Want to alienate your customers good and quick? Require them to waste time and effort contacting your business for what I refer to (with my less squeamish customer service consulting clients at least) as Stupid Sh-t™. These are the questions that customers are so likely to have that you as a provider should have predicted they’d come up, and proactively dealt with them. (For my profanity-opposed clients, I call it Stupid St-ff,™ which works about as well.)
I’m With Stupid
Customers don’t want to call you to find out whether an order has shipped. They want an immediate, automated confirmation by email. And they’re similarly peeved when they get lost while trying to visit your office because they had to guess your physical, GPS-friendly address, since only your PO Box is listed on the website. You need to ruthlessly and creatively hunt down these time-wasters yourself for the sake of your customers. Strive to elevate the lowly concept of “avoiding stupid sh-t” to a high art in your organization.
Domino’s Pizza Tracker: No More Answering The Door In The Nude
Let’s look at something fun and innovative: the Domino’s Pizza Tracker. This app and Web-based widget lets you check on the pizza you’ve ordered at every stage, providing real-time information that relieves anxiety, eliminates wasted phone calls and even provides a bit of levity. (The historian in me insists on noting that the Pizza Tracker replaces Domino’s original, spectacularly ill-conceived 30-minute delivery guarantee. That promise proved so dangerous to pedestrians who got in the way of Domino’s overtaxed drivers that the company was soon on track to become a full-employment fund for trial lawyers.)
With the Pizza Tracker, the customer enters his phone number and is shown how his order’s progressing through Domino’s five-stage timeline:
1. Order Placed
4. Quality Check
5. Out for delivery
There is logic behind this perhaps frivolous-sounding app. As a Domino’s customer I don’t really care whether my pizza takes 30 minutes or 35 minutes. What I do want to know—and the delivery driver may too—is whether I’ll have any clothes on when the doorbell rings. Similarly, your ability to avoid customer frustration in almost any field depends in part on ensuring that customers have everything they need, without needing to ask you for it. In the case of the Pizza Tracker, Domino’s is saving its customers from ever having to call the company to ask “Is my order coming?”/“When is it coming?”/“Oh no—I hope I remembered to order my lactose-intolerant [or perhaps generally intolerant] girlfriend’s half without cheese. Can you double-check for me?” and so forth.
MyLowe’s – Taking Bricks And Mortar Beyond Brick And Mortar
Lowe’s, the brick-and-mortar purveyor of bricks and mortar, recently developed MyLowes, an online tool that helps customers retrieve information about previous Lowe’s purchases. The tool’s functionality allows customers to retrieve warranty information, get targeted tips about using items in their purchase history, reorder items they’ve purchased before and buy complementary products. Compare this to asking the Lowe’s clerk du jour, “Do you remember that power drill I bought 18 months ago? I need a new screwdriver attachment that will fit it. Sorry, I didn’t bring it with me.” (Setting up MyLowes wasn’t pure-hearted altruism, of course: Enrolling customers in the program also expands Lowe’s wealth of data on how customers shop.)
Self-service: especially important for the rising generation of millennial customers
The millennial generation, born 1980-2000, is the largest generation in history and soon will have the dominant wallet power in many markets. For this reason, their preferences are crucial to keep in mind for most everyone in business today. Nate Long, a marketing and PR practitioner: “[We] millennials expect an environment that allows us to serve ourselves for anything trivial, without having to ask.” Nate gives a nod to another hardware store, Ace Hardware, for doing this “especially, and surprisingly, well. Ace lays the store out in a way that makes it easy for the customer to navigate their way to making almost any routine purchase on their own”–items intended for use together are grouped intelligently, there’s signage that’s intelligible to even a very part-time handyman–“yet they have very knowledgeable staff on hand to ask project-specific questions,” which is an excellent approach to take in many industries and contexts today.
Micah Solomon is a customer service consultant, keynote speaker speaker and bestselling author. You can purchase his new Forbes Signature Series eBook, Your Customer Is The Star: How To Make Millennials, Boomers And Everyone Else Love Your Business at Amazon and Apple today.