“Wisdom is knowing what not to do.” Tim & Bev Walden
Beverly and Tim Walden are extremely successful professional photographers living in Lexington, KY. Their list of honors, degrees and awards fills an entire page. I met them a few years ago when I heard that they were two of the best authorities on marketing for small businesses. They have traveled the world teaching photography studios how to market along with their business principles. However, what they teach applies to all types of businesses – even yours.
Tim and Beverly took over Walden’s Photography from Tim’s father in 1980, taking the studio in an entirely different direction when they developed their trademark “Relationship” Black and White Fine Art portraiture. Today, they run a high-end studio, providing beautifully crafted portraits in an elegant studio with impeccable customer service.
Take time to listen to this interview and you won’t be disappointed.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Shupei Chiao, Managing Partner of Drexel Heritage Home Furnishings and Thomasville Home Furnishings in the Phoenix, AZ and San Diego, CA markets. He also manages a real estate development arm of the private business.
Shupei grew up in Pittsburgh where his family still runs three Thomasville Furniture stores. Starting there working doing every job in the company, Shupei eventually relocated to AZ and CA where he has built one of the most successful retail furniture businesses of its type.
We talk about some of the keys to his success as well as what changes he has seen in the market place these past few years. Shupei also shares some of his ideas for future growth that can be applied to your business too.
Today is the first in a series of podcast interviews with CEO’s, company founders, entrepreneurs, and freelancers engaged in building and managing their own small business. I hope that by listening to their stories you may get some ideas for your own company plus be inspired by them. They are all successful and love what they do so sit back and hit the play button.
If you’re in a place where you can’t listen and prefer to read a transcript of the interview, I have that for you too. Just click here to be taken to a complete transcript of today’s conversation.
I am fortunate today to interview a gentleman from Lexington, KY who has built a company that is the leader in terrestrial and satellite data transmission for Point of Sale, ATM, and Electronic Funds Transfer. EchoSat was formed as a division of Tower Communications, Inc., and founded by CEO, C. L. “Lee” Rutherford. EchoSat is in the second generation of private ownership. Lee still remains active in the management of EchoSat but is assisted by a hand-picked, dedicated team of individuals and two of his three sons. Each team member addresses challenges and solutions with one thought in mind – “Our name and reputation rides on every product, service and solution we provide.”
EchoSat was originally started as a one-way only satellite group. They provided many large national retail chain outlets with customized radio networks. Their most recognizable work was the creation of KMART Radio, the Kmart Radio Network featured in all Kmart stores.
Lee has an amazing story that I think you will enjoy.
The following is an edited transcript of the audio podcast.
Hi everyone. This is Bob Poole. Welcome to the Water Cooler Hang Out.
I’m following up today on the five part series I blogged about a couple of weeks ago about customer service. I wanted to give you the outcome of my interactions with the three companies that we discussed.
Let’s start with AWeber Email Marketing. Now first, I’ve never been a customer of theirs. I was actually trying to become one and it seemed AWeber kept throwing roadblocks in my way. The last one was the final straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. What happened is they asked for my log in and my password of my current email services provider account. As it turns out, what they wanted was to access my account to double check if what I’d already told them in writing was correct. They wanted to confirm all the details and other statistics from the standpoint of how many customers I had; whether they were permission based; how many people had opted-out; how many complaints have we ever had and that type of thing.
I appreciate the fact that they wanted to make sure my list consisted of email addresses that were permission based. However, I’ve been doing this for a long time now and the information I gave them was accurate. When someone comes back to me and says we want to go check your account to see if it is what you said it was; well, that’s absolutely ridiculous. It sounded like they didn’t believe what I told them. And to ask for my log in and password? I have to tell you that my current email services provider was not happy when they read about that in my blog. I think they’ve had a few email or phone calls going back and forth with Aweber. As a side note, I did hear from several people, three in fact, who liked AWeber a lot and said they’ve used them over the years with no problems whatsoever. They heavily endorsed them. So, there’s the AWeber story; the end.
Let’s go on to Nature’s Prime Organic. This is a company that sells organic foods.
Well, they say they sell organic foods but apparently they don’t sell organic foods. If they do, or should I say when they try to, they somehow never fulfill the orders. That’s what happened with me and hundreds, if not thousands of other people. This was a Groupon coupon that I paid for a while back. Not only did I use the Groupon coupon to place my order with Nature’s Prime, I also doubled the order. So, I gave them exactly what they were looking for when they did this Groupon. But they did not fulfill my order and apparently didn’t fulfill many of the orders. All you have to do is go to the web and do some Googling. You’ll find a lot of irate people very quickly when it comes to Nature’s Prime Organic.
Now, what did they do about all of this? Nothing! They just refunded money. They gave people back their money. They didn’t apologize. They didn’t offer to do something different. They didn’t try to retain these brand new customers. I mean, if a company is trying to kill themselves they couldn’t have done it better than Nature’s Prime Organic. So, that’s the end of them too.
A third company is Avid Technologies. This is a company that I was having a problem with concerning my video software. After going back and forth for a month, the end result was that the problem I was having, which they said was impossible to have, was actually happening. It was a part of their new software and there was nothing they could do about it. So, I had emailed the CEO of Avid and he followed up with me. He was a very nice guy. He didn’t know anything about this problem I was having, of course. Once he read the blog post and knew what was going on, he had his Vice President of Customer Service follow up with a phone call to me. We had a nice chat about what happened, what went wrong, what could be different, and how things might change in the future.
So, that’s my story about Avid Technologies. I’m still a customer; still use their software right now and I’m happy. I’m happy that they followed up. I believe they are looking at some alternatives for their support, where it comes from, and how it’s handled. So, that’s a good thing.
Now, there is one more experience that I did not blog about and it’s Sony Corporation. During the time I was writing these blog posts, I decided to use a digital recorder that I’d bought a couple of years earlier. I hadn’t used it very much but I got the idea of using it to record the audio portion digitally; then do the videoing separately. That would give me two different tracks and allow me to do some things from an editing standpoint that I just wanted to try. So, I got out this new recorder. Although it’s new to me; it was a couple of years old.
The first thing I noticed was the software drivers weren’t compatible with Windows 7, either 32 or 64. I looked for a download for the drivers and supposedly found one at Sony, but as it turned out there really wasn’t one. I talked to customer service at Sony and was told that there wasn’t a driver for that recorder for Windows 7; nor would there be a driver. They had a work around for me that was basically to turn it into an analog device which defeats the purpose of having a digital recorder. And, of course if I did that, it wouldn’t work for what I wanted to use it for. I went back and forth with them a couple of times explaining that was not satisfactory and their solution wasn’t an answer. I asked if they would be willing to exchange this recorder for one that was supported by Windows 7. Their response was, “no, they couldn’t do that”. It got to the point where it was like: OK that’s it; we’re done and we are not talking to you anymore because we’ve given you all of the answers we can.
Once again, I wrote a letter, this time to the CEO of Sony Corporation. No, the CEO of Sony did not call me. I got a follow up phone call from another department of theirs and they’re very, very good people. This was great customer service! They basically said to me, you know, we’re really sorry. We did our checking and you’re right; there is no driver. We talked to engineering and there’s not going to be a driver for this device. The guy who called me said, personally, you know, I’m not happy that we’re not going to be supporting this under Windows 7; so what can we do for you? Here’s what we want to propose. They proposed that I look in their online products catalog, find a recorder that I wanted and they’d be happy to sell it to me at their cost, which as you might guess is fairly significant. I took a look around their product catalog and I found a digital recorder that’s going to be perfect for the audio tracks of my videos. I purchased it and now I’m happy. I now have a recorder that works with Windows 7 and, in fact, it’s a better recorder than the one I had the first time around. Sony has a customer for a new product; a product that I’ll be using for some time and probably will upgrade to a newer one when the time comes. All and all, it was handled very well once the problem made it passed the first line of customer services at Sony.
That’s what happens sometimes with companies, especially large companies. The people at the first line; the ones you call for support or customer service just don’t have the authority to make the kind of decisions that the CEO, or whomever they delegate the issue to, can make. That’s a lesson for all businesses out there; especially small businesses. Don’t act like a big business; a big company when dealing in customer service. The answer to good customer service is the same thing that I always talk about and that is to listen. You need to listen to your customers. That’s the first thing you do… listen. The second thing you need to do is let to them know that you heard them. Let them know that you not only heard them, but that you understood them. That’s very important. That way we don’t have communication mix ups and things don’t deteriorate even further. And the third thing you need to do is take action and follow up. Sony did a great job in following up. It’s a matter of actually doing what you say you’re going to do and trying to make what was a bad situation into a really great situation. That’s my formula for customer service success. First of all, listen. Then let people know that you heard what they said and that you understand what they said. And then, follow up and do what you say you were going to do. That’s it. It’s not too difficult and it’s certainly not a secret.
So thank you today for being at the Water Cooler Hang Out. Thank you as always for listening and for reading. Have a great day.
Seth Godin and I sat down the other day to talk about his new book, Poke the Box. It is the fastest selling book of his 12 best sellers and that is all the more remarkable because it is the first box from The Domino Project which is an independent publishing imprint founded by Seth. For all those authors who still think you must have a “name publisher” to be successfully spread your ideas, Seth and The Domino Project are proving you wrong.
Seth started The Domino Project with two goals:
He wants to change the people who read (not enough do)
He wants to change the way books are published (they’re too hard to find and spread).
Here’s our interview. It is 15 minutes.
Here are some resources for you to learn more about Poke the Box and The Domino Project.
Here is an interview I just completed with Dr. Loren Cordain, the rockstar and godfather of The Paleo Diet along with Nell Stephenson. The two of them along with Lorrie Cordain co-authored a brand new recipe book entitled, “The Paleo Diet Cookbook: More than 150 recipes for Paleo Breakfasts, Lunches, Dinners, Snacks, and Beverages.”
Nell is a ten time Iron Man Tri-Athlete and has qualified for the World Championship four times. You’ll want to hear what she says about Paleo and endurance sports.
Loren is the world’s foremost authority on the evolutionary basis of diet and disease. Featured on Dateline NBC, the front page of the Wall Street journal, and the New York Times, Loren Cordain is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading experts on the natural human diet of our Stone Age ancestors.