The following is the fifth and final installment of a five-part series from my friend and colleague Perry Seelert. 2013 is a year of change and new opportunities for Perry – it should be exciting to see these come to life
The fifth key observation over the 2012 holidays was how customer service can truly be a marketing differentiator. Your people on the front lines, customer-facing in-the-stores, on-line or on the phones need to be empowered, need to implicitly understand product, and have passion for making customers happy. I find that many chains fail in this regard, and as it applies to private brands, can’t speak to their virtues and reasons for being.
I had three key customer service experiences that were memorable before the new year. The first was at Stop & Shop, where I had to inform the checkout personnel.
“No, that is flat leaf parsley, not cilantro.”
“What kind of pepper is this sir?” “ It is a poblano.”
“You accidentally rang that item up twice”…..[with a mumbled apology that followed].
I called Sirius Satellite radio to deactivate one radio and activate a new one, and while their customer service was seemingly friendly, it also felt like the people taking these requests had virtually no knowledge of their own products. Not to mention I had to be filtered from an unclear on-line experience to one live person and then re-explain to another person, an hour in total.
Finally, there was L.L. Bean, which made me reconsider why I don’t do all my shopping there. We called to exchange a backpack that we had purchased on-line (my daughter wanted a different color), and we had someone empowered, knowledgeable and unquestioning. They didn’t quiz me what was wrong with it, and it was a totally satisfying customer service experience that reaffirmed the company’s virtues.
Customer service can be that silent killer or overt asset, and with private brands there needs to be more concerted training and mission orientation around the portfolio and overall benefit.
I hope you all are having a great new year, would love to hear from you, and let’s continue to use our fresh eyes to our critical advantage.