Be Attentive

Customers Need Time to Learn

Customers Need Time to Learn

I had to make a late night run to our local grocery store the other night (thumb tacks for a seventh grade school project). After finding the thumb tacks I was disappointed to get to the front of the store and find that the "self-checkout" lines were closed. The only option was to go through a "normal" check out line. There was no wait but I was still disappointed.

Why is that blog worthy? Because when the self-checkout lines first got installed, I detested them. I hated that voice commanding me to put my groceries in the bag and refusing to let me do anything else until I did. I also detested having to wave my box of spaghetti (yeah, I still call it spaghetti--not pasta) five or six times over the bar code reader at every angle conceivable to get it to read. And I really hated trying to find my produce in all the little pictures (felt some kind of test).

Apparently my fellow shoppers felt the same way, because every time I was ready to check out, there were lines at the normal checkouts and nobody was using the 4 self-checkout machines. Maybe it is just me, but I hate doing nothing and I hate reading about what Brad and Angelina are doing to break Jen's heart and about who is too fat and who is too skinny. In fact, I hated it even more than the self-checkout process so I started using self checkout.

Just like anything new, there was a bit of a learning curve but it got easier. In fact, I think I can safely say I'm now as fast as Sandra down on cash register 3! Here is the amazing thing: I'm not alone. It is rare now to not see a line for the self-checkout machines. It turns out the machines gives us just what we wanted in the first place: faster checkout (or at least the perception of faster checkout).

The lessons? Well, first a better implementation of the checkout machines would probably have hastened their acceptance, but beyond that sometimes customers need time to learn and get comfortable with new innovations. Had store management reviewed the self-checkout performance after the first three months I'm sure they would have been seen as a dismal failure. Next time you're planning an innovation in your customer experience, don't forget to include learning time.

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It's not easy not liking tomatoes

It's not easy not liking tomatoes

For those few of you out there that don't like tomatoes you know what I'm talking about. "Why don't you try this fresh one from the garden? They are so good!" But the result is always the same, once the slimy seedy acidy insides hit my mouth its over.

I know all the arguments for liking tomatoes..."How can you like salsa, ketchup and spaghetti sauce and not tomatoes?" Sorry, they taste different.

Put yourself in my place. Everytime you order a burger you have to special order, and half the time they blow the order so you are picking off the tomato yourself. Like that's easy...the carcass comes off pretty well but the seedy sludge left over reminds me of trying to wipe up...well, it is too gross to specify. (Let just say it happens when kids have eaten then you drive through a winding canyon.)

Ever try to get a salad without tomatoes? There is no pulling those out, the tomato fluids are lost in the forest of lettuce, just waiting to get you.

I would like to love tomatoes, I have tried, honestly. I would love to have a life where I enjoy them. But I don't. No one seems to accept that. There is always a bit of judgment as you tell them you would not care for tomatoes.

I heard once that they were a member of the nightshade family. A very deadly plant. Ever wonder who tried those first? "Hey, Eb, give these a try..."

My favorite places to eat are those that are happy with a "special order" or the ones where you have to pay extra for tomatoes (why should I pay the tax for others tomatoes?).

OK, this is going somewhere. The point is we all have different tastes and preferences. And no matter how much we educate or communicate, those tastes and preferences remain. And trying to change them is like trying to teach a pig to sing, it wastes your time and annoys the pig.

Think about your business. Do you have customers that prefer things a little different than the rest? Do you have policies or people that just refuse to change.? This is a great chance to give them a bit of your own "secret sauce" where you show them you take care of the customer. Sometimes things shouldn't be changed for the special case, but if your competitor will change for them you know where your customer will be.

You work hard to make sure your customers are happy. Don't waste happy customers. How easy is it for your customers to share with their friends? Learn more

How will you be viewed?






I love optical illusions. It is fascinating how our minds can be tricked. The good folks at grand-illusions have a dragon illusion that you can download and build yourself. Here is a video showing the illusion in more detail.

This seems to be another example of the brain assigning a symbol to something (see earlier post) to make processing lots of information quicker. In this case, it seems the brain "knows" that if a dragon is looking at us that its nose would be closer to us than its eyes. It is called the "Hollow Face Illusion".

Just as our brain can interpret what we see as two completely different views, it appears it does the same thing with people. For example, let's say you are looking at a playground and you see a child climbing up a slide. You also see an adult in the shadows hiding behind a nearby tree peeking out and watching the child.

If you don't know this adult chances are you will remember being taught "stranger danger!" and you will immediately become suspicious that this might be a predator. However, if you knew this adult you would assume that they are playing hide-and-seek. Two completely different conclusions from the same situation. Obviously, previous experience colors our perception.

Inevitably you, or someone in your company, will make a mistake. At that point your customer's view of you will determine the conclusion they draw. If you are a stranger they may view the mistake as a callous disregard for customers from a company that only cares about its profits. However, if they have had several good experiences with your company they will be more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt.

If your customers only hear from you when you are selling something you are missing out on a chance to build trust and change from being a stranger to a friend. Why not send a non-salesy greeting to them on their birthday, let them get to know you, it is good insurance for future mishaps and it is what friends do.

Customers who feel that you are listening to them are more likely to recommend you to a friend. How do your customers know that you are listening? Learn more

Would you recommend Cingular?

Would you recommend Cingular?

Yesterday my bill from Cingular arrived. Two months earlier I had added my daughters phone to our family plan. For the first month a new phone gets free, unlimited text messaging which allows you to figure out which messaging plan to sign up for. Let me tell you that teenage girls text a lot!

After the first month I got on Cingular's web site, logged into my account, and changed her texting plan to allow MANY text messages, 3000. Turns out that's just enough. But, when the phone bill arrived yesterday it showed that I didn't change the plan so the text portion of my daughter's phone bill was $170. If you're wondering, that represents 2700 text messages in one month (busy fingers).

I called Cingular, 611 on my cell phone. I explained to the customer service rep how I got on the web site and made a change to my plan to accommodate my new rapid texter. She checked the records and found out that I made a change to the account but that I ended up with the same plan. To me that means "no change" but they have record that I did something that day. She said she would refund half of the $170, not because she had to but to show good faith. "I don't have to do this sir". She didn't believe that I made the change. By-the-way, if you didn't already know, Cingular has a website that frequently has problems. Well, at least that's been my experience over the past 1 1/2 years.

While having this discussion with the customer service rep my Cingular call just dropped. It makes a sound when that happens, "da-da-da-da-daaa".

I called right back, got a different rep, and told my story again. She listened. She checked and found out that I had the same plan before and after the "change". Then she said "I'm making changes to your account sir, I'm post dating your text package to the date you tried to make this change". Then she took care of the overage and other assorted things she needed to do to get it to all work out so that my bill would be correct.

THANK YOU!!!

Cingular is an immense company. I won't argue that Cingular is a good wireless provider or not. Mostly it's worked well for me but a bad experience with them and I would be pushed to change providers, it's hard to have a lot of loyalty to a mega-company. It's hard unless they deal with you correctly in all circumstances The experience with the first rep wasn't good, it was exactly what I had feared would happen. That coupled with the extra $170 and other fruity action from their web site and I had plenty of reason to leave Cingular's service. Had this story ended there I'd be with another wireless company right now. But, one customer service rep made all the difference for me. She made it all right, over the top of the first one and other bad experiences I've had with the company. A huge company and one person in it makes the difference. A remarkable person.

I don't talk about my cell phone company unless something gives me reason to, whether it's good or bad. It's good this time and I'm telling others. I'm using a megaphone (this blog) to do it. If Cingular were my company... I'd be rich! No, no, no. If Cingular were my company... I'd find out who my happy customers are and give them a megaphone to tell their friends about how great a company I have.

If you have a company you should do the same with your happy customers. Find out who they are and give them a megaphone to tell their friends about what a great product or service you have. You can do it and you should do it. If you need help with the finding and the megaphone you can get it here.

The average American consumer discusses brands 56 times a week. Are they discussing yours? Learn more

Whitewashing fences today...

Whitewashing fences today...

Quick, how many words can you come up with to describe this photo? If you said pool, child, kid, water, goggles or blue you and I would have just made 100 points at one of Googles latest projects.

Remember how Tom Sawyer made whitewashin' the fence so tempting to those passing by?

It seems Google might be doing something similar to label images they have indexed.

Here is how it works. You push a button and get paired up with a partner. A 90 second timer starts and you each are shown the same picture. You type in as many descriptions as you can. As soon as you have a description that matches you are shown another image. Each image you match is worth 100 points. At the end you can even hover your mouse over the images and see what your partner guessed.

I think it is brilliant. Not only are they getting free work from people, but they are discovering what people really think when they see an image. Oh yea, it is also fun.

Think of your business, is there a fun way you could get feedback from your customers helping you whitewash your fence?

(By the way my current record is 900 points in 90 seconds)

The Happiest customers tell on average 8 other people. Who are your happiest customers? Promoterz knows. Learn more
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