Happy Monday, good tidings and warm wishes for joy that might see fit to sit on your shoulder and stay a long spell. As the French say, "Le pouvoir tu pommes frites une sauce a mayonnaise avoir pour tu jours," or, roughly translated, "May your french fries be forever dipped in mayonnaise."
I said it was rough.
Something easier to understand are the musings of readers, submitted in the form of feedback to last week's posts - including reaction to the Secret Shopping review of Casey's, restaurant customer service horror stories and Interstate Batteries' recipe for customer service success. You'll also read comments from The Des Moines Customer Service Survey - some of which you may find surprising, and all, hopefully, informative.
Speaking of the survey...a clarification.
It does not seek, nor is there a place to submit, your name, email address, real address, kid's Bar Mitzvah photos or any personal information about you or your kin.
Unlike many such "surveys" that constantly batter the hull of our social networking spaceships - when all we wanna do is peacefully hang out on Facebook and get gifts for Farmville - this one has no ulterior motive.
The Des Moines Customer Service Survey wants one thing - your opinion on the state of customer service in Des Moines - and will gather it while protecting and maintaining your anonymity.
The goal of the survey is 5,000 responses. I've got 50, which means I probably don't have yours.
This survey gives you a voice - I promise you that business owners are listening - so be heard, and help shape the present and future quality of customer service in Des Moines. You can take the survey, at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/7L5RR8P.
Then, to keep its survey sails billowing forward, please copy and paste the Des Moines Customer Service Survey URL in the previous paragraph, into a Twitter tweet, a Facebook post, a text, your own blog or that old-school favorite, an email - and send it, to at least one other person. Then encourage them to do the same.
...or, strangely, by clicking this picture of the main guy from the movie Avatar (who looks very upset because you haven't taken the survey yet) which grossed nearly $2 billion world-wide and so might have a better chance of getting your attention than an uninteresting arrow.
Thank you. :)
Now to your feedback.
"I refuse to go to Casey's. Their bathrooms are filthy, and if that's all that's around I'll "hold it" until I find something else, no matter how long it takes."
"How can you possibly judge the quality of 1,500 stores by visiting 10 stores in one day? That doesn't mean anything."
"Pretty sad when one ponders the ineptitude of Casey's General Stores!"
"I work at Casey's and your review is right on. The only thing they teach you is operating the cash register. Otherwise, customers are ( ) out of luck."
"Hard to judge an entire company by the actions of a few. Casey's has kept a lot of small towns alive. They deserve a lot more credit than you're giving them."
"Think about the people who work for this company before you rip into them. The way you're judging them is so completely unfair. You really need to get a life and stop sneaking around like a jerk."
"My mother works for Casey's and she can't stand the people who run it. She hopes they get bought out by the company in Canada, or someone else - maybe they'll do a better job of running it. Can't do any worse."
"Enjoyed your review of Casey's. Can't say I disagree, although not many companies could pass your tests, I suspect."
"We got a brand new Thornton's Gas Station in Champaign and they have spent beaucoup bucks on marketing and promotions. Went in there today and the cashier was a total dud. If they only knew. I think I'll tell them."
"I can't share your opinion. I have the inside track on being an employee of Casey's. Some very close people to me still are. They are benefit thieves."
"Casey's has to be my least favorite convenience stores ever. The store where near I live, makes me feel as if I"m walking into a four aisle grocery store/mini restaurant crammed into the space of my garage. Not very clean either. I have not found much I will buy from there other than fishing worms and gas."
"It's something that's so simple and easy to change. Raise the bar a tiny bit. You have to insist on nothing but the best attitudes in your establishment. If you don't like it, hit the road!"
"Thank God for Quik Trip."
(Interview with "Donna," a former Casey's employee, on "The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show.")
"I completely agree. They've always been very very helpful to me. Especially since I normally go in and am completely lost as to what I need.
"A very accurate review of Interstate Batteries. They cost a little bit more than that disaster across the street, but what incredible service, that more than offsets the extra cost."
"Love the place. Hate the cramped parking."
"My issue is that they do not offer battery recycling services. Seems a natural to me and a great way to present yourself as a sustainable company when selling something that isn't good for the landfill."
"Why would I spend 5 bucks for an over-priced pack of double A's when I can go next door to Wal-Mart and get the same thing for $3 plus everything else I need? I'll take so-so service and keep the change."
"Love to go into that store, even if I'm not looking for batteries just then, and always seem to end up buying something anyway. The guys in there are terrific with customers, great to work with."
"Thanks for the article, Jonnie. Sorry we didn't have a chance to talk before the article went to press. Let me tell you, the corporate office thinks "Pat" is awesome!!!"
-Paul Prueitt, Store Manager
Interstate All Battery Center
1090 73rd Street, Clive
"OMG. I think I'm done shopping."
"It's amazing what the public isn't privy to - thanks for bringing these stories to light. I think stores should be required to post a list of every customer service disaster that happens in their building - like Car-Fax, but for businesses."
"You think employees are bad. You should hear some of the stories about customers I've experienced, as a local business owner. Talk about shameful. Why don't you write a post on that?"
"Remind me never to read your website right before bed. I dreamed of really bad customer service all night and woke up in a really bad mood!"
"That's what online shopping is for."
Note: The following questions are from the survey, along with a sampling of answers that were submitted. To take The Des Moines Customer Service Survey, click here.
Question #9: What's the most important thing Des Moines area business owners, managers and employees can do to improve their quality of customer service?
"Be helpful and friendly - and no matter what, at least say "thanks" after I've purchased something."
"In retail, their employees have to care about what they are doing. I have many choices to shop or not to shop. If it is not a fun experience, it is much easier to stay home. Few of us need something so desperately that we will endure much hassle"
"Understand what it is, what it's like to be treated like a valued customer, and train their troops to be customer service specialists."
"Find employees that TRULY like their job and like what they are doing. They must realize that BECAUSE of the customer, they have a job...without customers, there is no job."
"Follow through after the sale, make sure the customer is happy, get the delivery right, and if issues arise deal with it. Not hide the phone call and ignore the customer"
"Depends on who you are getting customer service from. If it's like Mediacom or a telemarketer they are rude and non helpful but local area places that are small and don't deal with the phones are generally happy and easy to work with."
"Engage customers sooner and don't act like you've got a million better things to do."
"Hire me to help them create customer service excellence for their businesses."
Question #10: What's the last great customer service experience you had, in the Des Moines area?
"Clark shoes at Jordan Creek mall. The young man was very accommodating of my tight schedule. 10 AM on a week day and he was alone, but did a great job of helping me."
"At the consignment store, the ladies engaged me in small talk, helped me to determine (honestly) if something looked good on me, and gave me the extra time to bring in the items I wanted to, to actually help them. I also bought a major jewelry item (layaway) and this valley junction store was so flexible and listened why this was a "special" item for me. And congratulated me on noting it as a worthy milestone gift to myself. That was gold."
"Can't think of a specific recent incident in DSM but had an exceptional experience at a hotel in Minneapolis over spring break."
"Sears at Merle Hay. Specifically for a treadmill purchase. I did my homework, and they didn't try to upsell, force me into other products, answered questions confidently."
"Ummm....? I always get great, friendly, fast service and attention at both Monterrey locations and the El Rodeo on University just west of I-35. Nothing else in the past few weeks stands out at all. At stores I'm lucky if I get BOTH a "hi" and a "thanks" from the check out people."
"The owner of Mid-States Truck-Auto Center went out of his way to put two new tires on my car on Good Friday afternoon when they didn't have the capacity to do so, but he went the extra mile to earn my business and I have shared the story ten-fold on Loren Christensen. Absolutely outstanding experience and has earned my return business because HE CARED."
"Shopping at JCPenny's checking out. Always seem to be greeted with a smile, and the checkout is always helpful and friendly."
"I can't really think of one. Which is probably not the best sign."
"The Sprint store at Valley West Mall. The girl there is awesome."
You can read many more answers to these survey questions, plus see some preliminary percentages on how local shoppers rate the overall level of customer service in Des Moines, in Friday's "The Unsecret Shopper."
Odds and Ends...
John Wier, the amazing Walnut Creek Y employee you've read so much about, and reacted so warmly to, celebrated his 22nd Birthday yesterday, Sunday.
When I spoke to him just before they were shutting down the Y to begin celebrating, John was looking forward to cake, cake and cake. My present to John was something less edible but just as sweet - copies of the emails he's received from well-wishers across the country, who had read his incredible story.
His response? "Have you gotten any emails from celebrities."
Smiling, I replied,"Well John, you're the biggest celebrity in this story."
He gave my smile right back to me, and a bit more.
I told him not to be surprised, however, if the email sender at the nondescript, Ralph1024@yahoo.com, is really Angelina Jolie.
Speaking of celebrities in the limelight, John is scheduled to be my guest on The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show, this Saturday morning, 8-9am, on 1350 KRNT.
Finally, from the "If they can train him to do this, certainly a business owner can train an employee to smile and say hi" department...
We all get forwarded, and do our share of forwarding, clever, funny, stupid, vulgar, incredible videos.
The following is all of those, except vulgar - unless you find horses vulgar in general, which would be kinda weird. Except for that bizarre thing they do when they flip their upper lip back, pop open their mouth and stick out their tongue, like they just swallowed a bug - that's kinda gross. But still interesting.
I have no idea how long this has been rolling around the social networking universe - I first saw it in 2004 and I'm usually three years late to the "what's hot on the internet" viral dance.
Note: If you want to hire Patches to answer your phones and work your front counter, call my people and I'll call his people...
Jonnie Wright is a customer service trainer and evaluator, professional secret shopper, marketing strategist and host of "The Unsecret Shopper Radio Show," Saturday mornings 8-9 am, on 1350 KRNT. Email Jonnie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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