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In NYC, I have grown to expect the expensive costs of dining-out, entertainment, and rent, but one thing I do not have to splurge on is flowers. A few days ago, I was buying flowers for Mother’s Day and there were two bodegas diagonally across the street from one another. Each store had your usual roses dyed in unnatural colors, pre-mixed bouquets, and chicken-scratch price tags. A quick glance revealed the prices were nearly identical as well.
So how do I decide from which bodega to purchase the flowers?
Idea 1: Bargain shop for the cheapest flowers. Count stems, petals, etc. to make sure I’m getting the best deal. I should save on something that’s going to die in a few days anyway, right? Come to the conclusion that price is a wash (also, Mom might be reading and I don’t want her to think price matters when it comes to her!)
Idea 2: Choose the bodega with the coolest, most unique-looking flowers. A bunch of electric blue orchids caught my eye, as did a spiky, artichoke-looking plant (which reminds me-whoever picked up an artichoke and decided it was something humans should eat deserves a culinary Nobel Prize). Decide neon-colored hydrangeas might look cool but Mom might disagree.
Idea 3: Determine which store has the best quality flowers. Realize quality amongst the two bodegas is nearly identical with the minimal flower knowledge I possess.
Idea 4: Select the bodega with the shortest line. Spend 30 seconds waffeling about which line is the shortest. Conclude time spent waffeling is longer than the little time I’d wait at either bodega.
The clerk of bodega A recommended potted tulips since I could put them on the table of the brunch I was attending. He said the flowers would continue to bloom over the next few days and he told me the suggested sunlight exposure and how often they should be watered. This helped make my decision and I arrived at the restaurant armed with not only a floral gift, but also knowledge of how to take care of the botanical flair.
In my flower excursion, the main service component that was key to my decision was the power of knowledge that the bodega clerk shared with me. He wasn’t pushy in any way and I wouldn’t even consider him a salesman, but rather a customer service-oriented possessor of floral knowledge that enabled him to help me make an informed purchase decision.
Do you ever pick up floral knowledge along with your bodega flowers? Or do you prefer your local florist?
I recently requested an invitation to try out a brand new banking service from a Brooklyn, NY based startup called BankSimple. About a day after requesting an invite, I received the following email:
I’m (Name Redacted), a Customer Relations Representative at BankSimple. Thanks so much for requesting an invitation to try out our service! We’re still planning and testing, but we’ll begin opening up BankSimple soon.
In the meantime, though, I’d love to hear your story. I want to hear from you, personally, about what you want from a bank: your loves, hates, quibbles, desires, hopes, and dreams regarding your financial life. Really: what’s on your mind, and what are you hoping for from BankSimple? We’re committed to building the best service we possibly can, and the only way to do that is to know what you’re looking for. So, what’s up?
We can’t wait to show you what we’ve been working on– and get your insight into how we can make it better.
Thanks again. Hope to hear from you soon!
Given that I NEVER speak to anyone at my current bank, a personal email from BankSimple asking about my personal finances was very impressive. When I enrolled at my current account, I vividly remember salespeople trying to up-sell me on products and services I didn’t need, with little to no consultation. Contrast that to the tone of the above email which is thoughtful and considerate. With that in mind, I most definitely plan on responding. I have no idea what’s in store from BankSimple, but given this consultative email, I’m very excited to find out.
It’s wedding season! In particular there’s a very important wedding that just took place, and of course I’m talking about William and Kate. Naturally, my morning routine of watching Good Morning America had been infiltrated with coverage of the “Epic Event”.
As part of its coverage, ABC found anyone they could who was attending the wedding and interviewed him/her about useless information. For some reason, I actually paid attention to the interviews last week. Glad I did… One young guy they interviewed was not only the very close Step-2nd Cousin of Prince William, but also happened to be one of the co-founders of Quintessentially, “the world’s leading private members’ club with a global concierge that provides a unique brand of service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.” Never hearing of this before, I was intrigued to see what something like that costs. After being made fun of by my “in-the-know” girlfriend for never hearing of Quintessentially, I Googled the company and did some perusing.
Starting at $1,500 a year for a General Membership, plus an additional $300 for joining, I am rewarded with 24-hour access to the world’s finest lifestyle management service. This started to make me think how much people are truly willing to pay for 24-hour service. AMEX Black Card holders must charge a minimum of $150,000 plus an additional $1,000 annual fee for their service. Yes it would be great to have a personal driver to escort me to work, instead of having to bike on the crazy streets of NYC or have someone take out all the brown M&M’s from my bag of candy because I can’t stand brown M&M’s, but I realize that’s not realistic and not necessary.
It’s obvious that not every ordinary person can afford these luxuries, but that doesn’t mean they are banned from extraordinary service. Our mission here at STELLAService is to bring transparency to the online shopping market, and help consumers find the best online shopping experience possible. By ordering a $28 pair of REEF flip flops on ZAPPOS I am rewarded with 24/7 attention, free shipping and returns! Now that’s service. Service I can afford and service that is extraordinary.
So in the coming weeks, I’ll prepare for the biggest wedding of my summer, my older brother’s. And although it won’t be covered by ABC every morning and no famous people will attend, I do know… I will buy my shoes at Zappos because if they don’t look good with the suit I ordered on J.Crew, I can return them for free. I’ll buy a new 3 wood at DiscountGolfWorld.com for the weekend of golf at the Bachelor Party. And order shiny china from Saks as a wedding gift for the newlyweds. I’ll do all this buying online with a smile on my face because I know, thanks to our online ratings, that you don’t have to be in Westminster Abbey to receive the royal treatment.
Zappos made headlines this week for a pricing glitch that occurred on a sister website, www.6pm.com. For a few hours the price on every item was capped at $49.95, even if the actual price was say, $250 for a handbag. The error was caught but not before costing Zappos an estimated $1.6m, according to Aaron Magness, director of brand marketing and business development at Zappos. The problem was a simple programming error, a glitch caused by a few incorrect characters in a line of code.
Fittingly, the biggest headline grabber out of this story has been Zappos’ response to the situation. Despite having the full legal right to cancel all sales that occurred under false pricing (this is listed in their terms of service), Zappos is honoring every purchase made during the “deep discount” session. As if Zappos needed more arrows in their quiver about putting customers first. Bloggers and journalists have been laying serious praise on how the situation was handled, so much so that the good press has most likely outweighed the loss taken by Zappos in terms of free advertising and buzz.
What is most striking in all of this is how Zappos continues to remain “human” in the most positive light. The company has grown significantly in the last couple of years (being acquired by internet retail giant Amazon in 2009) yet they continue to execute their vision as if they have 5 employees. A mistake was made on their end, a human error, and they felt that it was only fair to honor their customers. It wasn’t a bottom line decision, otherwise the sales would have been cancelled and they would be $1.6mm richer. It was a “human” decision, admitting a mistake and taking the higher road while spreading goodwill at the same time. Think any of the shoppers who received the unintentional discounts are now Zappos loyalists? Their handling of the situation is very powerful, it further reinforces their approach as a service company, staying true to their tagline “Powered by Service.”
Just the other day, I called eBags.com seeking advice on a popular handbag to purchase for my sister. For those who know my sense of style, it is not surprising that I am clueless about what’s “hot” in the handbag world right now. Needless to say, I was in need of some serious assistance. The customer service representative (CSR) answered the phone and asked me in a cheery voice “..how can I help you?” I actually chuckled a bit because I didn’t even know where to begin. I proceeded to tell her (Kate) my situation and every now and again she politely chimed in and asked me a question or two about where my sister lives, what she does, and what her style is. I answered her questions to the best of my ability (cross your fingers, sis!) and at the end of my rambling, she said “Ok, got it. I have two bags that I think you’re going to love…” I was shocked and relieved. It was only moments until I decided on one of the bags, submitted my credit card info, and went on my merry way. After the call I relished in the great service that I had just received and how easy it all was. I ultimately attributed it to the CSR’s ability to interpret my answer to her question, “how can I help you?” Customer service representatives need to realize that this question is not just a formality. It serves a deeper purpose and its answer needs to be understood (I mean, really understood) every time a customer contacts a company.
Have you ever spoken to a CSR who has an attitude and gives you the impression that you need him or her? In my opinion, this is a distinct difference from when a CSR genuinely wants to help you. Too often it feels like CSRs speak to customers in the context of the former. Utility companies are notorious for this because people really do need electricity or water or internet service, and there’s often just one company that can provide it. Recently, I called Verizon because I thought I was charged too much on my phone bill. After spending countless minutes on hold and being transferred three times, ultimately to a CSR who told me to simply wait for a call back, I was ticked. Not only am I still waiting for a call back (5 days and counting now), but I can’t help but sniff a scent of arrogance emanating from their customer support team. Sure, they asked me “how they could help me”, but it came across more like “why do you need me”? It has left a bad taste in my mouth.
Effectively helping someone is one of the most impressive gestures you can extend to another human being. And you can only help someone if you truly understand what their issue is. Remember Jerry MaGuire’s infamous plea to Rod Tidwell?
Well, Kate at eBags.com, helped me because she got me to help her. She did this by being proactive and asking questions about my situation. Not only did it enable her to give quality service, but it also allowed me to trust her opinion and ultimately her advice. Since Kate truly understood why I was calling and who I was buying for, she was equipped to pick the product for my specific needs. That’s a pretty powerful concept, and it’s the leading reason why CSRs are such an important piece of any business that genuinely wants to meet the needs of today’s highly demanding consumers.