Leadership on Point

For Whom the Bell Tolls

June 6, 2011 Chip Bell - Guest Author

Great service can come from unique places.  I buy my night crawlers (worms) for fishing at Jerry’s Bait Shop…an antique, all-purpose country store.  Buying night crawlers involves several steps:  opening the refrigerator, taking out a Styrofoam cup of worms, pouring them into a large container to make certain they are all wiggling (therefore alive), replacing the worms in the cup, and purchasing the worms.  Anglers are right particular about their fish bait.  So, Jerry’s creates a service process that keeps his customers in complete control.

First, the refrigerator is right next to the fishing lures and hooks so customers there to buy hooks remember to get worms and vice versa.  Some establishments would separate these and keep them under control of management.  There is large note on the refrigerator door reminding customers to check the worms in the large funnel shaped bucket to check for wiggling.  And, when the cash register is involved, there is a checklist on the customer’s side—need a fishing license, cold drinks, cigarettes, etc.  The goal is clearly to help customers avoid getting in the middle of the lake only to discover a critical fishing item is missing.

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How Your Customers Have Changed

May 26, 2011 Chip Bell - Guest Author

Customers today are Picky — more cautious in their choices (and they have many more choices) and interested only in getting obvious value for their money.  They are well-informed about choices, smarter in choice-making, and selective in whom they elect to join.  Blame it on a scary recession, but the is customers are picky!

They are Fickle–much quicker to leave if unhappy.  They not only show a lower tolerance for error, they will exit just on account of plain old indifferent service.  The hype of a brand name means little in deterring the disappointed customer’s exit.  And, their expectations for their encounters with you are up 33% over this time last year!  The old “tired and true” is no longer the “tried and true.”

Customers today are Vocal–more apt to rapidly (and loudly) register concerns with their higher standards for value and their expectation of getting a tailored response.  They assertively tell others their views of service; they also listen to fellow customers’ reviews and make choices without even giving the organization a chance.   Three-fourth of customers makes a decision not to do business with you based solely on “work of mouse” from other customers.

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Powerful, Persuasive Book Captures New Reality in Customer Care

May 23, 2011 Richard Levin

Book Review: Wired and Dangerous, by Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson.

Wired and Dangerous, Chip Bell and John Patterson

I have distinct childhood memories of my grandparents sharing the latest news with their neighbors.  I remember my grandmother tapping on the pipes in her apartment to summon her upstairs neighbor to a conversation.  And I recall my grandfather talking to friends over the back fence, and my grandmother chatting with neighbors across their mutual clothesline strung across their backyards.

We’ve gone from clothesline to online in communicating the latest information.  And while my grandparents had the quaint opportunity to share product and service reviews over the back fence, their customer experiences reached a miniscule fraction of the consumers we can reach today with merely the click of a mouse.

Thus is the premise of Chip Bell and John Patterson’s powerful and persuasive book, Wired and Dangerous.  The title is apt.  Today’s customers can bring a business to its knees by virally spreading a negative consumer review online.  Wired and Dangerous is full of real-life narratives of customers distributing stories about their horrific experiences.  But more than that, Wired and Dangerous issues a siren call to the business world: treat your customers with respect, and you will thrive; treat them poorly and you will lose market share and earnings literally in an instant.

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Taking Service Out of Customer Service

February 23, 2011 Chip Bell - Guest Author

We were participating in a panel discussion at a conference of Fortune 100 CIO’s.  One senior leader of one of the 10 largest banks in the nation asked: “How can we maximize the profitability and efficiency of our call centers while minimizing the customer’s involvement?” Something about the question left us momentarily confused.  “Let me make sure I understand you,” one of us queried. “You want to remove all of the service out of customer service?”  The audience laughed.  But, he was dead serious as he continued, “Actually, I’d like to take most of the customer out as well!”

There has been an assertive migration toward self-service.  Self-service has had a positive side.  By shifting the lion’s share of the work on the service experience to the customer, it has lowered operating costs.  It has freed up human resources to be used in roles and functions truly requiring a human touch.  Self-service has also made customers more self-reliant as “do-it-yourself” has replaced “I’ll take care of that for you.”  Learning to fend for oneself can trigger education and confidence; customers are less dependent and far more competent.

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