Customer Service Around The World

cornwall.jpgUnfortunately, most news stories we read about the police are about good stuff.  Well, here's one that is.  It's about how the police in Cornwall Ontario helped a struggling couple - one with dementia - recover a wedding ring, and hopefully their lives at the same time.  It's a beatiful story.  (Here it is)

I wanted to share it here because the story is a study in compassion - the root of what it takes to create world-class customer service.  Wouldn't things be wonderful if we could see experiences like this every day?

Leave A Comment

Categories: ,

logo_letstalk_en.pngTelecoms are rarely used as shining examples of customer experience.  More often than not, in fact, they are held up as shining examples of how not to treat customers, with the number of complaints rivaled only by utilities in most countries.  And while Bell Canada may not be remarkably different than the others in their day-to-day operations, over the last couple of weeks they have really done something special.

The essence of customer service - perhaps the very definition of outstanding customer service - is when a customer's needs are treated as an absolute priority.  And it can be measured by the degree to which customers feel that they are a genuine priority - by how much they believe you truly care about them.

Over the last two weeks, Bell has been running an aggressive public service campaign to end the stigma of mental health issues.  It's called "Let's Talk", and it shines a bright light on some very serious issues.  The advertising has been brilliant (Here's an example), and they have done a masterful job of stimulating a gigantic amount of conversation.

The Let's Talk campaign doesn't focus on selling cell phones or internet services.  It focuses on on the needs of the community - many of whom are their customers.  The overriding message that "you're important to us" is loud and clear.  And I believe it will be a powerful message that will resonate with consumers as their contracts with Bell and the competitive telecoms come due. 

To those at Bell who made this happen - well done.  And thank you.

Shaun Belding
The Belding Group

Leave A Comment

Good Cop - Good Cop

| No Comments

customer service.jpgIt's not unusual to find ourselves in situations where two people are working with the same customer on the same project or issue. You might be bringing in a coworker to get some additional information. You might be escalating an issue to a manager or supervisor. You're possibly having to connect your customer to a different department.

In these situations, one of the best approaches you can use is the "Good Cop - Good Cop" strategy.

We're all familiar with the "Good Cop - Bad Cop" approach, where one person asks the tough or unpleasant questions, and a second person plays a more conciliatory and friendly role. The "Good Cop - Good Cop" scenario is similar in that you're still playing off of a coworker, but in this case you're both playing a positive role.

The purpose of it is to give your customers greater confidence with the second person, and to establish that their needs are not just important to you, but to everybody in the organization. Here's an example of how it might work in a telephone conversation where you are connecting a customer to somebody in a different department:

YOU: "Mr. Smith, I have Susan on the line. She's with our logistics department. She's the best there is, and if anyone can figure out how to get this done for you, it's Susan."

"Susan, Mr. Smith needs to get this item within the next three days, and our normal shipping time is two weeks. How can we make this work?"

This simple approach has a number of very powerful benefits.

1. It sets Susan up for success by ensuring the customer of her expertise.

2. It positions you as a champion for the customers, and as someone who is genuinely interested in getting things right.

3. Because you've explained the situation to Susan, you've prevented customers from being annoyed at having to repeat themselves.

4. The customer will perceive the organization as one that is committed to its customers.

It's a great way for building both customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.

"The more valuable customers believes they are to you, the more valuable you and your company will be to them" - Shaun Belding

Leave A Comment

Categories: , , , , , , , , , ,

eddie lampert.pngIf what we hear from the acting CEO of Sears, Eddie Lampert, is true, then this company doesn't stand a chance.  He believes that the answer to Sears woes is to close stores, and fire employees.  Yikes.  This indicates a profound ignorance of what it takes to be a successful retailer.  

He says that Sears is trying to "transform itself into a membership-based, e-commerce-centric retailer."  Given that the company continues to display no understanding of what it takes to create positive customer experience, there is no way on earth they will be able to compete against the powerful online competition that excels in this area.  And it's pretty clear that he doesn't understand that customer experience is the single most important driver in today's retail economy.

Ronald Boire, the acting CEO of Sears Canada. appears to miss the entire point as well.  According to him, the company needs to "focus on high-selling products... drop products that haven't done well.... build on Craftsman tools, Kenmore appliances, mattresses, lawn and garden products, outdoor products, core apparel and footwear items, and active wear and fitness wear" (source Winnipeg Free Press).

They're solving the wrong problem.  The real problem is that customers don't believe Sears cares about them.  Their customer service is non-existant. Their processes are horrendous, and their business practices are painful.  You can cut all the costs and bring in all the products you want, but if your customers feel abused, you aren't going to survive. THAT's where their focus should be.

On a Personal Note

Sometimes I find that I get so caught up in the numbers and the research on customer service and service recovery, I forget about what it's like to be a real customer.  Well, Sears is reminding me. Here's the story: My wife and I thought it would be fun to order a "Pre-lit Christmas Palm Tree."  We had a number of companies to choose from, and we chose Sears.  We were supposed to get it two weeks before Christmas.  We're now told we will be lucky to get it two days before Christmas - even though they actually had it in the truck to deliver on the promised date.  

Rather than go into painful detail about how I've tried to resolve it, let me just share some numbers around my (ongoing) experience:

By the Numbers:  Trying to Deal With Sears Customer Service

9     The number of calls I have had to make to their call centre

11    The number of times I've had to verify my personal information

6      The number of times I was promised something that didn't happen

2     The number of times an agent hung up on me while I was on hold as he was 'looking for a supervisor'

48    The number of times their IVR system told that my call was important to them

249     The number of collective minutes I've spent on hold

I went on their facebook page, and took a peek at Google.  I'm not alone.  There appear to be thousands of people who have been through similar things.  It is astonishing that this isn't the primary focus for this organization


Leave A Comment

Categories: , ,

sears.jpgSears has been in trouble for a while now, with an ancient business model and a seeming shortage of vision for the future.  

They've been struggling in the traditional retail world for over a decade. And now, they are demonstrating that they also don't have what it takes to compete in the world of e-commerce.

The bar, of course, has been set by, and Their sites are easy to navigate. Their delivery is fast and reliable. Their customer service is off the charts. Not the least impressive are their service recovery practices. When things go sideways, their teams are empowered to make things right. And with very few exceptions, they do.

But Sears? Well, It's like Sears is actually trying to fail. Go online, and you will find thousands of complaints. Example #1,  Example 2,  Example 3, Example 4

The people at the very top of Sears need to be profoundly embarrassed. The board of directors needs to be embarrassed.  This is a company that, 25 years ago, had one of the best reputations on the planet for their customer service, their policies ad their processes. Now, there is absolutely no-one who would hold them up as an example that any business should follow.

I've experienced their horrendous service levels first-hand. Most recently with an item I'm still struggling to get delivered. I've called their customer service line a half dozen times. I've been lied to and stalled. Nobody in the organization cares enough to do anything about it, nobody has empowerment, and they have no effective escalation process.  Seriously?  Who was it in Sears that decided that this was acceptable.

The sad part is that the fix wouldn't really be that complex. All they really have to do is remember what it was like when they used to give a darn about their customers.  Unfortunately, their time seems to be running out.  Sears will soon the the object lesson of how your customers will stop caring about you as soon as they realize that you have stopped caring about them.

Shaun Belding is CEO of The Belding Group of Companies, and has been consulting in customer experience for over 23 years.  

Follow The Belding Group's Facebook page 

Follow their World-Class RetailTrack Mystery Shopping Division 



Leave A Comment

Categories: , , , ,

call centre.jpgHere's a really cute, fun and VERY poignant video about call centre customer service.  How come so many "professionals" struggle with something a 4-year-old seems to have no problems with?


Leave A Comment

Categories: , ,

broadway.pngWell, this is going to fall in the top ten worst customer service stories this year.

Imagine staying at a hotel, having an unsatisfactory experience, then writing some negative comments on  Then imagine getting fined by the hotel!

Here's the story about the Broadway Hotel in Blackpool England

I'd make a comment on how ridiculous this is, but none is really necessary!


Leave A Comment

Categories: , ,

Change Your Words, Change Your World

| No Comments


Daniel Webster once wrote, "If all my possessions were taken from me with one exception, I would choose to keep the power of communication, for by it I would soon regain all the rest." Truer words were never spoken.

It's amazing how much of a difference small changes in our language can have on our ability to influence, persuade, motivate - or even just get along better with people.

Eighteen years ago, a retail client of ours allowed us to do a little experiment. We wanted to see if we could change the number of customers who reflexively said, "No thanks, I'm just looking," when engaged by an employee. In ten stores, we had employees begin their interaction with the traditional, "Can I help you?" In ten other stores, we had employees begin with, "What can I help you find today?" A subtle difference, but the outcome was profound.

In the "Can I help you?" stores, a little over 60% of customers responded that they were just looking. In the stores where we added the "what" prefix, fewer than 40% of customers responded that way. Wow.

In another instance, a few years back, we had front line employees of a financial institution make a subtle change in how they gave direction to customers. Instead of giving an instruction, they were asked to frame things in the customers' best interests. So, for example, instead of saying, "You're going to have to talk to a loans manager about that," they would say, "Our loans manager will be able to help you with that better than I can." Again, the impact on customer response was remarkable.

Making small changes to the way we communicate can influence every aspect of our lives. You can say to your spouse who would like to go to an Italian restaurant, "Yabut you always want to eat Italian food. I want sushi." Or, you could say, "I know how much you love your Italian food, but can we try sushi tonight?" You can say to a child, "You're doing this wrong," or you can say "You might find it works better if you do it this way." Little changes can have big results.

Like it or not, people judge you based on your language skills. Think about the first impressions you've gotten from people you've met. In a very short period of time, you might assess them as intelligent, nice, narcissistic, funny, arrogant, friendly, shy - any number of characteristics. A large part of that has come a subconscious interpretation of the way they speak.

It's not an easy skill to master, because there is a situational component to effective communication skills. The most successful people you will meet have the ability to make subtle changes to their language based on the people they are speaking with and their environment. They recognize that while more formal language may be effective in a boardroom, for example, it has the potential to be counterproductive in relaxed social settings.

So how do we improve our language skills? The answer is awareness. Be aware of your surroundings. Be aware of your own speech patterns. Watch how people respond to you and others. Learn. Try different tactics. Be willing to change your approach. The payoff in both your personal and professional life will be huge.


Reprinted with permission from the Winning At Work newsletter


The Belding Group helps companies stand out by providing Outstanding customer service training and customer experience consulting and measurement

Leave A Comment

Categories: ,

disney.pngAsk 10 people to identify World-Class Customer Experience providers, and 9 of them will say "Disney."

It is, of course, unarguable that the Disney concept is unequalled.  But is it possible that they have become so certain of their superiority that they are beginning to forget about the basics of customer service?  There have been a few anecdotal stories over the last few years that make one wonder.  This most recent one comes from Taryn Hillin, an individual who is a loyal Disney supporter and season pass holder.  Here's the full story.

When she called to voice a very reasonable complaint, the response from Disney simply "Well you must be the only ones who feel that way because we're still selling tickets. In fact tickets sell out."

What Ms. Hillin was looking for, at minimum, was a little empathy.  Instead, she described her feeling like this, "When we called Disneyland we were considered nothing more than the dirt under their diamond tipped shoes. As the woman told us, people are still buying tickets so we can take a hike for all she cares. We did, thanks."

Is The Happiest Place On Earth slipping?

Leave A Comment

Categories: ,

Thumbnail image for staples.pngThirteen days ago I wrote in to Staples regarding a question on their printer ink guarantee. (Here's the post)  Still no response.  The question becomes, of course, is this good enough in today's hyper-competitive world?

Recent research tells us that "Ownership" and "Caring" are the primary levers for creating Wow customer experiences.  (Wow experiences are defined in the research as those top-of-mind experiences that people are most likely to share via word-of-mouth or social media.)   Similarly, the conspicuous absence of these two things were identified as the primary attributes of Negative Wow experiences.  One startling fact is that 7 out of 10 positive Wow experiences begin initially as negative situations - with employees turning them around into positive solutions. 

The take-away for organizations is that there is there is great benefit in being responsive to customers, and great risk to being perceived as uncaring. 

So why has Staples not responded?  My guess is that they probably don't have enough staff to deal adequately with their volume of feedback, so they have triaged the comment into a low-to-no-importance queue. They likely see it as a simple economic reality that they can't have more people in contact centre roles doing non-revenue-producing roles.  If that is indeed the case, they then they also likely haven't done the math on the importance of customer engagement

We'll touch base in another thirteen days, or when Staples gets back to me - whichever comes first!


Thumbnail image for Belding Group Customer Service Logo.png

The Belding Group helps companies stand out by providing Outstanding customer service training and customer experience consulting and measurement

Leave A Comment

Categories: , ,

Winning At Work!

It's not unusual to find ourselves in situations where two people are working with the same customer on the same project or issue. You might be bringing in a coworker to get some additional information. You might be escalating an issue to a manager or supervisor....

Sign up today for the latest updates direct from Shaun Belding.

Sign Up

Shaun Belding has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share about what it takes to provide world class customer service. Talk to Shaun about your company's needs or invite him to speak at your next function for the perfect mix of fun and information.

Unfortunately, most news stories we read about the police are about good stuff. Well, here's one that is. It's about how the police in Cornwall Ontario helped a struggling couple - one with dementia - recover a wedding ring, and hopefully their lives at the same...


Book Cover
Find out about the great range of books available from the e-Store.

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID

Recent Assets

  • cornwall.jpg
  • logo_letstalk_en.png
  • customer service.jpg
  • eddie lampert.png
  • sears.jpg
  • call centre.jpg
  • broadway.png
  • words.jpg
  • disney.png
  • staples.png