Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cable Customer Service

In this previous post we had discussed a new position that had been created by Comcast called "digital care manager" whose responsibility was to manage customer service through new media methods. This latest news report, however, gives no indication that customer service is looking up for the cable industry. As the article states, cable customer satisfaction score is 60 out of 100 with 70% of respondents citing that they would have no qualms about jumping to a competitor. The article also reports that:

"the industry average was was weighed down by the scores of Comcast Corp. (58) and Charter Communications Inc. (51)."

In addition to the threat of changing to competitors Customers also cited, that they would

"dump cable, given the chance, because of poor customer service."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Merits of CRM

In this news report, they discuss the merits of CRM. Since the conception of CRM systems, much has changed. In 1997, 39% of contact centers said they "had a single view of the customer" with 45% planning to follow their lead within 2 years. By 2007 this number had dropped to 34%. As Stephen Loring, a business development manager for customer interactive solutions stated:

"The rise of the Internet, and the use of different channels such as IVR and Web self-service has disrupted the unified 360 degree view of customers in CRM. At the same time the payback period for CRM installations is too long for many of today's business managers."

This has lead people to question the usefulness of CRM. In response Pete Marston, a Forrester Research Analyst had this to say:

"If you have customers won over you need to maintain those relationships, on the marketing side you need to get people interested in your product or service by understanding their buying behavior is, and then on the sales side you understand what the customers' needs are. The various CRM tools help you carry out these functions."

What is your take on this debate?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Can't Miss: Keith Ferrazzi Web Seminar

We were pleased and honored to have Keith Ferrazzi give a fantastic webinar entitled, "Team Bonding: How Building Internal Relationships will Lead to Big Wins with Your Customers.” Keith Ferrazzi, the CEO of Ferrazzi Green Light will be a keynote speaker at the 2008 NACCM Customers 1st.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Podcast Series: A Conversation with Michael Cubric

The NACCM team has released a new segment to the Customers 1st Podcast Series in anticipation for this year’s NACCM Customers 1st Conference. In this podcast, JoAnna Brandi speaks to Michael Cubric of Firstline Mortgages who gives a taste about what his speech, “Being customer-centric is not cheap; are you ready to put your money where your mouth is?” is going to be about. Don’t miss Michael’s track session at NACCM on Wednesday, November 19th at 10:55 AM at Disneyland Hotel Anaheim in California this year.

Listen to the podcast here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why do some companies still do this?

Last Summer I signed up for a lawn-caring program from one of the many companies in my area. My lawn was a disaster and after many ultimatums from my wife, I had to take action or possibly face the dog's house for a while. I called many but ended up settling for the largest and most famous one because of their track record.

It was a 6-visit package that included weed control, aeration (fancy eh?), fertilization, etc. I was going to have a nice lawn and in the process make my wife fall in love with me all over again. Things started out OK; the scheduled visits were delivered on time and I noticed improvement. But after the 3rd visit I noticed the lawn suddenly turning yellow and some spots were completely burned. Fearing for my marriage I called them and asked for someone to come in and take a look; the diagnosis: the service professional who did the last visit did not notice an equipment malfunction and applied 10 times the amount of chemical required...

After many more visits they managed to control the problem but I had made up my mind by then not to call them back this year. So I was very surprised one day this Spring when I saw a sign on my lawn from the same company and a letter that thanked me for choosing their business once again. I immediately called them and told them they had made a mistake; I had not signed up for their services and did not want any work done. It took me 3 calls, hours on hold, and many repetitions of my story to many different people (isn't it incredibly annoying when have to repeat ourselves several times?) in order to get to a "manager". She told me that because I did not call to cancel the service last year, they assumed I wanted it again and therefore had already delivered the 1st treatment.

I politely explained that I had not signed up for it and therefore I was not paying; yes, they were charging me $50 for the service I had not ordered. And here is the punch line: the "manager" referred me to last year's contract where on page 15, section 3, subsection 3a, in a font that required glasses way more powerful than the ones I wear, it stated that "if the company does not receive explicit cancellation instructions it will assume the service is reordered for the following year". And to make my ground even shakier, I had signed it...

Why do some companies still behave this way in the 21st century?

It amazes me the lengths some organizations will go to acquire and retain customers thinking they are practicing good business. These kinds of actions destroy relationships and create such negative "viral marketing" that it's simply not worth it; it does not make financial sense to gain $50 and potentially lose $500 worth of new business. Customer management is not retaining customers at all costs and by any available means. It is about creating and maintaining profitable relationships where both parties win: the company makes a profit and the customer receives a benefit that either matches or surpasses the price paid.

After being threatened (!) to have my name sent to a collections agency I ended up paying the $50; they will never know how much money they lost...

Thanks for your time and please join me at the NACCM's Customer 1st Conference on November 19 where I will be talking about putting the customer first and sharing some practical tools.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Get to the Root of Your Problems

Providing exceptional top-notch customer service has always been an advantage for smaller companies. This post on the Wall Street Journal blog tells us that even the small companies that think they are doing great, might not some work in keeping the customer happy.

The problem according to the post is that customer service reps are just applying a band-aid over the problem. What do I mean by this? Representatives are simply apologizing and offering compensation to disgruntled workers. Customers want to know how quickly you will get their problem resolved and what steps the company is taking to avoid this sort of problem in the future.

What are some solutions and insights that your company has found valuable in finding the root of customer service problems?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Customer Service Isn’t Dead in Blogging

Even though customer services seems to be lagging behind in terms of technical support, this post on creadiv.com leads us to believe that unlike traditional business bloggers offer exceptional customer service. The reason behind this is because the world of blogging is 100% customer-based, without readers a blog can not succeed and so they must treat their readers with superior customer service. Creadiv.com lists 5 ways to improve the reader’s experience in a blog. Here they are:

  • Return the Favor – When someone comments on your blog the least you can do is respond the most you can do is follow them back to their site and comment on one of their posts. They are supporting you; if you want to be a respected blogger do the same for them.
  • Install Comment Luv – A plugin that links back to the commentators’ site showing their most frequent blog post. This will give your readers a little extra link loving for spending time on your site.
  • Install Top Commentators – A sidebar widget that shows who has participated on your site the most. It will take up very little room on your site and it acknowledges that you care about your participants. You can download top commentators here
  • Answer Their Questions – If a reader asks you a question do not ignore it. Even if you don’t want to answer it reply saying thank you but you would prefer not to answer that question.
  • Credit Their Ideas - If you were inspired by a post one of your readers made, or by a comment that they left, or a question that they asked make sure you give them a shout out. If they are reading your site it means they like to know what you think, and I am sure they will be stoked to know that you also like what they have to say.

If customer service is lagging behind in your business, take some tips from customer service in the blogging realm.

Friday, September 19, 2008

How many loyalty cards do you have?

In a recent blog by Robert J. Howard at Customer Think, he addresses the loyalty card subject I'm sure we all have dealt with. How many loyalty cards do you have on your key chain right now? He points out that businesses have overrun the customers' wallets with loyalty cards, and the market is at the point of saturation.

It all began with rewards for airline miles, then hotels, and now it's moved to restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations and to anything imaginable beyond that. So what do customers do with their addiction to their rewards? How do businesses find a way to still reward their customers who frequent their business? Do you have a solution to this current plastic crisis?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Favorite Book

This is posted on behalf of JoAnna Brandi. It is co-posted on the Customers 1st Blog and JoAnna Brandi blogs.

I had to call the bank the other day and ask the embarrassing question, “What’s my favorite book?”

The woman on the other end of the line didn’t understand, she said “Excuse me?”

“My favorite book, I need to know what it is… ah, was ” I said. “Apparently the favorite book I had when I used that clue as my security question is not the same book that I think is my favorite this week.”

“Oh!” she laughed. “I get it. The answer to your security question doesn’t match.”

“Right,” I said, “but I really need to know what I thought my favorite book was because I tried all three I think are my favorites and none of them work, and now I’m really confused.”

“Oh!” she replied, using a tone of voice that made me think she really understood why this was a problem for me.

One thing I routinely find about the people in the call center of Commerce Bank is they seem to “get” me. No easy task.

I resisted the urge to share with her what my top three favorites were and hope that she could find a match because she told me that as much as she’d like to help me solve the dilemma, the answer was controlled electronically and was pretty much lost forever. Would I like to choose a different question?


And so it was I chose a different question and said “Thank you for your help, I appreciate it.”

“Would you like me stay on the line with you until you have your security questions changed?”

“No” my ego said, I’m a grownup and can do this myself. But she was quick to say kindly, “Why don’t you just keep me on the line until you are sure you have it, and know it so the next time you need to use it it will work for you.” Ahh, I thought “proactive” okay, let her just do her job. I’m sure I can get this right.

Well low and behold I forgot to put a period after an abbreviation in the answer and (just as she thought would happen) the new security question didn’t get me in.

Ahh, I thought now – she really knows her job, and her customers well. We had a good laugh together and after she was sure I had picked an answer I couldn’t forget or misspell she let me off the line.

Now you know and I know that it is probably cheaper for the company to do it that way, because it takes less time to make sure I do it right than to initiate another call when I do it wrong again – but that’s not what it felt like. It felt like someone who knew the ropes was getting me used to them, and doing it with TLC (tender loving care) and not TVC (thinly veiled contempt) which tends to be so rampant in some of the “helping” professions. Bravo Commerce – I hope your merger doesn’t interfere with your customer care, because so far, I like it.

If you’d like to see more of Joanna Brandi’s blogs, visit JoAnna Brandi’s Blogs. You can also find out more by visiting her Customer Care Coach website. Joanna Brandi will be a keynote speaker at this year’s North American Conference on Customer Management, and has already been profiled on our Customer 1st blog. Stay tuned for her posts on the Customers 1st blog!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Incentives in the Current Economy

Hi all! Trace Belcher here. I was watching the news of the stock market stresses yesterday and today and began wondering the following: How can we “incentivize” both our customers and our employees in this economy? Of course, the easy answer (well, easy to say) is to just throw money at them; but is that truly the answer?

For something to truly be an “incentive”, it has to have value to the individual. If you think adding money is the solution, just ask a union auto-worker what they truly value. The answer will most likely be “stability”, or “will my job {or the company} be here tomorrow?”. It doesn’t matter if I make a lot of money today, but get laid off next week.

The same goes for our customers: Loyalty programs are all well and good, but if you have a zillion airline miles, it won’t help you if the planes no longer fly.

Stability, Honesty, Integrity…these are the cornerstones of value (and incentives) to our customers. Be honest when something goes wrong, but have the integrity to fix it. A stable, consistent presence is a comfort to our customers in these uncertain times.

All comments are welcome..


A Gold Medal for FUN

This is posted on behalf of JoAnna Brandi. It is co-posted on the Customers 1st Blog and JoAnna Brandi blogs.

It all started as a crazy idea. From an intern nonetheless. While the “real” Olympics were taking place in China the folks over at the Midwest ISO were having an Olympics all their own.

The intern - Brooke Rodda - thought it would be great fun to come up with some challenges for interdepartmental games, and it was easy to think how that might just be good for morale.

Deb Lang, Director of Training, liked the idea and built on it. Deb’s big on teamwork and fun so the idea instantly appealed to her. As fate would have it, the Friday before a box of “BeanBoozled” had landed on her desk and she saw immediate application. (For the uninformed like me - it’s a box of BeanBoozled jelly beans - 10 colors of beans and 20 flavors - every color has one tasty flavor, and a disgusting flavor - the idea is that you never know whether you are about to get a good one or a bad one. This, apparently, makes it ideal for party games.)

This instantly started Brooke’s mind going in the direction of whacky games – one having to do with blindfold bowling another with condiment painting (held in the cafeteria at lunchtime of course.) Before long she and her team of equally creative thinkers had planned the games and word rapidly spread throughout the company grapevine and more people came on board. “We want to be involved too,” was the most common sentiment heard. Energy and excitement were building.

By the time the day for the Olympics arrived representatives from several divisions withing the company were on board, with more joining in to coach from the sidelines as word continued to spread.

The Olympics occurred mostly in 15 minute increments so not to take too much away from the work days. These short burst of activity really energized people throughout the five day competition.

I just happen to call on the last day and got a “blow by blow” on the final minutes of the events. I sat laughing in my parked car while a thunderstorm threatened right behind me. I had to make sure my car was not moving because I laughing much too hard to be driving.

Since I wanted to find out the results, I called back the next week and got the scoop. “So what did you get out of it?” I asked.“Besides fun? Team participation, increased communication between departments, memorable common experiences, innovation, engagement.”

“I gather then, this is only the first of your Olympics,” I asked.

“Yep, the first Annual.”

A tradition is born. All because a company was open enough to listen to a suggestion of a young intern – a crazy suggestion at that.

Gary Hamel, oft called the world’s greatest strategist, says that we need to find ways in companies to create thousands of crazy ideas, and out of the thousands we’ll distill them down to hundreds of not-so-crazy ideas, and out of them perhaps 10 or so viable ideas and out of the one or two really really great ideas that will fundamentally change the nature of our business and give us a competitive edge. Congratulations Midwest ISO, you’ve got a great start.

If you’d like to see more of Joanna Brandi’s blogs, visit JoAnna Brandi’s Blogs. You can also find out more by visiting her Customer Care Coach website. Joanna Brandi will be a keynote speaker at this year’s North American Conference on Customer Management, and has already been profiled on our Customer 1st blog. Stay tuned for her posts on the Customers 1st blog!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Speaker Profile: Robert Stephens

With the North American Conference On Customer Service approaching, we would like to introduce you to the speakers we will have at our event. This year, NACCM will take place from November 16 – 19, 2008 in Anaheim, California at the Disneyland Hotel. Today, we’d like to introduce you to Robert Stephens. Robert Stephens is the Founder and Chief Inspector of The Geek Squad.

Stephens started this business when he was a “starving college student” at the University of Minnesota. While he was going around fixing things for people with his mountain bike and cell phone, he found when he went to help people, mainly with computers, service was lacking. So formed The Geek Squad, which is now a part of Best Buy.

With respect to his views on Customer Service, Robert Stephens was quoted in this interview stating: “So my emphasis in service, which the biggest expense in pretty much any service business I can think of is human capital/labor. In service, the people are the brand. They are the factories that manufacturer it. I focus really on attracting and maintaining talent as a means of accomplishing that goal.”

To learn more about Robert Stephens read his book, The Geek Squad Guide to Solving Any Computer Glitch, and check out this interview from Service Untitled which delves more into specifics of his philosophy. Also, for more on Stephens watch the YouTube clip provided below:

We invite you to come see Robert Stephens at NACCM as he presents on Wednesday, November 19th, “Marketing is a tax you pay for being unremarkable”.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Doing More With Less

This is posted on behalf of JoAnna Brandi. It is co-posted on the Customers 1st Blog and JoAnna Brandi blogs.

I’m an “expert” columnist for Customer Advantage Newsletter and ever few weeks or months they send me questions which I answer. I almost always forget to publish those Q & A’s and so today with my new eyes on potential blog posts I answered one of their questions and then before filing it away said “Yippee! A blog post!” So here we go.

The question: Customer demand is rising, but we can’t add more people to Service. So we have to do more with less. What’s a good way to approach this situation?

The way you frame the situation is important. You must come at it believing that every one on your team is smart, creative, talented and has something to contribute.

In order to bring out the brilliance in everyone in your organization, you must believe this (or ‘act as if’ you do until you realize it’s true). In holding open the possibility that people will shine they usually do. People live up (or down) to our expectations of them. If we expect and empower them to be competent, creative, innovative problem solvers who create exquisite experiences for customers, they’re more likely to do so.

Once you hold this as true it’s time you give people the chance to help. In a meeting, start with the truth.

“I know we would all like it if we had more resources, but we don’t and in the short term, won’t. We can’t do anything about that but what we CAN do is start getting really creative around here and find ways to work around the reality we’re faced with. I believe this team has the talent and ingenuity it takes to come up with solutions to even our toughest challenges. Let’s brainstorm some ideas together and get started.”

Set aside real time for brainstorming (no judgments, no idea-killer phrases, set amount of time where anything goes.) Get people limbered up with some silly challenges “52 ways you can use a teabag” and when they are loose and laughing introduce your real challenges.

Try using analogy “If this were a zoo (a garden, a circus etc.) how would we look at it?”

Convince yourself and your team that you have the creative potential to discover solutions for any problems and you will. A hint – little rewards, like mini candy bars, stress toys and kazoos always make creative sessions more fun. Once people are in the habit of being more solutions focused you reinforce it when ever you see it. “Jill, I am always so amazed by the way you come up with out of the box solutions that make our customers happy. Great work.”

You might even want to have a once a month celebration for the most workable solutions. Even in the most severe of situations there’s always enough for movie tickets and popcorn rewards.

My answer: The first thing you need to know is that you are not alone. Companies everywhere are asking people to do more with less. The second thing you need to know is that times like this give us the opportunity to show how good we really are. I believe that most of us have the ability to do a little better every day.

If you’d like to see more of Joanna Brandi’s blogs, visit JoAnna Brandi’s Blogs. You can also find out more by visiting her Customer Care Coach website. Joanna Brandi will be a keynote speaker at this year’s North American Conference on Customer Management, and has already been profiled on our Customer 1st blog. Stay tuned for her posts on the Customers 1st blog!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Team Bonding: How Building Internal Relationships will Lead to Big Wins with Your Customers

We’d like to remind you about our web seminar: Team Bonding: How Building Internal Relationships will Lead to Big Wins with Your Customers. Keith Ferrazzi, the CEO of Ferrazzi Green Light and keynote speaker at the 2008 NACCM Customers 1st event will be our featured speaker. Register to view the webinar on Wednesday, September 17th from 2:00 to 3:00 pm eastern standard time.

Register for this web seminar here: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/251030954
Please mention priority code: G1M2100W1Blog

About the presentation:
This presentation will be in a special format: live chat. This web seminar will be shared in a unique “interview/live chat” format. As you register for the seminar, you will be prompted a line where you can pose your question about internal relationships to Keith. Those questions will be address to Keith over the phone live as he shared his views. We will get to as many questions as possible in the allotted time and attendees will be encouraged to ask their own questions during the seminar.

Customer-focused executives are hard at work trying to create new initiatives that deepen their company’s relationships with their customers. In these trying times, customer strategists are in a loyalty budding war in hopes that their customers continue to spend with them. Building an enterprise-wide customer experience that evokes an emotional and consistent message with the customer is more challenging than ever before. Those companies that do have incredible customer experiences, what’s the secret to their success?

In this session, relationship guru and internationally best-selling author, Keith Ferrazzi, will examine where the foundation of building relationships with your customers should start- internally. Ferrazzi will discuss his expertise on how to align internal teams and will share how getting connected with your colleagues will lead to profits and engagement with your external customer relationships.

A group’s success fundamentally depends upon how its individual members work together. Individuals work more effectively and enjoy their work more when they have genuine personal relationships with their colleagues.

The core message with starting relationships both internally and externally are the same. Those core strategies in relationship development will be revealed by Keith during his keynote session at NACCM.

About the speaker:

Keith Ferrazzi
Ferrazzi Green Light

Keith Ferrazzi is one of the rare individuals who discovered the essential formula for making his way to the top -- a powerful and balanced combination of marketing acumen and networking savvy. Both Forbes and Inc. magazines have designated him one of the world's most "connected" individuals.

As Founder and CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, he provides market leaders with advanced strategic consulting and training services to increase company sales and enhance personal careers. Ferrazzi Greenlight strategically leverages the insight of its executives, whose careers span the highest echelons of corporate America, along with principles from Ferrazzi's best-selling book, Never Eat Alone. Never Eat Alone has been recognized as one of the best business books of 2005, 2006, and 2007 (three year’s in a row since its publication in 2005).

What you will learn:

- Building relationships internally for group success sparks a culture of generosity and accountability that helps participants do the following:
- Help each other succeed in both professional and personal pursuits,
- Have more fun in the workplace
- Facilitate direct, honest communication for resolving conflict, and
contribute to the firm’s success by proactively building relationships with
people inside and outside the organization,
- And more that will lead to increasing employee retention and shareholder

This is a
NACCM: Customers 1st sponsored webinar. NACCM: Customers 1st will be November 16th through the 19th in Anaheim, California.

Register for this web seminar here:
Please mention priority code: G1M2100W1Blog

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Customer Service & Common Sense

I would like to introduce you to a new guest blogger, Michel Cubric. Michel Cubric is the director of Post Funding and Call Center Operations at FirstLine Mortgages, and will be speaking at this year's NACCM Customers 1st conference.

The International Customer Service Association (www.icsatoday.org) defines customer service as the ability to satisfy customers’ wants and needs to the best of your abilities while improving relationships and profits. It should not be hard a statement to follow so why is it that a lot of customers are walking away from business interactions with a very bad taste in their mouths? A simple drive-through order at the local McDonald’s takes forever to be fulfilled and your Big-Mac turns out to be a McChicken. The aisle seat you requested through the airline call center becomes the middle seat, in a row of 5, on your 10-hour transatlantic flight.

Why is it happening with an alarming frequency? When did good customer service become an exception? I attribute the current state of affairs to the myth of common sense. Imagine the following situation: you are in a coffee shop waiting to get your morning latte, courtesy of a gift card you got at the office, and when you get to the cashier the server loudly exclaims, “oh my, another coupon-kind of customer”. As you try to hide your embarrassment and quietly move to the side, the server carries on his duties completely oblivious of the impact his statement had on you and all the other customers waiting in line.

Most managers would say the employee did not use “sound judgment” or that he “did not have good common sense”. The Webster’s dictionary defines common sense as sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts. But if perception is incredibly variable from one person to another, then customer service will also vary depending on the individual delivering it. Poor customer service has nothing to do with common sense; it invariably happens for 2 reasons:

- The service provider has not been trained to provide service from the customer’s point of view
- The service provider knows how to provide good service but is unwilling to do so

Then what is customer service and how can an organization deliver it? It all starts with a commitment to put the customer first, at the center of every decision. It’s about improving the customer experience in every interaction. It’s not cheap and it involves creating a motivating environment where employees can enjoy and employ the 4 C’s:

Employees are well trained and competent
Employees feel confident in their abilities
Employees feel connected to the company
Employees who do well are celebrated (rewarded) for their efforts

The above will ensure consistency on how service is delivered and consistency is the starting point to good customer service. It is time to stop relying on common sense, take ownership and accountability for delivering great service, and remember that without customers there is NO service, good or bad…

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Use What You Have

Today we have a guest post from NACCM Speaker Trace Belcher. Trace Belcher is Talent Manager and Technology Training Administrator at Jewelry Television® in Knoxville, TN. He manages the eLearning function for over 2000 employees as well as implements advanced Customer Care (Sales and Service) training for in-house employees and 3rd party vendors. Trace will be speaking on “Climb That Sandwich! Capturing the Passion and Productivity of Your Team.” on November 18th at the NACCM conference in Anaheim, CA.

Hello all, Trace Belcher here. I am looking forward to speaking at the NACCM in November. My topic will be "Climb that Sandwich" (strange title I know, but you will have to check out my session for the complete explanation).

I wanted to introduce myself to the group and tell an old story (well, not THAT old, I'm only 40) about the main reason I went into consulting in the first place.

My dad, up until he retired this year, has been a brick (and block and stone) mason for years. When I was about 12, I saw him one day loading up his truck to go to a job site. I saw among his equipment an instrument called a "transome" (basically a "sighting" scope used to measure the grade of land). To me, though, it was just a really cool telescope.

I asked my dad if I could play with this really neat telescope (please, dad, please, please, please?). His response stays with me to this day. He replied, "No, you don't know how to use it; and having a tool you don't know how to use is the same as not having that tool."

Disappointed that day, yes, but I've taken that wisdom across America: Use the tools you have! Why spend the money, time and effort to build or buy extra utilities when you haven't discovered all of the scope and power of what you have? What pay 3rd-party vendors to do what the talent in your own organization can do?

Use what you have, after all, it's better than "not having that tool."

See you in November,


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Speaker Profile: Stephen Brown

With the North American Conference On Customer Service approaching, we would like to introduce you to the speakers we will have at our event. This year, NACCM will take place from November 16 – 19, 2008 in Anaheim, California at the Disneyland Hotel. Today, we’d like to introduce you to Stephen Brown. Stephen Brown is currently the Edward M. Carson Chair in Services Marketing Professor and Executive Director at the Center for Services Leadership.

Stephen Brown has been an integral part of the Center for Services Leadership. Through his leadership and vision, with the help of Edward M. Carson, the Center was created in 1986. This enormous accomplishment has earned the praise of several institutions including Intangibles magazine which refers to it as a “Mecca”. The Center has distinguished members such as Cisco, IBM, and McKinsey & Company.

In addition, Stephen Brown has been given several honors, including being recognized American Marketing Association’s for prestigious Career Contributions to Services Marketing. Another accolade has received include being given an honorary doctorate from the Swedish School of Economics. Other accomplishments include being co-author and editor for over 20 books, and 150 articles.

We invite you to come see Stephen Brown at NACCM as he presents on Wednesday, November 19th, “The science of service: the proof is in the numbers”.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Microsoft’s Plan for In-Store Customer Service Reps

The Associated Press reports that Microsoft Corp. is planning to deploy its own customer service reps at several retail locations like Best Buy and Circuit City to aid customers in purchasing PCs.

Microsoft is going to have 155 Microsoft gurus that will answer questions about Microsoft products and PCs, as well as give demos of how the company’s products work together. Tom Pilla, Microsoft's general manager of corporate communications mentions: "Think of that as borrowing a page from Nordstrom with that retail customer experience." Microsoft seems to be following suit from this store chain that is known for their customer service.

Unlike Apple’s “Genius Bars”, Microsoft’s reps will not offer technical support on already purchased products. Will this be something Microsoft will look to provide in the future to compete with Apple? Giving customers detail information about products before the purchase can ultimately influence their buying decision and satisfaction. It will be interesting to see when other companies will follow suit.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Podcast with JoAnna Brandi

Recently I had the chance to speak with JoAnna Brandi about her participation in the NACCM: Customers 1st Conference coming up November 16 – 19, 2008 in Anaheim, California at the Disneyland Hotel. In our podcast, we talk about what JoAnna is most passionate about in her work. We also take some time to talk about her past experiences at the NACCM conference, as well as what she’s looking forward to this year.

Listen here

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Small Business: Do They Have an Edge in Customer Service?

Kelly Spors tells an interesting tale of how a small local bakery went over and beyond standard practices in order to accommodate the customer in this post on the Wall Street Journal blog. Kelly was stressing out because the owner of the bakery shop called her cell phone reminding her to pick up her cake that she had ordered since they were closing in half an hour. Sensing Kelly’s anger, the owner offered to drop off the cake at her job, since she wouldn’t make it on time. Kelly declined the generous offer, and instead the owner had a baker stay at the store a little later than usual so that she could pick up the cake at a more convenient time.

In a world dominated by larger corporations and big businesses, small businesses have to rely on exceptional customer service in order to compete with giants. What are some examples of personalized service you have received from small businesses? Do you agree with the notion that smaller businesses have better customer service?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Speaker Profile: Bill Price

With the North American Conference On Customer Service approaching, we would like to introduce you to the speakers we will have at our event. This year, NACCM will take place from November 16 – 19, 2008 in Anaheim, California at the Disneyland Hotel. Today, we’d like to introduce you to Bill Price. Bill Price is the founder of Driva Solutions, LLC, and the author of The Best Service is No Service.

Prior to Driva Solutions Bill Price was the Vice President of Amazon.com’s Global Customer Service. Price helped them to reduce contacts-per-order­­ by over 70% which helped win Amazon.com the second highest-ever customer satisfaction rating for a company based in the United States.

Some of his other accomplishments include: the publication of more than 20 articles and whitepapers, videotapes of past presentations from 2002 and 2004 are still broadcast on television as relevant, in 1997 he was awarded “Call Center Pioneer” from Call Center Magazine, and in 2004 was asked to be one of ten “CRM Gurus”.

As previously mentioned Bill Price is the author of The Best Service is No Service: How to Liberate Your Customers from Customer Service, Keep Them Happy, and Control Costs. Check out the Driva Solutions blog titled “Best Services” here. Also, we’re excited to have Bill Price present a web seminar on October 15 called Outsourcing and offshoring, insourcing and onshoring – so many choices, so little frank information. Stay tuned to the NACCM Customers 1st blog for more information

We invite you to come see Bill Price at NACCM as he presents on Monday, November 17th, When the Best Service is No Service.