• Bill Leinweber

  • About Bill Leinweber

    Bill Leinweber's mission is to help businesses and organizations grow by combining efficient processes with great customer and employee experience.

    Bill is the Chief Experience Officer & Owner of Landmark Experience LLC, a consultancy, where he loves to help business leaders walk in their customers' shoes and devise memorable and meaningful experiences for both customers, guests, visitors, employees and business partners. After all, have you ever heard of customer loyalty and business growth without GREAT customer experience?

    Bill's 30 year career spans retail and office products distribution operations in both small, family-owned and global mega-businesses. He has managed customer service operations, sales support, customer on-boarding and business intelligence teams while also serving as an internal consultant and subject matter expert. Bill has helped his past employers improve their customer engagement processes and achieve their goals of customer experience excellence and loyalty.

    Bill loves to talk and speak about customer experience as well, so don't be afraid to ask!

    Bill Leinweber
    Landmark Experience
    513-227-9037
    www.LandmarkExperience.com

“Your call is important to us…”

Okay, we’re all going to do this together. And we can do it the easy way or we can do it the hard way.Tin Can Phones

If you have an IVR (Interactive Voice Response system) on your phone when customers call your business and if any part of the recording says, “Your call is important to us,” you’re going to re-record the IVR greeting. Promise me you will stop the madness!

Even if you have “Your call is important to me” on your business voice mail greeting, I want you to commit right now that you will end this foolishness and re-record your greeting.

Go ahead. Make a note on your calendar right now so you don’t forget – “Check IVR system greetings.” “Change IVR greeting so we’re no longer telling customers ‘Your call is important to us.’”

This is my mission in life. I want to abolish “Your call is important to us.” I never want another customer of any business to ever hear that phrase again.

Why?

Because it is stupid.

It’s a dumb thing to say to a customer. Worse yet, it’s extremely condescending to your customer.

They’re a customer! Of course their call is important to you!

At least the call better be important.

Oh, I know. Some of the biggest companies in the world have “Your call is important to us” on their IVR systems and probably some psychologist somewhere advising businesses has said, “It’s a subliminal message. You must include it!”

But I don’t buy it. Did I mention it is a stupid phrase?

You see, if you’re not making your customer FEEL as if their call is important, then telling the customer their call is important isn’t helping you one bit. We’re not going to suddenly believe it just because you said it. Or because the recording said it.

“Your call is important to us..” is unimaginative and demonstrates that your business lacks any originality and merely copies what others do. You’re a “me-to” type of business. Ho-hum.

The lack of originality coupled with an impersonal recorded voice saying, “Your call is important to us,” followed by the customer holding the line for 5, 7, 11 minutes or longer is just plain insulting.

Yes, I’m feeling a little bit like Howard Beale in the movie Network. “I’m mad as hell and I don’t want to hear it any more!”

However, I can hear what you might be saying. “So Bill, what should our IVR say instead of ‘Your call is important to us..?’”

Anything.

Say anything else. It doesn’t matter.

Or just remove that phrase entirely.

Better yet. How about coming up with something original about how you really feel about your customers?

You could say, “We’re really glad you called us today.”

You are glad they called you and not the competition, right? Or are you still denying you have competition?

Or say, We’re looking forward to assisting you shortly.”

Oh heck, put a little passion into it and say, “We love when customers call us and we’re standing by to help you.”

Be pleased, glad, happy, or thrilled that a customer is calling your company – and let the customer know it!

It doesn’t really matter as long as you stop saying, “Your call is important to us.” Stop stating the obvious. Stop trying to convince the customer how important you think they are. And start expressing something really sincere. Get your customer to actually feel something.

Because this copycat routine just isn’t working for me any more.

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I help business owners improve customer service, create memorable customer experience and engage employees, through evaluation, benchmarking and training. If you have a business problem you’re trying to solve, let’s talk.

Bill Leinweber
Bill@LandmarkExperience.com
(513) 227-9037

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and sixninepixels

What Are You Doing to Your Customer’s Memory?

A Drive Down Dogwood Lane

I grew up on a great street in Mentor, Ohio, about 25 miles east of Cleveland. My parents picked a terrific location to raise six kids. Our street was exactly a half-mile long with long straight-a-ways and a couple of serpentine curves. Back then, we used to say it was a “dead end” street. The houses weren’t very fancy by today’s standards, three bedrooms and two baths for eight people.

The cool thing was that our house was fourth from the end of the street so the only people driving past our house were the Martinson’s, the Phelp’s, the Staebler’s, the senior and junior Douglass’s and Mr. Hockenbrach. Mr. H drove pretty fast but otherwise, for a kid on a bike the traffic was practically nonexistent. It was awesome when they re-paved our street into a smooth, asphalt “raceway.” Our lot was one of the few that didn’t border woods or a fence in back. Our backyard was like a meadow, blending seamlessly into the neighbor’s yard on the street behind us. Beyond the cul-de-sac were our elementary and junior high schools, playgrounds, football stadium and a big woods with a pond. There were tons of other kids in the neighborhood of all ages.  At the corner of our backyard was the biggest maple tree around, well over a hundred years old. And you could see it from the end of the street, even from the school yard. I have very fond memories of growing up on Dogwood Lane and I can still remember the smell of the grass, aromas of dinner from open windows, the breeze, and the feeling of safety, although at the time, I didn’t know I felt safe. I just did.

Memory Shock

About six years ago I was visiting my family in Cleveland and decided to take a drive down good ‘ole Dogwood Lane. It was nothing like I remembered. My mind’s eye contained frozen snapshots of time. But on Dogwood Lane, life marched on as it has everywhere. The trees and shrubs had grown unbelievably, to the point where once exposed houses are now totally hidden. The houses no longer looked new and fresh. In fact, some were pretty run down. One driveway had a car up on blocks. Revisiting Dogwood Lane was a shock to my system. My “memory self” was out of alignment with my current “experiencing self.” I regretted taking that drive. Maybe Dogwood Lane was never as great as I remembered.

The reminiscing drive down Dogwood Lane made me realize how different the experience may be from our memory of it. Truth is, there’s the experience and then there’s the memory of the experience and they’re not necessarily the same.

How does this translate to customer experience?

You often hear me say that the best customer experience is memorable and meaningful. Memorable. That’s critical.

Now, I get it. A single customer interaction isn’t going to etch a memory the same as 18 years of growing up on Dogwood Lane. However, THAT a customer remembers the experience at all is as important as WHAT the customer remembers about the experience.

If you have time, here’s a wonderful 15-minute TED talk by Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics, Daniel Kahneman about happiness (“experience”) vs. memory.

WordPress:

Customer Memory In Your Business

Here are 3 things to consider about the customer experience and memory in your business:

1) Design: When you design and shape your customer’s experience, are you asking yourself, “What will the customer remember?” And as part of the design of the experience, are you deliberately creating a memory at all?

Example:

At my local grocery store, they have a little “mini clinic” inside the store. You can get flu shots, have minor injuries checked, and other non-emergency treatments. Today when I walked into the store, there were several very ill patients, heads in their hands, waiting for treatment. This is not particularly something I want to see when I first walk into the store to buy my food! I couldn’t get the image out of my head. Unpleasant memory.

2) The Ending: We’re most likely to remember the very end of the experience and that memory will shade the entire experience. In your customer’s experience, what is the ending like?

Example:

At the end of her voice mail greeting, my colleague Melissa doesn’t say, “Have a nice day.” She doesn’t say “Have a good day.” Melissa says, “I hope you’re having a splendid day.” Now splendid is not a word you probably hear every day, or even every week! But Melissa came up with a way to express her wishes in a unique way that stands out. It’s different and that makes it memorable. So, you’re not  comfortable with the word ‘splendid.’ No problem, come up with something else.

3) Service Recovery: How you handle customer issues when something goes wrong cannot be understated. Whether it’s your customer service department, your sales rep, technical support or other customer-facing staff, the customer will surely remember this “ending” interaction. Here’s a hint: Better to have the memory of the bad experience fade and the customer left with the great memory of how you resolved the issue.

Example:

My colleague’s web hosting company accidentally wiped out his About Me page – and couldn’t recover the content! He had to reconstruct the content and re-load it into his website. Aside from a humble apology, the hosting company gave him a generous credit toward his next renewal which just happened to be later that week. Small cost for the vendor and left the customer with an upbeat memory.

I regularly preach that a distinguishing customer experience doesn’t have to cost a lot. Sometimes by just making the experience different, you make it memorable and better.  Just ask yourself, “When this interaction is over, what will the customer remember?”

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I help business owners improve customer service, create memorable customer experience and engage employees, through evaluation, benchmarking and training. If you have a business problem you’re trying to solve, let’s talk.

Bill Leinweber
Bill@LandmarkExperience.com
(513) 227-9037

Is Etiquette Dead?

A good receptionist is worth his weight in gold. If you’re one of the businesses that still has a human being answering your main phone line, good for you. What makes a better impression than being greeted by a live human rather than a recording? Of course, the receptionist model doesn’t work if you’re Staples, or the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, or Time Warner Cable. However, it’s great when your business size permits it.

Phone Agent Image

Image courtesy of stock images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The month before the holidays, I placed several calls to a client’s office and was greeted by an enthusiastic voice like this: “Happy holidays. ABC Company, how may I direct your call?” This is pretty typical verbiage but the enthusiasm and attention in her voice told me she enjoys her job. I said, “Well, happy holidays to you as well. I hope you’re having a great day so far.” She replied that it was, in fact a “great day” and proceeded to transfer me to the person I was calling. The receptionist actually left me looking forward to calling back again in the future.  Is that how you and your employees make customers feel?

I’ve made several in-person trips to this client and the same receptionist also greets visitors to their facility. Her polite and friendly affability is not an act. She has the same smile in her voice and friendly demeanor in person as she does on the phone. The receptionist gets me signed-in, explains about their policy that all visitors are escorted by employees at all times and hands me a visitor’s badge. I feel like a welcomed guest and I want to come back again.

A Positive Attitude & Good Etiquette Is Customer Experience Gold

Here’s one definition of etiquette: the rules and conventions governing correct or polite behavior in society in general, or in a specific social or professional group or situation.

In our Delivering Telephone Service Excellence workshop, we talk about etiquette. The word “etiquette” sounds a little snooty to begin with but I think it gets a bum rap. If etiquette in business makes you squirm a little, just bucket it under “strong communication skills.” Etiquette really just means good manners. And it’s situation specific. So the manners you use when talking to your next door neighbor may be a little different from when you answer the phone in customer service or greet visitors in your lobby. Or they may be the same! If you want to see an awesome example of etiquette, just watch Katherine Hepburn’s character, Christina Drayton, in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Even when she’s telling-off her friend, Hillary, Kate does it with stunning finesse.

Does Etiquette Really Matter in the Scheme of Things?

Good etiquette leaves the customer feeling respected, valued and held in esteem. Imagine how you’re greeted when walking into your favorite fine restaurant. You know that feeling. It feels a lot different from when you walk into a fast food joint, doesn’t it? Or, how many times have you been on the phone and heard, “Please hold” – click. Were you even given a choice? Would you rather hear, “No problem,” “Don’t worry about it,” or “I’m glad I can help,” “It’s my pleasure?” Good manners and better word choices do make a difference to your customers. They may not immediately put their finger on it but they will feel the difference.

Here are a couple of truths:

1 – Employees rarely walk into day one of new-hire with perfect etiquette or communication skills.
2 – Providing your customers with a good-mannered experience is pretty inexpensive in the big picture.

Telephone Interactions Are Bigger Opportunities Today

Few employees are actual monsters on the phone. But that doesn’t mean that most employees won’t benefit from a little refresher on how to deliver an excellent experience on the phone (or in person) with customers. Etiquette is but one of the topics in Delivering Telephone Service Excellence – the workshop. A new client recently told me that around 75% of their B2B customer contacts are via email so there is the perception in the business that, due to volume, the phone contacts aren’t as important. Truth is, with all the digital interactions thrust into our lives, most of us crave a little real live human interaction. This means the phone calls are actually MORE important than ever before. The phone interaction is an opportunity to have a real conversation with your customer and to directly influence how the customer feels much more so than can an email, a tweet or a text message. Regardless of phone interaction volume, don’t underestimate the power in leveraging that experience!

I help businesses improve customer service, sales support and employee experience through analysis, feedback and implementation. If you have a business problem you need help with, let’s talk.

Bill Leinweber
Bill@LandmarkExperience.com
(513) 227-9037

Image courtesy of stock images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to get your Sales Reps out of Customer Service and back to SELLING!

In my last post, I wrote about how and why it hurts your business when sales reps spend too much time doing customer service tasks and not enough time selling. If you missed that post, click 5 Reasons why your sales reps should not be order managers.

In this next post, I promised to answer the question, “How do you move from a culture of sales rep as part-time customer service rep to a culture of sales rep as full-time sales rep? I’ll start by saying; it’s not going to happen overnight. I’ve been there. It’s going to take commitment but it will be well worth the effort in greater efficiency, a bigger sales funnel and a culture of cooperation. And full disclosure – my background is strong in B2B so I do see things through that lens. However, this advice will work in a B2C environment. There is more that is similar than is different.

But before I get into some of the cool things to put in place, you need to understand this one point:

Sales people will stop selling the moment they lose trust in your business.

Need Help PhotoThe moment you jeopardize the sales reps word (promises they made to customers) or their income (commissions), they’ll take their eyes off the sales ball and move into babysitting and triage mode. They’ll hand-hold orders and customer setups, they’ll double-check accuracy and process steps and generally poke their noses into every other department’s business. They’ll insist on being the sole communication point between the customer and the business. You’ll see them in the office more often rather than visiting or on the phone with customers.

And frankly, I can’t blame them. Your sales reps won’t let go of the reins and go out and sell more until they trust that everything works as it should and that customers will receive the service they expect. The sales organization has to TRUST the operation, trust your quality, and trust that people will do what they say they’re going to do. They need to believe that customer service and other support staff won’t only do what the process says to do but will also make good decisions on the customer’s behalf when the process doesn’t fit the situation. If a culture of trust doesn’t sound like your company, start there. Otherwise, nothing else I share here will matter.

It’s the Numbers after the Decimal That Really Count

A word about quality. If you tell me your order accuracy is great and that 99% of orders are accurate, then you’re in big trouble. That’s because it’s the digits after the 99 that really matter. If you ship 1000 orders a day and only 99% are accurate, then every day 10 orders go out wrong. If I’m your sales rep, I’m losing sleep. That’s 50 orders a week that go out wrong and how many of them are for my customers? You’re pushing your sales reps to butt-in and hand-hold the order process because they won’t trust it. You don’t need Six Sigma or some big complex quality program for this one. When gauging accuracy, look at the digits to the right of the decimal and put something in place to get those digits into the 9’s. You’ll also be saving your company boatloads of money in re-work.

Develop a Customer On-Boarding Program

Formalize your customer on-boarding. When you get a new customer, every department should know about it. When the first order ships, everyone touching that order should know it’s the customer’s first order. Internally, everyone needs to handle that order just like the sales rep would because remember, your sales rep is now out selling and not babysitting orders. If I’m the shipping dock supervisor, I want to know it’s the customer’s first order. If I’m the billing supervisor, I want to know it’s this customer’s first invoice. There are many ways to implement an on-boarding program, from automated to manual. Code the customer as “new” for 90 days. A formal customer on-boarding program does the following:

  • The extra attention ensures new customers have the best experience possible
  • You build trust with the new customer at the most critical stage in the relationship
  • Sales reps will have confidence that their co-workers have their eyes on new customers
  • And not the least of which, you celebrate new customers with your employees!

Integrate Sales Support Into Customer Service

When your sales reps call with a customer issue, they shouldn’t call your admin or the warehouse manager. They should call customer service just like the customer would. After all, the sales rep is really calling on the customer’s behalf, aren’t they? Otherwise, the customer would be making the call. Channel sales rep calls into customer service so they follow the same process with the same people who have access to the same information. Within Customer Service, you could even establish an “elite team” who handles sales reps calls. Whatever approach you use, integrated sales support accomplishes the following:

  • All customer issues follow the same process flow and tracking
  • Prevents duplication of work
  • Ensures a faster more efficient resolution
  • Gives the sales rep the same level of “service” as you give your customers
  • Builds on a culture of collaboration between customer service and sales

Establish a 2-way Communication Channel

Sales reps can focus more time on getting sales and less time micro-managing the operation when there is 2-way communication between customer service and sales. If customer service encounters a customer issue or question that warrants the sales rep’s attention, they need a consistent way to get that information back to the sales rep. If I’m a customer service rep and a customer just told me they were talking to a competitor, I want our sales rep to know that. Perhaps you can use your CRM, case management system or something as simple as email to get word to the rep. Train customer service when and how to recognize what should be communicated. The payoff is:

  • Sales rep (or Account Manager) is proactively alerted to possible issues. Better for the rep to hear it from an internal source than from the customer later.
  • Gives the sales rep confidence that co-workers are alert to potential customer issues.
  • Builds on a culture of “these are OUR customers” not “your customers.”

Flip the Switch

Finally, to get the sales rep out of the customer service kitchen, you may have to simply limit system access. If your sales reps can enter or modify orders, override pricing, change addresses and perform other system maintenance, you may want to give that a hard look. It’s not only a good idea from a process control standpoint (can you spell Sarbanes-Oxley?). It also removes the temptation to spend time in the system. You’ll have to overcome the sales rep’s objection that, “It’s just quicker if I do it!” View-only access should do the trick in most cases and it removes the last excuse for, “I don’t have enough time to sell more!”

When your existing sales reps can spend more of their time on sales tasks, your business has the opportunity to grow sales and profits with existing staff. If your sales reps are spending any time being order managers, shift their focus by giving them confidence the business will live up to your brand promise.

If you would like to discuss this topic, give me a call (513) 227-9037 or email me at Bill@LandmarkExperience.com.

Learn more at LandmarkExperience.com

Photo courtesy of pakorn and FreeDigitialPhotos.net

Don’t kid yourself – Creating great customer experience takes effort

I read two blog posts this past week that sort of ticked me off. Not because the posts were emotionally charged or offensive in any way. After all, the election is over. The blog posts ticked me off because they mislead the reader. The posts suggest that creating a fantastic, memorable, exciting, loyalty-building customer experience that delights customers is really simple and doesn’t cost a lot of money. Just do these easy steps – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and you’re done.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles & FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The thing is, if this were actually true, we’d all be having amazing customer experiences every day and everywhere we go. But that’s not the case, is it? Both blogs are written by VERY smart gals and I plan to continue reading them because, well, like I said, they’re really smart. But hopefully neither will mind if I poke a little fun at their stories.

Fido and the Pet Store

In the first post, the writer compared her pet food shopping experience, first at a big-box pet store chain and then at a local, independent mom-and-pop pet store. Guess where she had the better, more personal, warm and fuzzy, loyalty-building experience? Of course – at the small independent pet store.  The clerk at the big box pet store was polite and helpful but didn’t offer to take the extra steps to get the special dog food the customer needed. It was a policy-driven experience. The clerk at the neighborhood pet store bent over backwards to help the customer.

I’m willing to bet the local pet shop owner’s heartbeat is only steps away from the customer. In fact, the blog post writer may have actually been dealing with the store owner. When the owner of a business is that close to the customer, the likelihood that you’ll have a more attentive, personal experience is much greater. On the other hand, the shareholders of the big-box pet store chain are wa-a-a-ay far away from the customer. So are the CEO, the executive team and all the “steering committees.” Is it possible to create a personal, attentive, warm and fuzzy customer experience in a big box chain store? Yes, it is possible. But it may not be the intent of the company. The intent of the company might be to become number one in market share by serving the most customers at the lowest prices. Second, if a large company wants to create a super-awesome customer experience, it’s gonna cost ‘em! I probably can’t tell too much to a local store owner that she doesn’t already know about taking good care of customers. But a medium to large business where the customer is “further away” from company leaders – now, that’s where I can help big time.

Starbucks and Big Bucks

The second blog post talked about how delighting customers doesn’t have to cost big bucks and in fact, can be hugely profitable. The post sites as an example, a Starbucks barista who carried on a flirtatious exchange with a customer by writing notes on her coffee cups over a period of months. It’s a cute story about how the customer’s co-worker would take the empty cup back to Starbucks with the customer’s responses. This back and forth cup dialogue went on for several months until the customer herself went into the Starbucks and met her cup-pal for the first time. No, they didn’t get married and live happily ever after but the experience made for lots of great postings on the customer’s own marketing blog. I wouldn’t be surprised if Starbucks encourages their baristas to put little smiley faces on the cups and otherwise make the beverage buying experience feel personal. And it obviously works. But the Barista Romeo example was a bit over the top. It’s a great one-off example of personalizing an experience. But not a good example to hold up to businesses and say, “hey, you should do this.”

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles & FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Reality Check

It’s true; companies who focus on delighting the customer can be and are enormously profitable. However, it’s neither as easy as 1-2-3 nor is it cheap. Deciding to delight your customers is easy. Institutionalizing it is another story.

It will cost any company in recruiting and hiring the right people who naturally want to deliver a great customer experience. It will cost the company in new hire and ongoing training, performance assessment, recognition and incentives. It will cost the company by creating a culture where employees feel valued, stick around, and understand how and why they should create a great customer experience. You’ll need great leadership, a commitment to the long-term and a belief in what you’re doing. The per-interaction cost of delivering great customer service is very low. Getting to that point where hundreds or thousands of employees are delivering a great customer experience every day – that is a significant investment in time, money and effort.

Can you do it? You bet! The time, money and effort spent is a good investment in your business. But don’t let anyone fool you into believing you can decide to delight your customers on Monday and git er done by Friday.

Is it worth the effort? Absolutely!

Does Your Service Leave Customers ‘Holding the Bag?’

The subject handbag on Michele’s arm

My friend, Michele, received a bag as a gift. But not just any bag and not just any gift. It was a Michael Kors handbag received from her husband at Christmas. And it was RED! Michele loved the handbag, she’s crazy about her husband and apparently, the red color is a big deal too. So Michele called me the other day asking for advice because she had a really bad customer experience with Michael Kors. To quote her, she was expecting a good “Landmark Experience” and instead, well it was a landmark alright but not good. Not good at all.

First, my disclaimer. If you whipped out your antonym dictionary and looked for the opposite of “Fashionista,” my picture would be there. Much to my partner’s dismay, I am not a devoted follower of fashion. What I do know is customer experience. I’m an expert on that. So I did have to ask Michele, “Who the hell is Michael Kors?” “Oh, luxury brand fashion designer.” Once I figured that out, we were ready to move on.

Now, back to the red handbag. Here’s the deal in a nutshell. After only several months of owning the red handbag, the inner lining began to fray and then tear. By summer, the lining was torn in 4 places. Michele has purchased a ton of Michael Kors products – shoes, clothes, wallets and other handbags, even her bridesmaids’ gifts. I nearly choked when she told me how much she has spent on Michael Kors. Then again, she had the good sense to marry an attorney so, good for her. The red handbag cost more than several hundred dollars. Michele also owns another Michael Kors handbag and the lining on the first bag is fine after four years of use. For the money her husband spent and for the perceived quality of the brand, the red handbag was not living up to expectations. So off she goes to the Michael Kors Cherry Creek store in Denver.

And here’s where the experience really goes bad. The Michael Kors store associate told Michele that the tears in the lining were “normal wear and tear” (ironic, isn’t it. I never took the “tear” literally before). She proceeded to say that since it was “normal wear and tear,” Michele could take the handbag somewhere to get it repaired at her own expense (even though that is contrary to Michael Kors published policy and voids the 1-year warranty) or she would have to pay for the repair if the bag was sent back to Michael Kors.

Michele was not pleased.

The store associate offered another option. She could exchange the bag for the same style bag in the store, although they had only black and brown because the red was a special, limited edition. But the cost of the bag has since gone up by fifty dollars, so Michele would have to pay the difference to exchange the bag for a color she doesn’t want.

To make matters worse, the store associate was able to find Michele in their “system” but couldn’t see all the purchases that she has made over the past several years. So while Michele’s lifetime customer value was pretty high, they couldn’t see it. All they saw was a very unhappy customer and all they offered her was their “policy.” Well actually, not even that. They weren’t living up to their policy. Here’s what the Michael Kors website says:

HANDBAGS & SMALL LEATHER GOODS

Handbags are protected from the original date of purchase by a one-year limited warranty (proof of purchase required). If the handbag or small leather good proves to be defective in material or workmanship under normal use anytime within the first year, we will repair or replace the item free of charge with same or comparable product. Defective handbags will not be returned to customer.

The variations in color and texture are the prized characteristics of beautiful tanned leather. Over time, the leather will acquire a patina and may also darken due to the oils from your skin and direct sunlight, further enhancing the natural look of your handbag. Please refer to our Product Care Guidelines for further information on caring for your handbag or small leather item.

Conditions and Exclusions:

The warranty does not cover damages arising from dye transference, accidents or misuse, or from any alteration, service or repair performed by any other party other than Michael Kors.

I’m pretty sure Michele didn’t carry around her Ginsu knife collection in her Michael Kors bag, so I’m confident we can say the bag got “normal use.” Yet there was no offer to “repair or replace the item free of charge with same or comparable product” as their policy states. Additionally, the store associate never asked Michele, “What would you like us to do for you?” She never got the store manager involved to see what could be done outside “the policy” to satisfy this (clearly) very loyal customer.

Wow. Does this sound like any way to treat any customer, let alone a luxury brand customer? The disconnect here is that the experience of OWNING a Michael Kors bag is nothing like the experience when quality falls short and service needs to recover. Inconsistency.

Hey out there, listen up. The cost of losing the lifetime value of a customer is way more than the cost of a silly handbag (sorry, Michele, I mean a stunning handbag). It doesn’t matter if you’re peddling your aunt’s secret pizza sauce or making expensive handbags. If your service falls short, then customers just feel duped. They feel like you don’t really care about them – you care only about your money and your policies. And when customers feel like you don’t really care about them, then they start questioning why they were loyal to your brand in the first place. For all your hard work, that takes you back to square one with customers.

Is it time to take a look at your brand experience? Is there consistency between quality of product, service, support, after market, re-orders, brick-and-mortar, online, phone, chat, email? Or do each of these places where your customers show up live in their own little world, disconnected from the promise of your brand and your vision? If you need help figuring that out, let me know.

Bill Leinweber

Landmark Experience

So, you want to train your employees? Don’t miss these key steps.

Company budgets have been tight these past several years and that typically means businesses have cut back on training. Not always a wise choice. However, if your business has decided to invest in some form of training for your employees in 2012, that’s a positive sign for your company’s growth.

Whether you’re planning to train customer service, sales people, delivery associates or any other group, make sure you include the following key elements in order to increase your success rate and get the most return on your investment:

 In your next training endeavor, here’s what to look for in 5 key areas:

1)      Know Your Audience:

Adult learners are a unique breed. Understand what motivates adult learners and how to ensure the training is effective. Adult learners want to know “what’s in it for them” and how the training is going to help them with their goals. The focus is sometimes weighted too heavily on “here’s why this training is good for our business” rather than “here’s why this training is valuable for you in our business.” Subtle but important difference. Be sure the training starts with a) Here’s what you’re going to learn and b) At the end of this training, you’ll know how to do X. This clearly sets expectations and also establishes responsibility with the adult learner.

2)      Subject Matter Experts Aren’t Trainers by Default:

A PowerPoint and a projector don’t constitute training! The tendency in many companies is to say, “Hey, Bob’s a whiz when it comes to our SmartOrder program. Let’s get Bob to train the new customer service team.” The problem with that approach is this – Knowing how to use the SmartOrder system is one thing. Knowing how to effectively train other people to use it is something different entirely. Why do you think the teachers teaching your kids have to be trained to teach? Teaching is a vocation in and of itself. Bob showing up at your door with a PowerPoint deck is not training! It’s a presentation.

Understand the difference between a subject matter expert and a training professional. A training professional is a subject matter expert about learning. Consider hiring a professional to develop curriculum and to deliver your training.

3)      Plan Ahead:

Be sure to prepare handouts or guides as takeaways for participants. Class participants will typically take notes in class but don’t expect them to know what points are key concepts. Handouts and guides draw attention to the most important concepts so participants aren’t left guessing and the learning is more consistent across your group. A participant manual also gives the student something to review later to brush-up on the material covered through self-study.

A word about application training. Application training is unique – don’t skimp here. Some people learn by seeing, others by doing and still others with a combination of both. If you’re training employees how to use a new computer application, blend presentation training with “computer lab” activities so participants can first “see” and then “do.” If you don’t have a training room outfitted with PC’s, have participants bring their laptops or rent laptops for the training. During the lab activities portion of the training, participants can ask questions while actually performing work in the application. This ensures they’ll retain more of the learning and your program will be much more successful.

4)      Environment and Experience:

The success of your training content is directly tied to the training environment and the training experience for participants. Be sure your training room is comfortable and free of distractions. Have water and healthy snacks to keep participants energy and engagement up. Effective training includes a mixture of elements including clearly stating objectives, communicating what participants will learn, lecture, discussion/activity, debrief and assessment. Variety will fight distraction and boredom. Simple things are important like making sure everyone can see and hear the presentation, especially for larger groups of 15+ participants. Set expectations for how questions will be handled then repeat questions for all to hear. Pause periodically to validate with the class that concepts are understood. And finally, make it fun!

5)      Successful Training Is Not An Event:

The most successful employees have regular training integrated into performance management. Follow up on learning retention rates by implementing training evaluations and refreshers. Don’t make the mistake of having a 1-day training and never following up again. Include an assessment immediately following the training and then again 2-4 weeks later to measure what participants have learned and what they remember. Use assessment results to tweak ongoing training for improvement.

Training and teaching others, helping them grow and make a bigger contribution is some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever done.

If you have comments about this article or questions about a training initiative you’re putting together for your company, please contact Bill Leinweber at 513-227-9037 by email at Bill@LandmarkExperience.com.