Tag Archives: customer service

You are awesome. We will be back.

Most days I am thoroughly underwhelmed by mediocre customer service experiences.

It amazes me that in a competitive marketplace how little emphasis seems to be placed on providing outstanding service, especially when we know that personal recommendations are key in helping people make purchasing decisions, whether buying a new product or choosing what charity to support.*

If you receive poor or mediocre service you might not say anything. You just might not return. If the service is diabolical you probably will tell the world in order to stop anyone else having he same bad experience, or sometimes to give the diabolical service provider the opportunity to put it right. (You can see some of the best diabolical service complaints letters that went viral here)

So when something exceptional happens it really stands out. Something exceptional happened this week and I want to tell you about it.

I went for lunch with a friend at the Oxo Tower Brasserie on London’s Southbank. It’s on the 8th floor and has stunning views over the city. It was her birthday.

TG51We had a delicious meal and while we were waiting for coffee something unexpected happened. Our waiter, Marco, arrived at our table with a plate with Happy Birthday written on it in chocolate sauce accompanied with a scoop of ice cream with a candle in it.

My friend thought I had arranged it. (For a fleeting moment I thought of taking the credit, but I had to confess I hadn’t been that thoughtful.)

TG50

I asked Marco how he knew. He said he had overheard us talking when we toasted with our wine earlier and he thought it would be a nice thing to do.

It was more than a nice thing to do. It was awesome.

So a scoop of ice cream with a candle on is no big deal. The big deal was that someone was paying attention to us, understood that it was a special occasion and took the time and effort to do something to make us feel special.

Exceptional service like that is so rare. Yet in a competitive marketplace if you don’t offer exceptional service how do you get your customers to return and recommend you to others? The same applies to your supporters and donors.

It takes a bit of extra effort – but the result was that Marco and the Oxo Tower Brasserie stands out in a crowded marketplace of average experiences.

So thank you Marco for being a brilliant waiter and making our day. You are awesome. We will be back.

*Recent research claims that 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations (Source)while only 14% of people trust advertising.  Source: “Marketing to the Social Web,” Larry Weber, Wiley Publishing  2007

 

 

Same challenges different time zone

Last week fundraisers from across Queensland gathered on the Australian Gold Coast for the Fundraising Institute Australia Dare to be Different conference.

Many people asked me what I thought the differences were between fundraising in the UK and Australia. I struggled to come up with many apart from the difference in population size (Australia approx 22 million and UK approx 61 million). My observations are that there are more similarities than differences….

  • People give to people. Fundraising is about building relationships and connecting donors to the cause and showing them the difference they can make in the world. As Kay Sprinkel Grace observed in the opening plenary, fundraisers across the world are brokers of dreams.
  • A tough economic environment poses challenges for fundraisers the world over. Fundraisers must find a balance between focusing on activities that will bring in the highest rewards as well as identifying future trends and developing creative solutions as Tony Elischer demonstrated in his sessions.
  • Recruiting new donors is hard and recruiting the right donors is harder.  Adrian Sargeant stressed that ‘it’s better to spend more bringing in people who are right then have better response rates from people who will never give again’, and helped us understand how to identify and attract the right donors.
  • Keeping new donors is even harder. In the UK 50% of new donors are lost in the first year. Then 30% are lost year on year. In the USA 75% never come back. Organisations must build trust and loyalty and develop long-term donor relationships.
  • As a sector we are very open to sharing and learning from each other. Christiana Stergiou and I took the audience through as many fundraising examples from www.sofii.org as we could in an hour and encouraged fundraisers to use this excellent free resource as well as  helping others by submitting their own exhibits.
  • At Dare to be Different it was refreshing to learn from what had not gone so well with an open and impressive session from Marcus Blease from Cerebral Palsy Alliance,  Trudi Mitchell from Cancer Council NSW and Paul Tavatgis from Cornucopia Fundraising. As a sector we could learn so very much more if we were more open about what did not go so well.
  • Storytelling is the new buzzword. Human beings are hardwired to learn through storytelling . Anthropologists contend that 70% of our learning is through narrative. So it’s no surprise that it’s a skill that fundraisers want to perfect.
  • We love jargon. The usual suspects kept cropping up and the top three terms were supporter journey, touchpoints and integrated campaigns as well as some new acronyms that I have never heard before.
  • The general public has a perception of how charities should operate. Many make decision to donate to a cause based on the % of their donation that will go to services and do not like to think that their donation is ‘wasted’ on administration or staff costs. Dan Pallotta made a case for transparency and the importance of investing in order to effectively fundraise and the importance of communicating the real cost of raising funds to donors, supporters and the public.
  • Fundraising is not always perceived well outside of the sector. Asking for bequests was picked up by the tabloid press, quick to paint a negative picture of the sensitive topic of how fundraisers ask people to consider leaving a gift in their will, which could make a lasting difference to the world.
  • The world is small. I met several of ex-colleagues from the UK and from the NSPCC as well as Twitter friends. I liked how the world got smaller.

So that’s the top line. But for me the most important thing I came away with was inspiration from meeting a collective of passionate people doing great work for a range of causes with a restless energy to do more. I’m proud to have the opportunity to work with you. And not forgetting, that in addition to your great work, you all know how to party.

Have we amazed you?

The zip on my very very favourite pair of winter boots broke this week. It was devastating, partly because I had to walk round with one cold foot for a day and partly because no other boot in the shops would be as good.  These boots are perfect.

I knew I couldn’t replace them, (physically or emotionally!) so I investigated getting them mended. My local shoe mender took one look, inhaled quickly over his teeth and shook his head slowly, and said, “no. we don’t do zips here”. He suggested I tried some other shoe mender ‘in town’. *

So yesterday, when ‘in town’ I made another attempt at solving my cold foot challenge. The two shoe menders at Charing Cross Station were closed for lunch. In my frustration I remembered someone telling me about how good Timpson were, so I looked on my phone to see if there was a shop nearby.

I wish companies would think about how people are accessing their websites now. Stood in the cold waiting for the data to download and then trying to navigate reams of information on a little screen just to find a list of stores isn’t a great experience.

Anyway, I found a Timpson, I called them to find out exactly where they were and spoke to a friendly guy who gave me directions. Ten minutes later when I arrived he greeted me with a big smile and remembered the phone call.

Steve the Manager and I chatted about the devastation of boots breaking. To be fair I’m not sure he really felt the pain, but he made a valiant attempt which I appreciated. We also discussed the weather; we are British that’s what we do.  He explained the process to mend the boot, and why it would take 2 weeks and that he would call me personally if there was any problems.

On the counter I spotted this. Timpsons campaign for better service.

The first question; Have we amazed you? Actually you did, because your service was good, partly emphasised because most places give decidedly less than amazing service, plus you were actually open when I needed you.

£250 incentive; this is interesting. I don’t give feedback to be put in a prize draw. That’s not an incentive for me. I’m writing this and sending off my postcard because Steve did a great job and should be recognised for that.

We know that personal recommendations are key to making purchasing decisions so the ‘would you recommend a friend /colleague?’ question is a good one.

I think there was a couple of things missing; perhaps seeking to learn if anything didn’t amaze and suggestions for improvement.

I also question whether there should be a line about how they will use my data. As much as I loved the service I don’t want you to get in touch with me. (unless its Steve to talk about my boot.)

The branch number wasn’t filled in, so if I don’t write which branch amazed me how will Timpson be able to feed back to that amazing branch?

I’m impressed that there was a feedback card in the first place. It’s amazing how many customer-facing businesses don’t actively seek feedback from the people who are the key to their business success.

I was talking to a friend recently about how he felt about seeking 360 feedback from clients, which he does at the end of every piece of work. He felt apprehensive. Especially as part of his service was to give feedback to fundraisers on their work, he felt concerned that an invite for feedback could be ‘pay back time’. I don’t actually think that is the case, but understand his apprehension.

So it can feel a bit scary, but if you don’t seek feedback, how will you know the amazing things you are doing that you could do more of? And as importantly, how will you know where to make improvements?

When you are giving feedback, do consider the impact it will have. Always tell people when they have done a good job, and always tell people when they haven’t, but take care to be constructive and thoughtful. Telling someone they are rubbish with no explanation isn’t ok. It’s just plain mean.

So get over the fear and make giving feedback and seeking feedback from customers, clients, donors or colleagues a habit.

Without feedback it’s hard to become amazing at what you do. And you all deserve to be amazing. Right?

Your thoughts and feedback welcome…

*’in town’ being central London

It’s all about you

There is often debate about how much contact charities should be making with donors. In a recent blog by Jeff Brooks he highlights that there is no proof that increased contact leads to donor attrition. He notes that too little contact could be detrimental to your fundraising, but the worst thing of all is being irrelevant.

Charities need to focus on the donor. It’s all about the charity providing the donor with the opportunity to change the world and feel valued in a way that is relevant to them. From the style of the copy, to the key message, to the choice of images, to the channel of communication, it’s all about them.

My question is; can we compare our fundraising communications to other sectors, for example clothes retail, restaurants or mobile phone providers? I think we can.

A couple of weeks ago I was doing some work with the direct mail fundraising team; considering how we make our donors feel special, important and loved. We did some work reflecting on our own experiences and considered what organisations (if any!) had made us feel valued or special lately.

We came up with a good list that included, Eagle Cabs, a dentist, Bupa and Virgin (?). My example was Boden, which I will share with you here.

Johnnie Boden has been writing to me for a few years now. I don’t remember asking him, or when he first embarked on his correspondence with me, but he writes to me a lot. In fact I get more post from Johnnie Boden than anyone else. I have to say his overly friendly chirpy marketing copy does grate on my nerves a bit. However, somewhat ashamedly I admit, I am a Boden customer.

The reason this example was so relevant to the question about communication being all about the donor is that Johnnie Bodens latest autumn catalogue was all about me.  The centre text reads, ‘I owe Lucy everything’  as well as other references to ‘Lucy’. I think this is brilliant. There were even personalised stickers so I could mark what I wanted.

But while I’m on the topic, it’s not just the personalised catalogue that makes Boden stand out. Johnnie Bodens customer service is excellent too. A few months ago I complained about a scarf because all the bobbles fell off it. I emailed customer service and I received a real email back from a real person the same day. They sent me a new scarf and a freepost envelope to return the bobbleless one in. All within a couple of days. Impressive.

So what can fundraisers learn from Johnnie Boden? Here is my list.

  • Personal; great personalization of materials – see the example above
  • Frequent; I must get something monthly at least. It doesn’t put me off. It probably helps me buy more.
  • Offers; I get an incentive with every catalogue. I’m sure every single other customer does too. But I feel special.
  • Customer service; It’s good. Real people answer emails and take action. Refer to the scarf story above.
  • Targeted; Johnnie Boden sends me stuff I’m interested in. He segments his data well. I check in with my other target audience friends and we receive different creative and offers. Sometimes we get a bit jealous of each other’s Boden relationship.  (I acknowledge that could be perceived as sad on our part)
  • New; the catalogues always have some new lines.
  • Topical; The Royal wedding edition catalogue contained make your own cut-out bunting and Royal wedding bingo game. Other catalogues refer to recent events or seasons.

So, whether you are in the market for a brightly coloured rain mac or not; don’t just take my word for it, Test the Boden theory, or another company that makes you feel special. Ask yourself what is it that they do. Then try to recreate that special feeling for your donors.

More from the catalogue below.

Stop press – a great customer experience story

I always complain if I receive rubbish service (so most days), and when I have a great customer service experience I shout it from the rooftops. Partly because it’s so rare and partly because I want to share that providing great service may take a bit more thought and effort, but it’s not actually that difficult.

On Thursday I went for dinner with my friend Katie, the brief was budget. She turned up with a 2 for 1 voucher because her mum had bought a special offer pizza in Sainsbury’s last week. Always sticks to the brief does Katie.

So we rocked up, well more like waded up in the torrential rain and joined the queue of drowned rats at the door. The restaurant was packed but within a few seconds the waitress said hi, and advised us we would have a 15 min wait, was that OK? We had a lot to chat about and didn’t want to back outside in the rain so decided to stay. She offered us a four person table, but we offered it up to the four people behind us as a two table would only be another 10 minute wait.

Once seated our waiter gave us each a glass of wine on the house as we had to wait and for offering up the four person table. Wow – free wine?! Great stuff.

Once we got over the shock, we took a moment to look around this transformed Pizza Express. The interior had been given a makeover, bright colours and stripey walls, funky chairs and sofas and one wall was a big screen playing an unidentified black and white film. It didn’t feel like we were in a Pizza Express.

Our waiter was great, attentive, but not pushy and he was actually excited to tell us about the different pizza bases and pointed out that he should know, as he was half Italian.

The staff had new uniforms, rather cool blue t-shirts with a fluorescent re-branded logo although the chefs were looking a bit jailbreak their striped outfits that matched the walls.

Our food was good. The menu had been given a refresh too and there were more charity partnership offers than before. We sampled the new Baileys latte (it would be rude not to), and I fully recommend.

The restaurant was busy but we didn’t feel rushed. When we wanted the bill the waiter was there, no Mexican waves or pretending to walk out to get their attention required, which in the norm in my recent experience. Our meal was on brief and cheap as chips, in fact it may only have been cheaper if indeed, we had eaten chips.

Then we were given feedback invitation cards and asked to give feedback online if we had had a good time, and also if we hadn’t. I have done this and am now expectantly waiting for my £500 Pizza Express card, but in the meantime happy with my dough balls voucher. (although I would have given feedback without an incentive)

On leaving a waitress that we hadn’t even spoken to smiled and said thanks and she sounded like she actually meant it too. And THEN the waitress on the door apologised for the wait again.

We left the restaurant reeling in shock at this unexpected great experience.

We all bang on about the customer experience and donor journey, but I’m not convinced many organisations are actually doing it.  So well done Pizza Express you have done a great job. You have transformed from average high street pizza chain to providing customers with a remarkable pizza eating experience. I think its fair to say that your pizzas went a bit small for a while and I am still not sure about the ‘diet’ pizza with a hole in the middle but based on this recent experience I’ll let you off. I think you are back on track.

So team what can we learn from Pizza Express? Is it as simple as a bit of a brand refresh, lick of paint, some customer service training combined with getting the right people on the bus in the first place?

It feels that Pizza Express have really worked at cross selling their products with simple supermarket incentives, integrating online and offline messages, providing customer incentives to return, providing great product, actively seeking feedback, providing superb in restaurant service and excellent value for money.

But don’t just take my word for it – go hang out in Pizza Express or anywhere else that provides good service and watch and learn.  And then go do it yourself.

I’m still reeling in shock and thinking I should probably go to the gym today to offset the anticipated voucher.

Better to aim too high and miss

For me customer service is really important. Often I’m criticised for having too high expectations of people. I don’t think I do. I just think most people have very low expectations because they are so used to getting crap service.

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”  Michelangelo

Last week my brilliant friend Sue booked a meal for four of us through Groupon (and you know how I feel about Groupon) at a London restaurant called The English Pig.  Great concept, unless you are a vegetarian as it only serves pork. Delicious pork.

We got off to a great start, the manager was brilliant, friendly, chatty, told us about how business was tough but the Groupon deal was really working. He recommended several top dishes and we were all suitably impressed.

He took our order, the food arrived, which I have to say was delicious, but sadly, after that the service nose-dived. We had to practically do a Mexican wave to get anyone’s attention to order more drinks, we quite fancied dessert but by the time anyone noticed our frantic waving the moment had passed. So we tried to get the bill, but ended up going to the bar to ask for it as all the staff had disappeared.

Now is it just me, or is this a common occurrence? You arrive at a restaurant and staff are falling over themselves to take your order, often more than one person is prowling round the table interrupting your conversation in their eagerness to serve. As the meal progresses the staff become sparser until you are left stranded, desperately vying for someone’s attention to process the bill.

So we know that the world is a tough place for any business right now. We also know that it’s way harder to and more expensive to get new customers than to keep and develop your old ones.

So why invest in a Groupon deal to get people through the door and then do such a rubbish job that they won’t come back? Or worse still they tell their friends/the whole world about their below par experience?

Now let me make an analogy to fundraising; Groupon is the equivalent of a mass participation event. It’s about getting lots of people through the door. If you do not have a strategy to get those people more engaged, to make them want to come back then you are not making the most of your investment.

So ask yourself; Are you really looking after your donors, or are they going thirsty? Does their experience with your mass participation event leave them full and satisfied, eager to return, or are some leaving feeling short-changed?

How can you use the restaurant analogy to think of ways to engage supporters?

A well used creative thinking technique is to view a challenge from a different perspective, so for example you could use the restaurant analogy in a fundraising context as an example of how not to treat donors, and then do the opposite. You may come up with a fresh perspective on how to engage supporters.  Go on, have a go. I’ve given you some examples below to start you off.

  • Prowl around at the start and lose interest towards the end could translate into – celebrate at the end, make the end of the event really special, make the process of giving money a pleasure
  • Allow them to leave feeling uncared for, like you don’t value their custom could translate into – giving them a reason to come back; a post event party, an opportunity to volunteer/make more of a difference
  • Don’t make any attempt to build a relationship apart from the initial greeting could translate into building great rapport; have dedicated volunteers whose role is just to build rapport with participants

What other ways of developing supporter relationships can you come up with using the restaurant analogy?

Gotta Share

There is no doubt that social media enables us all to share what we are doing, thinking and feeling like never before. There are great opportunities for organisations to tap into the insights and conversations that customers and potential customers are sharing online.

As highlighted in previous posts, I’m trying to make sense of the world of social media, hoping to navigate through it and establish some common etiquette. Recently I was out with two friends who seemed to spend a lot of time updating various statuses that they were out in a bar having dinner and drinking wine. I felt a bit bemused at all the time spent frantically texting, tagging and updating that detracted from the real life chat we were having.

It made me wonder if we are spending too much time ‘sharing’ at the expense of real life experiences.

Often we know what our friends are up to because their status tells us; on the one hand this is a great way of being connected, on the other if you spend your real life time updating that you are “Having a great time with blah at ‘name drop’ cool place” then I’m not so sure its such a great idea.

I would like to question people’s motivation for sharing; is it a competition as to who can be tagged in the coolest places with the sexiest people? Or is it about proving your wit and intelligence? Or is it for a sympathy vote and attention? Or is it a combination of all of the above? Who are your status updates for? Yourself? Your friends? Your enemies?

If you are in real life having a real life experience, does posting something to tell everyone detract from that experience or does it enhance it?

Personally, my view is if you are having a conversation in real life, unless it’s a life or death situation I think it’s rude to be on your phone updating, surfing the net or whatever. Your focus should be on the present.

I found this brilliant piece on YouTube which to some extent sums it up.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m on Facebook and I love Twitter – a lot. I learn lots, ask for help and information and in turn hope that I provide useful tweets to the people who follow me.

My point is that sharing the moment on social media should not be at the expense of experiencing and sharing a real life moment.

I’d be interested to know what you think….