The Ordinary Heroes of the Taj

July 7, 2013

One of the world’s top hotels, the Taj Mumbai is ranked number 20 by Condé Nast Traveler in the overseas business hotel category. The hotel is known for the highest levels of quality, its ability to go many extra miles to delight customers, and its staff of highly trained employees, some of whom have worked there for decades. It is a well-oiled machine, where every employee knows his or her job, has encyclopedic knowledge about regular guests, and is comfortable taking orders.

Even so, the Taj Mumbai’s employees gave customer service a whole new meaning during the terrorist strike. What created that extreme customer-centric culture of employee after employee staying back to rescue guests when they could have saved themselves? What can other organizations do to emulate that level of service, both in times of crisis and in periods of normalcy? Can companies scale up and perpetuate extreme customer centricity?”

The preceding quote is from the latest “DFS Learning e-Blast” article, The Ordinary Heroes of the Taj by Rohit Deshpande and Anjali Raina.

In this December 2011 article in Harvard Business Review magazine, the authors tell the amazing and true stories of the terrifying events of November 26, 2008 and the remarkable reaction of the Taj employees and managers.  They explore the culture of the Taj and explain how we can think about strengthening our own customer centricity to help our teams be ready for any customer need – large and small.  It is all about the power of staff attitude in a service organization.

More from the article:

“We believe that the unusual hiring, training, and incentive systems of the Taj Group—which operates 108 hotels in 12 countries—have combined to create an organizational culture in which employees are willing to do almost anything for guests. This extraordinary customer centricity helped, in a moment of crisis, to turn its employees into a band of ordinary heroes. To be sure, no single factor can explain the employees’ valor. Designing an organization for extreme customer centricity requires several dimensions, the most critical of which we describe in this article.”

Read the short article to learn more!

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments to join the discussion!

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The Service Manifesto

April 6, 2013

 

Never before in the history of business and marketing has customer service been as front and center as it is today. So much so that it is being transformed and reborn in front of our very eyes as arguably one of the most mission critical components that can make or break a business.

The Manifesto for Customer Service documents this sea change, introduces the 10 new rules of customer service and introduces a key hypothesis, namely that customer service needs to be elevated to the front office; to that of a strategic imperative which becomes a, if not the, key differentiator in the board room and beyond.”

The preceding quote is from the latest “DFS Learning e-Blast” article, The Service Manifesto, by Joseph Jaffe.

In this 2010 presentation on the site “Change This”, the author provides “10 New Rules of Customer Service” which focus on today’s international, inter-connected, increasingly virtual, rapidly evolving consumer reality. 

More from the article:

The rise of social media, social networks and word-of-mouth across a connected, digital and virtual expanse has given us a glimpse into the power and potential of the ability (or inability) to solve problems, address concerns head on, and on occasion, humble a mighty corporate behemoth and bring it to its knees. It all begins with what is perhaps the most important issue business and marketing execs will need to come to terms with in 2010 and beyond: how to create an organization that is mobilized, structured and empowered to be responsive, empathetic, accessible, connected and human in the hearts, minds, and wallets of their most prized assets—their customers and their employees.

Read the short article to learn more!

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments to join the discussion!

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Improving the customer experience through the ‘peak-end’ rule

March 29, 2013

 

If you take a moment to understand the idea, you have an opportunity to reevaluate and transform your retail customer experience in ways that could go a long way toward creating an ideal customer perception, and profitable customer behavior.

The preceding quote is from the latest “DFS Global L&D e-Blast” article, “The ‘peak-end’ rule: Can it transform your customer experience?”, by William Cusick, President of Vox Inc. and the author of “All Customers Are Irrational:  Understanding What They Think, What They Feel, and What Keeps Them Coming Back.”.

In this October 23, 2009 article, the author describes a simple technique that makes use of human psychology to maximize customer experiences.

At DFS we are keenly interested in understanding how we can create emotionally engaged customers.  The ‘peak-end rule’ can help us along that path.

More from the article:

It’s about having the right perspective, and taking advantage of a chance to create memorable experiences for your customers. The reward is higher retention and higher profits.

Read the short article to learn more!

 

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments to join the discussion!

Thank you for visiting my blog. Please follow, subscribe using RSS, and/or comment on my postings.


Unleash the Power of Customer Relationships

March 24, 2013

 

Building a sustainable Customer Culture takes courage, commitment and hard work. It is solely through Customer Culture that we establish and sustain the inspirational humanistic environment that builds mutually beneficial customer relationships. The unfortunate alternative to building a rich Customer Culture is the current luxury and retail business model where nameless sales people sell luxury products and services to anonymous customers, all in the course of a one-time soulless transaction.”

The preceding quote is from the latest “DFS Learning e-Blast” article, Unleash the Power of Customer Relationships, a white paper created by The Luxury Institute.

In this January 2012 white paper by The Luxury Institute, you will read about the seven critical steps the Luxury Institute espouses for luxury brands to build Customer Cultures that will dramatically increase customer and associate acquisition, retention and referral rates.

As all of us at DFS continue to evolve our approach to developing, delivering and measuring a true luxury customer-centric culture, this article serves as a wonderful reminder of the reason for our quest and challenges us to critically assess our strategies.

More from the article:

Do it for your brand, do it for your associates, do it for your customers, do it for society, but most of all, do it for yourself. Building a true Customer Culture in your organization will dramatically enhance your own life experience. It will transform you from being just another business executive into a happy and thriving human being who enjoys a meaningful life with a far greater purpose than the pursuit of money. Ironically, the sales and profits will follow.

 

Read the short article to learn more!

 

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments to join the discussion!

Thank you for visiting my blog. Please follow, subscribe using RSS, and/or comment on my postings.


Service Lessons for Retailers from the Airlines

October 2, 2011

DISCUSSION TOPIC

Three Lessons Retailers Can Learn About Service From the Airlines – 09-16-2011

September 16, 2011

As a frequent flier with over 1.5 million Aadvantage miles (how about that!), it struck me on the way home from Shop.org that the retailing industry should use the airline industry as a cautionary tale. It’s a business that could do SO much better, but doesn’t, and has devolved into a commodity industry whereby the definition of success is safely transporting passengers from one place to another. And, God bless them for that! U.S. airlines, at least, have a stellar track record on safety.

But airlines have optimized the logistics end of the business to the point where it’s all about cramming as many passengers as possible onto as many flights as possible, moving them from point to point efficiently, and calling it a day.

Three Retail Lessons

1. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. Simple enough, right? The old adage of under-promise and over-deliver applies, and yet the airlines do it in reverse 99 percent of the time. Returning from Shop.org, I traveled on a jetBlue flight that was delayed 90 minutes due to weather plus a slight (if there is such a thing) mechanical problem. Here’s the rub: jetBlue announced a 40-minute delay and delivered a 90-minute delay. Traveling for 30 years, as I have, this is almost always the case. Any ultimate delay will actually be worse than originally announced. Retail Lesson: When there is a problem, give your customers a realistic assessment of the issue right away, and then try to do better than that.

2. Don’t try to go from full-serve to self-serve. Since I hadn’t flown on jetBlue in 5+ years, I noticed the difference, so I’ll pick on them. When jetBlue first started flying, they had free snacks and free TV. While they still offer those two things (sort of), they have downgraded to an a la carte menu where you have to pay for movie channels on the “free” TV, pay for a headset, pay for “premium” snacks, pay for a pillow/blanket “kit,” pay for a few extra inches of leg room, etc. In short, they are now a regular airline and the TVs are in need of updating, too. Retail Lesson: When your business is founded on offering “free” extras, don’t start nickel and diming customers. If you are a full service retailer, be careful when you start trying to get your customers to check themselves out, use kiosks to find merchandise, help themselves at the meat case, etc.

3. You didn’t have me at hello! Does anybody but me remember the “good old days” of flying when flight attendants and gate and reservations counter attendants actually greeted you and maybe even spoke a complete sentence or asked how your day was going? It’s been well over a decade since I got more than a “good morning” from an airline employee. (Side note: I have had better luck on the phone and almost all airline employees have been civil if not friendly when asked a question). Retail lesson: Just think of the extra business you could garner if your associates were actually friendly and engaged each potential customer.

For retailers, commoditization could mean the industry degrades to the point where a handful of retailers successfully delivers products to consumers more or less on time, with an optimized supply chain, but with minimal to no service and differentiation. And, we don’t want retail to be like the airline industry, do we?

Discussion questions:  What’s the best way for chain retailers to motivate their employees to offer superior service? What’s your air travel tale of woe, and what can retailers learn from it?

My post:

The number of posts clearly indicates that the airline situation strikes a nerve with almost everyone.  For most routes, the choices are few and the airlines know it.  So in a financial model driven by high fuel and labor costs and meager profits dependent on pure price and supply chain efficiencies, it is no wonder that expecting anything other than arriving safely in your destination is futile.

On the retail side, the sobering reality is that a model built purely on supply chain and pricing efficiencies will deliver an awful experience over time.  And unlike the airlines, there are usually other options and the customer will go elsewhere.

It has always been this simple:  Retail interesting and innovative products in a compelling environment (virtual or physical), staffed by caring, knowledgeable people who love what they do.  Hire for these talents (merchants, store leaders and staff alike), pay well, invest in development, and authentically engage them in the business.  Unfortunately too many retailers over-complicate the formula and chase each other down the uninspiring product and price-driven path to boredom and irrelevance.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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Go to the full discussion at Retailwire.com:  Three Lessons

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The New Target.com….oops?

September 20, 2011

DISCUSSION TOPIC

New Target.com – 09-13-2011

September 13, 2011

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from StorefrontBacktalk, a site tracking retail technology, e-commerce and mobile commerce.

When Target’s development team launched the new Target.com on August 23 after two years of development, it must have felt like a dream come true. But it wasn’t — at least not for customers who discovered that big chunks of the new site didn’t work at all, and almost nothing worked as well as the site they’d seen a day or two before.

Why? What went wrong? Actually, not much, from the point of view of experienced developers. Naturally the site had glitches — that’s to be expected.

Target decided to end its arrangement with Amazon two years ago — and that meant it had a completely blank slate to start from in creating a new site. Most e-commerce execs would love that opportunity to shed all the legacy code, the decade or so of kludges, workarounds and hacks that make it so difficult to do anything really innovative. All that old junk makes new approaches next to impossible.

But the downside is that there was also no legacy code that worked. If a new feature was too buggy, there was no old version to fall back on.

Target’s developers figured that was OK. The site would go live, they’d work the kinks out as quickly as possible, soon there would be all sorts of great new stuff built on the wonderful infrastructure that was still invisible on opening day, and everyone would understand — right?

No. Customers neither knew nor cared that the new website was the product of two years of loving development and was bound to have a few hiccups at first. It didn’t matter to them that Target had to build from scratch or that all sorts of wonderful new features would be coming once the site was stable.

All that customers saw was that their passwords, which worked fine on Monday, didn’t work on Tuesday. They couldn’t edit their wedding registry lists. They could no longer track orders they had paid for a day or two before. The weekly newspaper ad wasn’t showing up; neither were coupons. A large digital countdown clock on the homepage (an extremely long homepage) warned that today’s Daily Deals would end in so many hours, minutes and seconds — but the link went nowhere.

In fact, lots of the links were dead ends, delivering customers to very pretty error pages featuring Target’s mascot dog. (There’s a downside to using pictures of a dog mascot all over your site, including error pages: at a certain point, customers are likely to start really hating the sight of that little dog.)

No doubt all of that will soon be fixed. Much of the site was working far better the following day. But it will take a lot longer before customers feel like the new site is as good as the old one — which, of course, means better than the old one.

Discussion questions:  Do you think Target bungled its new website launch? What’s the best way to prepare and reassure customers for likely problems encountered as part of such overhauls?

My post:

Well it is now 11:30pm East Coast time and the site appears to be mostly working.  It was down when I first tried and then came up 10 minutes later with everything functioning except the “daily ad” link.

The comments above are accurate:

1.  “Glitches” are certainly failures, and

2.  The customer will not hold this against Target.

It is, however, a significant embarrassment to the IT team and should be a cause for concern for senior leadership.

Overall I like the design of the new site and think the situation will be forgotten by tomorrow – as long as it continues to function!

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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Go to the full discussion at Retailwire.com:  New Target.Com

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The State of Labor in Retailing

September 14, 2011

DISCUSSION TOPIC

The State of Labor in Retailing 09-02-2011

Labor Day is almost here and the retail industry’s focus is on sales this weekend and not the original intention of the holiday — to celebrate American labor and its historic role in making the nation great.

So what is the state of labor in the retailing business?

The industry, like others, has its problems, with a workforce largely made up of part-timers who work terrible hours for low wages and few benefits. The combination of unmotivated and sometimes poorly-trained workers and managers under extreme pressure to succeed has created issues in some stores.

Retailing also suffers from an upper management disconnect. As covered many times on RetailWire, top executives often do not have a true understanding of what workers deal with in stores. Unlike in the past, many top execs are more likely to come from MBA programs than up from the ranks.

Like other industries, compensation of upper tier executives has grown at an exponentially faster rate than front line workers. A few businesses — Whole Foods comes to mind — have taken steps to tie executive compensation to what workers within the chain make, although even here the c-suite is growing at a faster rate than store employees.

In 2006, Whole Foods increased its the salary cap from 14 times the average pay of all full-time employees to 19. That number was nearly twice the cap (10x) Whole Foods had in place in 1999. The average hourly wage for full-timers at the chain between 1999 and 2006 grew from $12.36 to $15.38.

The debate over benefits and how to control health care costs remains contentious within the industry. Major grocery chains in Southern California and the United Food and Commercial Workers seem, almost unbelievably to outsiders, on the brink of another work stoppage. An employer lockout followed by a strike in 2003/2004 was extremely damaging to Albertsons, Kroger and Safeway with the chains estimated to have lost $2 billion, not to mention the hardship faced by workers not pulling in their regular paychecks.

Not all labor relationships within retailing suffer from animosity or, perhaps worse, apathy. There are many broad exceptions: Costco, Container Store, Trader Joe’s, Wegmans, Zappos and others are often given high marks for employer/employee relationships.

Ultimately, however, many retail businesses see and treat workers as expenses to be contained and not assets to be exploited. They do this even as they proclaim, almost in unison, that their front-line workers are most important to performance.

Discussion questions:  What do you think is the state of labor in the retailing industry today? How would you fix it, assuming you believe there is something that needs to be fixed?

My post:

As a career-long retail leader, this subject never fails to frustrate me.  The easy excuse of the poor state of labor in retailing is the dominance of short term financial metrics driving bad leadership at the shop floor level.  The constant demand of immediate results that beat market expectations forces leaders to cut investment in long-term success strategies:  training and development, benefits that drive employee loyalty and performance, and time spent in efforts to intentionally engage line workers.

However, any leader in any retail organization can decide today to focus on loving their teams and provide simple development opportunities and engagement activities.  I’ve seen it personally over and over again.  Having said this, those retailers who continue to push their leaders to not focus on positive efforts to engage their staff will continue to decline into irrelevance.  Why?  Most operational leaders do not have the character strength to counter poor senior leadership.

How to fix this?  Support those retailers who get it – Container Store, Zappos, Costco and others.  Their financial results will continue to strengthen their market share and eventually kill off lesser contenders.  The evolution of retail, happening in front of us.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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Go to the full discussion at Retailwire.com:  The State of Labor in Retailing

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