Customer Service

Arrested for Not Leaving a Tip and More

From the "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" column we have two stories today. The first took place in my backyard at the Lehigh Pub in Bethlehem, PA where an extremely intelligent restaurant manager had two of his patrons arrested for not leaving a tip. Yes, that's what I said. They refused to leave a tip for their party of eight. Talk about customer service!

It seems it took over an hour for them to be served their salads and wings and they ended up having to get their own napkins and soda refills since their waitress was missing and outside smoking much of the time. The restaurant has a mandatory 18% surcharge. When they got their bill the tip surcharge was 22% and that put them over the tipping point. They told the manager that because their service was so terribly poor they would not pay the tip. They did pay the bill for the food, drinks and tax.

After taking their money, the genius manager called Bethlehem police and had them arrested for theft of services. The cop in this case has to be related to the manager or the owner. Otherwise, he or she needs to be removed from the force for stupidity in uniform. You can read about it here. Or, just Google it as it is all over the Internet now.

Next up is the Philadelphia city council. Philadelphia has a problem with bicycle riders that don't obey traffic laws. Two pedestrians were killed last month after being struck by cyclists. So, what's the answer? I would think it might be a good thing if the laws currently on the books were enforced. They aren't and both council, police and bike advocates agree on that.

So, what is the solution from legislators? Two council members are introducing a bill to license everyone over the age of 12 who wants to ride a bike. They would pay $20. Yeah, tax the bastards – that will stop bike accidents. Make those kids pay up and they won't ever break another law.

Finally a good story from my back yard. Crayola Company in Easton, PA is going to be focusing a lot of effort on green in the coming year. Not the color but the technology. They are building a 15-acre solar park near their plant where the energy produced by the panels will be enough to manufacture 1-Billion Crayons a year. Kudos to Crayola!

Not So Avid About Their Service

Why would a company have a customer support policy that states they will answer your questions in 48 business hours? The company is Avid and particularly their Pinnacle product group. By the way, I'm pretty sure that Avid has a great reputation in the industry. I don't know if Pinnacle enjoys that rep but let's assume they do.

I bought some new video editing software last week after calling the company's sales department and asking some questions about their products. I wanted to make sure I got exactly what I needed because I didn't want to end up going down the road of software and hardware compatibility hell. Well, I ended up there anyway and I've wasted hours trying to make something work that probably isn't going to work because it needs another device to work.

Which brings me to their support. I could have opted for a chat but having already had a chat with their sales group and finding out they sold me the wrong thing, I was in no mood for a chat. I wanted an answer in writing with a solution. And, I wanted it yesterday. Well, actually two days ago but since I bought the software on Friday, I was out of luck since the weekend isn't considered business days.

But, that's not true. I checked. Avid is still are willing to sell you anything on the weekend. No waiting. Which kind of sounds like their business is all about them. Not you and me.

That doesn't make them a bad company. It just means they aren't any different from lots of other companies. They aren't extraordinary. And, that's too bad because I've read some good things about their products. Well, at least their high-end products used by Emmy and Oscar winning people.

Taking good care of the guy who spent less than $100 on a home video software package probably isn't considered good business when it comes to dollars and cents. I mean how much more am I likely to spend with them?

That's the beauty of the web. They have no idea.

I could be an 18 year old kid who will grow up to be the next Spielberg.

I might be married to the decision maker who is about to make a major editing suite product decision. 

I might be a major investor checking them out by going in the customer door.

Whoever I am -  I'll remember how I was treated when I did business with them.

And, I bet you'll remember this story too.

What kind of stories are your customers telling people?

Four-Letter Words


Do you ever play word association games with your employees or even among friends?

For example, if I say bookseller would you answer Amazon or some other company?

What about coffee? You might say Starbucks but I bet not as many people would give that answer as would have a few years ago.

Does shipping elicit the response of UPS or FedEx? How many of you thought of the US post service first?

What word jumps out when I say airlines? Was it the name of an airline or a four-letter word that flashed first? I bet a lot of you cringed.

What word jumps out when people talk about your business or industry? Is it your company?

Even more importantly, what word leaps into someone's mind if we say the name of your company?

I hope it isn't one of the four-letter ones.

Rotten Tomatoes

My friend, Stephen, wants to me write a little more about tomatoes. He thinks the home grown, delicious tomato can be a metaphor for many things that are wrong with big business and government bureaucrats.

For example, instead of big agriculture working to serve us a tomato that tastes home grown, they spend lots of marketing money convincing buyers and consumers that the typical tomato you get in your grocery store is what you should expect and be satisfied with.

Stephen told me he asked to see the manager at his favorite local restaurant last week because the tomatoes they were serving tasted terrible. Well, they tasted just like all big agriculture tomatoes taste and we're supposed to accept them as delicious.

Stephen asked the manager why they serve such terrible tomatoes when the restaurant is located right smack in the middle of PA farm country? The answer was, “they cost less and nobody else has complained.” Stephen said, “Look around you. Half the people eating here are farmers or people who grow their own crops for their family. Do you think they don’t notice you’re serving them junky tomatoes?”

The next time Stephen went in he was told they had thought about what he had said and decided he was right. We need more people like Stephen who won’t settle for less than exceptional when he knows it’s the right thing to do.

It isn’t just big corporations who try and convince us that they are doing a good job in when in fact they are barely average. It is this same kind of thinking by government bureaucrats that is making it so difficult to sell the idea of government run health care.

It is as if both big corporations and bureaucracies have a department that tries to make sure the products and services produced by them never rise above mediocre. Sometimes we buy into the marketing and advertising that tries to brainwash us into thinking this is a good as it gets. But, we know better. We've grown our own exceptional tomatoes.

For example, do you ever find yourself wanting to model your company after the United States Postal Service? Seriously, please let me know if you do. I’ve heard some people say the postal service works amazingly well. “Just think,” they say, “You can put a stamp on an envelope, drop it in a box and a few days later it will almost always be delivered to the person you sent it to even if it thousands of miles away.”

I respond by saying, “Isn’t that what is supposed to happen?”

You see, these people have bought into the postal service tomato being a good tomato. The postal service believes that to make it an extraordinary tomato would cost too much money and time. But then along came UPS, FedEx and email and now the USPS is scrambling to become more user friendly with products we actually want and need.

But, they forgot to get rid of their sales prevention department. That’s where the best bureaucrats work. They are the ones who came up with the regulation that requires you to hand a stamped letter over 13 ounces to a postal employee. You are not allowed to put it into a collection box. There is a sticker right on the box that says your mail will be returned if you do.

Meanwhile, the USPS marketing department created programs that allow you to print your own stamps at home or work. I do that and find it time saving plus we brand the stamps with a cover photo of my book. However, by dropping the envelope into a mailbox if it is over 13 ounces, I am in violation of the regulation on 13 ounces. (This is true. You can't make this stuff up.) I’m supposed to take it into the post office and wait in line so that I can hand it to a clerk. The last time I did that the line was two deep and about 20 people in each line. It was lunch hour when everyone gets time to go to the post office. And, hey, postal employees have to eat too. I went back outside and dropped it in the box. I figured I'd take my chances.

That kind of service and thinking by the post office is what I call a rotten tomato. Tell the government bureaucrats and big corporations that you know an extraordinary tomato when you see, touch, smell and taste it. Be like my friend Stephen and tell them you’re not going to buy their pretenders anymore. You're not going to settle for less.

I Kissed a Tomato Today

Right before I sunk my teeth into it this morning, I gave it a kiss. It was a beautiful tomato and I grew it in my back yard. I decided it would make a great breakfast. So, like I did when I was a kid and would sneak into my Grandpa's garden, I ate it just like someone might eat an apple. No cutting. Just biting so that the sweet juices flowed down my chin and the scent of the last 60 summers of my life wafted into my nostrils. I closed my eyes and let my sense of taste and smell be overwhelmed by the one-of-a-kind sensation you get from a fresh-picked, home-grown tomato.

When I was finished eating, I went to wipe off my face. But first, I need to look in the mirror. And, for a moment, I didn't see the face of an almost 60 year old man looking back. For the moment, I saw the skinny, freckled-face, little boy who was lucky enough to grow up where he could pick tomatoes, beans, peppers and corn and eat them straight from the garden. It was a wonderful vision and both the skinny kid and the grown man were smiling so hard their face hurt.

Agriculturists have been trying for years to duplicate the taste and smell of that kind of tomato. And, they still haven't been able to create it. They keep trying because they know that when they are finally successful, they will have one of the best selling agricultural products ever grown.

Can you imagine what it would mean for your business if you could
provide the same kind of experience and satisfaction for your customers
as people get from eating a home grown tomato? Do you keep trying to create an even better product and service?

Do you have the kind of business that makes your customers want to kiss you? Do they smile when they think of you? Do they continue to use your services or products as often as possible because they enjoy the experience so much?

Close your eyes and imagine biting into that home grown tomato as you answer these questions. If tomatoes aren't to your liking then how about a piece of sweet corn right from the stalk dripping with sugar and so delicious it doesn't need cooked. Close your eyes and ask yourself if you're customers feel this way when they buy from you.

That's how we want to feel. I bet you do too. Now do something about it.

Are You Acting Like Delta Airlines?

I got my Delta Sky Miles report last week. Right on time as usual. They've been sending it to me ever since frequent flyer reports have been on the web. However, I haven't flown on any of their aircraft for at least 15 years.

Now you'd think the software that runs Sky Miles might notice that fact. Then Delta could send me a more personalized email checking to see if I'm alive, or able to travel, or have taken a vow never to fly their airline again.

But, that never happens. I just keep getting a useless report with information on how to book my free flights and how I can buy 3 club memberships and get a 4th one free. 

They aren't spamming me. Back when all airlines put their programs on the web, I entered all my frequent flyer numbers since I was traveling quite a bit and I had some miles on Delta from an international flight. And, then one day I got an email telling me that I was being punished. Since I hadn't flown them lately or used my miles, they were taking them back. Poof! They were gone and all my reports since state " zero miles earned."

I know what you're thinking. All the airlines take back their miles if you don't use them or continue to be a customer. Actually, I notice that pretty much all the airlines do exactly what each other does when it comes to how they treat their customers. All except one. And, you know what's interesting? That one airline seems to be the only one that is profitable.

I still fly commercial airlines. But, I don't have any loyalty to a particular company anymore. Airlines taught me over the years that they certainly don't have any loyalty towards their customers.

You might want to check your customer lists this week. If you're marketing to people who don't have any loyalty toward you or your brand, you might want to back up a few steps and start to develop some again.

Just a thought.

Guerrilla MP3 Warfare

I enjoy music as much as anyone. I'd say my tastes are very eclectic. Right now I'm listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan and I've got John Coltrane cued up. Alanis Morrisette was playing earlier. But, I'm pretty fed up with trying to buy music these days. I don't think I'm alone. I used a music service for a while but as soon as I canceled it because I wasn't using it enough all the music I downloaded was no longer accessible due to this companies digital rights management. Somehow that just doesn't make sense to me.

So, I asked someone half my age what they do thinking they would have a much more elegant solution for obtaining their music. Here is their solution in their own words.

"Here's what I do for mp3s /iPod stuff — I sometimes have a subscription to eMusic (I cancel it for periods of time when I can't find anything on their site I want, since they don't have everything in there). I pay for the $15 option when I am signed up with them. Their downloads don't roll over from month to month, so I have to remember to cancel when I don't want anything they have.

I also buy things out of the iTunes store, but I always (well, I try to always) make sure to burn it to CD and re-rip it to mp3 so that the DRM is out of the question. I dislike trusting iTunes DRM with my money, so I don't do it very often — just when I can't find something I want on eMusic.

I also discovered that Amazon's MP3 store is pretty damn spiffy! My understanding is that they have no DRM there at all (experience bears this up) and if I had more money I'd probably be buying a lot more stuff that way.

Between these three options, I seem to be able to keep myself in music!

Also, every time I cancel eMusic I get a special offer a few months later for forty extra downloads or seventy extra downloads or whatever. Usually when that happens I sign back up to get the extras and then only stay subscribed if they have stuff I want. It's a strange cycle.

I don't actually fully trust any of these people; Amazon comes the closest because they haven't tried to screw me directly. iTunes is pretty good but I don't want to leave their stuff DRM'd; eMusic won't roll over and they don't really care if you download the tracks you pay for or not. So it's sort of like Guerrilla MP3 Warfare between me and my music. But that's my system."

To me this sounds like a failed system on the part of the music companies and distributors. I feel sorry for the artists who have to put up with this system. And, I feel for consumers who would be buying exponential amounts of music if there was a procurement system that actually gave us what we want and need.

There's got to be a better way and I think it is past due. Anyone out there have a better idea we can implement?

Paging Doctor Empathy

I met my primary care physician for the first time about 13 years ago. She was a newly minted family practice doctor and I was newly moved to where I now live. I don't remember why I went to see her but I liked her and she's been my doctor ever since.

Last week I saw her again for a checkup. Things have changed over the years in how she practices. The practice is very large, she's now one of the senior partners and the insurance industry has changed how she sees patients. I used to feel like she had all the time in the world to talk to me. I never felt rushed. And, the truth is she still does a really great job of making you feel that way. But, I remember how it was 12 years ago and now she has to move much more quickly through her patient care load.

However, her care is apparently perceived as better than any other family practice in the area. I learned that she is the most requested physician in family practice in the area. She is so busy she can't take new patients. And, if you mention her name to people who she has treated they will unanimously say something like, "I love her!" or "She is the best." Or, "I've sent all my family and friends to her."

And, there lies a lesson for all marketers. You don't have to be the best in the world at what you deliver. You only have to be the best within your own market. Because it is within your market where your services and products will be judged. 

One way to accomplish that is to use the powerful technique my doctor uses – Empathy.

When she is with you in the exam room she is there 100%. And, she makes you feel like she is seeing and feeling everything you tell her from your perspective – not hers. She does that by actively listening and attuning to what your are experiencing. She looks into your face and eyes and listens with her heart.

You can do the same thing for your customers and clients. Empathy is free. It only has a cost when you don't use it.

Has Your Banker Hugged You Lately?

If the concept of hugging and bankers strikes you as incongruous, I completely understand. However, my banker hugged me today – twice in fact. It struck me as I was leaving the bank that if more bankers were willing to hug their customers, we might have a much better appreciation for the industry in these difficult financial times.

Of course, hugs don't have to be the kind where you wrap your arms around the other person and squeeze. Hugs make you feel better. I can't think of ever having a bad one. Even from my old friend Jim from Ohio, who was the size of a bear and could squeeze the breath out of you whenever we'd meet up again after years of not seeing each other. It still felt really good.

But, back to my bank and banker. The bank is PNC and the branch is located in Chalfont, PA. The branch manager is a fantastic lady by the name of Claire Signs. She's also the hugger.

My wife Joann, who has never met Claire, called her for the first time earlier this week. Joann is a very astute judge of people and after one phone call between her and Claire, Joann couldn't say enough about what a "sweetheart" she is and what "fantastic customer service" she experienced.

A bank is just bricks and mortar – until you add the main ingredient – people. The same is true of all of our businesses – large or small.

Claire understands that as well as anyone I've ever met. My first contact with her was about two years ago. The Chalfont branch had just recently opened and Claire was its new manager. I was so overwhelmed with my first visit that I thought there must be a hidden camera recording us for a future seminar on how to deliver world class service. It was that good.

Two years later and guess what? It's just gotten better. When I asked Clarie her secret she said, "It's not hard. You just have to be nice to people and treat them how you'd want to be treated. I find out what we can do for them and then I do everything I can to make that happen."

She also obviously knows how to lead as the rest of her branch does the exact same things.

And, you know what really excites me? I've noticed in the past year when I've visited other PNC branches there are lots of changes. People are making eye contact, smiling, calling me by name, opening doors and stepping up service.

I have a suspicion Claire is also hugging her fellow bankers too.

Learn How to Recognize and Sell to the Four Personality Types

People do business with people that they know, like, and trust. Since we can’t pick or choose the “type” of person we are most likely to trust and like right away, we need to learn how to effectively with everyone’s personality style.” Learn how in this report and start increasing your sales right away!

Selling To The Four Personality Types