Be Attentive

Customer Service Lessons from Station 2

Customer Service Lessons from Station 2

Had a chance to visit a local Tempe, AZ fire station last night (career night with venture scouts). I was impressed and came away with a few lessons, or at least things to think about, to improve customer service.

  1. Hiring. When asked what it takes to become a fire fighter our tour guide responded, "They can teach anyone to do this job. What they are really looking for is some one with people skills that can deal with the public and get along with everyone on the team." Now certainly there are certain skills that you look for when hiring for a particular position, but in my experience the fire chiefs got it right: most important is people skills. The cost of hiring someone that is hard to get along with? Read this.

  2. Everybody's Job. Apparently the greater Phoenix area has a dispatch system that is the envy of most metropolitan areas. Somehow common sense won out over politics in this area and the number one rule of dispatch is "closest engine gets the call" regardless of which city pays the bills. Simple but powerful, and in this case, life-saving concept. If you've decided to sequester your "customer service" people in one corner of your building and have everyone forward irate customer calls to them you are losing lives. Change your policy to "closest employee solves the problem."

  3. Know Your Role. When the alarm goes off, firefighters in station 2 have 60 seconds to be in their clothes, in the truck and screaming out onto the street. At night they get an additional 30 seconds to allow for wake up time. Everyone obviously has to know what their duty is, where their equipment is, etc. to make that happen. If the engineer is off or out for a particular shift a substitute driver is designated at the start of the shift--no time to do rock, paper, scissors for driving privileges once the alarm has gone off. Here's the point, knowing what they are supposed to do when there is an emergency empowers firefighters to be fast and effective. Do your employees know what their role is when the alarm goes off? Perhaps even more important, have you given your customers an easy way to set the alarm off? Someone with a house fire knows to call 911 and will follow through and do it--they have no other option. Someone with a bad experience at your business could easily just walk away and tell several of their friends. Unless you provide an easy and obvious way for them to sound the alarm, you may never know what damage is done.

Maybe it is extreme to use the firefighters as a standard for customer service--after all, they are dealing with life and death situations. On the other hand, ignore or handle poorly volatile customer situations and it could be a life or death situation for your business.

If you are not regularly staying in touch with your customers someone else will. How do you stay in touch? Learn more

Ode to The Pizza Man

Ode to The Pizza Man

She ordered that night (stomachs were growling)
A few pizzas to keep the kids from howling.

We waited and waited and waited some more,
Must the pepperoni age before it got to the door?

The minutes they ticked by--fifteen then thirty, forty-five, fifty--
Anger joined hunger as the clock ticked past sixty.

At ninety minutes, no less, the doorbell chime rang
Finally some food for our bedraggled gang!

Someone will hear about this she insisted
A phone call was made and the manager listened.

A few days later, by mail was delivered to me,
A note with certificates for two pizzas free!

The long wait of last week, its memory has faded
With thoughts that they listened, we're no longer jaded.

It's pizza tonight from Papa John's once more
the manager there knew how to settle the score.

Mistakes, they happen, but this truth remains:
To the business that listens come the most gains.

[Don't worry, I'm not quitting my day job! Nice to see a business do good and make a save. Aware of other saves you've made or seen made? Tell us about them--and no, you don't need to rhyme.]

If you are not regularly staying in touch with your customers someone else will. How do you stay in touch? Learn more

The Miracle of the Reservoir

The Miracle of the Reservoir

I grew up in the west and now live in Arizona. There is a simple rule for growing things out here (this rule applies everywhere but is more obvious in the arid west): if it doesn't get water it doesn't grow. Early settlers fought their neighbors over water rights knowing that land without water wasn't worth a plugged nickel. In addition to fighting, they went to work and figured out ways to divert and contain spring runoffs, rainfall and the flow of rivers and creeks to use in dry times. They built dams that created reservoirs then built a network of canals and ditches to get the water to the fields. Wallah! Arid desert became fertile farmlands. Fly over the west today and the benefits of the reservoir and resulting irrigation are obvious in the green irrigation circles that dot the land.

Now think about your marketing and advertising efforts. Paying for advertising can feel like paying somebody to do a rain dance--you're not at all sure what you are going to get. But sometimes there is no choice. So you pay and with some luck some new customers fall from the sky. With a lot of luck maybe a lot of customers fall from the sky. Then comes the moment of truth: do the customers run off like a flash flood leaving only a little green in their path? Or have you built a customer reservoir that they peacefully flow into to be tapped again and again ensuring green for many years to come?

How do you build a customer reservoir? First let's be clear, the reservoir metaphor only goes so far. While it is possible to build a dam to trap water, trying to trap customers is a recipe for disaster. Your goal is not to trap but to create something customers want to be, and remain, a part of. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Be remarkable-Find out what is most important to your customers and then be absolutely amazing at it.

  2. Be inviting-Identify your customers and invite them to be part of something great. Make it easy for them to join.

  3. Be persistent-Make the effort to stay in touch regularly, if you don't someone else will.

  4. Be contagious-Make it easy for your customers to tell their friends about your business.

  5. Be attentive-Ask your customers what they think, listen to what they have to say, and continue to make your business even more remarkable.

The early western settlers learned quickly that without reservoirs they couldn't survive. The same is true of business today, rain dances alone aren't sufficient.

Promoterz is the hands-free, word-of-mouth marketing service that takes care of the details so you can focus on business. Learn more
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