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Customer Experience

Here Come Da’ Judge

by Jen Kuhn on November 3, 2013

Done. Finished. Betrayed. I surrender.

Even my dog surrenders to the sea of leaves that permeate every fiber of our being. *dramatic flare IMAG1096-1-1duly noted

My yard is a gardeners’ dream, a tree lovers paradise, and my own personal hell. Trees galore are tantamount to a bountiful harvest of dead leaves. Dead. Useless. Crunchy until it rains.

Crappy service baffles yet surrounds me. I’ve hired numerous lawn service providers to remove this colorful harvest. They’ve made big promises. Big. Promises. They have yet to deliver on their promise of a leaf-free zone. I’ll concede, it’s a Herculean task. I’ve over 70 trees. But don’t tell me you can do the job if you plan on doing it in a half-assery sort of way. To wit, I pay for leaf removal and still need leaf removal after said job was completed-ish-y.

I blame them. I blame myself. They provide mediocrity and I, in exasperation, pay for mediocrity.


I am entertaining another bid for leaf removal services. 70-plus trees have earned bragging rights to an estimate. To their honor, they mass over 300 bags of leaves per season. Booyah! I’m winning the Leaf Accumulation Award. Going for gold.

A daunting task. Unless. You. Claim. Your. Business. Is. In. The. Leaf. REMOVAL. Business. Just sayin’. It shouldn’t daunt you.

After 7 years of jackassery contractors, I am going to document The Leaf Removal Incident of 2013. (Don’t question the “incident” status. I usually nail these things).

Pictures. Before and (hopefully leaf-free) after pictures. Once I find a contractor that talks the talk, I will write a contract (Judge Judy has persuaded me to do this. Don’t judge, we already have Judy). Will this service provider fulfill the contract? Remove leaves as promised while frothing at the mouth for payment? Or will I, yet again, need to finish the job or leave it incomplete to the judgment of my Lawn Olympic Neighbors?

You will see the before and after pictures. YOU will be da’ judge. Has service integrity fallen to the trap of the lowest bidder? Or will work ethic prevail?

Court’s in session. Here come da’ judge.

And for your listening pleasure…a favorite of mine from 1968.

Rock on. Stay posted. Leaf on. Leaf in. Leaf out.

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Customer Service: The X Factor

by Jen Kuhn on August 22, 2011

Revolve your world around the customer and more customers will revolve around you. ~Heather Williams

There are 6 levels of customer service:

  1. Poor
  2. Service Recovery
  3. Neutral
  4. Good
  5. Excellent
  6. The X Factor

Let’s talk about Levels 5 and 6.

As consumers, when an employee does their job well, we typically consider that excellent and exceptional.  The Experience Factor says, “Raise your standards!”

Excellent service is a bit rare, like spotting a Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat.  It occurs when you, the customer, experience a level of service that is not only exceptional, it’s unexpected, welcomed and memorable.

The X Factor is when a business or employee delivers a level of service that leaves the consumer in awe.  The X Factor is when a business or employee makes a conscious effort to exceed your expectations, provide a personalized experience and excel at every touch point.  It’s about a 1% difference between excellent and X Factor.  It’s an employee mindset: always looking for ways to take it up a notch, to make the difference.  The X Factor is the rarest of service experiences.

Ask our clients: we are educated consumers who have high standards. It’s our job to educate our clients in order to take their service to the X Factor level (that’s level 6! I haven’t even achieved that level with Angry Birds!).

When was the last time you experienced X Factor service? Was it really the X Factor, or was it just a “given”?  Throw some examples at us!  And what about your business…do you have the X Factor?  We will give you our opinion.  And remember, we can agree to disagree, as long as you know we’re right!

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Respect THIS.

by Jen Kuhn on October 25, 2010

Self-absorbed leaders of the world: You are done.  Over-cooked. Fried. Put a fork in yourself.  Or, please, seriously, please, let me. 

Just this weekend I heard a supposed “leader” DEMAND respect from his “subordinate”! *Eavesdrop moment*: “You must respect me! I am your BOSS.” The demand was based solely upon TITLE.  Seriously?  That works for you?  Excuse me while I throw up a little in my mouth.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T!  Find out what it means to me!

Let’s start with:

Behaviors: Don’t say one thing and live/do another. Your title can sit in the bottom of my toilet…with the rest of the sh-tuff.  EARN respect.

Attitude: Ummm, nursery rhymes have a “king of the castle”.  Move on, please. EARN respect.

Fear: You may be the big dog, but you ain’t the only dog.  By the way, you might want to wipe that drool, you’re starting to froth at the mouth. EARN respect.

Ultimatums: Trump! You lose! Play that big card and wait til you see what I’ve been holding.  Don’t ever mistake my compassion for weakness. EARN respect.

Duplicity: If you choose to live without integrity, don’t expect me to follow along.  You are so FLAGRANT you’re see-through.  EARN respect.

If you must demand respect, you have NOT earned respect.  Get a clue.  See a therapist.  Or, could you just this once, for old times sake, be self-reflective? Nah, see a therapist.  Who are we kidding here?  If you think your title/name/job/status/etc EARNS you respect, then you need to start over.  Way over. If you don’t know what I’m saying, then this probably applies to YOU!

Blind compliance brings abuse of power, genocide, terrorism, ignorance, enabling, fear, corruption and all sorts of nastiness.  If you CANNOT or CHOOSE NOT to lead with integrity, compassion, morality, nobility, honesty, gentleness, understanding, empathy, sincerity, transparency, insight, wisdom, peace, courage, dignity,  perception and acceptance…THEN PLEASE, step down.  Accept who you are, and move along.  We NEED more.  We do NOT judge.  We just know what we NEED.

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Customer Service Wake Up Call

by Jen Kuhn on September 24, 2010

There are certain expectations consumers have of businesses.  They are just a given, with no questions asked.  For example, when you eat at a restaurant you expect that you will not get food poisoning.  When you take your clothes to the dry cleaner, you expect they will not lose them or give them to another customer.  When you fly on an airline, you expect that you will arrive at your destination (eventually).  These are basic consumer expectations that most reasonable people do not question.

I recently stayed at a hotel (The Crowne Plaza) while visiting a client.  As I unpacked my clothes and continued preparing for the presentation I would be delivering, I noticed a sign on the nightstand.  It stated, “If we do not provide your wake up call at the requested time, your stay is free!”  The small print stated that taxes and room charges still applied.

On the surface, this sign seemed like a reasonable deal.  However, as I began to get ready for bed, the sign became menacing.  What compelled them to make this offer?  How many times did they forget to provide a wake up call that required them to spend money and time marketing this promise?  What were the consequences to the guests who had overslept as a result of the hotel forgetting to give them a wake up call?  Did someone miss an important meeting, a big event or a job interview????

The seed had been planted.  I was now concerned that they would not fulfill the basic expectations of staying at their hotel: a simple wake up call.  They may as well had signs stating: “If there is no running water in the morning, breakfast is on us!”; “If we call and awaken you in the middle of the night, we will apologize profusely!”; “If you get bed bugs as a result of sleeping here, you’re gonna hate us!”  Ya’ think?

Businesses beware! When you have to promise to deliver basic expectations, you may want to take a closer look at the customer experience you’re creating.  If I expect it, don’t promise to do it: get it done.

Would you like to give a business a wake up call?  We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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The Apple iPhone 4 has a Death Grip on YOU

by Jen Kuhn on July 14, 2010

If you own an Apple iPhone 4, I give you my condolences.  Right now, Apple has you in a consumer death grip.  The problem as you know, is that the antennae on the phone causes dropped calls when the user holds the phone a certain way (umm, the way you hold a phone in order to speak).  And you know Steve Job’s solution: “Just avoid holding it that way.”  Another solution offered has been for you, the consumer, to purchase a case from Apple that prevents the dropped calls. Wow. What a concept. I’ll give you a faulty product so you can purchase more of my products to fix my mistake. Genius I tell ya’. OR, you could use duct tape. Cuh-lassy. OR, Apple could recall a product that they spent more time hyping than researching.

Is it too much to ask for no glitches in a product that millions of people purchased?  I don’t think so.  When Apple creates hype that is surreal, I expect the same from the product.  What do you think, Consumer?

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What’s Your Purple Goldfish?

by Jen Kuhn on April 20, 2010

I am all about excellent customer service.  I look for it, I live it, I teach it, I coach it and above all I expect it.  A company gets my attention and can earn my loyalty when they exceed my expectations.  Otherwise it’s just another business and just another stop on my already way too long to do list.

Notice that I said exceeds my expectations.  Being friendly, making eye contact, greeting me, thanking me, being available to help me, knowing your product and services, are the basic ingredients for customer service.  Doing these things is what is expected, at least in my mind, and doesn’t create that memorable experience.

Raise your hand if you have received excellent customer service that exceeded your basic expectations in the last month. In the last 6 months?  In the last year?  If you raised your hand (you can lower it now) then you have a purple goldfish.

Let me explain a little bit about what a purple goldfish is.

Stan Phelps describes a purple goldfish as anytime a business goes above and beyond to provide ‘a little something extra.’  It’s that unexpected surprise that’s thrown in.  Stan’s rules for a purple goldfish are experiences that are Relevant, Unexpected, Limited, Expression and Sticky.

I found myself racking my brain to find my purple goldfish experiences.  I kept struggling between what I thought was expected service and what would be a purple goldfish.  A purple goldfish is when Zappos upgrades my shipping with no charge to me.  The expectation is that I get the item I ordered.  A purple goldfish is when my dry cleaner gives me dog treats for my dog.  The expectation is that they clean my clothes for a reasonable price.  A purple gold fish is when Southwest Airlines allows your bags to fly for free.  The expectation is that my bags actually arrive with me at my destination. I think you get the idea.

Not only is a purple goldfish when a business exceeds your expectations, it’s also how a business differentiates themselves in their market place.  As Stan talks about in his Purple Goldfish Project businesses have little control over their market size, competition and the business environment.  What they do have control over is how they differentiate themselves in their market and among their competition, regardless of the business environment.

So what is YOUR purple goldfish?  Stan is collecting examples and we would love to hear from you.  To submit your purple goldfish visit the Purple Goldfish Project or you can submit it below and I will make sure Stan gets it!

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The Untapped Market of Customer Service

by Jen Kuhn on April 14, 2010

I find little evidence of a positive customer service trend in businesses today.  I look for it at every opportunity.  I’m like a scientist, analyzing the data and concluding that most employees and companies don’t give a rip about their customers.  The average consumer receives below average service.  I’ve conducted scientific research.  The data supports my findings.  My research is highly respected in the scientific community.  The technical term for this scientific approach is called “shopping”.  I’ve listed behaviors of employees that support the fact that excellent customer service is an untapped market:

1. Argue with me:

If I present a problem or issue with your service or product, arguing with me makes you look bad.  Don’t give me excuses, show me results.  Remember: The customer may not always be right, but we must always do right by the customer.

2. Throw a policy at me:

“I’m sorry, that’s our policy.” Really? That’s all you got? Puh-leaze. Managers throughout the world, hear me roar, “Don’t let those words come out of your employees’ mouths ever again!”  If you have to quote a policy to me then you should not be in business. Seriously, hand over the keys to the store and let’s shut ‘er down. Customer service is about explaining the policy, not quoting it. If you don’t understand the necessity of the policy maybe you should consider changing it or learn why it’s important. If you’re still lost, ask yourself: does this policy protect our customers?

    3. Memorize your lines:

    You’re an employee, not an actor. What’s with the script? An employee from my bank recently called me in an attempt to sell me some kind of insurance.  It was so obvious he was reading a script. “Hello, *insert name here*, I’m calling to tell you about *insert product here*. This will help your children and spouse in case of your untimely death.” Wow, sign me up.  The fact that I don’t have children or a spouse seems to elude you.  And call me crazy, but I would never consider my death “timely”.  Please, take the time to know what you are offering without the need for a script.  Show me you care and maybe I’ll listen.

      These are just 3 customer service behaviors that drive customers away.  Imagine how many more exist within your company. By improving your customer service you will be tapping into a market that many businesses have overlooked.  Go for it! Your bottom line depends on it.

      Please share your thoughts on customer service gone awry.  What drives you crazy?  Is it a short drive?  We’d love to hear your thoughts…

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      Wanted: Inspiration

      by Jen Kuhn on March 28, 2010

      “I’ll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there’s evidence of any thinking going on inside it.” ~Terry Pratchett

      I’m sitting in a hotel room.  It looks exactly like the one I was in last week. That idea comforts and disturbs me.  I could be anywhere.  Yet according to this ad, this is what business travel looks like: YouTube Preview Image

      Yep, that’s me, prancing across the lobby. If that’s supposed to be my check-in experience, I’m doing something wrong.  Yet when I checked-in this morning, there was a difference: the person working at the front desk (Jimmy).  His attitude pulled me out of what I call my “travel apathy” (if you say it really fast, it’s one word).  You just said it 3 times, didn’t you?

      He noted I’d been a guest here before and welcomed me back.  I responded politely (that’s travel apathy). He asks, “What do you do that allows you to travel so much?”  I gave him the 30 second, canned version (what’s it called? Yep…travel apathy).  He gave me a great big smile, “That must be so much fun! AND you get to travel.” Someone drank the kool-aid.

      Suddenly I felt like I owed him more than polite responses, because he was connecting, being real, being human.  And…he knocked the travel apathy right outta me!  I was actually reminded that I love what I do, and that’s why I do it.  I expanded on my response and allowed myself to connect.  May not seem like much to you, but I’d left for the airport at 5 AM, and I prefer to only see 5 in the PM.

      Jimmy reminded me that I’m here for a reason. He reminded me. And I guess Mr. Marriott is not just blogging (Home), he’s inspiring.  One of his employees is making a difference.

      So who will you inspire?  One person can make a difference.  You won’t always know the who, what, when, where, how and why…but you will inspire.  Go for it.

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      Are your employees giving customers heartburn?

      by Jen Kuhn on February 18, 2010

      A few weeks ago I wrote a post on customer loyalty.  I am wondering when companies will actually start to understand that paying attention to your loyal customers actually pays!  Many companies talk about creating loyalty, they even create programs to give you the illusion of being a recognized and loyal customer.  Yet few companies follow through on their promise to their loyal customers.  Loyal customers still have to jump through hoops.  Loyal customers still have to fight for what they have been promised.  Loyal customers have to work hard to get the recognition they deserve.  Companies that do this to their loyal customers secretly hope we don’t actual follow through.

      I have been a loyal “member” at my credit union for over 10 years.  I say “member” because credit unions don’t have customers they have “members.”  This is supposed to be the key difference between a credit union and a bank.  This distinction has been lost on me.  I have what they call a premium checking account.  I actually pay a six dollar per month fee for this premium account.  It comes with extra benefits such as free checks, free bill pay, overdraft protection and bunch of other stuff that in all honesty that means nothing to me.  Now why I pay six dollars every month is really beyond me.  It’s one of those things that you never seem to get around to questioning or canceling.

      About every 3 years I order a box of checks.  Personally I hate writing checks but on the rare occasion I do need to write a check.  My premium account offers me a free box of checks every year.  So when I reached my last set of checks I placed an order, following the instructions included with the checks.  Today I checked my account and I was charged over thirty dollars for the so called free checks.  Of course I immediately called my credit union and got the opportunity to speak with Spring, a member service representative.  I was not recognized as a loyal or long term member and I was grilled with question after question before Spring would even help me.  I realize it’s for my “protection” but seriously 5 questions to verify my identity?  When I finally got the chance, I questioned the charge and she took 2 minutes to pull up my account, how did she know if my answers to her litany of questions were actually correct?  She then quickly put me on hold for over 7 minutes.  I love that my phone has a timer on it!  She didn’t ask my permission to hold and she never checked back while I was on hold.  When she finally came back on the line she promptly told me that since I ordered premium checks I would not be reimbursed for the cost of the checks.

      Normally I am cool under pressure and in circumstances like this, you do catch more flies with honey.  Just as I was about to lose it since clearly Spring had no idea what she was talking about or doing I asked for a supervisor.  The supervisor proceed to argue with me.  I quickly reached for my stress ball and began squeezing it to maintain my cool.

      When I asked her why I pay six dollars every month, she had no answer.  When asked her if they valued my business, she had no answer.  When I asked her what she was going to do to fix the problem, she had an answer.  I had to do all the work.  Not the answer I was looking for as a loyal member and premium checking account holder. After 20 minutes, yes 20 minutes, I finally got the resolve I was looking for.  I had to fight for it.  I had to take precious time out of my day just to get was promised to me.

      My advice to companies, if you are trying to create loyal customers, create an extraordinary experience for them.  Make it easy to do business with you.  Keep your promises.  Treat your customers with respect.  Find ways to provide service not self-service.

      Your company is creating memorable experiences for your customers, the question is what kind of memories do your customers have?  Right now, I have nothing but heart burn!  Not the experience or moment of truth I was looking for!

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      Be on the Lookout! Your business is counting on YOU

      by Jen Kuhn on January 31, 2010

      Have you ever heard the term, “moment of truth”? As in, “Jen had a moment of truth when she realized how out of shape she was”. Well, that is one accurate use of that expression. But when it comes to customer service, there is another meaning to the term, “moment of truth”, and it has absolutely nothing to do with my lack of stamina on a treadmill.

      What is a moment of truth? It is a powerful concept for any manager and employee to understand. Let me elaborate…

      What if I were to tell you that you are already fully aware of this concept…that you were aware of it before you even started working? You’ve experienced moments of truth almost every day of your life. Any time you’ve entered a business, you were experiencing the phenomenon of “moments of truth”!

      Let’s define the concept, so you can understand how you’ve had this experience and never even knew it. A moment of truth is anytime a customer comes into contact with any element of your business and has the opportunity to form an opinion about your service quality. Wow. That’s a big statement. And it’s happening at your business as you read this. Must be important, huh?

      So now let me explain how this occurs at every type of business you’ve ever entered, and then we’ll come back to what’s going on at your business.

      I have the wonderful opportunity to travel all over the country, meet extraordinary people working toward a common goal and experience moments of truth in various businesses. In my life, it usually begins at the airport, but let’s look at other businesses one might encounter. This hotel, for starters!

      I may be more critical than the average consumer because a large part of my professional life consists of identifying excellent service experiences. But you be the judge… I am staying at a hotel that advertises itself as a “first rate hotel”. I would hate to experience what they would classify “second rate”. Tell me what you think.

      Arriving in the late evening, I am somewhat tired. I have little difficulty finding the hotel because they have a large sign that is displayed quite well. This is much appreciated by the weary road warrior. As I navigate the parking lot, I discover that there is no place to park that is fewer than 172 miles from the entrance. Nice. Good thing that I packed light…oh wait, that wasn’t me.

      As I struggle with my suitcase, briefcase and extra bag I like to call “heavy”, I make my way toward the entrance. I am quite pleased to see that they have automatic doors. I continue my struggle toward the front desk. No one is there. No bell to ring, so I try the old standby…subtle cough (i.e. no phlegm involved) and key jingle.

      Finally, this guy appears out of nowhere. He is wearing a heavy jacket, and no identifying name tag or hotel insignia. But apparently he works there because he says, “Sorry about that”.

      I give him my name so he can verify my reservation. While he is doing this, he gestures to the TV in the lobby that is blaring in the background. “Ever watch this show?’ he wonders. Umm…no. But his enthusiasm is quite contagious. He begins to explain the concept of this latest reality show (designed to reduce the few working brain cells I have remaining) in a way that would impress the producers. Admittedly, I am absolutely charmed by his charisma. He appears genuinely invested in connecting with me. That is, until his cell phone rings. He answers it, “Hey, what up?” (Hey, that’s exactly what I wanted to ask!). Please note…I am reporting this incident EXACTLY as it unfolded.

      The rest of my check in experience was watching him juggle the phone, my credit card and room key while typing information and telling his caller things I wished I hadn’t heard. Once he completed the process, he courteously leaned his head to the far right to motion where the elevators were located. Why thank you Mr. Manners!

      Upon exiting the elevator I noticed a distinct odor. Not as in “distinct good”. I made it to my room, opened the door and was thoroughly unimpressed. No big deal. I was just glad to see the bed. The room was not exceptionally clean, and there was a questionable stain on the carpet (and that’s what socks are for!). Later in the evening I was also treated to the local infestation of ladybugs. Cute little guys, but I learned that they bite when provoked! Not that I spent any time provoking them, but an employee at the business I was working with the next day gave me a stern warning the about the danger of ladybugs.

      The hotel advertised “wireless internet access in every room”. They forgot to mention, “at another hotel”. The hotel guy encouraged me to bring my laptop to the lobby and “hope for a connection there”. Instead, I tried closing my eyes and clicking my heels.

      The rest of my stay was quite consistent with what I’ve described…except at check out. My cell phone lovin’ hotel guy was there to see me on my way. I asked for directions to the airport, and he was like Mapquest, only accurate! One little quirk of mine is an amazing inability to navigate with or without directions. I recognize exceptional directions when I hear them. And these were quite exceptional! I made it to the airport in record time that had nothing to do with speeding. Or not that much. In any case, the directions saved the day.

      So…back to “moments of truth”. Let’s dissect this experience like a lab rat. I’ll list my moments of truth at the hotel as I encountered them…
      • Large, well-lit sign with hotel name
      • Parking lot
      • Doors that open automatically
      • Lobby (how does it look, etc)
      • Greeter (or lack thereof) at front desk
      • Professional image of hotel employee (which can include appearance, attitude, ability to build rapport, knowledge, friendliness, accuracy, not answering his cell phone while waiting on me…)
      • Cleanliness of the hotel (including elevator, bathrooms, hallways, workspace, rooms, etc)
      • Working amenities (internet access, in my case)
      • Handling of complaints
      • Speed of check in and out
      • Accuracy with information (directions, etc)

      As you can see, there were quite a few moments of truth that occurred both in and out of the hotel. Some included employees and some did not. There were others not mentioned, such as the hotel website, how they answered the phone, their rates, etc. There were many opportunities for me to come into contact with any element of the hotel and form an opinion about their service quality. Are you starting to see the relationship to customers and your business?

      What do customers experience at your business…what are their moments of truth? Here are some things to think about as you ponder the customer experience. Moments of truth at your business include, but are not limited to:
      • Your website (is it easy to navigate, does it give accurate, up-to-date information?)
      • Parking lot
      • Signage
      • Product brochures (availability, accuracy, etc)
      • Lobby, number of locations
      • Greeting upon entering
      • Wait time to see an employee
      • Phone system…it may be automated, but can they press zero to speak to someone?
      • Complaint resolution (is it timely, well done and preventable in the future)
      • Employees (are they fast, accurate, friendly, knowledgeable? Do they make suggestions about services that will improve the customers experience? Do they follow up, go the extra mile, provide consistency and always maintain a professional image?)
      • Is it easy to do business with you?

      There are more moments of truth, but that should get you thinking! Remember the definition: anytime a customer comes into contact with any element of your business and has the opportunity to form an opinion about your service quality. You have a great deal of influence on your customer’s experience. I encourage you to challenge yourself and co-workers to make each moment of truth positive for your customers.

      The next time you are in any business, assess your experience through each moment of truth. You will begin to have a deeper understanding of what your customers experience at your business, and you will also have a greater awareness of what it is like to live in my head! It’s tough in here people! I do this for a living and am endlessly aware of moments of truth in every business I enter…and treadmill I avoid.

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