Monthly Archives: April 2012

Fantastic Customer Service: Grace Under Destruction – Woothemes

Wow.

Every service provider’s nightmare. Complete and total flat line outage of your service platform. My hat is in hand and I am completely in awe over WooThemes grace and incredible customer service this week past.

You see, WooThemes was the target of a rather destructive attack on their servers. It started with this post:

Attempting to make their experience as transparent as possible while their servers had been compromised. They still were able to get the word out. Since Woothemes provides services to many difference customers via WordPress, it was important they keep their customers informed on their status updates. They directed all of their URLs to the above post. Also, in the midst of it all, there was always someone monitoring and replying to their clientele via all social media channels, like twitter:

They were dealing with an event that can cripple a business if handled poorly and they were dealing with an event that required all hands, and possibly feet, too.

The whole time they were communicating with their customers, showing them how to receive service:

even when all hands were recovering data, rebuilding servers from scratch, and attempting to make the experience as transparent to their customers.

In fact, they turned this situation into an opportunity to reinforce their brand, the “Woo Ninja” sharing behind the scenes photos and taking their customer engagement to a whole new level. Even I, not a customer of WooThemes, heard about it. I think we call can take away something from this experience; even if the place is falling down around your ears, your customers want/deserve to know what you’re doing to rebuild – while it’s happening – not in an “after-it-happens-we-are-so-very-sorry” blog post. That post will come on it’s own.

Sure, you could probably say that their customers are ones who set the tone, and that those customers were understanding when an attack takes down servers out of your individual control; but, regardless of the service being provided, if that service is down, it affects the customer’s business.

I’m not a WooThemes Customer – I’m only a WordPress.com blog and I’ve not ventured into the other themes out there, I think one thing that stands out is their dedication to their customers.

Dear WooThemes, my hat is off to you. You served your customers very well. Incredibly so. Even I, as a customer service professional, learned a couple things about communicating, connecting and engaging customers on different levels, even in crisis mode. When I’m in the market to redesign my blog, I’m definitely going to be knocking on your door.

Welcome back from the breech http://www.woothemes.com/

Want to know more of the story, The Woo Ninja says it better than I ever could: WooThemes: We’re Alive and Kicking

Celebration of Light

What Goes Unsaid.

There’s so much power in tone. Maybe too much.

You probably wouldn’t imagine this, but I’m an over-analyzer, an over-thinker, and sometimes even an over-feeler. As you’ve seen from my other blog: www.schnik.it I love words. Words, have so much power, but to a thinker, the tone sometimes matters more.

Columbia River Gorge

I’ve been having a hard time reconciling some changes in my life – I have discussions with people and I listen for intent rather than what is being said that sometimes my inference is probably off base. Yet, I can’t help it. I still wonder: “What Exactly Are You Saying” and furthermore: “What are you getting at?” Those tonal record of these exchanges, often by email, leave me wondering where I fit in, and how I’m being effective.

Holy Water

It is probably my insecurities bleeding through and my need for excellence, I just can’t help it. How do you quiet the voices when the sender’s communication style doesn’t speak to yours?

Let me take you on a (hash)capade (let’s go)

I’m pretty excited, My friend Clark Haass has been working on this epic hash-adventure and I’ve been along for the ride.

Today, he launched his new site and this epic new video entitled “Think Outside The Can.” Who knew there were so many ways to cook potato hash?

Check out his new video!

What I’m Reading

I read a lot of things from a magazine aggregator. Since I don’t have Zite or Flipboard, I use Pulse on my Kindle Fire, which I’ve found immensely handy in the constant consumption of information and data in my super-busy lifestyle. Here are some of the headlines that caught my eye this week.

From Gizmodo:
If a Tree Falls In Your Living Room and There’s No One To Sit On It, Does It Really Become a Bench? Just remember to watch out where you sit. Ouch.

From The Atlantic:
Meet the Bill That Wants to Put Plane-Like Black Boxes in Our Cars Interesting considering the Supreme Court just ruled that covert GPS technology is anti-fourth amendment.
How Much Oil Is Really in the U.S.? How much oil are we really hiding? How much oil is left in the world?

From Fast Company:
The 4G System That Powers The Navy’s Pirate Fights Interesting. I can’t get 4g in my neighborhood, but then again, I’m not fighting pirates either.
FCC Acts To Quash Cell Phone Bill Shock Hmm. How many times have you ever gotten your phone bill and screamed: WHAT THE HECK?!

From Salon:
Fox: “Glee” makes you trans – I’m sorry, what? Guess I better run out and grab my heels.

I’m also finishing up:
A great book called: Thinking, Fast and Slow

And I just started:
Another great book called: The Fire Starter Sessions: A Soulful + Practical Guide to Creating Success on Your Own Terms

Just some of the things that caught my eye this week. 🙂

Poor Customer Service …At Least the Food Was Good

I just got back from having brunch with a rather large group. I’ve been to a Hashcapade before, my friend Clark puts these on as a way to get together, eat good food and enjoy the company of friends. This one was a special event to preview his new video (to be released this week!) and they created, with the help of the executive chef, a masterful set of hash options.

Here’s the thing: This event had been planned for at least 30 days. I got my invitation in the end of March. Now, when I look at the Facebook invitation; I see that 9 RSVP were “Yes” and 3 marked themselves as “Maybe” – When I got to The Mark Restaurant – inside the Shilo Inn on Canyon Road, in Beaverton – I was the 16th person to arrive. Now, since they had a table set up for eighteen, you’d think they would have imagined they would be busy.

…Unfortunately not. The hardest part for me to believe in this whole situation, was that they didn’t expect this kind of thing. Again, never mind that the reservation has been in the books for 30 days, that the executive chef prepared a special menu and one of their host employees was at another table, completely unaware of the lack of service.

There were a couple of moments which really stuck with me. The group I was seated with all work in the service industry, from a customer service representative to a director of hotel events; we know service and this wasn’t it.
A couple of the more quotable exchanges:

“I’m sorry we don’t have enough menus, this is all we have.” – Your restaurant has 100 seats, you should have enough menus.
Q: “Do you have anything that can make this bloody mary any better? A: “No.”
“I’m sorry, we’re out of a lot of things, you guys came at a really hard time for us.” – See above about a reservation.

Hashcapades

Aside from those things, the server asked names for all the checks, which is the smart thing to do when you have a large group, however, none of those names were correct when the food came out: Nick became Mick, Ryan/Bryan, Lydia (Who spelled out her name) became Lybia (and hilarity ensued,) then Lars came out of nowhere, and even our host’s name was incorrect.

In the service industry, where I’ve spent most all of my career, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference, it’s those little things that make you remember, or run screaming from, a service based company. I loved the breakfast I had, and normally I would be on the side of a server who was taking care of 16 people at once, except she wasn’t. When asked for a manager, she said she was the manager.. “Amongst other things.” If you’re the manager, then you’d know when your service needed a little work, I’d hope.

The comedy of errors would have been funny, except they were all-consuming. At the bottom line, at least the food was good, even if the service wasn’t.

Teachers Matter

Subtext: the right teachers matter.

We all know I’m currently in college. I’ve had the experience of good teachers and very BAD teachers. There are all types of teachers and usually the good ones leave and do something different/better and the bad ones get tenure? No, I’m kidding, that’s purely in jest. I’ve had my fair share of bad/poor teachers in community college. There are plenty of teachers who are just phoning it in and don’t care what you learn, just so they can tick things off on their, created by someone else, lesson plans. Those teachers hurt, they hurt my bank account, they hurt the college image and they hurt the quality of degrees.

But – good teachers matter. I’m sure we’ve all heard me bemoan my absolute dislike for math and having to learn it all over again. That’s actually where I got this post idea. I was sitting in my math class this week, and realized, the reason I like this teacher, compared to the one I had last term in which I dropped the class because I wasn’t getting it, was that he has an enthusiasm for the subject, he enjoys math. I mean, he’s REALLY jazzed on math. I don’t know what kind of person in this world likes math, some certainly warped people, indeed. Though, he may be warped, I’m learning and I have the energy to try harder, study more, and the confidence to ask more questions.

Teacher perspective
(Photo credit: Krugazor – Creative commons via Flickr)

I’ve also had a great teacher in my speech class. Now, speech (public speaking) is something that comes easy to me. The first couple times with the data, I tend to be a little rigid, but then I loosen up, get someone to smile, do the song and dance, and have a great time with it. That makes it worth it. My speech teacher, only teaches on weekends, has a full-time job in the meantime, and does this because she loves to talk in front of people (and realizes she’s a bit of a ham!), and loves to help people through – what is normally – a very difficult class. I wish she taught other subjects, I’d take the classes just for the enthusiasm. It was well worth coming in on Saturday mornings to speak in front of a group of strangers!

The third teacher I really like is my current science teacher. A professional in the industry she teaches in, she realizes that not everyone is going to be a scientist, she also realizes that most of us are not science majors; that’s refreshing from a teacher. A teacher who understands that we’re trying to take the least painful requirements and can scale their presentations to bring it to a level that we become interested in and understand how these things affect our life. And she’s great in a nerdy fun way. I can appreciate nerdy fun. 🙂

Falling teacher
(Photo credit: Pitel – Creative Commons via Flickr)

I think the key in all cases, has been: Enthusiasm. When you’re faced with that kind of enthusiasm, you find yourself wanting to try harder, work harder to understand. It’s matching that enthusiasm, even when you’re completely exhausted from the full workday, you still strive to make it through, and if you’re like me, you want a good grade; Yes, teachers do matter.

Moving Poor Customer Service… Out

I recently had an experience that left me so perplexed that I still have no idea how this happens to people or how it isn’t more widely reported…

I helped a friend move from Seattle to Portland. Seems like it should be easy, right? Order one of the many truck services, pick it up in Seattle, pack up the boxes and furniture, and deliver it to Portland, Oregon. Totally Simple, except when it isn’t. About two weeks before the big move, we searched the internet for the various moving truck companies, and hit all the big names of course.

First up… Budget truck rentals – http://www.budgettruck.com/Default.aspx
Since they were one of the lower cost rentals, we decided to check them out, we selected our participating dealer, clicked through the reservation process which was mostly harmless, then hit “Submit Reservation.”

Except, when it isn’t. 5 days before we were to pick up the truck, I get a phone call, “Hello this is we don’t have a truck for you, in fact, we’re overbooked by nearly 15 rentals. You can try to come get a truck but I cannot promise that we’ll have anything on site for you.” (See Above) I asked, “Wait, I have a reservation. I can give you the confirmation number.” — “I know, the system will confirm the reservation, but the local truck store doesn’t have to give you a truck. And we won’t have any…” and went on and on but did not provide any other options, checking with another retailer, nothing. Just – So sorry chuck!

Then I saw this on the reservation confirmation email: (Underlined Emphasis Mine)

Terms and Conditions

A reservation is not a contract. Reservation only guarantees the rate quoted and shows a customer’s preferences for a pickup location, drop-off location, time of rental, date of rental and equipment type.

The pickup location, drop-off location, time of rental and date of rental selected in a reservation is a preference only and if a preference selected is not available, Budget reserves the right to offer a customer alternatives.

All equipment selected in a reservation is subject to availability at time of pickup. If the equipment requested is not available, Budget reserves the right to substitute equipment at no additional charge to the customer.

Sadly, not only did they lose the opportunity to help out a customer, they’ve lost out on any future business. (I’ve moved five times in the last five years. To say that I’m not a frequent customer, would be inaccurate.)

Then, we went with the “old tried and trusted” rental company. U-haul – http://www.uhaul.com/ – not the cheapest, but they’re a national moving company, you see their trucks everywhere, always on the freeway going from here and there, it’s what they do, right? Wrong. They confirmed our reservation, provided a confirmation number and sent the email below:

Note: “Guaranteed Reservation,” it says. *phew* That’s a relief, except when it isn’t. The day of my move – a day before my friend’s move – he gets an email, “We are unable to secure a truck for you at the time you selected. Your only option is to pick up a larger truck” not in Seattle, where we asked, but in Renton, Washington – which is only a mere 16 miles, or at .89 cents per mile: An extra $28.48 tacked onto our rental. Also, since we ALL know how Seattle traffic can be/is, that would have taken another hour or more to travel – oh, by the way: “You cannot pick up the truck until 5 p.m.”

Seriously – Are you kidding me? No “sorry for the inconvenience.” No “we’re really full at the end of the month.” Nothing. Just – Here’s your option, take it or leave it. – Well, needless to say, after exploring our options, we left it.

And by exploring our options, I mean: We looked high and low, everywhere. From Enterprise, Avis, and Hertz… Everywhere. And then we found it. In Portland.

Ryder Truck Rentals – 310 N. Columbia Blvd – Portland, Oregonhttp://reservations.ryder.com/reservation/reservation.aspx – We called and were directed to the local affiliate – I’m really sad I didn’t get her name, she deserves some serious kudos and a wholehearted thank you. She truly was a life saver – who said we could rent the truck, all things included – mileage round-trip, too – for less than the U-Haul would have been. Sold!

How refreshing, she reserved our truck, confirmed our reservation, and when we got there the next morning, had the truck ready for us. This the service we were looking for, nothing special when it comes to expectations from a moving truck company. Just make a promise to your customer and deliver on that promise, and this Ryder truck company did.

Update: I forgot this wonderful tidbit. While the other two truck rental companies required a credit card for their supposed “guarantee,” Ryder just told us to come on down, there would definitely be a truck waiting for us. No worries – and there weren’t. I’m incredibly pleased with their service. A cool thing we noticed on the office wall: “In and Out in twenty minutes or you get a discount.” Quality Customer Service, Great Value, Exceed Expectations. – That’s all we ever ask for from service companies, right?

Now, I know where I will be renting my moving trucks from, they weren’t my first choice, but they will be my forever choice and I hope all my friends give Ryder a call, I know I won’t go to the other places ever again.