The personal touch in business is always important, but it’s even more important in a down economy. Let me share some examples of how businesses have reached out to me, creating a deeper connection that is more likely to last today’s crappy economic conditions.
The Personal Touch: Barney’s New York
No, we don’t spend a lot of money or time there (thank God!), but my wife is a big fan of their incredible perfume collection. When she visits, the salespeople remember her name. When she buys something, she will often get a nice handwritten note in the mail. These things, in addition to the nice smelling perfumes, keep her coming back.
It’s All About Who You Know: Cafe Madrid, Chelmsford
A dear friend of ours hosted a birthday get-together for my wife on Friday. I don’t often find myself in Chelmsford, MA, but I was impressed by what I found. In addition to the great service and great food (we ordered the tapas sampler and the paella, and they threw in the Spanish equivalent of antipasto while we waited), the husband of the owner of this small Spanish-American restaurant came by our table, offered to take our picture (above), and emailed it to me. That’s service! If you’re in Chelmsford, stop by for good food (and ask Larry, who’s also a dentist and a damn fine maker of sangria, if he’s figured out that photo printer yet).
Did You Find What You Were Looking For?: Home Depot
It was in-between snow storms, and with no immediate snow in the forecast. I thought for sure I’d be able to find three things quickly: rock salt, a snow shovel, and a snow pusher for my car. The only rock salt I found was in a 25 lb. bag: quite a bit more than i was looking for. The snow shovels were hiding in the garden center, nowhere near an entrance. Finally, the snow pusher was nowhere to be found. I walked out empty-handed (the shovels sucked). I tweeted my frustration, and got a reply from Home Depot. A simple and scripted one that asked “Did you find what you were looking for?,” but it was enough (for now) to know that they at least saw my tweet (now do something about it). What can I say; I’m easy!
Know When To Say Yes: Verizon
On a whim, I wandered into my local Verizon store to complain about my mobile phone, the LG Voyager, which has gotten scratched to hell and was prone to shutting off for no good reason. No questions asked, they gave me a new phone, and found the right cover to prevent more scratching. I was prepared to give them Hell, talk them down contract price-wise, but I was so disarmed I didn’t even bother asking about getting cheaper service (that WILL come soon though, trust me, especially with $40 all you can eat data+voice plans out there).
Right Here, Right Now: Bank of America
I may sound like a total shill here, as these are brands that can evoke very strong negative reactions in people, but I have nothing but good things to say about my Bank of America customer service experience. I left my card in an ATM and got a replacement card within 15 minutes of noticing it. Bank of America succeeds by having processes in place to deal with a LOT of contingencies, and by being available to me almost all the time. The training they must give doesn’t always sink in right away, but my experience has been much more positive than negative.
Okay, so what are some examples of not giving me the personal touch that I need?
Ignorance Ain’t Bliss: ANHosting/MidPhase
This company, the soon to be former hosting provider for this blog, has BIG problems. First of all, they have a brand problem, as I can’t even really tell you what the company’s real name is. Second, they have serious downtime issues. Finally, their customer service doesn’t handle escalations appropriately, or at all. I can’t get beyond a level 2ish technician to a business-level person who can really explain all the downtime that my site has gotten. Finally, they just don’t give a rat’s ass about ANYTHING online–they won’t engage, period. Ironic (if not entirely unusual, unfortunately) for an ONLINE HOSTING provider, no?
We Are Always Right, Except When We’re Right: Apple
I know, I already went off on Apple (and the next two companies) on the SocialSphere blog, but it bears restating here. Apple does a LOT of things right, and whoever on NPR who recently said they’d rather have an Apple employee dress them than a Microsoft one is absolutely right, but Apple and Steve Jobs are NOT infallible, and they run an incredibly old school marketing program for such a hip company. I would appreciate Apple much more if I felt like it listened to me, even if it’s to say that they wouldn’t let me chose their clothes, let alone their software improvements.
Ignore The Man Behind The Curtain: Google
When customer support for any other company takes more than 72 work hours to address a complete failure of their product, you’d move on. When the company is Google and the product is AdWords, you don’t have many other viable options, so you take it. But you don’t forget.
Crowdsourcing? What’s That?: Facebook
So you now have the largest online social network in the U.S. . Do you think to leverage that incredible customer base to help make better informed decisions? No, you plow ahead, ignorant of the will of the masses, and make dumbass decisions like Facebook Beacon, the New Facebook and the completely ridiculous new ToS (apparently they’ve rolled back the ToS).