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Two clients in top ten ‘Most Innovative’ companies in America

By Phil Verghis on September 5, 2012

Pleased to have 2 clients in the 10 most innovative companies in America. A pleasure to work with… #custserv http://onforb.es/Rbmyv6

Coming soon — article on “Measures, Metrics and Madness”

By Phil Verghis on April 20, 2010

Well, it has taken me much longer to finish than I thought, but I’ve just put the finishing touches to an interesting new article “Measures, Metrics and Madness”.  It will be the basis for the April 2010 edition of the Verghis View (my newsletter).

Stay tuned… it is truly perhaps the single best method to turbocharge productivity that I have seen.

2010

By Phil Verghis on January 1, 2010

2009, you were one of the most interesting years to live through from a business perspective. For many all over the world, it was a painful year. Here’s hoping that 2010 is a peaceful, prosperous and safe year for all of you and your loved ones.

Many thanks to my clients for making 2009 my busiest year yet.

Programs and Speakers announced for 2009 Voice of the Customer Conference

By Phil Verghis on June 24, 2009

Boston, MA — Drawing on an impressive lineup of speakers, the 2009 “Voice of the Customer Conference” will focus on leading-edge issues in building end-user communities, improving satisfaction metrics, and creating customer-centric organizations. The conference, produced by the First Wednesday Roundtable, will take place in Bolton, Mass. on Nov. 3 with a day of optional workshops on Nov. 4.

Registration for the Nov. 3 conference is $385 per person. Additional information about the program and post-conference workshops can be found on the First Wednesday Web site:
http://www.first-wednesday.com/support_conference.html

Can messing up increase your revenues?

By Phil Verghis on December 17, 2008

(From the December 2008 newsletter. Sign up from my home page.)

It really doesn’t seem fair, does it? On one side you have senior management breathing down your neck, pressuring you to deliver more revenue and/or better margins from your existing services portfolio. On the other, your customers are looking to slash costs, and are unlikely to forget (or forgive) companies that force them to do anything that smacks of a price increase.

It’s not easy for you and your overworked team to add new services in this economic climate, so here’s another source of revenue to consider: service recovery. After all, mistakes are like death and taxes: inevitable. At some point we all will make mistakes that affect our customers. Stuff happens.

What’s important is how we recover from mistakes. The right recovery can transform them from a “Never Do Business with You Again Unless I Have To” to a “Wow” experience. Check out my blog for a personal example of this.

Continental Airlines has an interesting case study about this. A few years ago they tried an interesting experiment to discover how best to recover from “transportation events,” i.e., cancelled flights, long delays etc. For eight months, they randomly divided the affected passengers into three groups.

  • One group got a form letter apologizing for the event.
  • Another group received the form letter plus a complimentary trial membership in Continental’s Presidents Club.
  • The third group got nothing.

The third group was not happy. That’s no surprise. But the first group, the customers who received a simple form letter, ended up spending 8% more with Continental, a $6 million increase. Among customers who received both the form letter and the complimentary Presidents Club pass, 30% ended up joining the Club – which resulted in additional revenue on top of the $6 million.

The lesson: No matter how hard it is to reach out and follow up with customers after you mess up, do it anyway. When handled properly (and promptly), it is not only good for your reputation, it’s good for your bottom line.

Question: What are you doing to ensure you recover properly from service exceptions?

Expert for Hire — or Trusted Advisor?

By Phil Verghis on October 30, 2008

From the October 2008 Verghis View newsletter. (Sign up at home page.)

Many of us in the technology world have been witness to two “once in a lifetime” events. The first was the dot com bubble, where huge growth was pursued at all costs. That was followed by a big bust when it became clear that profitability mattered after all.The second event is the most extraordinary financial crisis since the Great Depression in the US.

Despite billions of dollars and euros being spent to ease the liquidity crisis, financial institutions are still hoarding cash because they don’t trust each other’s financial stability.In addition, billions of dollars of shareholder value are being wiped out as rumors of corporations’ possible demise enter cyberspace and ricochet around, taking huge chunks out of their stock price.

For a recent example, look no further back than September 6, 2008, when several web sites mistakenly picked up a Chicago Tribune story about United Airlines filing for bankruptcy. In reality, United had filed for bankruptcy in December, 2002 and emerged from bankruptcy in early 2006. But some sites reprinted the 2002 story, thinking it was current news. UAL shares opened the day at $12.16 before plummeting as low as $3 before trading was halted.

So what does all this have to do with support? A lot, it turns out. Unless you operate purely in a break-fix model, much of what we do involves gaining our client’s trust and becoming a true partner with them for their success. Last time, I wrote about how to manage in tough times. This time it seems to be a perfect time to revisit what being a trusted advisor is all about.

I recently re-read Clients for Life: Evolving from an Expert-for-Hire to an Extraordinary Adviser by Jagdish Sheth and Andrew Sobel. In it, they interview CEOs and advisors to see what distinguishes a client advisor – an irreplaceable resource – from a tradable commodity like an expert.

  • Experts are specialists; advisors become deep generalists with broad perspective.
  • Experts are for hire; advisors have selfless independence.
  • Experts have professional credibility; advisors have deep personal trust.
  • Experts analyze; advisors synthesize.
  • Experts supply expertise; advisors are educators who provide insight and wisdom.

As we explore the shift from a tiered model of support to a Savvy Support model, one of the key attributes will be a transition from frontline staff being break-fix experts to valued advisors. Under Savvy Support, routine/ simple/ known issues are taken care of either by eliminating the problem in the first place or solving the issues via self service. This approach frees the support staff to handle more difficult, unknown problems. The more they focus on resolving these, the more likely they are to become client advisors.

There you have it: how to move from being “hired hands” to “client advisors.” The faster you make the change, the more your clients will trust you and call on you — in good times and bad.

2008 Voice of the Customer retreat – interesting conversations

By Phil Verghis on October 8, 2008

Yesterday’s second annual Voice of the Customer retreat in Bolton was a nice affair, at the classy International country club in Bolton, just outside Boston. One of the most memorable quotes was from Marlene Bessette, VP for Strategy and Customer Loyalty at Xerox. “Culture eats strategy for lunch every time.” So true.

During the open mike session, I asked if anyone had success creating a common company-wide vocabulary regarding Voice of the Customer – even something as basic as who the most ‘important’ customer was. The answer was ‘no’ from all but the smallest (or single product) companies. Shows how long a way we have to go before we truly start embedding the Voice of the Customer into everything we do.

White glove service – or trusted advisor – a tale of $1,500 saved (Part II)

By Phil Verghis on September 10, 2008

In my last post, I wrote about $1,500 saved. This post I’ll walk through some of the major ways the dealership messed up from a service point of view.

Issue: Inconsistent information. Why was I asked to pay $1,500 when a week earlier I was told it would be covered under warranty.

Lesson: Deal with the bad news first. As I’ve written about in my book (page 24, in the section titled Psychology and Customer Service), a number of studies have shown that human beings want to see improvement. Tell me the bad news then show what you can do to improve the situation. Don’t parrot ‘rules’ that don’t make sense.

Issue: Why did they duck my calls? It is not as if I called multiple people simultaneously – I asked the same question three different times to three different people – calling the next person only after waiting a few days for a response from the previous person. I didn’t get a even a call back from two of the three people. 

Lesson: One of the dead giveaway of a of rookie manager  is an unwillingness to deal with unpleasant situations.

Issue: It took a call from their competitor for the dealership realize that they had completely dropped the ball.

Lesson they (hopefully) learned: If it takes a competitor’s call to you to remind you to do your job, you aren’t doing your job.

Issue: They finally fixed my problem but didn’t even attempt to recover from the service mistakes.

Lesson: They had me back in, and repaired the part under warranty. All done professionally. However, they never explained to me what happened and didn’t apologize. They did not recover from the service snafu in any way. End result is still the same – no future business to this particular car dealer.

White glove service – or trusted advisor – a tale of $1,500 saved (Part I)

By Phil Verghis on September 2, 2008

Last week, I experienced something that reminded me that anybody can provide good service when things are going well – it is how you recover that makes the difference.

I own a 5 year old  Acura with 48K miles on it and bought it from my local Acura dealer, which is also where I took the car to get work done. They provide ‘white glove’ service, every employee I have ever interacted with is very polite; they have free internet access in their waiting room; a shuttle service with a friendly driver; a well stocked fridge and nice coffee/tea. Yup, pricey service but a pleasure to deal with — until now.

My dealer wanted me to pay $1,500 for a new catalytic convertor when the old one was one week – count it – one week out of warranty.  (Convertor warranty was 5 year, 50K miles.)

I called the Acura dealer three times, the managers never got back to me. Finally took it in one more time, was told ‘not possible’, ‘have to pay the full amount’.

Found Hondar House thanks to the Car Talk site, they quoted me $1,000, a $500 savings. I would have been glad to have saved $500. However, the fact that the catalytic converter failed with so few miles on it (and that the Acura dealer didn’t want to give me ‘goodwill’ for the week out of warranty) bothered Frank. He asked if he could make a few calls for me. 

Frank called the Acura dealer’s parts manager, and did his magic. He got them to replace the part for free. It is not often that you find a business that will call a competitor and ask them to honor a warranty and refuse to take payment for any work done.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to save $1,500. Hondar House now has a customer for life.

In the next post, I’ll walk through some of the rookie mistakes that the dealer made. They did a good job until I had a problem, and they completely bombed it, and lost a loyal customer.


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