What's this blog really about?

You may notice a variety of topics here - from business, to charity promotion, even to local news, but the primary reason this blog was created was to alert readers to the hostile atmosphere and sexual harassment at The Danville Register & Bee. The readers and creator of this blog want a FULL FRONT PAGE apology in the Danville Register & Bee, plus the disciplining of those individuals involved. Until then, we'll continue to post regular updates. To tolerate THIS kind of behavior by a major media network is intolerable. And this isn't just ONE instance. Media General has been sued nationwide for racism and sexism, yet they CONTINUE to keep the offenders employed. Why? And why am I doing this? TRUTH compels me.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Customer service

With the economy in the tank for many, businesses are wondering what to do to increase or even just maintain their sales. The number one thing you can do to retain customers? Be nice. Offer great customer service! It costs you NOTHING, yet reaps great rewards. Think about it. Do you enjoy shopping at a place where you feel welcomed and appreciated? You bet you do! You go back don't you? I do.

Given the choice between saving a few pennies most of us do pick a business, church or organization that cares, or at least seems to care, about our needs and wants as much as they do making money.

Here's a recent for instance:
Do you love those free business cards from VistaPrint? Yeah....Nice huh? NOT SO MUCH. Read the fine print. I'm still getting billed after canceling an account I had with them. They canceled the account, but kept billing me. After two weeks they've assured me they'll refund the money in the next couple of weeks. So, they hold onto my money and make money off of it...not much by itself, but when they do it with a thousand other customers, it adds up.

What makes it so difficult to cancel an account with VistaPrint is they don't let you cancel your own account online. You sign up by yourself online, but can't leave. You have to call during business hours, and talk to a representative and then cancel. Very inefficient. It also means you have to answer a lot of questions about WHY you want to cancel and gives them a chance to try to convince you to stay. Not fun. Not easy. And of course, the operation is overseas, so sometimes the accents and information are hard to get past as well.

I'm not the only one complaining about customer service. Marketing guru Seth Godin's blog today bemoaned the lack of customer service from KitchenAid! He writes:

How to answer the phone

The KitchenAid tea kettle (adorned in bright Squidoo orange, of course) in my office melted, leaving hot orange plastic on my thumb. Yes, it hurts as much as you probably imagine it does.

But that wasn't the worst part.

I called 1-800-334-6889 to whine a little bit and to hear why they made a meltable teapot. I counted how many prompts I had to press in order to talk to a human being. It was NINE.

Nine! Try it. I'll wait.

The last step was a recording that they were closed and I should call back after 10 am. Click.

I know you've heard this before, but it's really simple:

The only reason to answer the phone when a customer calls is to make the customer happy.

If you're not doing this or you are unable to do this, do not answer the phone. There is no middle ground on this discussion. There are no half measures. Saving 50 cents a call with a complicated phone tree is a false savings. Think of all the money you'll save if you just stop answering altogether. Think of all the money you'll make if you just make people happy.

Your choice.

Seth Godin


Okay, if the top marketers in the country are complaining about customer service, what do you think your customers are doing? They're complaining too - only not to you. They're complaining to their friends, who aren't buying from you, who - if you're a newspaper - aren't advertising with you.

What would it cost you to treat your employees right so they actually enjoy working for you? What would it cost you to smile, to act like you're glad to see a customer walk in the door? What would it cost you to treat people, your customers, the way you want to be treated?

If Steve Kaylor's wife had had her breasts videotaped so the newsroom could laugh at her and joke about his wife, would he have fired some people? (probably not, but we can hope). Would Bernard Baker's wife like to be on a computer monitor while all the men in the newsroom laughed. Would he have thought that as funny?

Customer service begins with treating your employees well, with respecting people, with saying "Thank you," with applying the golden rule. And if a business doesn't do that? You vote with your money. You spend it elsewhere. And if the business continues to treat people and employees like The Register & Bee does, eventually they go belly-up.

The economy is bad and only getting worse. You can change how well you do with a few simple things - happy employees, good customer service and truly caring about your customers.

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