Category Archives: Customer Experience


In Your Customer’s Shoes

Every business deals with customer complaints. Many complaints stem from people who just are discontent with life in general and decide to view your corporation as their target. The question is, how many of their frustrations can be prevented? Take the time understand what your customer goes through on a daily basis. Each day, someone in your company should go through the checkout line, place an order on your site, complete a task within your software, use your product or receive a service.

Take the time to experience what your clientele experiences. You may find the smallest remedies that can radically enhance a customers experience and provide solutions and instant gratification to your customer-base.

Social Media Customer Service and Pizza Hut

Pizza Delivery FAIL – A Look at @pizzahut’s Customer Service

Twitter is an excellent platform to vent. It is public and if you have a large enough following, you can make a pretty big dent in the credibility of a company, person or an organization.

Though it is easy to vent publicly knowing several thousand people will read my grumblings, I try to refrain from defaming a brand. In reality, we are all human and we all make mistakes and I don’t need to point out someone else’s failures. However, on occasion, there is a good learning lesson from a brands ability to respond to and redeem a situation using social media. You will think that I am lying, exaggerating or pulling your leg, but this is completely accurate and I have over a dozen people to vouch for every part of this story because they were there.

Where Are My Pizzas?

On March 4, I ordered pizza from Pizza Hut early in the day so that the pizzas would be delivered in time for a party I was having later that evening to watch the Southern Conference basketball championship on ESPN. The party started and there were no pizzas. I called Pizza Hut–they did not answer their phone. This goes on for about 30 minutes until I finally tweet about it. It quickly was retweeted and replied to by some friends, fans and followers. About half an hour Pizza Hut headquarters responded to my tweet as pictured above…and I still had no pizzas.

Where’s the rest of my order?

Finally, the pizza arrived over an hour late. They did not bring the drinks I had ordered nor did they have a receipt for me to sign. Since I paid via credit card, I had to sign, tip and total a receipt to authorize the transaction. But they did not have the receipt. The delivery person called his manager to figure out what to do and started using vulgar, derogatory terms on the phone when referring to his co-workers. The kids pulls out a scrap piece of paper and a pen that didn’t work and told me to write the last digits of my credit card number, the amount billed, my tip and my total. I was tempted not to tip, but only tempted. The young delivery boy assured me that my drinks and the actual receipt (which needed to be turned in for reimbursement) would be delivered separately. (receipt pictured left, is not actual receipt)

I bring the very cold pizza into the room where everyone had gathered and it was devoured quickly. A few minutes later, a knock came on the door. A new delivery person brought me a copy of my receipt, well at least half of my receipt. The bottom half, with the total had been ripped off and “lost.” They conveniently just left enough for me to see one of the pizzas I ordered and their address and phone number. And what help is that if they don’t answer their phone?

You Messed Up The Drinks Too?

So now I have pizza that is cold and over an hour late to this party, I have no drinks and I have only half of a receipt which will not help me at all for reimbursement. A third delivery person came about an hour and forty-five minutes after the pizzas were initially supposed to be delivered. He came with my drinks. I ordered two different types of drinks–Pepsi and Sierra Mist. They brought me all Natural Sierra Mist. At this point, I was tired of leaving the game to get up and have to deal with the incompetent people at my local Pizza Hut so I just accepted the drinks and said have a nice night.

@PizzaHut Sends a Broken Website

You better believe that I filled out the form on Pizza Hut’s feedback link that they had sent me via Twitter. I didn’t want to complain but I wanted to inform them of the absolutely horrific job the local Pizza Hut had done in delivering quality service. The one thing that really irked me was how rude the delivery boy was to his manager when talking about his teammates. So, I filled out this form in short hand since there were not enough characters to tell of my terrible experience. I then selected the local store by typing in my zip code and hit submit. The site sent back an error saying my store was invalid. So I tried it again and again and again. Nothing. I tweeted back at Pizza Hut asking for a new link or for them to fix the form…they sent me a new link and the same thing kept occurring. And trust me, I tried everything and did not give up easily. I replied to Pizza Hut yet again, but this time they provided no response.

What Can We Learn from Pizza Hut’s Customer Service

If you are a brand on Twitter or Facebook and there is a customer in crisis, sending a link is fine, but it is very impersonal. Here are three alternatives:

  • Send the customer a phone number: Make it personal and ask the customer to call and speak with a real live human being about their experience.
  • Send and email address: If you don’t have enough staff to manage a phone, give the customer an email address they can send a note to. I’m not talking about a general “” but instead “” Keep it personal. If you are having someone fill out a contact form, it is more than likely going to an email address anyway.
  • Request their information: Dunkin’ Donuts read a tweet of mine regarding their services last summer and asked me to send them a Direct Message on Twitter with my phone number, best time to reach me and address. Within 30-minutes, I received a phone call. That was by far the most excellent customer service I have received.

The reason people complain publicly is because they want a personal response from the brand. Take the time in your own brand to work hard at making people feel like they are individuals and wanted.


Lessons from a Lunch Lady

One lady changed my dining experience forever by going far above and beyond anything in her job description.

For two years now, I have swiped my card as I’ve entered one of the many dining halls on the campus of Elon University. During the lunch hour rush, the cashier will hardly offer up so much as a word as he or she grabs your card and vigorously slides it back and forth until it registers on the machine.

On occasion, a petit, well-aged woman with a single long braid of silver hair stretching the length of her back would be taking our cards. She would cheerfully swipe our cards and make conversation with the people waiting in line. Her name was Ms. Sue.

After just a couple weeks, Ms. Sue knew my name and knew the names of my closest friends that I ate lunch with. She knew where we sat and more importantly, always greeted us with a smile. If I ever showed up late to lunch, she would point me to where my friends were sitting. If one of the usual crew did not show up, she would ask about them and make sure they were doing okay.

It has been over a year since I first met Ms. Sue. Typically, I only have 2-3 minute conversations with her about three times a week, but those 2-3 minute conversations add up over time. She makes every single one of those minutes count for building a relationship and getting to know her customers more deeply. Ms. Sue truly cares for me and her other customers.

On occasion, should would help in the bakery making handmade desserts and pastries. Over time, she noticed how I would often get a cinnamon roll. She was rolling some cinnamon rolls one afternoon and I told her how good they looked. “Well honey,” she said, “You just come on by later this evening and you can eat as many as you want.” I told her that I wasn’t going to be around until lunch the following day, she said, “Well boy, you’re missing out.”

The next day when I went in for lunch. Sadly, Ms. Sue wasn’t there. I finished my main course and went back for dessert. One of the ladies behind the counter said, “Are you Ryan?”

A little surprised I said, “Yes.”

“Wait there a minute, Ms. Sue has something for you.”

A moment later, the lady came back with two cinnamon rolls wrapped in saran wrap saying, “Here, these are for you.”

Baffled, I gratefully accepted the cinnamon rolls and went back to my seat. As if that was not enough, several weeks later, I went to grab lunch on a Friday and Ms. Sue said, “Ryan, you need to come see me on Monday. I’ll have a surprise for you.”

Of course, I had to come in Monday. When I arrived, Ms. Sue had fresh-baked homemade cinnamon rolls that she had made from scratch, complete with extra frosting, because she knew that was my favorite. In addition to my cinnamon rolls, she made one of my close friends chicken dumplings knowing that was one of his favorites.

Her acts of kindness totally went far above the typical realm of customer service. Ms. Sue is an uncommon leader who took the initiative and dared to be different than the rather dull and grumpy lunch lady. She got to know my friends and I on a personal level and made a lasting impressions. At Halloween and Christmas she has been known to give us cookies and other goodies.

Ms. Sue took an ordinary opportunity and turned it into an extraordinary experience for her customers. What are you doing to be extraordinary?

Ryan Vet Logo

Complaints are Great

A client recently called me extremely frustrated with the service she was receiving from one of my team members. I was devastated. Making my clients happy is the reason I get up and start working in the mornings and excellent customer service is the reason my organization runs. Though complaints can be a damper, they are a business’s greatest opportunity. Everyone is going to slip up at some point and customers will complain. The way in which an issue is handled is what sets the good apart from the great.

Here are the Four R’s that can help turn complaints into a platform for your company to perform:

  • Respond Quickly: When a situation arises, respond quickly. Let your client know you are aware of their complaint and you are going to deal with it as quickly as possible. Responding quickly does not mean that you have to have the answers, it merely acknowledge’s the existence of a complaint.
  • Take Responsibility: Take responsibility where responsibility is due. You don’t have to play the bad guy nor do you have to pawn off the responsibility on the client making yourself the victim. If you are responsible, take responsibility, it shows integrity. If you are not responsible, don’t start pointing the finger either. Make sure that you are above reproach so that your client can never hold anything over your head.
  • Resolve: Take time to resolve an issue. Don’t just shoot off resolutions to the problem if you have not carefully weighed both the positive and negative consequences. Once you feel that you have a reasonable answer to the issue, propose it to your client and work through it with them. Resolution is a two-sided action. It takes two parties to reach a successful resolution.
  • Reassure: Once the issue has been resolved and all parties agree, reassure the client that you will take steps to ensure that the issue will not happen again. It is easy to walk away from a conflict saying, “Glad that’s over with.” However, even if we were not responsible for the problem, we should ask ourselves, what can we learn from this incident to guarantee that it never happens again? Asking that question helps us to stay ahead in the world of customer service. It helps us to prepare a game plan before another issue arises.
Cookout Milkshake

Lessons from a Fast Food Cashier

Cookout MilkshakeWhen you go to a fast food joint, a relatively local one at that, you expect to yell your order at that square metal box only to hear an annoyed, garbled sound utter something back before you pull up to the next window. You could be the sweetest person or world’s biggest jerk and you will typically receive the same treatment.

A few nights ago, I pulled up to a Cookout drive thru to get a milkshake. Cookout is a small chain of burger joints with remarkable milkshakes. When you go, you will receive the typical service you would receive at any other similar fast food chain.

So, a few nights ago when I pulled up to that metal box with its white paint chipping off, any extremely perky voice came over the speaker. She asked me how I was doing and proceeded to kindly take my order–the joy in her voice was evident. I thought to myself, How refreshing to have someone that actually cares?

When I pulled up to the window, a middle-aged lady greeted me with a beaming smile. I handed her my card. Moments later, the window opened and the lady handed my card back to me with my receipt as well as a napkin, spoon and straw for my M&M Chocolate Malt milkshake.

Though her smile and attitude were refreshing, that is not what stuck out to me. When she handed back my card with the receipt and utensils, it was nicely packaged.  She had taken the time to wrap my spoon and straw snugly in a napkin so that it wouldn’t fall to the ground in the exchange. This little bundle was secured by my receipt which was taped to the napkin in such a way that the napkin wouldn’t fall open.

Here is a lady that was probably making something close to minimum wage yet she saw an area for improvement and she acted on it. She made my purchase more than my M&M Chocolate Malt milkshake, she made it about the buying experience–she made it about me. Let me tell you, that was the best milkshake I’ve ever had.

I wish I would have gotten this innovator’s name, but I was too in shock. So often, we try to squeak by with doing the bare minimum. Very few people look for simple ways to go above and beyond. However, it is simple, small acts such as these that make an incredible difference in the eyes of a customer.

What can you do to make your client’s interactions with your company about experience? Do you cut corners or do you look for ways (even the small ways) in which you can always excel  to meet your customer’s needs?

24-Hour Rule

Over the past few weeks I have sent a number of important emails to several different people regarding completely different topics.  Out of all the different emails I sent, two people responded.  At first I thought my emails were not going through, but they were.  Now, since I sent out those emails I have made able to make contact with most of the individuals.  They all received the emails but were “too busy” to respond.

Let me be the first to tell you, I know how busy life can get making it difficult to take the time to think out a response to someone.  As a result, I have made a personal policy that I will respond to every email during the business week within 24 hours or one business day.  Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean I will respond with a carefully thought out response, sometimes I will simply send an email to someone saying, “I received your message but have not yet had the time to read it fully or prepare a response.  I will get to it as soon as I can.  If you do not hear from in a few days, shoot me another email to remind me!” You could even copy and paste that and send that to people.

By doing a quick response like that you are:

  • Acknowledging the person’s concern and you are personally telling them that you will get to it as soon as you can.
  • Eliminating any awkwardness they may feel by sending you a follow-up email. You directly ask them to remind you if you forget.
  • Establishing communication so that they know they have reached the right person and their email is not floating around somewhere in cyberspace.

I am human and am not perfect, but I would say 98% of the time I will follow this rule.  Ideally, I try to send a response back to the email addressing whatever needs to be addressed, but sometimes, when life becomes hectic, this quick “I’ll get to it soon” response will do just fine.  And, if you are absolutely swamped, turn on your Auto-Response! Don’t make people wait.

Dealing with the Disorganized Client

Have you ever had a communication nightmare with a client? Maybe you send a relatively unimportant email and they respond within seconds. Just a few days later you send a crucial, time sensitive email with an urgent subject line and you don’t receive a response for days. Later it comes back to bite you when your client complains that you missed a deadline or you failed to do something correctly. You’re dealing with a disorganized client.

Disorganized clients could very well be one of the most frustrating issues to stumble across. Though you strive to provide excellent customer service, a client like this can be a thorn in your side and they can make you feel like you’re falling short of the mark.

Typically you can’t change the behaviors of the unorganized, however, you can set up safeguards so they don’t rub off on your workflow and make you look like the bad guy.

  1. Script your role: Tell your client what they should expect from you. For example, I tell all my clients what our standard turn-around time is and I try to clearly map out the process of how our creative team works. I’ll include details about how often they should hear from my team and I highlight the checkpoints and milestones that we will reach along the way.
  2. Set parameters: After clearly outlining what the client should expect from my team, I tell them what we expect from them to make the above timeline go according to schedule. In essence, I subtly tell them when it is okay and not okay to contact me or my team. This could include saying something along the lines of, “We will contact you weekly with an update on your project” or giving them an invitation such as “If at any time we haven’t communicated with you and a deadline has passed, feel free to email me directly.” In doing this, I define who they should email and under what circumstances.
  3. Shift weight: Often you need something from your client to get a project done.  This could be necessary information to complete the project, initial funding or a signature on a contract. If you clearly tell your client that you need these things from him or her by a certain deadline or you won’t be able to continue, you are shifting responsibility back to your client encouraging them to get organized and stay on top of things.

In working with a disorganized client, it is important to make sure that your client understands their role and responsibilities. If they know the project cannot get done without them, they are much more likely to get everything in order. This makes your job easier and it makes the process of dealing with a disorganized client bearable.