Personal touch yields better service

Friday, August 6, 2010

Social media allows businesses to create a customer connection

Sacramento Business Journal – by Debi Hammond Contributing writer

Many companies tout their customer service, but few deliver. Deliver and they will come. I hear so many business owners and CEOs talk about how they want to be the Nordstrom of their business sector. In fact, one of the best-selling books on customer service is titled “The Nordstrom Way.” Yet so few companies actually deliver.

Great customer service is all about the experience people have with your brand. And that experience takes place at every point of brand interaction: From the quality of your product or service to the way the receptionist answers the phone (that is if you even have a live person answering your phone — which you should!). Here’s a quick tip: When it comes to “pressing 1,” people hate it. No, really. They actually hate it and do not consider that good customer service.

There have been many articles and books (like the one mentioned above) that talk about great customer service in the traditional sense. But what about online? Can you even have a truly great online customer >service experience? The answer is absolutely!

MODEL SERVICE

Here’s a personal story to illustrate the point. My husband and I went on a leisurely bike ride a few weeks ago and as we were riding my eyes were drawn to movement near his feet. When I looked closer I saw strings, lots of them, dangling from his Chuck Taylors, and flapping in the breeze as he peddled. I was thinking I should really buy him another pair. Now in defense of his tattered “Chucks,” he does wear them as if they are his only pair of shoes. By the time we got home from our ride, I had long forgotten about my thoughts of replacing his favorite shoes. Later that evening, I went online to check my e-mails and this is the message I received:

—–Original Message—–

From: Zappos.com

To: Debi Hammond

Subject: Your 1-year-old Converse All Star® Slip shoes

Dear Debi Hammond,

One year ago, you ordered the following product from Zappos.com:

Converse All Star® Slip – Black – Men’s 11.5/Medium

We wanted to let you know that right now, your size is still available from Zappos.com. You can order the same product again by visiting: (They included a link to the exact pair of shoes I’d purchased a year earlier). Or, if you’d like to view our entire Converse collection, please visit: (They included another link). If there’s anything we can do to improve our service, please don’t hesitate to let us know!

Zappos.com Customer Loyalty Team

—–END MESSAGE—–

Given our busy lives, by the time we returned home, his shoes were the last thing on my mind. Yet, like a girlfriend giving me a friendly reminder, Zappos e-mailed me with, not a hard sell advertisement, but a friendly, helpful and extremely shrewd reminder making it incredibly easy for me to replace those Converse All Star black size 11.5 shoes (who knew my “girlfriend” had such a great memory!). Not only that, but the team at Zappos then tempted me with the entire collection! Typical “girlfriend” behavior that inevitably results in me buying way too much. Then to top it all off, they didn’t tell me they provided me with great service; instead, they ask if they can improve upon it.

THE HUMAN TOUCH

Technology is changing the way we communicate. And, while some consider the use of technology to be cold and impersonal, others embrace it. In fact, as I’ve mentioned in a previous column, Zappos’ CEO has said he creates “more personal connections” with customers and employees through his use of social media.

So, as our lives continue to move online, I wonder whose brand will own the “service” space in your mind. Although I still think of Nordstrom when it comes to traditional customer service, Zappos has successfully carved out its own space in my mind when it comes to the online service experience. In fact, it has achieved what most companies only dream of: carving out a space in the mind of the consumer that seamlessly captures the essence of good service and marketing. By embracing technology, the company has actually harnessed the human touch that so many companies strive for, yet fail to deliver.

Debi Hammond is founder and chief executive officer of Sacramento-based Merlot Marketing Inc. Reach

her at debi@merlotmarketing.com.

For full article, visit The Sacramento Business Journal’s website.

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