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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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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IKEA irritates the Danes

March 18, 2008

DISCUSSION TOPIC:  Translating Retail Success Across National Borders

TOPIC SUMMARY:

There is yet another potential impact of importing and exporting that retailers are now starting to consider. Boasting 273 stores attracting some 583 million customers each year, IKEA, for example, needs to be aware of what people think and feel.

Both The Independent and The Daily Telegraph in the UK reported that Danish customers of the Swedish shop are less than happy with what’s being offered for sale or at least with what the products are called.

IKEA’s products tend to have names rather than numbers, a situation that has recently caused complaints from customers in Denmark, historically a rival of IKEA’s Swedish-based empire. According to The Independent, complaints have been made about some of the names chosen. Apparently those with Danish derivation are used for some of the retailer’s less salubrious, or lowly, products such as doormats, rug linings and toilet seats, for example.

Discussion questions:  Is the IKEA Danish experience unusual in the arena of global marketing? Where do retailers go to acquire the cultural education required to open without incident in new international markets? Is there are retail company or brand that you think best epitomizes how to go about expanding globally?

My post:

International expansion of brands and retailers always creates the potential for cultural missteps.  IKEA did not purposely named their products with names that would offend Danes.  Using names for their products vs. numbers requires them to either use different names in different countries, or choose to not care if one country has an issue with a name that is fine everywhere else.  

When a retailer or brand expands into a different country (or even a different state) it is incumbent upon them to do some due diligence in the new location, particularly regarding marketing and branding methods.  It would not have been a significant issue to rename a few of the IKEA products for the Danish market if indeed some of the names are offensive.

Examples of brands and retailers who have expanded globally effectively include McDonalds and DFS Galleria.  McDonalds offers key products like the Big Mac worldwide, but then adds menu items that relate to the local populace.  DFS Galleria, the Hong Kong-based purveyor of luxury brands in gallerias and airport duty-free locations throughout the Asia Pacific region, pays close attention to how each nationality communicates and shops.  In-store signage, associate language skills, and marketing efforts all support this.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! TM strategist

http://www.osoriogroup.com/

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GO TO THE FULL DISCUSSION AT RETAILWIRE.COM:
http://www.retailwire.com/Discussions/Sngl_Discussion.cfm/12829  

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You want my info? Give me great service!

March 11, 2008

DISCUSSION TOPIC:  Consumers Want Service for Private Details

TOPIC SUMMARY:

A new poll from Harris Interactive, commissioned by Chordiant Software, finds that consumers, to varying degrees, believe it’s important that companies have information about their buying habits and other personal details to provide the level of service they seek.

According to the study, 64 percent of respondents thought it was either “very important” or “important” that companies had a personal history on them.

Having the information is one thing but what consumers are most interested in is what is done with it. Today’s consumers, according to the study, are willing to walk when they feel even the least bit slighted.

Sixty-two percent, for example, said they would not hesitate to cancel or switch service or product suppliers after having a bad experience. Seventy-eight percent said poor customer service would cause them to shop elsewhere.

Younger consumers seem particularly unwilling to understand subpar performance from the companies they patronize. They are more than willing, however, to go online and share their bad experience with thousands of people.

Discussion questions: Are you surprised that more consumers seem willing to share personal information with retailers and other companies? Are retailers and others really taking this information to provide a higher level of service to consumers? Where do you see the greatest opportunities for retailers to take personal information and translate it into a more meaningful relationship with shoppers?

My post:

I am a bit surprised that such a high percentage of consumers (64%) thought it important for companies to have their personal information.  It speaks to the desperation of consumers to have better experiences with retailers and brands and that they believe if the company has their information it will lead to personalized high-value experience.  Unfortunately, most companies have not shown the ability to consistently deliver a more positive experience on the basis of owning personal data.  This is an enormous opportunity area for the companies who figure out how to use the personal data they have to personalize the consumer relationship.

The under-30 crowd will continue to drive open sharing of personal data and I expect data safety will continue to improve.  Now it is up to the retailers and brands to use it effectively.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! TM strategist

http://www.osoriogroup.com/

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GO TO THE FULL DISCUSSION AT RETAILWIRE.COM:
http://www.retailwire.com/Discussions/Sngl_Discussion.cfm/12814  

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Thank you for visiting my blog!  Please subscribe using the RSS button and comment on my postings.  Comments are the life-blood of any blog and I appreciate yours!


How do you feel about haggling?

January 22, 2008

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RETAILWIRE DISCUSSION TOPIC

The Fine Art of Haggling – 1/22/08
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TOPIC SUMMARY:

While common in many foreign countries, haggling for most Americans is reserved for major purchases such as cars and houses. However some are finding better deals by haggling over credit card rates, hotel rooms, medical bills, gym membership fees, as well as at retail. Discussion Question:

Is haggling more common than thought across retail? Do you think haggling is positive or negative for retail?

My post:

In a difficult economic cycle, the incidence of haggling will increase in all retail environments.  However, unless a retailer’s selling culture is set up for haggling, the results will always be negative for the retailer and often negative for the consumer.  It is negative for the retailer’s profits because their margin expectations don’t take haggling into account and negative for their sales associates and managers who are unprepared to deal with often-difficult hagglers.  It can be negative for the consumer because even if they get a lower price, the process of haggling with an unprepared associate will likely be acrimonious.

Politely asking about pricing options, particularly for more expensive items, is smart consumer behavior.  However, haggling in environments not set up for it is just adding to an already-difficult relationship between customers and retailers. 

There could be an opportunity for a retailer to set themselves up as a haggling, bazaar-type environment that caters to people who like to shop this way.  I doubt, however, that this can be done profitably over many locations due to the difficulty of training this type of selling effectively.  An opportunity for single-unit retail entrepreneurs?

Personally, I like shopping where I am confident that the marked price is an acceptable value, and haggling is by definition unnecessary.  Costco is the king of projecting this perception.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

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GO TO THE FULL STORY AND DISCUSSION:
http://www.retailwire.com/Discussions/Sngl_Discussion.cfm/12705

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Thank you for visiting my blog!  Please subscribe using the RSS button and comment on my postings.  Comments are the life-blood of any blog and I appreciate yours!


Creating a ‘Wow’ Shopping Experience

January 18, 2008

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RETAILWIRE DISCUSSION TOPIC:
Creating a ‘Wow’ Shopping Experience – 1/18/08

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TOPIC SUMMARY:

While rare at retail, a “WOW” shopping experience generates four times the word-of-mouth than a problem experience, according a survey from Verde Group and Wharton.

The survey showed that customers receiving an especially positive experience are likely to tell seven other people on average about the experience while those receiving a negative experience told 1.5 people.

But it also showed that such experiences are fairly rare – only 51 percent of women admitted to having a “WOW” experience in their entire shopping history, and only 39 percent of men did.

 Discussion Questions:

Is it practical to train or inspire sales associates to create “WOW” shopping experiences? What are some retailers known for top customer service doing to help create incidents of “extraordinary service”?

My post:

It is not only practical to train and inspire sales associates to enable “WOW” shopping experiences, it is essential.  Note that I said “enable” vs. “create”.  It is folly to assume we can create these experiences.  The creation process is mutual, between the associate and the customer and is defined by both individuals and the situation. 

Keys to enabling WOW experiences: 

  1. Have a WOW culture.   A company culture that is all about a vision of wowed customers and wowed associates.  Yes, the associates need to be wowed too.  Wowed to be a part of a company so in tune with why they would choose to work there, and wowed to be a part of a company so determined to provide wonderful product to their beloved customers in positively memorable ways.
  2. Make it easy.  Examine every customer touch point and every associate touch point.  Seek out, identify, and remove without ceremony anything standing between your associates’ and your customers’ WOW experiences.  Things like unnecessary reports, policies & procedures, unclear marketing or merchandising, etc., all create barriers.  Knock them down!
  3. Recognize, reward, recognize, reward.  Look for ways to recognize and reward associates and customers for exhibiting desired behaviors.  And not just the big ones – the best recognition comes daily for the small “ordinary miracles” referenced in the article.  When you find them, reward them – usually a sincere and specific “thank you” does the trick – for both associates and customers.

 Why isn’t this already happening for most retailers?  The choice has not been made to focus on #1.  The choice has been to focus on short term financial results, to the detriment of not only customer experiences, but talent development, product development, marketing, store design and more.  My hope is that retailers are using the current business climate to reassess what they have been focusing on and realize that they must focus first on their people and their customer and then the long term, sustainable growth and profits will follow.  Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! strategist

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GO TO THE FULL STORY AND DISCUSSION:
http://www.retailwire.com/Discussions/Sngl_Discussion.cfm/12696

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