest keys to creating a great experience for others.

I try hard to create a good experience for my clients, vendors and employees every chance I get. And the formula is really pretty simple. Here are some things we strive to do at Transperia:

  • Treat people like they matter. And authentically care about them.
  • Value their time as equally important (or more so) as your own.
  • Be kind and polite…even if they are being rude or disconnected (you never know what might be on someone else’s plate, or what burden they might be carrying).
  • Help them reach their goals (which, in turn, almost always helps you reach yours).
  • Be real and authentic. You don’t have to spill your guts inappropriately, but let them see the real you.
  • Have some fun/bring some joy in the midst of the interaction. I’m not suggesting telling jokes or not taking things seriously. Rather, look for ways to bring joy, if possible. Sometimes this requires a little bit of established trust or relationship, but if you authentically are looking for ways to bring some joy, it will go a long way.

These are just a handful of things that help a client feel like they are a “person” to you. You start by being a real “person” with them and letting them know how much you value them. If you can authentically do these things, your customers/clients will look forward to interacting with you—and doing business with you.

This isn’t rocket science and it isn’t a costly program to implement. If you (and the people on your team) simply employ “the power of person” you will stand out from the crowd. You will already be enhancing the experience. Best of all, others will begin talking about you.

Do you have any other ideas of how to fuel “the power of person?” We’d love to see your comments.

The Friendly Skies…Really?

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Flight AttendantI was recently on an airplane.  As we were readying for departure, the Captain came on the loud speaker and said,

“Ladies & Gentlemen, I just wanted to make you aware that our flight attendant, Amy, has recently been nominated for Regional Jet Flight Attendant of the Year.  Let’s all give her a big hand,” which we did.

My first thought was, “Really? This girl?”  From what I had already observed, Amy didn’t appear to be the model of a great Flight Attendant.  I hardly saw a smile, she stumbled over the announcements and she coolly ignored the questions & requests of the young man seated behind me with Down Syndrome, all the while chatting it up with some other Flight Attendants (who were catching a ride on our flight—flying for free, by the way).

Then Amy delivered the safety instructions.  I don’t believe I’ve ever seen less energy or passion delivered during this standard speech (and I’ve been on my share of airplanes).  While pedestrian, at best, these instructions are still supposed to be the instructions on how to save our lives in the case of emergency.  You would have thought Amy was reading the phone book.

“How could this woman be nominated for an award?”  I thought.  A few moments later, I got my answer.  I overheard a fellow traveler congratulate Amy, who then scoffed and replied that the pilot was simply joking and having a little bit of fun.

The airlines are getting some tough press lately (and rightly so, in my opinion) because of several things:
•    Escalating ticket prices
•    Eliminating snacks
•    Fuel surcharges
•    Charging for baggage
•    And now some are even charging for soft drinks

Each of these cost-cutting measures is driving down the experience the airlines are providing.

But the airlines can greatly improve their customers’ experience at little to no additional cost—and it lies in the hands of their Flight Attendants.  It costs nothing to:

•    Smile
•    Treat people with respect
•    Be passionate about your job, and the service you provide
•    Be friendly
•    Act like you actually want to be there

I’m sure it’s tough to give that same safety speech day after day.  It reminds me of some years back when I used to be involved in theatre (yes, I did a little acting in college—don’t judge me).  The Director would inevitably give a speech to the cast somewhere in the middle of our show’s run and say, “Now, I know we’ve done this show lots of times, but there is a whole new crowd tonight who is seeing this for the first time.  They don’t care how good we were last night.  What matters to them is tonight.”

It’s easy to forget these simple things that can go a long way.  I think the airlines would do well to remind their Flight Attendants of this.  Maybe next time they’ll find a way to deliver that safety speech with a little zest, interest, or dare I say, even humor.  The power to create a good experience lies firmly within their grasp—if they will only seize it.

What can you learn from the airlines?  What are you doing to improve the experience you provide for your customers?  What can you be doing that doesn’t even cost money to accomplish?

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Thrilling Your Customers (Apple Does it Again)

Friday, September 5th, 2008

The experience we create for our customers goes beyond the time they are at our events, on our sales floors or using our products.

To foster customer loyalty and even build a cult-like following, you have to thrill the customer—even after the sale, or your obligation, is done.

I’m a huge Apple fan.  I’ve been using Macs for over 20 years.  I’m already in the fold—it’s a done deal—but yesterday I got another HUGE reminder of why I love Apple.  They extended my customer experience by thrilling me.  Here’s what happened:

On Tuesday of this week, I sent my almost three-year-old PowerBook G4 in to Apple to get some repairs done.  Being an Apple Care member (their extended warranty program), I had about 2 more months left before the warranty expired.  I decided to send the laptop in to get some final repairs while I still could.  Among the things I needed fixed was a flaky monitor.

Yesterday afternoon, I got a call from Frank, at Apple Care.

He said, “Well, we have a little problem with your computer.  The screen is so bad, it can’t be repaired.  It needs to be replaced”.

“Yeah…” I said, a little hesitantly.

“Well, this might sound weird, but we currently don’t have any monitors…and it will take a month for us to get any”, he said.

“You’re kidding.  I can’t wait that long.”  I replied.

“No.  But I think I have another solution for you.”  He said.

“Okay…”  I said, and braced myself for some pain.  Frank then made a statement that shocked me.

“We’d like to send you a brand new MacBook Pro to replace this one”.  He said.

“…Uh…What?”  I replied, quite eloquently.

“We’d like to send you a brand new 2.4 GHz MacBook Pro with 2 gigs of RAM and a 200 gig hard drive.  As far as your current machine goes, we’ll either fix & try to resell it, or use it for parts”,  He told me.  “The new MacBook Pro is yours to keep.”

“Am I on Candid Camera?”  I asked.

“No”, he laughed.  “You’ve had some trouble with this machine and it’s still under its Apple Care warranty, so we’d like to give you a new one”.

I explained to him that my machine was almost 3 years old and was even an older generation (PowerBook) than the computer they wanted to send to me.  He said they realized that, then asked if it was okay for them to send me a new machine.

Once I finished picking myself up off the floor, I thanked Frank and then asked how often he gets to make these kinds of phone calls.

He said, “It’s my job to call people up and tell them they’re getting a new computer.  They call me Santa Claus around here” (now that’s what I call a great job).

I told him he was my new best friend.

Apple gets it.  They didn’t have to do anything more than replace my monitor.  They didn’t even have to give me a refurbished version of the computer I already had.  But they went above and beyond (way beyond) and offered me a better solution than I ever would have dreamed of.

In short, they thrilled me…to say the least.

Excuse Me, What’s this Fly Doing in My Soup…?

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

Watiress w/GumThe service we receive in a restaurant can sometimes make or break the experience for us. Subsequently, the way we respond to that service (whether good or bad) sends a message of what our future expectations are. Tipping is really our most effective feedback mechanism for the service we’ve received.

My wife was a waitress. She was hard-working, fast, attentive and friendly to her customers (so she tells me).

While she’s a generous tipper, she sometimes thinks I tip too much. Normally, I tip an unwavering 20% (of the total, including tax). Even when I get bad service, I tend to tip the whole 20%. My wife argues that I should tip less when I get poor service.

I usually respond with something like:

  • “Well, maybe the waiter is just having a bad day” or
  • “You know, she’s probably a single mom and needs the money” or
  • Maybe I just don’t want to be perceived as cheap.

My wife then explains to me that it’s not fair to the good waitresses if I tip the same, regardless of service. It’s my responsibility to tip less.

She’s right. If we tip the same for exceptional or terrible service, then we complicitly support the terrible service we’ve just received.

I know that the amount is supposed to vary based on the level of service (full service vs. a self-serve buffet) and the caliber of the restaurant (cloth napkins and table cloths gets more than no table cloth and paper napkins). Let’s assume it’s a restaurant where you’re getting full service and a 20% tip is in order.

Here’s the standard I’m thinking I should follow from now on (no rocket science here):

  • Great service: 20% of total—including tax—or more (no one says you can’t tip more than 20% if the experience was really terrific)
  • Adequate or average service: 15% of total
  • Sub-standard service: 10% of total
  • Really bad service: leave something, albeit small, so they know you weren’t simply stiffing them. Then consider having a short conversation with the manager or owner on your way out.

Let your tip communicate your satisfaction level with the experience you received and set the expectation for next time. If you don’t, you can’t really expect something different on your next visit.

How about you? Do you have effective feedback mechanisms in place for your customers/audience?  Do you know if what you are offering is effective or not?  How do you measure it?  It would be nice if people left us “tips” for our work, wouldn’t it (or would it be frightening)?

What do you think?  I’d love to hear your feedback mechanisms, or simply feel free to respond with your tipping standards.  Please share your thoughts.

Windows, Seinfeld & Image Control

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Jerry SeinfeldMicrosoft has recently teamed with Jerry Seinfeld to create an ad campaign for Windows, reports Fox News.

While Microsoft owns the PC market in America (a reported 90%), it seems the popular, “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” adds have not only been effective at raising Apple’s market share (up 32% in the last year—and climbing), but have done even more to effectively damage Microsoft’s already stodgy image.

Microsoft is hoping to create a younger, “hipper” image with ads featuring the likes of Jerry Seinfeld (who, incidentally is 54 years old—so much for “young”) and others to the tune of $300 million.

It’s ironic that in the early days of the Seinfeld show, Jerry had a series of Macs on the desk in his apartment. I guess money talks—(his take in this deal is a reported $10 million)—“not that there’s anything wrong with that”.

Here’s the deal, though: Microsoft has a product that provides solid basics (arguably). The Mac, on the other hand, has always focused on creating an amazing user experience. Over the years, Apple’s customers have become cult-like and crazy-loyal because of the experience Apple has given them.

Clever advertising is helpful, but what Microsoft still doesn’t seem to understand is that their image is flawed, not because of their advertising, but because of their products.

My old friend, John Carlson, recently made the following comment, which I think bears repeating:

“Perhaps if Microsoft put $300 million into
• Better software engineers
• Better product development and
• Innovation, with the idea of actually making a better product,
they wouldn’t have to work so hard to compete with Apple.”

Well said, John.

The user’s experience is what ultimately makes the difference. Not the level of your celebrity.

Potbelly Steps Up!

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Potbelly Sign

I have a new “Hero-CEO”. Bryant Keil, CEO of Potbelly Sandwich Works, has gone above and beyond in responding to my pickle saga (you can read my original post here). I thought it was only fair to tell the rest of the story.

A few days after I sent off my original letter to Mr. Keil, I received a personal voice mail from him telling me he’d received my letter. He apologized for the situation and asked if I’d call him back. He then left his direct number.

I called the next day and Mr. Keil immediately took my call and again apologized for the “pickle incident”. He said he appreciated that my letter was very constructive. He told me they work very hard to create the best experience for their customers, but because they are growing so fast, it’s sometimes hard to pass the culture along to everyone. I told him I completely understood.

He added that, like me, when he orders a pickle, he never gets it sliced.

He thanked me again for my letter and said, “It was important to me that I give you a call. This is what it’s all about.”

I was shocked and amazed. To think the CEO of a large company would take the time to make a personal phone call to a disappointed customer was simply mind-boggling to me. His kind gesture showed such great respect and more than made up for the original issue.

But that’s not all.

The next day I received a call from the General Manager of the Algonquin Potbelly store. She apologized for the situation and asked if she could bring dinner to my home for my entire family (unbelievable!). I thanked her, but said that wouldn’t be necessary. She then asked if I could describe the Manager who treated me disrespectfully. I mentioned that I didn’t really want to get anyone in trouble, but she assured me that she simply wanted to reinforce Potbelly’s excellent standards on the importance of the customer’s experience.

I thanked the Manager for her kind phone call and assured her that I would be back in their store some time soon.

But the story doesn’t even end there.

A few days later I received another call from the Potbelly District Manager. He apologized for the experience I had in the store and wanted to double check to make sure the store Manager had taken care of me. He also said that they had “addressed the issue internally”. I assured him that everyone had gone above and beyond to follow up with me and told him I would certainly be back in his store.

Again, amazing.

Culture starts at the top. It doesn’t always trickle all the way down, but a strong CEO knows the importance of carrying the culture and follows through to make sure everyone understands it and is owning it. That’s exactly what Bryant Keil did. He made sure (in multiple redundancies) that the Potbelly culture was carried out in my situation. That’s the sign of a great, “Hero-CEO”.

Pickles, Potbellies & Respect

Friday, August 8th, 2008

All I wanted was a pickle.

Honest.

What I got was a lesson on one of the foundational elements that makes a great experience…or not.

For those living in the mid-west, you likely know about the joy that is Potbelly Sandwich Works—a fast-growing chain of over 200 restaurants that serves really, really good sandwiches. I love Potbelly, but not too long ago I had a disappointing experience there when I ordered, of all things, a pickle, with my meal.

Now, the reality is that it really wasn’t about the pickle, but rather the disrespectful way I was treated in the process of ordering it.

I was so disappointed that I wrote a letter to Potbelly’s CEO, Bryant Keil, to make him aware of my disappointment. Rather than tell the entire story in this post, you can read my letter here. It tells the whole story (and I think it was a pretty good letter, if I do say so myself).

As I mention in my letter, respect is one of those key elements that lay the critical foundation for a good experience. Without it, it doesn’t matter how good your product, conference, environment, church service, business meeting (or whatever) is. All bets are off.

Can I get a little “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”?

[UPDATE: To read Potbelly’s response, click here.]