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All For One, And One For All August 26, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Random Musings.
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I’ve been having a semi-regular delivery issue with a certain national daily publication.  Every now and then, it does not arrive in my driveway.  I dutifully go to their web site and note this oversight.  The next day, I get two copies: the current issue and the previous day.  Needless to say, getting a daily publication a day late is of limited value.

When this happened last week, I tweeted about it, and included the publication’s Twitter account in the tweet, along with two columnists who also happen to be on Twitter.  It was a bit of an experiment, I’ll admit, but it was also a request for help.  Would the power of Twitter help solve my problem?

Well, no.  What I did get was a direct message from a columnist with the number of the customer service department, along with an explanation that the columnists have nothing to do with delivery.

I know that.  I knew that when I included the columnists on the tweet.  But they work for the publication, just like the delivery people.  And in the end, they should be just as concerned that I get my paper as they are about writing their columns.  When the delivery person makes a mistake, the columnist looks bad.  When the columnists wrote a lousy column, the delivery people lose a bit of stature.  They are all in this together.

This is just as true in our own companies.  How often have you seen a group breathe a sigh of relief when they discover that “some other department” made a customer-visible error?  I hate to burst their bubble, but they get painted by the broad brush of customer dissatisfaction right along with the group that made the mistake.  The outside world does not know, or care, that some mistake occurred in a specific department.  They only know that the whole group has caused them a problem.

When you make a mistake, you hurt the reputation of every single person who works with you, whether they are involved or not.  That’s why mistakes are so expensive: not only did you inconvenience a customer, you damaged the standing of all of your co-workers.  Did they deserve that?  Did you think about that before doing your best to do a good job?

Fortunately, this works the other way as well.  When you make someone happy, everyone in your team benefits whether they were involved or not.  By making a customer feel good about your company (or department, or whatever), you improve the reputation of every person in that group.  What a great way to help every person you work with, every day!  Help a customer and make everyone look good!

The columnist dissociated themselves from the group that made a mistake, thinking that I would do the same.  But like most customers, I view the Journal as a single entity.  When my paper is late, they all decline a bit in my mind.  But if the columnist had gone out of their way to help fix my problem, they all would have gone up in my book, from the deliver person to the editorial board.

We’re all in this together, all for one and one for all.  Remember that when someone makes a mistake, and leverage it when you decide to do something good.

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Customer Service! July 3, 2008

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Leadership.
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I had a startling customer service experience this week that is worth sharing.

I am a long-time reader of the Wall Street Journal.  I think the Journal is the last great newspaper in America, with an editorial viewpoint that resonates with my own political leanings.  It comes as no surprise to me that a paper run by conservatives is successful and profitable, in contrast to a certain other high-profile New York paper that positions itself slightly to the left of Karl Marx.

I have been distressed recently to see an uptick in spelling and grammar errors in the Journal.  Loyal readers know my feelings on such things, and I was not happy to see the Journal slipping to a level of quality normally associated with USA Today and its ilk.  I reached the end of my rope when earlier this week a Journal article referred to the owner of a Toyota dealership as “Mr. Yaris,” replacing the real name with the name of a Toyota model.

Knowing that they await my feedback on a regular basis, I dashed off an email to the editors.  You can imagine the consternation in the Journal offices when word got out that I had written; I can only presume they brought the whole operation to a grinding halt while my thoughts were shared across the organization.

Well, something like that must have happened, because in less than two hours, I received a personal response from the author of the article, apologizing for the error, thanking me for my concern, and assuring me that the Journal worked very hard to keep such things from happening.

Wow!  A real response to a (mildly) disgruntled customer!  Imagine an organization that reads their email so quickly, routes it to the responsible party, and ensures that a response occurs so quickly!  I was impressed, and wrote back to say just that.  Later, I found that they even listed the error in the next day’s corrections.

Does your organization handle customer feedback that well?  Are your people taking personal responsibility for their errors with their customers in such a professional manner?  If not, why not?