Customer Service is made up of the small things

Poor Customer Service ImageI recently had a customer service interaction with a SaaS service provider that left me wanting.

With this provider, we had an issue that was effecting our ability to use their programming API to provide services to our clients at SentimenTrader. The issue wasn’t one that caused us any real heartburn and wasn’t a mission critical application, but this API failing caused a little bit of embarrassment (at least to me personally) because we couldn’t deliver the best service we could to our clients.

I’ve always been a big believer in service, specifically the fact that the ‘little things’ are the things that make (and break) customer service for any organization.

When I reached out to the service provider to determine what the issue was, I was told that ‘a bug exists effecting a number of clients, you included’.  I know what it means to develop large scale software and I understand that issues arise.  Where this provider fell down in their customer service capabilities was when I asked about a resolution to the ‘bug’.

The service representative’s response was “I don’t know. Check back once or twice a month to see if there’s been a fix.”

I don’t know about you, but telling a customer to ‘check back once or twice a month to see if there’s a fixed’ is an absolutely horrible way to thing to say to say to a paying customer.  Putting the onus on a customer to ‘check in’ on an issue sets the tone that the company doesn’t value the customer.

It’s a little thing. The customer service rep may not really have thought about what they said and/or how they said it, but it makes a huge difference in how I now view that company. When I heard that response, I immediately started thinking about replacing the service this company provides me. Here we have a company making a decent revenue from us, and they – within the span of 2 minutes of conversation – alienated a customer and pushed that customer into researching other options.

Interestingly, the bug that existed was fixed within 2 days of my conversation with the customer service rep, which was a pleasant surprise, but (isn’t there always a but?) the only way I found that it was fixed was to manually test out the service. There was no communication from the company to me to inform me the bug was fixed, which is yet another little thing that doesn’t take much effort to do. Good communication is one of the things that customer service teams should do well and is another one of those ‘little things’ that can turn average customer service into great customer service.

The ‘fix’ for this service issue doesn’t just stop with the service rep. There’s a whole host of process and systems issues that need to be addressed, with most of them being small changes. If the service rep had access to a system that gave them an estimate to fix, things might have gone better. If the service rep had insight into what the ‘fix’ process looked like, they may have been able to provide a better response.

Customer service starts with little things. It doesn’t take a lot of money, fancy software platforms and expensive teams to do well. If you start small and train reps to be customer focused and communicate well, you’ll go a long way to creating pretty good service for your clients.

Foto Friday – The Grand Canyon

In February I had the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.   When I was younger, I’d been a few times but I’d never been out since I got into photography. The trip was more of a scouting trip than anything, but I can say my scouting turned into a number of fantastic images.

A sampling of these images are below. You can see more on my Photography site –

See more photos at my dedicated Photography website. If you like my photography, feel free to support my addiction habit by purchasing a copy for your wall and/or visiting Amazon (affiliate link) to purchase new or used photographic gear.

Fog in the Canyon Sunsetting over the Grand Canyon

What are you avoiding?

I’m sure we’ve all been there. We have 100 things to do and we pick 90 things to get done and avoid those last few items that we just don’t want to do.

They are on our ‘to-do’ list for a reason. We put them there…or more likely…someone put them there for us. But, they’re there and they should probably get done.

Why do we avoid those tasks? I know there are some things that I just consistently ‘put off’ to another day (e.g., writing on this blog) and I can’t tell you ‘why’ I put them off.

Recently, I ran across this quote that really resonated with me:

People romanticize their plans but dread the execution. The magic you’re looking for is in the work you’re avoiding.

Using this blog as an example — it is quite romantic in that ‘hey…I can be famous if I write a blog’ type of way, but it means nothing if I don’t actually write regularly.   An idea is worthless without execution.  It’s the execution of ideas that deliver value.   You (and I) can talk all day long about what we are going to do, but until you do it, you’re just talking.

But think about what happens when you get those things done that really mean something to you? Those things that you’ve “romanticized.”  Getting those things to a ‘done’ state is so much more meaningful and magical than just having them sit there on paper or in your head.

What are you avoiding right now?

Recipes don’t always work

How many times have you followed a recipe while cooking something in the kitchen and had the result turn out not to be quite what you expected?     If you’re like me, more times than not. Sure, the result is edible (usually) but isn’t quite what you expected or what was described in the recipe.    Recipes don’t always work.

Recipes are great starting points for cooking great food, but a good cook will tweak that recipe to create something that is perfect for them / their family. They tweak whatever recipe they have to match their own tastes and their own inclinations.

The same is true of good leaders.

A good leader isn’t going to take something they read in a book like Good to Great and implement the idea(s) without tweaking the ‘recipe’ for their own organization, people and culture.  Just because something worked for one organization doesn’t mean it will work for another without changes. Just because Jim Collins provides insight into how a company was successful in the paste doesn’t mean that the thing that company did will work for your organization today.

Stephen Covey made a lot of money by telling people there are seven habits that successful people follow but I guarantee there are more than seven habits that successful people can follow and plenty of successful people that do things other than his seven habits.  The same is true of systems for time and task management. Sure, the systems work but you have to ask whether they will work for you. If you don’t sit down and actually look at your task list, that task management system isn’t going to work at all for you.

I hear people say that you’ve got to write 1000 words a day (or 500 words a day…or X words a day) in order to ‘be creative.  I hear people say you have to meditate or get up at 4AM or get 10 hours of sleep or exercise every day.  I hear people say all sorts of things that have worked for them but that same process may or may not work for you and/or your company.

Recipes are great starting points and they can help create starting points for what you’re trying to do. That said, they aren’t the ‘end-all-be-all’.  When you’re working with people, recipes generally don’t work as they are written down. They require some tweaking and some changes to fit into your personal approach and/or your organization’s culture.

Next time you’re trying to do something and you think some ‘recipe’ you’ve found is the way to go, just remember – recipes don’t always work.

Incrementally Better

Recently, I spent a week at the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. While visiting, I stayed in Tusayan Arizona, just a few miles outside the park’s entrance.

When I visit places like this, I don’t have high expectations when it comes to dining. I’m not a food-a-phile (or whatever you call them) but I do like good food and I like to have a selection of choices, especially since I’ve recently been trying to eat cleaner in recent months.

I noticed that in the park and in Tusayan that there were really no highly rated places to eat. When looking at places like tripadvisor and other ‘rating’ sites, there were very few places rated more than a ‘4’, which is an anomaly, even for a small area like Tusayan.   Granted, the area is a tourist destination so ratings might be skewed because of that, but I’ve been many other places that were tourist destinations and there were always plenty of places to eat that were very highly rated.

I tried a few places in Tusayan that were highest on the list (rated around 4 on tripadvisor) and I have to say I was wholly unimpressed, and actually quite disgusted by some of the food I received.   I did have a good breakfast at Bright Angel Lodge and a  good lunch at the El Tovar dining room in inside the park but everything I had in Tusayan was very disappointing.

No, I’m not just complaining.

OK…maybe I am complaining, but I thought this was a good ‘teachable moment’, even if the people running the Tusayan restaurants will never read this. Tusayan is a very small town (something like 500 full-time residents) and is focused on grabbing money from tourists rather than providing value for money. The places I ate were over-priced and very (very) underwhelming in terms of service and value.  While traveling to a place like this, you know you are going to be over-charged for what you get, but you at least expect to have a decent meal for the price you pay, but that’s not the case in this small tourist town.

I’m not here to complain about tourist traps though. I’m here to talk about how people (and companies) fall into the trap of thinking they don’t have to provide good service (or good food or good value, etc) to their customers because they have a ‘monopoly’ on what they do.   How many times have you run across a company that is the ‘industry leader’ and found that they just really didn’t care that much about servicing their customers in any meaningful way? How many times have you purchased something and felt completely underwhelmed by the service and/or the product received?

Just because you have a monopoly on something, doesn’t give you the right to stop trying.

There’s a very well known company within the financial space that has had a near-monopoly on financial data, news and content for many many years (they were one of the first – if not the first – in this particular space).  This company charges an enormous amount of money for their product and have stopped innovating over the last few years. They’ve sat back and rested and expect that their ‘monopoly’ will carry them through…and they may be right. They may have such a lead on the market that nobody will ever replace them but there are plenty of companies trying to replace them.

It wouldn’t take much for someone to come along and blow up the monopoly that this financial company has. It would just take some money and some marketing and they’d be in a bad spot – and they may already be in said bad spot…but it might take years for them to figure that out.

Just like this financial company, the restaurants in Tusayan think they have a monopoly on their industry. There’s not a lot of room to build in the town (its surrounded by Navajo lands and National Forest), but all it will take is for one of these places to go out of business and some enterprising chef to come in and create something incrementally better than what exists today.

It’s not always about creating the next ‘unicorn’ to make a billion (or million) dollars. Sometimes, you just need to create something that does things just a little better than others do. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying to do more than the other person (because more isn’t always better)…just find a way to do things better.  Maybe, just find a way to do things better than you did yesterday.

Do something incrementally better and see what happens.

Foto Friday – Pika Rocky Mountain National Park

Pika Rocky Mountain National Park

While in Rocky Mountain National Park last year, I stumbled upon an area perfect for Pikas. I sat myself down next to some rocks and waited. After about 15 minutes I started hearing the ‘squeeks’ that you’d hear from these cute little animals. Quickly thereafter, I started seeing the scurrying around and spend about an hour grabbing photos of them.   The below is one of those cute Pikas.

About Pikas:

A key characteristic of the American pika is its temperature sensitivity; death can occur after brief exposures to ambient temperatures greater than 77.9 °F.  Therefore, the range of the species progressively increases with elevation in the southern extents of its distribution.  In Canada, populations occur from sea level to 9,842 feet, but in New Mexico, Nevada, and southern California, populations rarely exist below 8,202 feet.

You can learn more about this great little animals here.

See more photos at my dedicated Photography website. If you like my photography, feel free to support my addiction habit by purchasing a copy for your wall and/or visiting Amazon (affiliate link) to purchase new or used photographic gear.


Pika Rocky Mountain National Park – Buy a copy for your wall

Pika - Rocky Mountain National Park

A closeup of a Pika that I found in Rocky Mountain National Park. Captured with Sony a9 with Sony 100-400 GM + 1.4x extender

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