Clinique – To Pump or Not to Pump

Are you familiar with Clinique and their line of skin care products? You find them in the department stores along with several competitor counters offering eternal life. Frankly, although a lot more expensive that the Suave brand at my local Drug Mart, I do like the Clinique products.

My mom just came to town for the summer and before leaving home had purchased the medium sized face cream bottle. She didn’t open the box before leaving home, she is a long time user and knows the product well.  In fact, she left a half empty bottle with a pump on her dresser at home. But she wanted a new bottle to last the summer.

Yesterday she opened the box to discover the bottle didn’t have a pump. She loved the pump. It makes it easier to access the lotion. So she took off for the nearest mall and Clinique counter to purchase a pump. How hard could it be?

“Oh we don’t sell them,” the clerk told her. “It is funny, but we get a lot of requests for them but we don’t sell them.”

My mom said – well, I didn’t know the pump was an option.

“Oh sure – we tell people – you get the lotion for $23 but if you want it with a pump it is $24.50. You’d be surprised by how many complaints we get because people don’t know there are two kinds.”

A buck fifty difference.

Tons of complaints.

“Have you told your boss about the complaints?” my mom asked.

“Sure all the time but they don’t seem to care.”

Well, why would they, my mom wondered, when I am now forced to buy another bottle if I really want the pump. They have me for another $24.50.   That sure isn’t very customer friendly, my mom said at dinner last night.

I wonder how many people just walk away disgusted – use up their existing bottle and change to a new brand?

How difficult would it be for Clinique to make extra pumps available? I am sure the associate is suppose to educate the customer but if they don’t – for the cost of $1.50 they are disappointing customers across the board.

Is there something in your product line or service line that disappoints your customers and potentially damages your brand? Why not make it right?

The best way to find out is ask your sales associates – what is your number one complaint? And see what it will take to fix it.


Twitter the Customer Connector

twitter logoIf you aren’t using Twitter to connect with your customers – you are missing out on a great, real time venue.

This weekend I discovered an article by Jeff Bullas about how the Fortune 100 companies are using (or not, as is the case) Twitter to be connected with their customers.

It turns out that although I just saw the article yesterday, he actually wrote it two years ago. Since that time, the Fortune 100 companies have improved their use of Twitter, but the issues Jeff uncovers are still true for the majority of companies out there.

The biggest issue?

If a company is using Twitter, it is still as a platform for focusing on their sales or their primary brand message.  People/companies are still missing the obvious use of Twitter and that is as a real time connector to their customers.

At the end of the article, Jeff shares five steps for using Twitter to be connected to customers and 7 Twitter Best Practices:

Weber Shandwick prescribed five essential steps as a starting point for Fortune 100 companies to create true engagement and market interaction on Twitter:

1.Listen to conversations

2.Participate in conversations

3.Update frequently with valuable information

4.Reply to people who talk about issues that are important to your company

5.Retweet relevant conversations

So here are “7  Twitter Best Practices” from the study revealing that in the majority, the Fortune 100 were not implementing

  1. Listen to and monitor conversations
  2. Participate in conversations instead of just listening
  3. Provide frequent updates with valuable information that can demonstrate thought leadership.
  4. Have a large number of followers
  5. Reply to people who talk about issues that are important to them rather than sit on the sidelines
  6. Retweet those conversations which can help promote the brand
  7. Reply or refer to other accounts with @username, and in turn, they are referred to by other accounts.

Ask yourself – are you using Twitter just to push out your blog RSS feed or talk about your latest product? Last week, I talked about how I used Twitter as a “CB radio” while driving to a meeting. (my car was not moving when I used Twitter) I can’t reinforce the value of the real time discussion enough.

In a recent article by Chris Brogan that appeared in Entrepreneur Magazine, he also talked about the value of Twitter as a customer connector and suggests subscribing to the RSS feeds for your key word phrases. Go to to search for conversations in your industry. Look for ways to interject or help out.

Twitter shouldn’t be discounted as a silly waste of time. It is the only social media venue in which you can engage your customers or prospects in real time discussions to help improve their experience and improve your business.


Is Staples Making it Easy?

I have been buying my office supplies and equipment at Staples since I opened my business in 2005. I love flashing my rewards card and knowing that soon I will receive a check in the mail.  In this age when most of the mail is junk or bills, it is nice to know that occasionally you’ll receive a check.

Not any more.

Monday I was informed that they’ve changed their process. As of May 1, 2011, you now have to go online, sign up for an account, remember your password, look up your rewards card number and worst of all – remember on a regular basis to go back to see if you have earned any rewards. 

The burden is now on me.

I really embraced Staples “easy button” campaign when it first came out because I realized that they “got it.” Putting customers first means understanding that we need to make it easy for them to do business with us.

Now Staples may counter and say that this new reward program is “green” in that they are no longer sending us a check or spending the postage. But I still have to print the paper.  It isn’t like our rewards are loaded onto our card and automatically deducted with each new purchase. Now THAT would be easy.

The burden is on me to remember to visit their website.  And I have to be quick – because the rewards are only good for a short period of time. Sort of makes me wonder is Staples is hoping I will forget so that they don’t have to pay out the rewards.

How is this making it easy?




EnviroScience’s Weevil Understands that Slow and Steady Gets the Job Done

I have been working for EnviroScience as a contract writer, and in the process, I’ve learned quite a lot about Milfoilsand aquatic weed control. Each time I write something about a Milfoil weevil and the weeds they eat, I think two things:

1.  Lake Chautauqua. The lovely, shallow lake that the Chautauqua Institute is situated on is filled to the brim with the nasty, motorboat propeller choking weeds that the little milfoil love to chomp on. I wish someone from Chautauqua Lake would look into the weevils so I don’t have to swim around the lake with those tangling, leg grabbing weeds.  Ick.

2. The pace the weevils work. EnviroScience will tell you that weevils are an eco-friendly solution to chemicals but you have to be patient. It isn’t a solution that happens over night. It takes time for those little Milfoil weevils to eat their way through the weeds.

Not unlike building a relationship with a customer.

Ooooh, did you love that transition?

But it is true.  It takes time to build a relationship. You can’t just send a postcard or make a single phone call and think that the customer will be loyal for life. Even if they buy from you, there isn’t any guarantee they won’t turn around and go to the competition next time.

You have to work at it. Eating one weed at a time.

So what are some of the ways you can slowly work at a customer relationship?

  • I love Jay Conrad Levinson, the father of Guerilla Marketing. In his book Mastering Guerilla Marketing, he talks about the importance of a vibrant database in which you keep personal, unique information about your customers and prospects. Really listen to the hints they leave. Chances are they are helping to plant the seeds for future purchases. Keep track of one new thing every time you talk to a customer.
  • Connect with your customers just cuz. Send a postcard. Send an email. Pick up the phone. “Just thought of you and wondered how you are.” That’s building a relationship – being interested in your customer when their wallet isn’t in their hand.
  • Ask them questions. How can I serve you better? In a perfect world, what could I do differently next time? Have your customers define your process, services and products. Amazingly, if you offer what they ask for – guess what – I bet they’ll buy. I am a speaker and trainer and have several presentations/workshops in the can. When a company calls asking about my speaking options, I suggest they visit my speaker site, but I’m always quick to tell them that I’ll customize the presentation. Each session, although it may start with a foundation I’ve used before, becomes totally unique based on the audience’s participation and the industry.  They love it. I love it.  Win – win.

So like the weevil, do what you do best but know that it takes time to build customer connections. Set your expectations accordingly.


Thought for the Day Makes a Difference

In my search for customer relationship tips to help businesses go from great to exceptional, I found this video that tells the story of Johnny the bagger at a grocery store.


The message is simple – think of a little something different you can do to make a difference in the lives of those you encounter throughout the day. Johnny’s “thought for the day” is simple and yet look at the impact. How many of you that Twitter send out quotes as your opening tweet of the day? How many have an RSS feed that brings leadership quotes or comedy quotes or thought provoking quotes into your email each morning. It is simple but what a difference.

I love the idea of using the left over flowers to brighten the day of an unsuspecting customer. Think Panera. At the end of the day they pack up their leftover pastries to donate to a local kitchen. It takes little effort and yet think of the difference it makes.

What is something little you and your employees can do today and everyday that will make a difference in the lives of your customers?


Starting Over with a Customers First Approach

store frontIf you have been following my blog, you know that I have had a little bit of a melt down over the last month. A discouragement brought on by the realization that MOST businesses just don’t care about the customer.

(by the way – if  you disagreee – please tell me why in the comments)

That being said – this blog is now dedicated to the few businesses out there who truly want to put the customers first. Those business owners, managers, directors, employees and entrepreneurs that believe that if the customer is your primary focus; the money will follow.

Going forward – rather than spotlight the crappy customer stories – because there are just so many they make my heart hurt – and instead, I want to just focus on the positive.

Calling all business professionals who GET IT – the customer comes first – let’s start talking about one thing you can do differently to improve/enhance the customer experience.

Let’s talk customer expectations.

Let’s talk customer experience.

Let’s talk customer relationships.

If you have a story – please share. If you have a tip – we want to hear about it.

If the rest of the business are just in it for the money and consequently treat the customer like the dirt under their feet – let them. That is all the more customers for us.

Can I hear an “AMEN!”

So, here is the first Customers First tip

What is one thing your customer expects when doing business with you? Not you specifically, but your industry. Let’s take a retailer with a destination location. When a customer thinks about shopping with you – what do they expect?

  • Clean entryway
  • Well lit store
  • Organized merchandise
  • POP (point of purchase posters) that clearly spell out your current offer
  • Smiling – knowledgeable employees
  • Warm greeting
  • A question about how they can help you

Anything else? Are you already doing all of those? Do people feel welcome when they walk in your door? Is there something you can do to improve the first impression?

Take a walk outside your store right now and look at the entryway from the customer’s perspective.  Are there finger prints on the door? Is there trash in the bushes?

Think about that initial visual experience from the customer’s point of view.  What can you change or enhance to make it better?


Just When We Thought We’d Hit Bottom

I am clearly in a customer service funk this week. And just when I thought I’d heard the worst, I read this comment:

I received an interesting email yesterday from my office internet provider (and phone provider) spelling out their new terms and agreement regarding their internet service. What I found interesting is there’s a new section called “Abusive Treatment”. Basically spelling out that if you, the customer, call and are upset or express your dissatisfaction in an unflattering way, the company will terminate the contract. Which begs the question, are we as businesses & owners finally getting fed up with the disrespectful customers who call and take their frustrations out in an extreme verbal manner on our employees?

Now, I agree, there is no reason to be abusive to an employee who is just trying to uncover the issues and resolve the situation, but now we have a policy? I once wrote a post called Are there good customers and bad customers?– there are bad customers out there – but shouldn’t they be viewed as the rare and extreme? Have we lost the ability to communicate in a civil manner to the point of having to spell it out in a policy?

What have we come to?


Lowering the Customer Service Bar


After my most recent blog post, basically giving up on our ability to make a difference in the customer service experience, I read this response from a group member on LinkedIn:

This is a great conversation to show how the bar of customer service keeps being set and re-set…lower and lower. That makes it easier and cheaper to differentiate a brand, a company, by plain old customer service. Just serve the customer. Serve the customer and then they’ll tell your story to many more and in a much more compelling version: their words describing their experience.

Are we lowering the bar? As business owners/managers/sales professionals, are we lowering the bar of what we have decided to provide to our customers? And what about the customer? Are they beginning to EXPECT a lack of service?

My son, twenty, should be hip with all things technology, but he isn’t. His employer pays him through auto deposit and his check stubs are online. Any conversation with his boss is conducted via email because Ben works 6pm-6am and the boss isn’t there. Additional training is online. He is finding the same thing with paying his bills, college classes, even conversation with friends – it is all through some form of technology.

Are we taking the PEOPLE out of the customer experience? As consumers, do we expect less because we know the experience is going to be technology-based and everyone knows technology has its glitches?

Where will it bottom out? At what point will consumers and business professionals alike stop and demand that we bring the human back into the customer experience?

As the person quoted above alludes to – just basic customer service is now enough to stand out from the competition and yet we fail to even do the minimum.

Where does it end? Is customer service dead and buried? Please – someone chime in and convince me otherwise.


The Great Get Better and the Rest Just Don’t Get It

Where have I been, you ask? Trying to pick myself up from utter despair.

Two weeks ago I was hired to talk about make or break moments to the managers of a chain of auto repair shops. I had researched the company and their website shared customer focused words that led me to believe they understood the value of building customer relationships.

It soon became clear, as I talked about customer expectations and the importance of listening, that these people did get it. They not only got it – they owned their local markets because they did such a wonderful job building customer relationships. And so why was I there?

As I thought about the companies that have brought me in to talk about customers – I have found a theme. They already do a great job. They are striving to do even better. 

So where are the companies that really need the message to be shared and reinforced? They just don’t get it. Do they even care?

I started to think that my passion for helping companies put customers first and build those relationships is a battle that can’t be won. I have been feeling like Don Quixote tilting against windmills. If the companies that already understand the value of customers are the only ones seeking to reinforce that message – how will we ever make a dent in the travesty that is our global lack of customer service?

Customer Service is the name of the department that pisses people off!

I joke and say that customer service is the name of the department that pisses people off.

But it isn’t a joke.

So do I give up the fight? Is it hopeless?  Are the great companies going to continue to get better and everyone else just plead apathy? Help me find a reason to continue with my message of building customer relationships.


Let Us Count Our Blessings

red crossAre you watching the news? Of course you are – how could you not? It is at times like this when we witness the devastation through no fault of anyone and the subsequent death, injury and homelessness that we should stop and count our blessings.

We have a chance to make a difference – you can use your cell phone to make a donation to the efforts supporting Japan, you can give blood, donate through your church and even add those involved in this recent natural disaster to your prayers. Every little bit helps.  I wanted to make it easy for my readers to help and so if you click on the Red Cross logo it will take you to their donation page.  This  isn’t an affiliate – I don’t get a kick back or commission – it is just an easy reminder to be thankful for your life and all of the many blessings you have and, if you are so inclined, to give you a simple, quick way to give back.

Soon this post will be buried on the page, but the widget on the right will remain as a simple way to make donations in the future.

Take care!

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