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March 2000

 

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Making Room For Companies That Care About Customers

BY RICH TEHRANI, GROUP PUBLISHER, TMC

Go Right To: Get Out Of Line...And Get Ahead


According to The Official Darwin Awards home page at darwinawards.com, the Darwin Awards commemorate those who have made the ultimate sacrifice by eliminating themselves from the species in an extraordinarily novel fashion, thereby improving our genetic pool. While Im sure some may find these awards in bad taste, they help me make my point, which is, unless you improve the way you deal with your customers, your company, too, will perish, thereby making room for companies that care about their customers.

If you are a frequent reader of this magazine, you surely know that since 1982 we have been stressing the need for excellent customer service, and the nations recent obsession with customer relationship management (CRM) certainly means that many are catching on to how important CRM is to an organizations success.

As the president of TMC, it is ultimately my responsibility to ensure all of our customers enjoy the highest level of customer service imaginable. We certainly dont get it right every time, but we take constructive criticism well and change as needed to keep improving. I love this responsibility and am always looking at how other companies provide superior service and try to emulate those companies that are the most successful.

A great example of success through superior customer service is Stew Leonards, a Norwalk, Connecticut-based grocery store that claims to be the worlds largest dairy store. A visit to Stews (as we locals know the store) is like a trip to the farm. In front of the store is a mini petting zoo filled with goats, chickens and other animals the kids can meet face to face. This theme is carried on inside where robotic animals sing and perform and some of Stews employees even walk around the store dressed up as a variety of animals.

What really makes this store different than any other grocery store you have ever visited is Stews commitment to customer service. At www.stewleonards.com you can read about how important customer service is to Stew Leonards. The following is taken directly from the site:

The foundation of Stew Leonards success is a devotion to pleasing the customer. At the stores entrance a three ton Rock of Commitment displays the stores credo: Rule 1 - The customer is always right. Rule 2 - If the customer is ever wrong, reread Rule 1. Near the rock is a mission statement, Our Mission Is To Create Happy Customers!

As a result of the above, Stews can lay claim to the following facts:

  • Over 100,000 shoppers visit each week,
  • They have been written up in the Guinness Book of World Records for selling more orange juice than any other store in the world,
  • The products at Stew Leonards are sold 7 to 10 times faster than other grocery stores,
  • Many shoppers come from more than 50 miles away to shop at Stews.

The good news is that companies like Stews get it. In fact, Stews has become synonymous with customer service and, in fact, you can even attend a Stew Leonards customer service seminar!

Unfortunately, many companies dont get it, which brings us back to Darwin, survival of the fittest and the creation of the Darwin CRM Awards. Frankly, it seems like many companies never will get it. It amazes me how many industries need a CRM overhaul. A great example is the airline industry, which routinely cancels and delays flights without contacting their passengers some of whom have paid thousands per ticket.

Another example of atrocious service is my horrible experiences with long-distance services. The first occurred with MCI and I wrote about it in my February Publishers Outlook in INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine. Ironically, while I was writing about my horrible experience, the phone rang. When I picked up, I was greeted by a pleasant Sprint telemarketer who told me that as a valued customer of Sprint PCS they would like to give me a great deal on long-distance service. I signed up on the spot and was happy to be recognized as a current Sprint PCS customer.

All was well until over a month later when my long-distance stopped working all together. At the same time I received a message from Sprint, asking me to call them. Of course I did, at which point they told me that as a new customer, my first bill for $12.82 was past due and subsequently my service was disconnected. I explained patiently that I was not a new customer and, in fact, I was supposedly singled out as a preferred existing customer before I switched from MCI to Sprint. The agent was sure that I was a new customer because that is what her computer said. I quickly realized that even the best political speechwriter couldnt help me get my point across and even if I could, I am sure that it wouldnt make a difference, as policy is policy. My service did get turned back on as a result of the conversation, but only because I had promised that the check for $12.82 was sent out a few days earlier.

I would like to present Sprint with my first-ever Darwin CRM Award for the experience I recently had with their CRM philosophy. If Sprint feels they can use the PCS database to leverage their long-distance service, that is finejust dont penalize your customers because they subscribe to more of your services. This is not the first time Ive written about large, multidivisional companies getting their acts together and treating their customers more appropriately. (Another such column can be found in the September 1998 issue of this magazine where I wrote about a major credit card company and a bank that both need to overhaul their CRM systems.)

A second incident worthy of a Darwin CRM Award occurred on a recent vacation to the British Virgin Islands. These islands are not only famous for the rum they produce, but also incredibly delicious rum candies. My traveling companion and I had been meaning to purchase these candies as presents the entire time we were on vacation, but never got around to it.

As it turns out, when we were headed home, we had an hour to kill in the airport and went into the only store in the St. Thomas airport. I purchased some food and we then discussed whether to buy the candies at the store or just order them later. I left my friend in the store as she was going to write down the address of the Web site that was on the box of rum candies. Astonishingly, the sole store clerk chased my friend out of the store, telling her she couldnt write anything down. The amazing thing was that an Internet search could turn up the Web address of these candies in an instant. I proudly present the sole store in the St. Thomas airport with the second-ever Darwin CRM Award.

Perhaps you think it is not fair that only the CRM losers win an award and those companies that bend over backwards for their customers arent recognized. While it is impossible for us to document every case of positive CRM experiences, we welcome you all to submit your experiences both positive and negative. As a complement to the Darwin CRM Awards, I would like to announce the first-annual TMC CRM Excellence Awards. These awards will go to companies that practice excellent CRM as well as the companies that enable your company to improve its CRM procedures through technology. Id like to present the first-ever TMC CRM Excellence Award to Stew Leonards. You can look for the rest of these awards to appear in subsequent issues of TMC publications as well as at TMCnet.com. You can trust that these awards will be synonymous with excellence in the field of customer relationship management and as such, you should look to see if the CRM products you are interested in purchasing wear this seal of approval. If you have a product that you feel deserves this coveted award, please download the application at www./tmcnet.com/crmaward/.

Sincerely,

Rich Tehrani
Group Publisher
rtehrani@tmcnet.com 


Get Out Of Line...And Get Ahead

We are really excited to be bringing Communications Solutions EXPO back to our nations capital for the second year in a row. This show has grown substantially since the last event and, come April 26-28, expect all the major CRM players to be in attendance at Communications Solutions EXPO along with a slew of traditional communications companies that provide products such as ACDs, PBXs, Internet telephony gateways, IP-enabled PBXs, multimedia call centers and more. This show will represent the first time that the annual TMC CRM Excellence Awards will be given out, so be sure to look for them in exhibitor booths as a sign that they have the products your company needs. By registering today, you will save $50 off the price at the doorI urge you to register now at www.comsolexpo.com before you forget, so that you will avoid the long lines at the show.

The conference sessions in our last Communications Solutions EXPO in Las Vegas were packedthe busiest ever at over 1,200 an increase of over 100% from the prior year. We are looking forward to another incredible conference at the upcoming EXPO and the editors of C@LL CENTER CRM Solutions as well as its sister publications, INTERNET TELEPHONY and Communications Solutions teamed with the engineers of TMCLabs to come up with a leading-edge conference program that is second to none. Last month I detailed the E-Sales E-Service Solutions and CRM Solutions conference tracks. Id like to present a few of the other leading-edge, objective and in-depth conferences designed to help your company increase their sales, service levels and productivity.

CTI And Internet Telephony Solutions

  • The Open Telephony Trend And Its Limitless Possibilities. (Come learn about the next generation of communications servers with open interfaces that you will never outgrow.)
  • The PC-PBX The Next Big Disruptive (And Empowering) Technology. (A less expensive PBX, a more open PBX and a more programmable PBX. You cant lose!)
  • All Eyes Are On Applications That Are All Ears The Triumph Of Speech Recognition. (Computer recognition of human speech was once the stuff of science fiction, but soon talking to computers will be as familiar as the GUI-based desktop. With speech-enabled applications and business systems, you can gain an advantage over your competition. Sit in on this session to learn how to teach your application to listen to your customers.)
  • Getting The Response You Want: Creating Customer-Pleasing IVR Applications. (Did you install an IVR system to handle basic customer service, only to find that now youre getting calls from people complaining about the IVR too? Likely the problem is not your IVR, but the scripting and menu options. A user-friendly IVR is a must today, and this session will help you decide what your customers are looking for when they call you in the first place.)
  • Is Your Voice Processing System Somewhat Spartan? Maybe Its Time To Consider Something More Sumptuous. (With everything voice processing has to offer, theres really no need to settle for something austere. But do you want upgrades or a new system? Attend this session, and explore your options.)
  • IP @ Work Advances In Enterprise LAN-Based Telephony. (It is common knowledge that voice and data networks are merging. Come find out what you can do so as not to be left behind.)

Call Center Solutions

  • Success Factors For Virtual And Distributed Call Centers. (The benefits of virtual and distributed call centers are alluring, but achieving those benefits may be beyond your grasp if you dont understand the particulars. This session will cover such challenges as managing your dispersed staff, establishing the appropriate network configuration, and more.)
  • Hello, Its Me: Self-Service With Speech Recognition Technology. (If you were unimpressed with speech recognition in the past, its time to take a new look. This session will bring you up todate on recent advancements and provide new application ideas that can benefit your call center through customer self-service.)
  • Present And Future IVR: Taking Advantage Of The State-Of-The-Art. (With todays technology, your customers dont have to endure the trials and tribulations of a feature-poor IVR system. You owe it to yourself and the future of your company to attend this session to learn about the latest developments in IVR, including new and innovative Web-based features.)
  • Web-Enabling Your Call Center? Think Twice. (That is, think twice about how youre going to do it. A shoddy setup is worse than no setup at all. While customers are demanding the latest venues of contact, they are also demanding complete professionalism, convenience and ease of use. This session will provide a framework of the critical elements to consider before you begin.)
  • The Call Center: Gold Mine Or Money Pit? (Traditionally viewed as just a cost of doing business, enlightened companies are learning that their call centers are anything but cost centers. Attend this session and turn your existing call center into a profit center.)
  • CTI, The Call Center, And The New Millennium. (As time goes on, customers are becoming more demanding. Computer-telephony integration (CTI) in the call center is the answer. Come to this session to gain a comprehensive (and comprehensible) understanding of CTI and how it can help you maintain a strong and lasting relationship with your present and future customers.)
  • Your Place Or Mine? Call Center Outsourcing Options. (Call center bursting at the seams? Time to implement new avenues of customer contact, but lacking the expertise? Considering setting up a call center for the first time, but uncertain about the cost? These situations, and others, call for serious consideration of outsourcing. This session will provide you with a comprehensive formula for evaluating call center outsourcing providers, including the services you should expect and the financial commitments you should plan for.)

Call Center Human Resources

  • Taming Turnover With Solid Employment Strategies. (Call center turnover was tough enough in a high unemployment economy, forget about a full-employment one. Your hiring strategies have the most dramatic effect on your turnover rate and we will teach you what you need to know to curb turnover so you can spend your time building your business.)
  • Money Or Motivation: What Counts More? (Compensation and motivation are two of the most difficult goals to reach in any organization. Furthermore, since every organization is different, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy to rely upon. Come learn about the various proven motivation and compensation options available to you.)
  • Training 2000: Time For Updates. (Its unfortunate but true, the most eloquent call center representative may have absolutely atrocious e-mail and chat etiquette. Writing skills are far different than verbal ones and excellence in either does not guarantee even satisfactory performance in the other. Lets face it, call center training is more complex than ever and the multiple skill sets required are daunting. Come to this session to learn how to train your reps on all the latest technologies such as Web chat, e-mail and more.)
  • Logging & Monitoring: Big Brother Or Better Business? (If there is one set of technologies that is most controversial in call centers, it must be this one. In this session you will learn when and why to use logging and monitoring and the difference between the two. Once implemented correctly, you can expect more motivated employees and better customer relationships.)
  • Whos On First? Ending The Workforce Management Nightmare. (Coping with staffing in todays complex work environment is a daunting task. Forget relying on the ancient Erlang C equation as your only option. This session will teach you the workforce management solutions you need to implement in todays more demanding call center environment.)

We hope to see you in D.C., April 26-28 and once again as an incentive, we would like to offer you free registration to the exhibit hall if you register immediately at www.comsolexpo.com.







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