Tag Archives: customer service

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of July 2022

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of July 2022Drum roll please…

At the beginning of each month we will profile the ten articles from the previous month that generated the most traffic to Human-Centered Change & Innovation. We also publish a weekly Top 5 as part of our FREE email newsletter. Did your favorite make the cut?

But enough delay, here are July’s ten most popular innovation posts:

  1. What Latest Research Reveals About Innovation Management Software — by Jesse Nieminen
  2. Top Five Reasons Customers Don’t Return — by Shep Hyken
  3. Five Myths That Kill Change and Transformation — by Greg Satell
  4. How the Customer in 9C Saved Continental Airlines from Bankruptcy — by Howard Tiersky
  5. Changing Your Innovator’s DNA — by Arlen Meyers, M.D.
  6. Why Stupid Questions Are Important to Innovation — by Greg Satell
  7. We Must Rethink the Future of Technology — by Greg Satell
  8. Creating Employee Connection Innovations in the HR, People & Culture Space — by Chris Rollins
  9. Sickcare AI Field Notes — by Arlen Meyers, M.D.
  10. Cultivate Innovation by Managing with Empathy — by Douglas Ferguson

BONUS – Here are five more strong articles published in June that continue to resonate with people:

If you’re not familiar with Human-Centered Change & Innovation, we publish 4-7 new articles every week built around innovation and transformation insights from our roster of contributing authors and ad hoc submissions from community members. Get the articles right in your Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin feeds too!

Have something to contribute?

Human-Centered Change & Innovation is open to contributions from any and all innovation and transformation professionals out there (practitioners, professors, researchers, consultants, authors, etc.) who have valuable human-centered change and innovation insights to share with everyone for the greater good. If you’d like to contribute, please contact me.

P.S. Here are our Top 40 Innovation Bloggers lists from the last two years:

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Marriott’s Approach to Customer Service

Customer Service the Marriott Way

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

It was 1927, not quite a century ago, when J. Willard Marriott and his wife, Alice, opened an A&W root beer stand in Washington, D.C. Later that year, the Marriotts added some hot food items to their menu under the name Hot Shoppes. Over the next 30 years, the Marriotts honed their hospitality skills and expanded their restaurant business into food service for airlines. In 1957, they opened their first hotel in Arlington, Virginia. It was run by their son, Bill.

Over the next 25 years, under the leadership of Bill Marriott, the hotel chain expanded across the planet. Today it represents more than 30 brands, from economy-priced lodging to uber-premium brands such as The Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Julius Robinson, Marriott’s chief sales and marketing officer in the U.S. and Canada, on Amazing Business Radio. Robinson started with the Marriott organization 30 years ago in the reservations center. He knows firsthand what it takes to create an amazing customer experience.

Here are six key lessons he shared in our interview:

  1. The Fundamentals of Customer Service Happen One Person at a Time: When Robinson worked at the reservations center for Marriott, he learned the power of individual customer interactions. It’s about taking care of people one interaction at a time. Every customer was a chance to start over and confirm—and even build on—the Marriott reputation.
  2. Understand Your Customers: Understanding starts with listening. A customer who is booking a family vacation has very different needs than someone booking a business trip. The secret is to listen and avoid miscommunication. A complaint from a misunderstanding is one of the worst kinds of complaints. It’s easy to replace a dirty towel in a bathroom. It’s much harder to rebuild confidence after a miscommunication.
  3. Mistakes Handled Well Can Create a Stronger Bond: When there is a problem or a complaint, the way it is handled can make the difference between a customer coming back or not. Just resolving the issue doesn’t mean the customer will come back—it’s the way you do it that can make a big difference. Robinson was excited to share, “If you handle the problem the right way, the customer surveys will often be higher than if the problem had never occurred.” Problems and complaints should be seen as opportunities to prove how good you are.
  4. Embrace the Digital Customer Experience: When Robinson started 30 years ago, there wasn’t an Internet. Today customers may call, but often they make reservations, check-in and check out on a computer. They can even get their keys through a mobile app. According to Robinson, “Technology is an opportunity for the customer to take control over their travel experience.” The modern customer is increasingly enjoying a digital, self-service experience. However, if there is a problem at any point in their journey (no pun intended), the customer must have easy access to someone who can help, be it an agent on the phone or an employee at the front desk.
  5. Employees Must Be Empowered to Take Care of the Customers: Employees must be properly trained to do what is necessary to take care of customers. Robinson shared how, from the very beginning, J.W. Marriott Sr. believed in treating employees the way you want customers to be treated. In other words, leadership and management were the role models, and their behavior showed employees the right way to treat customers. Treat the employees right, and they will treat the customers right, and then the customers will come back.
  6. The Modern Marriott Customer Experience: Every company must grow as customers’ expectations change. During the past two years, we’ve seen customers demanding more. That challenge must be met. Many Marriott customers now expect more than just a place to sleep. The result is Marriott’s shift from simply providing a nice room and restaurant to creating an expanded experience. For example, the hotel staff can help locate hard-to-get tickets to sporting events and concerts. Maybe guests want a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience. The Marriott team is there to help. Marriott, just like any other company, must meet its customers’ current expectations and be able to anticipate what they will need next.

Throughout the interview, Robinson shared insights into the efforts Marriott is making to get its customers to feel comfortable and confident about returning to pre-pandemic travel habits. It’s not only creating a great customer experience and providing exemplary service, but also taking measures to address customers’ concerns about safety and health. Because without that, nothing much else matters.

This article originally appeared on Forbes

Image Credit: Shep Hyken

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Top Five Reasons Customers Don’t Return

Top Five Reasons Customers Don't Return

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

Whatever you sell, be it a product or service, your customers expect that it will do what it’s supposed to do. If you sell a car, the car should work. If you sell a service, the outcome should meet expectations. That’s table stakes.

So, let’s assume that whatever your customers are buying from you will meet their expectations. However, that’s not always why the customer buys from you in the first place, let alone comes back to buy more. It’s the customer experience that drives that.

In our 2022 Achieving Customer Amazement research, more than 1,000 American consumers were asked, “How likely would you be to switch companies or leave a brand after experiencing any of the following bad customer service experiences?” They were asked to rate several reasons using a scale that ranged from “not likely” to “very likely.” Here are the top five reasons customers would leave:

1. Rudeness or Apathy From a Company or Brand Employee

This was the No. 1 reason, coming in at 75%. What’s interesting is that in the late 1970s a study was commissioned by the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, and the top reason for customers leaving (over 70%) was the same. It’s hard to believe that the numbers haven’t changed for 40 years, but this continues to be the No. 1 reason customers don’t come back.

2. Inconsistent Information

There is no excuse for inconsistent information. Obviously, this is very frustrating to customers, with 72% saying this would drive them to find someplace else to do business. Have you ever called a company’s customer support number with a question and didn’t like the answer? If you truly believed the answer was incorrect, you may have called back to ask someone else the same question, hoping for a different answer. And it’s amazing how many times you get a different answer.

3. Inability to Connect with Someone From Customer Support

Self-service or digital support is becoming more popular. Customers are learning that it’s often quicker and easier to visit a website, read the frequently asked questions or interact with an AI-fueled chatbot. However, there are times when you want to talk to a human. It should be an easy, seamless transition, but some companies hide behind a wall of digital support and make it difficult for a customer to connect to a live agent. Furthermore, some companies bury their customer support number on their website, making it difficult, if not impossible, to find. This third reason customers leave comes in at 71%, just four percentage points off the No. 1 reason.

4. A Bad Customer Service Experience

I would think this would be at the top of the list, but at 68%, it takes fourth place. A bad customer service experience is exactly that. It’s just bad. But survey participants considered dealing with a rude or apathetic employee worse than an overall bad experience. My interpretation is that you might get a second chance following an overall bad experience. However, if customers are treated with disrespect (rudeness and apathy), it’s more than likely you won’t see them again.

5. Inconsistent Experience

You can’t be great one day, not so great the next day, average another day, etc. Inconsistency erodes confidence. Fifty-nine percent of the customers we surveyed would walk if they didn’t know what to expect. Customers want a consistent and predictable experience. That gives them confidence that they know what to expect every time they do business with you.

Conclusion

As you look at this list, you might think, “I knew that.” Of course, you did. You’re a customer. You don’t want to deal with employees who are rude or apathetic. It bothers you to get inconsistent information, and it’s upsetting when you want to talk with someone from a company but can’t. You get frustrated when you have a bad customer service experience. And you get irritated with an inconsistent experience. Who wouldn’t?

This article originally appeared on Forbes

Image Credit: Shep Hyken

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FedEx Not Keeping Pace

FedEx Not Keeping PaceFedEx took the shipping world by storm about forty years ago, growing to become the defacto shipping leader, unseating UPS and DHL. But, then after thirty years of strong growth they began to lose their mojo. In 2003, in a reaction to UPS’ acquisition of Mail Boxes Etc., FedEx announced they were buying Kinko’s, a large United States based copy center chain. For me this showed that FedEx was beginning to lose its way, and it appears their connection to customer expectations and the current capabilities of technology is failing. For a company based on the promise of speed, FedEx is becoming increasingly slow.

Increasingly frustrated with the performance of FedEx, Amazon has increasingly turned to the United States Postal Service to deliver its packages, striking a special deals with USPS to even deliver packages on Sunday. And now, Amazon is beginning to buy trailers so they can potentially contract directly with truck drivers to help them move inventory from one distribution node to another.

And for me, my latest FedEx misadventure is a perfect example of why FedEx is now in trouble and at risk of falling from its perch. Here’s what’s happened so far.

  1. I ordered a new laptop from HP that was supposed to arrive in three (3) days on Saturday, July 9th
  2. On Saturday, July 9th I received no contact from FedEx or estimate for when my package might be delivered
  3. On Saturday, July 9th FedEx attempted to deliver the package when we weren’t home
  4. For some reason FedEx then determined they were going to wait THREE DAYS before attempting re-deliver the package
  5. On Tuesday, July 12th I received no contact from FedEx or estimate for when my package might be delivered
  6. On Tuesday, July 12th FedEx despite someone being home nearly all day, FedEx attempted to deliver the package when we weren’t home
  7. On Wednesday, July 13th I received no contact from FedEx or estimate for when my package might be delivered
  8. On Wednesday, July 13th FedEx despite someone being home nearly all day, FedEx attempted to deliver the package when we weren’t home
  9. On Thursday, July 14th I received a missed call and voicemail from FedEx
  10. On Thursday, July 14th I attempted to call the FedEx number given and nobody answered the phone, got voicemail and left message
  11. On Friday, July 15th the Web site indicated that package would be delivered again that day, but no delivery came
  12. On Friday, July 15th I called FedEx and got voicemail
  13. On Friday, July 15th I called FedEx again and got a person, hooray! But, the person said my only option was to drive a fair distance to come pick it up or have it delivered to a FedEx location near me.
  14. On Friday, July 15th I chose to have the package delivered to my local FedEx location (a Kinko’s about 5-10 miles away) under the impression it would be available Saturday, July 16th at this location for my pickup and that they would probably call me after it arrived
  15. On Saturday, July 16th I went to the Kinko’s around 7pm figuring that it must be there by that time (How long could it take to ship a package 15-20 miles from one FedEx location to another?)
  16. On Saturday, July 16th at the Kinko’s the employee was unable to find the package
  17. On Saturday, July 16th at the Kinko’s the employee was unable to get any information from their systems because they were down for maintenance
  18. On Saturday, July 16th at the Kinko’s the employee was able to call and using a voice response system get a Tuesday, July 19th delivery estimate to their location
  19. On Monday, July 18th I received a postcard from FedEx saying they had tried to deliver my package three times and to contact them (NOTE: this was a very confusing postcard, not obvious what to do)
  20. On Tuesday, July 19th I received a phone call from the FedEx Kinko’s store saying they had my package, and I picked it up a few hours later after they used my name (no technology) to search a pile of packages in the back

VERY BAD EXPERIENCE – I got my package TEN DAYS AFTER I was supposed to get it, and nearly two weeks after I ordered the laptop.

Inaccurate information on the web site, poor customer service, bad technology, slow resolution…

These are all signs that this logistics company has gone off track and has not kept pace with the capabilities of technology today.

There is no reason why FedEx shouldn’t have been able to:

  • Show me online exactly where my package is
  • When FedEx is estimating it to be delivered based on the packages loaded on the truck and the planned route
  • Offer me the opportunity to select an alternate delivery time or date or location if the likely delivery time doesn’t work for me

This would be customer service.

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Service Redesign – Lost T-Mobile Smartphone

Service Redesign - Lost T-Mobile Smartphone

Given the health risks of carrying a smartphone (or any kind of mobile device) too close to the body for extended periods, I try to always remove electronic devices from my pockets whenever I can. For ten years this has never caused a problem until Saturday. This marked the first time in more than a decade that I walked off and forgot my smartphone.

Now I’ve had the joy of reporting my lost phone to T-Mobile and getting a less than helpful response. Not because the agent I spoke with didn’t try to be helpful, but because the customer service representative was trapped inside of a service experience that wasn’t designed to meet the goals of the customer.

First I must mention that I don’t have a find my phone type app installed on my phone because I don’t like the idea of someone tracking me all the time. Second, yes, I know that even with location awareness or GPS turned off that my phone is being tracked anyways, but I still like to maintain the illusion that my every move isn’t being tracked. So, please humor me.

The fact is that T-Mobile could tell me exactly where my phone is even without such an app, but then they would have to breach the illusion and admit that they’re always tracking where every phone is at all times. Not such a good customer experience.

Redesigning the Lost Smartphone Experience

I’m only one person so this list won’t be as good as if I was working on this with a small team and prototyping with customers, but let’s ignore that for now and try to come up with a list of customer goals (and thus opportunities to delight) in the lost smartphone scenario:

  1. I don’t want someone to use my phone after I lose it to make calls that I’ll have to pay for (international calls, premium calls, etc.)
  2. I don’t want someone to buy anything (apps, music or other content that I’ll have to pay for)
  3. I don’t want someone to call my contacts
  4. I don’t want someone to use my apps and make in app purchases
  5. I don’t want someone to use my texting function (SMS) – read, send, etc.
  6. I don’t want someone to use my email – read, send, etc.
  7. I don’t want someone accessing my photos
  8. I don’t want someone to steal information about my contacts
  9. I want to be able to call my phone to try and speak with the person who found it so I can try and get it back
  10. I want the person to be able to call me or T-Mobile to let me know that they’ve found my phone

In short, I don’t want someone who finds my phone to be able to do anything other than contact me to let me know when and where I can come pick it up.

But, when I called to T-Mobile to report my phone lost the only option was to have the phone disabled. Prior to doing so, calling my phone was going straight to voicemail, and maybe I should have left a voicemail, but I didn’t, I thought I would try again later. After they disabled my phone, instead of getting voicemail I got a message saying the phone has been reported lost and that I wouldn’t be able to leave a voicemail. This is partially helpful, but not completely. Now I can’t call the phone and if someone has found the phone, they can’t try to contact anyone to arrange a pickup.

T-Mobile has met goal #1 (and possibly #2-4), but likely they could access #5-8 (able to read but probably not to send).

But, there are many other goals that have not been met. Most importantly, T-Mobile has actually made it less likely that I will get my phone back because I have no way of communicating with the person who may have my phone.

What could T-Mobile do to make this experience better?

Simple.

When a phone is reported lost, T-Mobile should make it so that the phone can only call T-Mobile. If the person calls, then T-Mobile knows which number is calling, can get information from the caller to connect the two parties to arrange a pickup, and pass on the contact details to the subscriber via pre-arranged methods.

Second, T-Mobile should allow designated numbers to call the phone, so that the subscriber can try to get in touch with whoever found the phone.

Third, T-Mobile could call the phone every 15-30min with a robot until someone answers and connect them with a T-Mobile representative.

These three small changes to their lost phone service design would make an immediate positive impact in the customer experience for thousands of customers.

How else could T-Mobile make the experience better?

Image credit: easyhacker.com

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Following the Line to Innovation

Following the Line to InnovationOK, it may not really be an innovation, but I appreciated the following operational efficiency anyway:

Going to check out of the Hilton New York City, there was a queue in spite of the several available kiosks and multiple employees staffing the counter to help customers with various requests. Hilton had obviously invested in some business process consulting (or possibly listened to an employee suggestion) because in addition to the kiosks and the employees staffing the counter, they had an employee staffing the line to identify the needs of guests while they waited in line.

In my case, she asked how my stay was and I told her the story about how I had difficulty with the WiFi not allowing me back into my work e-mail after the connection went down and came back up again. I told her that the first night it worked fine and that I expected not to pay for the second night because it didn’t work properly (leaving important time-critical messages stuck in my outbox). She was sympathetic, but I halfway expected to have to tell the story all over again when I got up to the counter (as this is the typical bad customer experience on the phone or in person). I was surprised and impressed when she told the counter person to take off the second night’s WiFi and that I was ready to check out. Thankfully, I didn’t have to tell the story again.

This is good operational practice for a couple of reasons:

  1. It gave them a way of increasing throughput during busy times when they would otherwise be limited by the number of computer workstations.
  2. It provided a good customer experience. I only had to tell the story once.
  3. I was on my way much more quickly as a result, and the counter person was on to their next customer more quickly as well
  4. The poor person behind me didn’t have to wait while I told my story again, and potentially argued with the counter person because this had already been taken care of while we were both waiting in line (except no arguing was necessary).
  5. If the customer has no special needs, the employee can direct the customer to an available kiosk.

This example, while more about good operational practice and customer service than innovation, does provide the opportunity to identify process innovation opportunities if we look at our own business through a lens of separating the customer experience into the following parts:

  1. Information Gathering
  2. Information Evaluation
  3. Information Processing

Are there times in your business when your customers are waiting? Why are they waiting?

Innovation Training for your whole organization from Braden Kelley

Do you have certain resources that reach capacity quickly or for sustained periods during busy times that you can’t expand easily?

Is there a way to utilize that waiting time to separate out the information gathering or information evaluation components of a customer interaction, to allow for a division of labor that can be more easily flexed to accommodate demand spikes?

In a phone scenario, could you not implement an interactive voice response phone system that notifies the customer how long they can expect to wait and then transitions to a “While you are waiting…” message and then asks the customer for their name, account number, and phone number to either be played for the agent before transferring the call, or maybe even trying to do some kind of speech to text and facilitate a record-lookup using that information?

Maybe you need to allow your skilled people to focus on information evaluation and processing, while lower skilled people focus on information gathering. Or, maybe in your industry the skilled people are at the front end, focusing on information gathering and evaluation and need to be separated from the information processing tasks.

In a manufacturing environment, while we don’t talk about information gathering, evaluation, or processing, we still use the same logic to evaluate the overall system throughput. Then, break it down into components so that we can identify and manage critical constraints and manage them in a way that maximizes throughput.

So whether you are in a manufacturing or a service environment, are you constantly looking for ways to optimize throughput and maximize profits or customer service (or maybe even both)?

What are your favorite stories of process innovations that have led to improved customer service or manufacturing efficiencies?

P.S. Continue reading on this topic by reading – Followup – Following the Line to Innovation at Costco

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