Are You Ready For A Video Barista? Part 2

rp_Starbucks-Sign-300x225.jpgA couple weeks ago I shared about my initial experience with my very first video barista at Starbucks.  If you recall, I was completely thrown off guard and had difficulty pinpointing why.  At the end of the post I asked readers what they thought about video customer service.  Is it the future of customer service or just a passing fad?

Several people were so kind to chime in and I thought it fitting to share their thoughts in a post.  I really posed the question to two audience.  The first was to the folks that read our blog.  These are generally people who work in customer service, many of whom blog and Tweet often on the topic.  The second group was to my Facebook friends.  I’ll summarize both and you will see a bit of a contrast in the thought.

What the experts said-

Jase Clarke said:

Personally I think it’s here to stay – but it shouldn’t be at the expense of existing service channels.

I think Amazon have got it right with their ‘May Day” function as it’s customer driven; it’s the customer’s choice to use it – that is it’s not forced upon them.

The Doug Sandler said:

Putting us one personal step closer to our coffee. Video drive thru…welcome to 2015!

Jeff Toister said:

In certain applications, it has the promise to deliver higher levels of satisfaction.

Steve DiGioia said:

We have gotten so far away from the personalization of service that seeing the person on video, even if it’s a little creepy, is better than what we have becoming accustomed to.

These folks are customer service and business thought leaders.  There is strong consensus that the personalization of service with video has potential to improve customer satisfaction and is very much a part of the future.

What my Facebook friends said-

My friend Jason, whose wife actually works at Starbucks, said:

It freaked me out at first. From a barista view point, I wouldn’t like it. You have to multitask and work quick. In a drive through, while ordering, having to engage the customer will slow that down dramatically.  

Interesting enough, the same drive through has not had it back on after multiple visits. I think right now it is up the individual barista.

My friend Jon who oversees support for a high-end software developer said:

We’ve been toying around this idea for a couple years. Super innovative but has rather interesting considerations. Communication, appearance, environment, ability. Kindle fire makes it look awfully easy for that one phone call doesn’t it? What happens when you have to place a customer on hold? It’s the future once these questions, and more, are answered.

My friends aren’t opposed to the idea but definitely see a number of questions that need to be answered and obstacles that need to be overcome before this hits the mainstream.

Just today, I scheduled a meeting with one of our customers and we naturally selected a Google+ hangout as the channel.  While I’m still getting used to meeting customers over video, the integrated screen sharing and simplicity of setting up the hangout is turning it into a no brainer.

What say you?  Have you jumped on the wave of video customer service?  Let’s keep the dialog going.

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Service at Phone.com with 13+ years experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy ranked #85 on the Top 100 Most Social Customer Service Pros on Twitter by the Huffington Post in 2013. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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Continuous Improvement Like Running A Marathon

rnrjeremy

Yours truly just prior to embarking on a 26.2 mile journey.

Yesterday I completed my seventh full marathon (26.2 miles) and just about the only part of my body that isn’t sore is my fingers.  I ran in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in my lovely home city of San Diego for my second time and the first time since 2010.

Being a customer of a number of races and now a repeat customer of this particular race, I enjoy the exercise of observing the race through the lens of the customer experience to see what we can learn.  Here are five things I observed from the day:

1. Flawless Transportation- Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon does a marvelous job of using public transportation to transport runners to the start line and from the finish line.  When I ran the race in 2010, the trolley was the only mode of transportation from the finish line, leading to long waits in the hot sun.  By moving the finish line to a downtown location, racers had more transportation options and the crowds were much more manageable.

2. Plenty ‘o’ Potties- I generally try to keep the bathroom talk off of the blog but with a bunch of nervous racers, porta potties are an essential ingredient for any race.  It’s not uncommon for the bathroom lines to take upwards of thirty minutes.  In the case of Rock ‘n’ Roll, there were plenty of potties and the wait times were less than ten minutes.

3. Logistics- Last year I wrote a post about how my bag exploded at the Big Sur Marathon.  In the post I talked about the amazing job the race staff did at cleaning up the mess and getting my stuff back.  We can all agree that it would have been better if my bag had never exploded in the first place.  Rock ‘n’ Roll has an amazing system.  They line up 15-20 UPS trucks in alphabetical order.  At each truck, a volunteer carefully handles your back bag and there are no lines to retrieve your bag at the end of the race.

4. Change of Course- Part of the reason I was excited to run this race is that I had heard they improved the course.  It was evident that the race planners had made an effort to feature some of the best neighborhoods in San Diego including Hillcrest, Balboa Park, Downtown, Little Italy, Old Town, Bay Park, Mission Valley and North Park.  This was a much better representation of San Diego than the 2010 race that finished in the Sea World parking lot.

5. The Little Things- I love it when folks get the little details right. So often when you pick up your race bib, there’s a big box of safety pins and it’s up to the racer pick out four and stash those little things in a safe place prior to the race.  Rock ‘n’ Roll instead hands racers a small, branded ziplock bag with four safety pins in it.  Normally this would be an unnoticed detail but this is the ONLY race that does that.  Those little things all add up.

Now the fact that the weather remained in the 60s for the entire race was amazing, but I’m not sure the Rock ‘n’ Roll folks had anything to do with that detail.

The mark of a great organization (or race) is their ability to listen to their customers and improve on the customer experience year after year.  Take a moment to observe organizations you frequent regularly and notice the improvements they do or don’t make year after year.  Chances are, you’re a staunch promoter of the ones that are gradually improving.

In all, I ran my best time ever for this course and am thrilled to have beaten the 92-year-old woman that ran the race.  But seriously–did you see that a 92-year-old woman completed a marathon?  I guess that just about eliminates all of the excuses for not hitting the road.  Happy running and happy improving!

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Service at Phone.com with 13+ years experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy ranked #85 on the Top 100 Most Social Customer Service Pros on Twitter by the Huffington Post in 2013. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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It Pays To Be Social!

besocialA little over two years ago, we started a blog and decided to promote it over social media.  That meant using my Twitter account to connect with other folks talking about some of the topics I’m talking about.  Prior to that I only used it to connect with my Facebook friends.  That led to about thirty followers and I had never been retweeted.

Since making this decision, we’ve had opportunities to guest blog, host tweet chats, speak at conferences, and appear on TV (Jenny).  In the last few weeks, things have kicked up a notch and the decision to be social has been extra rewarding.  Allow me to recap the recent events:

I don’t highlight these events to brag and I haven’t become an overnight millionaire, but being social has afforded us the opportunity to meet, learn from, and dialog with some of our heroes in customer service.  It is a platform for getting the message of awesome customer service out there.  If you have a message worth sharing, be social and you will not be disappointed.

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Service at Phone.com with 13+ years experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy ranked #85 on the Top 100 Most Social Customer Service Pros on Twitter by the Huffington Post in 2013. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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3 Tips For Taking Care Of Your Customer Without Getting In Their Way

hello-i-can-help-18While shopping at a department store recently, the moment I stepped in the door, I received a greeting and offer for assistance. I declined, knowing what I wanted, and went toward that direction in the store. On my way there, I was asked if I needed assistance 3 additional times by other employees in a short period. I knew what I wanted and just wanted to get in and get out. Each time, they’d stop me in the aisle, stand in front of me and ask. When I left the store, an employee stopped and said “Thanks for shopping with us! Have a great day!”

On another day, I was at a different store and did not know where to go for the item I needed. I was not greeted when I walked in nor were any employees available. When I finally found someone stocking shelves and asked, they didn’t stop what they were doing but rather pointed to another aisle and said, “It’s over there.” I didn’t end up finding my item and left the store. No one stopped me on my way out.

Is there anything as too much customer service? 

In some cases, customers want their independence. They want to know that you are available but they want to be able to find what they need and go on their way. They may not want to be checked in on 4 times during a 10 minute shopping trip. But, how do you know?

How can you take care of your customer without getting in their way?

3 Tips For Taking Care Of Your Customer Without Getting In Their Way

Understand The Journey

When the customer journey is mapped out in front of you, you’re able to see what path your customer takes and walk in their shoes. What is done right? What is done wrong? An expert in customer journey mapping is Annette Franz of CX Journey–be sure to check her out and subscribe to her blog!

Give Customers Choices

Deciding what choices they’ll actually have comes from journey mapping, but giving your customer choices in the way of self service and obtaining assistance is necessary. We see this in the grocery store now: There are self service check outs, 15 items or less check outs and the regular lines for those that may have different personal needs when purchasing their items. Allowing your customer to choose what they need at that time enhances their experience. But, be wary of giving too many choices–that can also cause frustration and send the customer elsewhere. Find the perfect balance!

Encourage Adaptability

For your employees out on the floor assisting the customers, encourage them to adapt to your customers needs. If they see someone speeding through the store to a particular place, stopping them in the aisle to ask for help might not help the situation. While we cannot assume that the customer doesn’t need help, the employee simply acknowledging the customer and offering help if needed, even if from a distance, will give security to the customer knowing that help is there and allowing them to get on with their day.

 

Jenny is the Customer Service Manager for Phone.com with over a decade of customer service experience. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog.

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What’s Your Flavor Of Customer Service?

its-my-way-or-the-highwaySome time ago a friend shared this story with me about a Yelp battle between a customer and a restaurant owner.  The conflict stemmed from the business refusing to allow the customer to order take out because it would not do justice to the presentation of their food.  When the customer did not get their way they of course turned to Yelp to tarnish the restaurant’s reputation.

I was speaking with a friend that works for a local coffee shop and he was talking about their philosophy.  They place the integrity of their product above the demands of the customer.  So if a customer asks for an extra shot of espresso in their drink, they baristas might refuse to grant the request for fear that the quality of the product might be compromised.

When I think about both of these cases, the word BOLD comes to mind.  It’s bold to tell a customer they can’t have what they are asking for.  I’ve written many posts on the importance of saying yes to customers.  After all, they are the ones with the money and the desire to purchase your product.  For the sake of expanding my thinking on the topic, here are three valid reasons you may want to say no to a customer:

1. Compromising product quality and direction- If a custom request from a customer degrades the quality of your product or detracts from the direction of the company, you might want to say no.  Doing so assumes that you have a clear sense of who you are as a company and where you are headed.  In the spirit of not sending a paying customer out the front door with empty hands, I highly recommend thinking long and hard before saying no.

2. You are the expert- Taking the quality point a bit further, there’s plenty of room for “No…but.”  You are the expert on your product.  If you know you can do something better than what the customer is asking for, sell it!  You’d better be able to convince the customer that it’s a win for them, otherwise they are going to feel like you pushed them away.

3. Wow is going to take a looooooooong time- We are infatuated with the wow, aren’t we?  After all, you never know if your next wow will go viral and shoot sales through the roof.  Remember that you are a customer service professional and not a punching bag or a therapist.  If the customer is going to demand the bulk of your day and limitless resources, it had better be worth it.

We ride a fine line in business between saying yes to folks that have money to spend and not selling the soul of our company for a buck.  While I admire people who are so deep in their convictions that they wouldn’t put their masterpiece in a to-go box or pour an extra shot of espresso, it seems like a no brainer to err on the side of doing what the customer asks for.  Just beware that if you stick to your guns, customers may grab their proverbial megaphones and let social media know about it.

If you’re in business or a customer service professional, what do you think?  Is this worth the risk?  Do you take custom orders or is it your way or the highway?  Do share!

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Service at Phone.com with 13+ years experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy ranked #85 on the Top 100 Most Social Customer Service Pros on Twitter by the Huffington Post in 2013. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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Jeremy Watkin Interviewed By The Nice Guys On Business

niceguys_jeremy

Photo Credit: DougSandler.com

Jeremy recently had the privilege of being interviewed on the Nice Guys on Business Podcast with Doug Sandler and Strickland Bonner.  In the show, Jeremy got to share his philosophy of awesome customer service and even gave out a special coupon for free Phone.com service for those that listen in.

Click here to check out the podcast and read the show notes.  Don’t forget to subscribe to this awesome podcast in iTunes and leave a positive review so others join in.

WANTED: Advice For New Small Business Owner

10177519_654613861297149_3358369021513156580_nMy sister, Jackie Dempsey, is a diesel mechanic. She is one tough lady, motivated, determined and consistently covered in grease and oil. She has a “take no crap” attitude that has helped her succeed as one of the only women mechanics in her company.

Underneath her rough exterior, she’s full of mush with a giant heart (she’s probably going to punch me for writing that).

And, with competition and command as two of her top five Strengths, when she approached me saying she’s going to start her own business, it was no surprise.

However, the business isn’t one you’d expect. No, she didn’t open her own mechanic garage.

She started a home cleaning business.

 

High Horse Power Home Cleaning was born and dirt started to run in fear. If you’ve met my sister, you’d understand why (again, I may get punched for this).

In between her full time job of repairing engines on semi trucks and buses, she developed a business plan. She got a license and insurance. She set goals. She set up a payment processing system. She had a website built. She started networking at local events. She hired employees.

But, she struggles–how to keep afloat while still having a full time job. How to train her employees. What new things she needs to learn. How to deal with unique customer situations (which I happily give her advice). How to still have a social life outside of running a business. How to handle payments properly. How to be the best leader. How to stay motivated when challenges pile up. How to manage time properly. So many things that she is encountering that I may not even be covering here.

Therefore, because I am a proud sister and want to see her succeed, to help Jackie learn from the best, I ask those of you reading this who have hand crafted your own small businesses and have many lessons to share, to please give your advice on starting a new business from the ground up and how to ensure its success in the comments of this post or by contacting Jackie directly:

High Horsepower Home Cleaning Facebook

Email: service@highhorsepowerhomecleaning.com

Jenny is the Customer Service Manager for Phone.com with over a decade of customer service experience. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog.

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Don’t Dust Away Your Customers

cartoon-bear-cashierI go shopping at a local Home Goods store.

I am next in line to check out with the cashier. There is a line of 6 people behind me.

There is one cashier open, assisting a customer with a large purchase who also is trying to wrestle with two screaming children in the shopping cart.

There is a second cashier who was not open but at her counter, moving boxes and dusting.

The second cashier looks at the line, back at the boxes, then at the line. She picks up the phone and makes an announcement to call “Jessica” to the check out line.

A few minutes go by. Jessica doesn’t show up.

The line grows longer. One customer at the back of the line puts an item on the shelf and walks out, not wanting to wait to purchase it.

The lady with the children at the register can’t find her credit card. One child throws a lolly pop on the ground.

The lady dusting, looking agitated, finally puts the duster down and opens her register. I approach.

There are two boxes on the counter where you normally place the items you are purchasing. I place my items on the top of them because there is no other place to set them.

She quickly moves them on a lower counter behind the register and says, “Oh, these boxes belong to another customer who went to their car to get cash and I’m waiting for them to return.”

 

I say, “Well thank you for opening your line to assist. Can’t believe how quickly that line grew back there!”

She made a hmmpphhh sound, scanned my items, bagged them and I was on my way out the door within a few minutes.

In the meantime, the lady with the screaming children was still at the check out line.

 

This dusting cashier was so focused on making sure her area was clean, calling “Jessica” to help with the line and waiting for some unknown customer at their car to return–she dusted away the remaining customers!

  • What she really did is leave her coworker in the dust with lolly pop throwing children and a frustrated mother.
  • What she really did is pass the responsibility to “Jessica” to get her in trouble as she was likely assisting another customer (or so I would like to think) at the time.
  • What she really did is leave the customers feeling restless and actively participated in the loss of business as one customer decided to put their item back on the shelf and walk away.
  • What she really did is show annoyance with the customers that she did assist, as if we were a bother to her day while she is at work for this company.

It’s the little experiences like this that really add up in the larger picture for companies like this.

The best resolution for the dusting cashier would have been:

  • Put down the duster immediately when more than one person is waiting in line to check out.
  • Move the other customer’s boxes to the lower shelf and make room for the current customers to place their handful of items on the counter.
  • Take responsibility and apologize for the wait time, even if “Jessica” should have showed up.
  • Asked her coworker if she could offer any assistance on the large, chaotic purchase. Or perhaps, offered some stickers to the restless children!

This isn’t a resolution of going above and beyond–it’s called HELPING the customer, your coworkers and maybe even a stressed out mother.

So next time you witness a situation like this, observe and learn how to handle it better. And, if you are the cashier, put your duster down and help!

Jenny is the Customer Service Manager for Phone.com with over a decade of customer service experience. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog.

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Small Business Customer Service: The Last Frontier

Photo Credit: IMDB

Photo Credit: IMDB

I was turned on to Alaska: The Last Frontier about a year ago and was instantly hooked.  In the show, the Kilcher family lives on a gigantic homestead in Alaska, hunting, fishing and growing all of their food and making just about everything they need with their bare hands–or from a bunch of spare parts in the back yard.  Heck, per Jenny’s recent post, I have seen bears make these folks stronger.

The name of the game in Alaska is to work around the clock in the summer months to store up enough food and supplies for eight months of brutal winter.  While I admittedly purchase almost everything I own and travel to a store for almost everything I eat, there are some strong parallels between the homesteader lifestyle and doing customer service in a small business setting.  Here are my top five:

Be Resourceful

In Alaska, waste is not a word in their vocabulary.  I’ve seen them turn an old trailer into a cow milking station and the severed roof of a Volkswagen bug into a sled for hauling hay in the winter.  In small business customer service, resources are often limited.  It might mean that in order to offer customer service on all of the latest and greatest support channels you might have to have a few freemium tools mixed in there that don’t totally integrate into one slick system.  While you may start out with this due to a tight budget, the key is to constantly find cost effective ways to improve tools and integration.

Be Versatile

I’m convinced there’s nothing the Kilcher family can’t do or make.  They are musically talented can grow or make just about anything with their hands.  In a small business, it’s very rare that you can make a living doing one specific job.  When it comes to customer service you may be asked to wear many hats.  To ensure the success of you, the organization, and your customers it’s best to embrace these with a positive, willing attitude.

Be Accurate

On the homestead, the Kilcher family frequently goes on bear hunts.  When it comes to hunting, an accurate shot is all the difference between hundreds of pounds of food in their freezer and none.  Accuracy is a must.  In a small business every customer is the life blood of your organization.  This doesn’t require perfection but it does require accuracy.  It’s critical to have a well-trained team that consistently addresses customer issues accurately.

Be Responsible

There’s a lot of hunting and killing of animals in Alaska: The Last Frontier.  While this may turn many viewers off to the show, it is a critical means of survival for the Kilcher family.  They always portray it in a responsible way.  The hunter always thanks the animal for the life and sustenance they are providing to them and they are always careful to use as much of the animal as they possibly can.  Similar to being resourceful, it’s essential to be responsible in small business customer service.  It’s about being grateful for every dime you earn and every customer you win and wasting nothing.

Be Community

Finally, in the show there’s a strong sense of family and community.  They constantly share their time and resources and are frequently seen lending a neighbor a hand with their cattle or some other project.  On a small business customer service team, it is critical that we are cohesive–constantly sharing our knowledge and resources to help each other out.

Are you a fan of the Kilcher family and/or customer service in a small business setting?  What are some parallels you see that I might have missed?  Feel free to share in a comment!

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Service at Phone.com with 13+ years experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy ranked #85 on the Top 100 Most Social Customer Service Pros on Twitter by the Huffington Post in 2013. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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Customer Service Words Of Wisdom

With the best intentions to be motivational, Jeremy, while singing Kelly Clarkson, wrote this quote on the whiteboard in our office:

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Credit for these original fine words of wisdom go to Friedrich Nietzsche, not Kelly (we still love you though Kelly).

However, some folks in the office decided to share their input:

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While our white board is now a topic of discussion for anyone who enters our office, it is obvious that there are always other perspectives available. We must recognize that with our customers–external and internal–and listen with open minds.

Some of the challenging things that we push through, whether it be a bear fight or an SBD, we are stronger.

This short post today is a reminder to keep challenging yourself–you’ll only get stronger!

Watch out for bears. And farts.

And remember to laugh!

Jenny is the Customer Service Manager for Phone.com with over a decade of customer service experience. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog.

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