Category 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

 

 

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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

scripts and interruptions

Last week I was waiting for a friend outside Liverpool Street Station. It was about 6.30 in the evening and the street was teeming with commuters rushing frantically in all directions. I was a bit early and tucked myself in a corner out of the mania and was using the spare ten minutes to catch up with some email correspondence on my phone.

I was engrossed in this task when I was interrupted by a street fundraiser, a young man who was extremely impatient to tell me about the work of the Red Cross.

He did ask me if I had a minute, but before I could answer he launched into his ‘script’.  Had I heard of the Red Cross? Did I know that the Red Cross were often first to respond to emergency situations. In Japan – as he pointed towards the direction of Moorgate, after the recent earthquake, the Red Cross apparently responded 8 minutes before other emergency services. He also told me a story of a woman in India who had been given a loan of £9.40 so she could set up a business and be self-sufficient and send her kids to school and she paid the money back and she was empowered and it was much better than a donation, etc, etc, etc…..

At this point he paused for breath – but not long enough to give me a word in edgeways and then he launched into ‘script part 2’ about how ‘no way’ did he want money, but could he call me in about six weeks after I had some time to reflect on this information.

Finally I had a chance to respond. I said that I wouldn’t be interested in a chat in six weeks. He looked a bit dejected.  I explained that I already give to my preferred charities and that I worked for a charity so understood exactly what a good job he, and the Red Cross were doing – and that he told a good story.

On this news he looked even more dejected. He quickly regrouped, thanked me for my time and practically skipped off into the crowds of commuters, presumably to repeat his script again.

I was left feeling uneasy about this interaction and have been mulling over what it was that just didn’t work for me. I think it was a combination of factors.

  • From the outset he got my back up because he interrupted me
  • I couldn’t get a word in until he had recalled his script
  • When I told him I didn’t want a call and that I worked for a charity I felt like I had deceived him and that’s why I felt uncomfortable. I would have liked the opportunity to be open from the outset
  • Six weeks is a long time to reflect. Even for me. After being so pushy, to then be asked if I could be called in 6 weeks didn’t feel consistent.  Do you need my money now or not? (I know its’ all about an engagement strategy, and I like this different approach to face to face engagement, but, for me it just didn’t feel right – the message didn’t match his approach)
  • I felt that he told a great scripted story, but it lacked authenticity. I didn’t believe he really knew about the Red Cross. I don’t think we could have had a two-way conversation.
  • It was all about him and his script, he didn’t listen or take me into account. (Shouldn’t fundraising be all about the donor?)
  • I acknowledge that I have the potential to be the fundraising Grinch; I mystery shop a lot of charities and companies, with a view to commenting on my experience, so I’m perhaps not your average person on the street.

I think that face-to-face fundraisers have a really tough job and they raise significant income for charities. I don’t want this to read as a pop at face-to-face. I don’t like being interrupted so I acknowledge that my unease is perhaps about me and my preferences – but how many other people are like me?  For me, a shift in tone or approach that involved an off script two-way conversation would have engaged me more and left me feeling very differently about the experience.

What do you think?  I’d be interested to know your views – or if your organisation has tried this approach and what the results were.

Failure – it’s the real thing

Last week I ran an innovation breakfast for fundraising leaders with the creative team from Sandbox. One of the key discussion points was that in order to innovate well, organisations and individuals would need to take a new approach to failure. In fact, failure must be actively encouraged in order to learn, and ultimately achieve greater success.

One of my favourite (?!) failure stories is from Coca-Cola.

In 1985 in response to its declining market share and the increasing popularity of its key rival Pepsi, Coca-Cola launched New Coke.

At the time Pepsi’s advertising campaigns were based around asking the public if they could taste the difference between Pepsi and Coke. They could – and they preferred the taste of Pepsi.

In response Coke developed a new sweeter tasting formula.  After conducting over 200.000 taste tests, which according to the taste testers not only tasted better than the old Coke, but also tasted better than Pepsi, New Coke was ready for launch.

However on 23 April 1985 when New Coke was launched and old Coke was taken out of circulation it was a disaster. Customers were horrified that their Coke had been changed. Some people likened the change in Coke to trampling the American flag. A black market for old Coke emerged, at a market value of $30 a case.  On July 11, Coca-Cola withdrew New Coke and reinstated old Coke.

So what happened?

“We did not understand the deep emotions of so many of our customers for Coca-Cola,” said company President Donald R. Keough.

The development of New Coke was all about taste and overlooked the importance of the relationship customers had with the brand. Until the launch of New Coke, Coca-Colas brand had been about its ‘original’ status. For example in 1942, magazine adverts in the United States declared: ‘The only thing like Coca-Cola is Coca-Cola itself. It’s the real thing.’

If you tell the world you have the ‘real thing’ you cannot then just come up with a ‘new real thing’. To make matters worse, since 1982, Coke’s strap line had been ‘Coke is it’. Now it was telling customers that actually coke wasn’t it, but New Coke was now it instead.

Coca-Cola were fighting a taste battle with Pepsi in response to Pepsi’s marketing campaign. What Coca-cola overlooked was that the battle was not about taste, and they underestimated the value of brand loyalty and the heritage of Coca-Cola.

Ironically, through the brand failure of New Coke, loyalty to ‘the real thing’ intensified and Coke recovered its market position with old Coke, repositioned as Coke Classic. Some conspiracy theorists say the whole campaign had been planned order to reaffirm public loyalty for Coca-Cola. But whether it was planned or not, the fail of New Coke affirmed the value of the brand and with that insight Coke went onto retake its leading market position.

Learning important insights from its failure was key to Coca-Colas reclaimed success over Pepsi. So what if organisations and individuals actively encouraged failure in order to gain insight and ultimately achieve greater success? What would it look like? What would our leaders, managers, fundraisers, volunteers and supporters need to do to really make failing part of ‘how we do things round here?’ How do we make failure an important part of the organisational culture and an important part of greater success?

Answers on a postcard please or to @lucyinnovation.

P.S. If you are interested in failure you might also like my blog on sofii.org

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.

You can just tick along. That’s fine. Your choice.

I was recently talking to Jonathon Grapsas, Director of flat earth direct about innovation and some of the challenges for the charity sector. He asked me six key questions. And here is what I said.

1.  Let’s start with some of the basics. How do you define innovation and do you think most people really understand what it means?

I think it’s important to define both innovation and creativity as they are terms that are often used (and overused) together. Creativity is the art of coming up with a new idea – as humans we are all creative. Innovation is ‘taking action’ to make that new idea happen.

Innovation can be a radical change, for example the invention of the Internet or digital music or the Amazon model of shopping that changes the way we work.

Innovation can also be a small or incremental change that delivers results, for example challenging out of date processes, changing a mail pack or a thank you letter or really interrogating your database.

Most people think innovation is a lone genius having a light bulb moment. This is not the case. Innovation is more likely to be a series of connections or ideas put together in new ways, and is often a slow hunch, or a series of slow hunches over a period of time.

The invention of the Internet is a great example – Tim Berners Lee was tinkering away for 20 years fascinated about making sense of data before he stumbled across a technology that has changed the world. People also think innovation is just for the ‘innovators’ – that’s also not true. Every single one of us has the ability to be innovative, we just have to work out what areas our creative strengths are in and play to them.

2.  As you know everyone talks about the desire to be innovative and agents of change. But very few charities truly are pushing the envelope. What are the biggest things holding us back? Can we rightly point the finger at boards or is this a cop-out of sorts?

Charities are great at talking about how they should be innovative but I can’t see many being strategic about developing innovation. We are all held back by fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure and fear of putting our heads above the parapet, both personally and professionally. In a difficult economic climate people fear losing their job. Being seen as different is perceived as risky.

I think the economic climate is used as an excuse to ‘play it safe’. Some of history’s great innovations were developed in bad economic times including some big names like Motorola, Hewlett-Packard and Xerox. Right now we have a real opportunity to be more innovative to increase efficiencies and income and give our organisations an essential competitive advantage during tough times.

Innovation has to be led from the top, look at any company delivering success through innovation. Their leadership deliberately drives a culture of innovation in a range of ways; for example Google 20% time, 3Ms’ strategy to deliver 20% of income through new products and of course Apple who have four times as many apps developers than employees who all work for free and Apple takes 30% of everything they earn.

The point is that it’s not good enough to tell your staff to be more innovative, leaders need to walk the walk and insist on time and space for innovation put realistic success measures in place, which are not necessarily income driven and accept that innovation is a mid to long-term game. The responsibility for driving innovation sits at the top.

3.  Are there any individuals or organisations we should be looking to that are doing some really interesting, leading edge stuff that’s pushing the fundraising boundaries? What about the corporate world, who’s rocking?

In the UK, Cancer Research UK are the only charity I can think of that is strategically developing radical innovation and are developing some great products – My Projects is one that has been showcased recently.

That said you don’t have to be a big charity to do innovation, you just need some passion and determination to make the world a better place for your cause. Check out AJ Leon’s Lac project which is an inspiration and watch out for the small guys who have great ideas, and are more agile at trying things out, they just don’t always make the press so are harder to spot.

Some great examples from the corporate world include:

  • LEGO Cuusoo who are crowdsourcing, pre-market making designs and sharing 1% of revenue with the idea originator and their helpers.
  • McLaren Applied Technologies are commercializing their technology and applying it to other industries. This is now the 2nd most profitable part of McLaren after F1.
  • Orange ‘Do Some Good’. Mobile phone app that helps people do good in 5 minutes or less

4.  Do you think we learn enough from our failures within the charity sector? What can we be doing moving forward to better learn from things gone awry?   

No we don’t learn enough from failure.  AND I think it is the single biggest thing that stops innovation. It all comes back to fear. We like to celebrate success and push failures under the carpet. That’s what human behavior dictates and is reinforced in us by society and education systems from an early age. We need to go against the grain and shout about, celebrate and learn from failure.

A High Value Donor team that I trained in creativity and innovation took away a new “fail yea” agenda onto every team meeting. Having permission to celebrate failure, made it OK to admit mistakes and shared failures ensured the same mistakes were not repeated. This approach made a big difference to the success of future high value events that had previously failed in some way. Failure has to be encouraged as part of an organisations culture and again, has to be driven from the top.

5.  You might have seen I recently blogged about everyone wanting to be second. Why do you think that is? Are we paralyzed by fear? Is this a sector specific thing?

Great blog. I think you sum it up. Second is safe. Second is less risky. That’s why organisations like the comfort zone of being second.

However in an increasingly competitive marketplace I would agree with Seth Godin’s point in Purple Cow that second is more risky than first.

Second is more risky because second is the same as everyone else. Second is boring. If we are going to raise more money we need to be remarkable. First is remarkable. Being second, third, fourth etc. means we are the same as everyone else and that in a competitive world is very risky.

We are paralyzed by fear and we need to get over ourselves. Look at any successful entrepreneur; they accept that failing is inevitable. They fail fast and learn. This is a key to their success.

Fear of failure is not sector specific, although I think the fear of being seen to ‘waste’ donations is another barrier that further prevents charities innovating.

We shouldn’t aim to fail, and it’s important to minimize risk of failure. Do your research, pilot on a small-scale, test and refine. But do something. Your idea might not work and that’s ok because you tried something new. However, it’s not ok for your idea not to work because you cut corners or were lazy. There is a big difference.

6.  As someone who spends such a big chunk of time talking about what it means to be innovative, why do you actually think it’s so important? Can’t we just tick along doing what we’ve always been doing?

Sure thing, you can just tick along. That’s fine. Your choice.

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten” Anthony Robbins

As a fundraiser, your job is not to ‘just tick along’. Your job is to make a difference. Your job is to do the very best job you can for your donors and beneficiaries and anything less than that isn’t good enough. It might take some more thought, more time, more risk but if your organisation is going to raise more funds, engage more donors, work with more volunteers, create more awareness and achieve its mission then it has to be innovative to survive. Innovate or die. Simple as that. Your choice.

This interview featured in the first flat earther newsletter last month. I thought I would also share it here just in case you missed out.

As always, love to know your thoughts.