Articles Tagged ‘customer service’

“Undercover Boss” Uncovers Bad Leadership

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

After watching season after season of “Undercover Boss” I’m thinking we need a show called “Undercover Employees.” They could find out what their bosses are doing.

“Undercover Boss” is an American reality television series, based on the British series of the same name and producted by Studio Lambert in both countries. Just as the title suggests, the boss goes undercover to see what his entry-level employees are doing.

Two things that seem glaring; there is little customer service training and “bosses” don’t know what’s going on in their businesses. In fact, most of the bosses are amazed at what’s going on!

I was watching the “Undercover Boss” last week and was disturbed by the boss’s decisions. He was very generous with the employees he worked with, giving them large sums of money. The problem, as I see it, is that people were getting money to help with their “troubled lives” but weren’t asked to “better themselves” or attend schools, so they could obtain leadership positions.

My hunch is the people will spend their money, have great vacations or new toys but what will they have learned? I believe that people will be more apt to change if there are some conditions to these generous gifts. In fact, I feel so strongly about it, I sent a letter to the “Undercover Boss” and sent some customer service books. I don’t know if I’ll get an answer, but maybe the letter with my suggestions will get read! My biggest gripe, where in the business world do people get free handouts with no “strings attached?” And what’s the point if the gift isn’t connected with your business?

One great thing about the program is that bosses get to understand their employee struggles and help them grow. One of the best ways to help them grow is to provide opportunities for them to advance within the organization. Promoting good employees is essential to their learning.

In order for a business to perform adequately the “boss” must be able to communicate with his employees.

There must be a way for the boss to know what their employees are doing without spying on them. This reminds me of mystery shopping; another task that I think is ridiculous. If you think your employees are not acting appropriately they probably aren’t. This problem usually starts when a company doesn’t have a suitable training and accountability program. Teaching and training is one thing, if you don’t hold people accountable for what’s expected to don’t waste the training program. CEO’s must create a business model that is in line with the customer’s and employee’s needs.

Everything goes back to customer service and how customers are being treated. Front line employees are the ones who need the training and usually get the least amount. Because they’re not seen as the ones who “bring in the money,” they typically don’t get best training.

So far, 100% of the companies have leaders who have no idea of what’s going on in their businesses. How sad.

Many of the problems could be avoided if the leader spent time reading employee evaluations and staying in touch with their businesses. No matter what business you have, the only thing that makes it work is the customers. The first customer of any business is the employees.

Lisbeth Calandrino
Fabulous Floors
Associate Publisher & Director of Consumer Research
lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com

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Zappos Is Different (Case Studies of Great Companies)

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

I. Overview

Tony Hsieh wants to want to come to work

In 1998 Tony Hsieh was unhappy at the dot-com company he founded (LinkExchange), so he sold it to Microsoft for $265 million. But Tony was not ready to retire–he wanted to run a company where he would be happy to come to work.

That place was and is Zappos, known for selling shoes online (they sell clothing and other things, too) and their outrageously good customer service.

How did this successful combination of Hsieh and Zappos come about?

1) As if he were a venture capital god creating a myriad of worlds, Hsieh funded some 20-odd companies and tracked their evolution to find the one that was having the most fun (Zappos)
2) Hsieh proceeded to get Zappos company founder Nick Swinmurn (he couldn’t find the shoes he wanted, so he founded Zappos) to hire him as his CEO.
3) As CEO, Hsieh had this company of happy employees set down on paper the culture of the company by sharing what it meant to work at Zappos
4) Hsieh then took this information shared by the employees and articulated a written set of core values
5) Having laid out this set of core values Hsieh made certain that decision-making at Zappos was consciously driven by them: hiring, customer service ethic, way to treat employees, compensation and promotions, openness to new ideas, etc. are informed by the culture encapsulated in these principles

Hsieh’s targeting Zappos as the place he wanted to work and his enhancement of a company culture that was already successful has paid off for the company, its customers, and its employees. Consistent growth by Zappos led to $1 billion in annual sales in 2008, beating their internal goal to $1 billion by two years. Customers are cult-like in their following of Zappos and it is borne out by Zappos being in the top 10 for Customer’s Choice Awards in 2010 and winning the 2011 Stevie award for Sales & Customer Service. Another internal goal that they reached was making Fortune’s list of the Top 100 Companies to Work For in 2009 (#23) and the February 7th Issue of this year listed Zappo’s up to number 6 on that measure of employee satisfaction. Even though Zappos was sold to Amazon.com in 2009, Hsieh is still the CEO and “Zappos” lives on as a semi-autonomous entity within Amazon, with its culture and systems virtually intact.

And as testimony to its ability to go its own way, Zappos is in the process (it began in part in 2013, and is continuing as of May 2014) of implementing a hierarchy-averse culture in name as well as in practice. This business model is known as holacracry, whose concept is to “replace the traditional corporate chain of command with a series of overlapping, self-governing ‘circles.’ In theory, this gives employees more of a voice in the way the company is run.” Time will tell if Hsieh’s bet on this counter-mainstream paradigm pays off.

Zappos is Different

Zappos differentiates itself from other online retail establishments by its focus on customer service and making it easy for a customer to buy and to like the company:

1. There is a 365-day return policy
2. A phone number where the customer can contact a live representative of the company appears on each page of the web site (in contrast to other web-based companies who are unable to be reached by phone); Zappos’ philosophy is that the phone is an excellent means to build rapport and develop life-long customers
3. Only items that are actually available are listed for sale on the site
4. Surprise upgrades to overnight delivery and other wow experiences encourage customers to tell their friends about the super customer service
5. If Zappos is out of an item, they will even help the customer to find the item on another website (as their aim is lifetime loyalty, not just a quick sale)
6. The emphasis is on the customer and meeting their needs, as demonstrated by Zappos’ policy of not measuring the duration of calls of employees as a criterion for success

Fueling the excellence of customer service delivery is the culture of the company employees, which is reinforced by Hsieh and other Zappos management:

1. Every employee goes through call-center experience, underlining the importance of the front-line employees
2. There are no scripts for the call center personnel; they are to use their unique personality to connect with the customers
3. Spontaneous parades and celebrations may break out (and are encouraged) at any time among the employees
4. In order to foster transparency of the company, tours are conducted regularly throughout the whole of the company
5. After training, an employee is given the opportunity to quit for $2,000, thus weeding out those employees just there for the money–overall it saves time and money spent on such employees
6. Each year the company publishes its massive “Culture Book” which is composed of statements from the employees describing their view of Zappos company culture
7. Potential employees go through two interview processes, one for professional skills and the other for their personality. The hiring process seeks to hire those individuals that have an affinity to the existing culture
8. Numerous perks are available for Zappos employees — free lunches, no-charge vending machine, company library, a nap room, and free health care.
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Union Square Hospitality Group (Case Studies of Great Companies)

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

I. Overview

Danny Meyer started his first restaurant, Union Square Cafe, in 1985, and has since gone on to have (at last count) 12 highly-rated restaurants in New York City. Each of the restaurants calls upon his passion and creativity. They must add something new and compelling, such as in his Indian-inspired Restaurant, Tabla, which utilizes the unique flavoring of Indian spices blended with French culinary technique and American hospitality.

In fact, Danny won’t start a new restaurant (others are in the works) unless these several criteria hold:

1. “I am passionate about the subject matter (i.e., early American folk antiques, modern art, jazz, barbecue)”

2. “I know I will derive some combination of challenge, satisfaction, and pleasure from the venture.”

3. “It presents meaningful opportunities for professional growth for my colleagues and me.”

4. “The new business will add something to the dialogue in a specific context, such as luxury dining (Gramercy Tavern), museum dining (The Modern, Cafe 2, and Terrace 5 at the
Museum of Modern Art), Indian dining (Tabla), barbecue (Blue Smoke), or burgers and frozen custard (Shake Shack)”

5. “Financial projections indicate the possibility of sufficient profit and returns on our investment to warrant the risk we’re undertaking”

Adhering to this formula has paid off for Meyer as his the Union Square Hospitality Group has had as many as three of the five “Most Popular” restaurants in a single New York Zagat Survey.

Crucial to Meyer’s success has been his vision of hospitality, something that started as an intuitive feel and has since been articulated into a systematic approach that he infuses into each of his restaurants. The distinction between service and hospitality has been crucial to the passion with which New Yorkers embrace Meyer’s restaurants. Meyer sees service as “the technical delivery of a product. In contrast, hospitality is how the delivery of that product makes its recipient feel.” Meyer characterizes service as a monologue, but hospitality is a dialogue. Union Square Hospitality Group makes sure that the service is top of the mark, but hospitality has been the ingredient that has pushed their restaurants to the top.

II. Focal Strategy: Hiring by the 51% Solution

Pivotal in delivering top-of-the-line hospitality for its customers, as well as service, is Meyer’s concept of hiring talent by the 51% solution, in which emotional skills of a potential employee are weighted higher than technical skills. To achieve excellence,
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EMPOWER YOUR EMPLOYEES… OR ELSE!!!

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

DannyOmalia

The late Joe O’Malia was a master at empowering the employees of his companies to make decisions based on the best interests of THE CUSTOMER. Not many companies today trust their employees to make decisions. Those that do will offer the best service.

In order to be able to empower your people on the level of, oh, say a Nordstrom or a Chick-Fil-A, you must first be VERY CAREFUL whom you hire. You must hire only those who are capable of fitting into your company’s culture. This takes a great deal of thought and effort. There are companies that can help you screen potential employees but whatever you do, be careful to hire the right person.

You must then take the time to properly TRAIN the employee in the skills of the job but also to help them understand that culture and help them desire to add to the culture rather than to detract from it. My experience is that in tough times companies cut back on things like proper hiring procedures and training. That’s the worst thing a company can do.

When asked why she’d been such a successful business woman, the late Mary Kay Ash (Mary Kay Cosmetics) answered, “I tried to hire really nice people and then I tried to let them be as nice as they could be.”

And that means EMPOWERED EMPLOYEES. Employees who feel free to break a rule or two if it’s in the best interest of the customer. Which reminds me of a great Nordstrom story!

A harried businessman rushed into a Nordstrom store in a mall at 5:00 PM and hurried to the perfume counter. He asked the SERVICE person if they carried a certain brand of perfume, explaining that this was his anniversary and he had to meet his wife for dinner in one hour and he had done NO planning. The clerk told him the store didn’t carry that brand but said she might be able to help, asking him how long he’d be at the mall.

The customer, obviously quite nervous, told her he had stops to make at the florist and candy store in the mall. She told him to come back in a half hour and she’d have THE perfume for him. He trusted her. IT WAS NORDSTROM.

As he left, the SERVICE person hailed her fellow employee and asked her to watch both counters while she took care of a customer. That employee was glad to help. So she left the store, went to Macy’s at the other end of the mall (which she knew carried THE perfume), bought the perfume, returned and wrapped it, and when the customer showed up with candy and flowers, THE perfume was waiting and wrapped.

Several things here:

• The husband went to NORDSTROM—no place else—with his problem.
• Both SERVICE LADIES broke rules by leaving their posts.
• The first SERVICE LADY no doubt broke a rule by going to Macy’s, buying the product there and selling it at Nordstrom (or maybe not—Nordstrom has very few rules for employees when it comes to SERVICE).
• How was that for TEAMWORK?

Nordstrom obviously hired two good people. They TRAINED and EMPOWERED them to rescue the beleaguered customer. That’s why he went there!

If giving service like Nordstrom were easy, every company would do it. It’s not. But it CAN be done!

Danny O’Malia
Indy’s Trusted Servant
(317) 413-9062
fax (317) 815-8755
www.indystrustedservant.blogspot.com

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