E-Trade Nails It with their Customer Support

E-Trade logo. Property of E-Trade. www.sociallysupportive.com

E-Trade logo. Property of E-Trade. www.sociallysupportive.com

Customer experience is clearly still all the rage in business these days. We’ve gone from the age of making as many widgets as possible, to making them as BIG as possible, and then trying to get them as small as possible to selling experiences more than the widgets themselves. For some, making the transition to this experiential push is tricky, because it shifts shape and form and is different from person to person. That personal effect makes it challenging to mass produce.

I had an experience with E-Trade last night that nailed it, in my mind. I’m still floored at the simple genius of it all, and the mass-production potential for other companies. My family has recently moved. If you’ve moved lately, you know how big of a task that can be. Things get broken, take longer than you think, and seem to drag on forever. And where is your magazine? I know I’m showing my age, yes I get the digital subscription too, but you can’t smell the fragrance samples from the tablet just yet (dear iPad/Android app developers, save some trees and work that out for us when you get time? Thanks.)

Anyway I went to the mailbox last night and saw an envelope from E-Trade with one of those yellow forwarding labels and I thought “Oh great, I forgot to change my mailing address with E-Trade. Yet another chore to do tonight. When I sat down and opened the envelope, I was amazed. E-Trade was reaching out to let me know that the United States Postal Service indicated I had changed my address, and so they went ahead and changed the address on my account for me. They just wanted to let me know, in case that’s not what I wanted them to do. Imagine my surprise and delight! One less task for me!

So, let’s look at risks here. Some percentage of customers (I would think a small percentage) may find this creepy and complain. It could smack of big brother. Some other percentage (I’m still thinking a vast minority) might not have wanted to change the address on their account, even though they forwarded their mail with the USPS. And, yet another small minority may have had their address changed in error, but this should be caught with the notice to the previous address.

I love this. I’m often caught saying at work and in life that our customers don’t work here. We do. So do as much for them as possible. This appears to be one low-risk strategy that could benefit more companies. I know I would appreciate it. Feel free to use this example as starting point for similar ideas. Are there things you can do to take care of the details for your customer?

Waiting Takes Too Long for Customers

Waiting Takes Too Long in Customer Support. image by Chris Hunkeler. www.sociallysupportive.com

Waiting Takes Too Long in Customer Support. image by Chris Hunkeler. www.sociallysupportive.com

Yes, you read that right. Waiting is hard and it takes too long. It’s boring. Have you noticed lately that waiting feels much more difficult than it used to? We do all kinds of things to avoid waiting. Today we tweet out our question or post it on Facebook in an attempt to avoid waiting on hold with companies. We go online and click that “chat now” button instead of walking into the store for assistance. We do not want to wait. For things like automotive repairs that cannot be completed online, UGGGHH! We have to actually go there? I hope they have wifi so I can watch something on my iPad. If not I’ll just have to scroll through Facebook on my phone.

I know, this conversation causes many people to start talking about the “good old days” before people were so connected and could sit still for a while patiently. I remember those days, and they were boring. We also had far fewer items on our to-do lists, if I remember correctly. But regardless of our positions on whether we should behave in this fashion, the reality today is that we do.

So, what do we do about it, as business people trying to please our customers? Maybe try one of these things:

  • Decrease wait times – Make every attempt to decrease your wait times. Perhaps increase staffing, decrease length of interaction (whether in person, on the phone, on social or chat)
  • Increase fun things – Even if you’ve decreased your wait times, increasing fun or distracting things will make wait time seem shorter. In person, provide a television, wifi, coloring books or games for children. On hold, play a local radio station or hold info-tainment (factual entertainment tidbits). Steer clear of bland hold music if you can.
  • Let me wait from afar – Have you called Delta lately? If they have a hold time, you can press a button to have them call you back when they’re ready for you. Then I don’t really feel like I’m holding. Or, like restaurants, give me a pager or text me when it’s my turn.

These are things about the customer experience we can control to create a more positive interaction. Some cost more than others. Hey, if a box of crayons helps my customer smile, then maybe it’s worth the price!

The difference between easy and hard customer service

The difference between easy and hard customer service. image by Joe Loong https://www.flickr.com/photos/joelogon/2611640698/.  www.sociallysupportive.com

The difference between easy and hard customer service. image by Joe Loong https://www.flickr.com/photos/joelogon/2611640698/.
www.sociallysupportive.com

Recently I came across two vastly different examples of customer service I thought I’d share so that we might compare and contrast the customer experience.

Example 1: The Condo Rental

On the spur of the moment, I decided my family needed a weekend getaway to the beach. I started searching online for any available accommodations that would meet our needs (yes, I was categorizing ocean-front as a “need” in this case. No judgement, it was a need to me!) I was lucky enough to find the perfect property, that was managed by a vacation company I will not name. I went to book the condo online; however the process wasn’t working properly. I called the telephone number and spoke with a lady who was very nice, but not very forthcoming with information. She informed me the website had outdated information, and that the particular condo I found was booked for the weekend. And then there was silence. So I asked “do you manage other units in the building that might be available?” She said “yes.” More silence. “Do you think we could check to see if any of them might be available?” I pushed.  “Um, ok sure,” she responded. I’ll spare you the rest, but the conversation continued on in that way until I practically begged her to take my reservation. I would like to share that the unit we reserved turned out to be just what I “needed,” ocean front and all.

Example 2: Right House, Wrong Package

I ordered a Keurig drawer and two ballerina jewelry boxes online at JC Penney, along with some bench cushions. A week or so later, three boxes arrived on my porch. Two of the boxes contained the bench cushions, as I expected. When I opened the third box, I was surprised to see a Keurig drawer that appeared to have been re-taped and two battered shoe boxes with rubber bands around each box. When I called customer service to report the mix-up, a nice lady named Autumn apologized for the inconvenience and immediately keyed a new order for replacement items to be shipped. I asked if I could return the items that did not belong to me to my nearest JC Penney by the end of the week, and she said that would be fine.

Customers do not expect flawless execution by corporations with every transaction. It would be nice, but most of us consumers are reasonable enough to know that just isn’t possible. What we find, though, is that when proper attention is paid and the company moves quickly to rectify the situation with little or no effort from the customer, customer satisfaction can be saved. I would argue that when there is a mix-up, and it is fixed right away with a little apology and a human touch, that can create more customer loyalty than might have existed without the flub in the first place. Now, JC Penney and I haven’t always had the best relationship, but past few times I’ve needed them, their customer service reps have been able to quickly solve my problems. With me, that goes a long way.

So, as usual, let’s consider our own organizations. Is there room for improvement in your company when customers report issues? Do you offer assistance on Twitter, but then require the customer to always call customer support to get assistance? Are you asking for customer information when you really don’t need it? See if a policy change could create some customer loyalty for you.