Category Archives: Customer Experience

A welcomed “favor” at Decathlon

Those annoying, itchy, long white tags that can be found inside a new item of clothing and that drive you crazy if you forget to take them off — DON’T do it unless you’re sure the item is a keeper. This may seem like a no-brainer, but when you’re dealing with baby clothes sometimes you just assume it’s not necessary.

The other day I went to Decathlon, a huge sports chain here in Spain, and purchased a baby swimming outfit for swimming classes, complete with little matching flip flops.

Decathlon_Logo

Decathlon baby swimsuit

My son’s a big boy, but not huge. Since he wasn’t even a year old yet I decided to go with the 18 month size. When we got home I cut off all 4 annoying tags inside the suit and headed out on my merry way. Unfortunately, when we got to the pool locker room for class I was surprised to find that the bathing suit was way too small. Someone looked like a sausage coming out of its casing. I could barely even pull up the zipper.

So…back I went to Decathlon a few days later not really sure what to expect even though I had kept the sales receipt and all of the little tags that I had cut off. The only thing I didn’t bring was my baby so he could make a sad face when I explained the sausage story.

The person who attended me was very nice and said it would be no problem (all I wanted was an even exchange for a 2 year old size – again he was only 11 months old) until he saw the cut off inside tag. Uh oh. At this point a supervisor had to be called over, to whom I explained again that I really would never have thought that an 18 month old size would be too small. After a small exchange of glances between the two employees I was told that they could do a “gestor comercial” and exchange the item for me, but it was made very clear that this was a big favor since they wouldn’t be able to resell the merchandise. Ok, got it. After a few too many thank you’s I went on my merry way once again with the new 2 year old suit.

Overall impression? I’m happy with Decathlon since they did the right thing and didn’t tell me I was “wrong”, but it was a little strange that it had to be made so clear that they were doing me a huge favor. In any case, I’ll take the gesture/favor and am pretty sure they won’t be going bankrupt because of this incident! The next time I need some sports items I’ll be heading back there.

Finale: Delta/KLM and the broken stroller

At the beginning of January I reported my experience traveling across the ocean with an infant alone and arriving in Amsterdam to a destroyed stroller (see: Delta/KLM and the broken stroller). At that point the customer experience with Delta/KLM was pretty good as they responded quickly to my official online claim and agreed to pay to repair the stroller or for a new one. Now, a month and a half later I can officially say that that this issue has successfully concluded, but, not without a little snafu of course.  We immediately went to the store where we had originally purchased the UppaBaby and were told that the damage was not repairable. We left our information as the distributor had to get back in touch to give the store an official cost estimate. Five days later when I still hadn’t heard anything back, I called the store and was told that the distributor was out of the office for a few days (or did they forget?). In any case, a few hours after the call I received by email the pro forma invoice totally the damage at 601€. I immediately forwarded everything to Delta/KLM, and a few days later received a pleasant email apologizing again for the damage and saying that I would be receiving 499€ in my bank account in a couple weeks. What a minute… I would have to pay the 100€ difference?! KLM email To this email I responded that this was not acceptable and again attached all documents as justification. Since Delta/KLM had been so efficient in responding to my online messages previously I was expecting a rapid response. However, two weeks later I had still not heard back and finally was forced to pick up the phone. Why hadn’t I just picked up the phone in the first place? Well, as the customer service game sometimes goes here in Spain, the number to call was not toll-free. And I was unable to find a free alternative number (See When It Doesn’t Pay to Call Customer Service). I was pretty adamant about not paying to call their customer service, but at the end of the day I had no choice as they were not responding. Fortunately, when I finally called, the customer service rep was extremely nice, apologized again, and within 5 minutes had reviewed my record, confirmed there was an error and immediately issued the processing of the remaining 100€ to my account. Phew. Final KL email Overall, there was a bit of a disconnect between the information sent to Delta/KLM and the final result, as well as the last email that didn’t receive a response…. however, in the end, I have to say that I’m pretty happy that the airline is taking responsibility and paying. Maybe they’ll be more careful in the future since, for them, they basically just paid back my plane ticket. Note: if something like this ever happens it’s very important to file the claim directly at the airline incident desk in the airport when it happens.

Survey says: Customer Experience a top strategic priority for companies in 2015. Would the results be the same in Spain?

A new research study conducted by Econsultancy and Adobe has found that the customer experience is among the main strategic priorities for companies in 2015. Of the business owners and marketing professionals taking part in this study, 54% were from the US, 23% from the UK and only 21% from the rest of Europe. A couple interesting points:

  • Within small/medium businesses 90% believe that customer experience is what defines their brand.
  • 44% see customer experience as a medium-long term strategy for differentiation vs. the competition.
  • Giving customers a personalized, relevant and easy experience is key according to 33% of respondents.

I completely agree. And I also wonder… would these results have been the same had the study been conducted solely in Spain? For example, the term CEO (Chief Executive Officer) is understood without a doubt here, but what about the other CEO (Chief Experience Officer)? What do you think?

Research information:

https://econsultancy.com/reports/quarterly-digital-intelligence-briefing-2015-digital-trends/ http://www.puromarketing.com/13/23932/experiencia-cliente-posiciona-entre-principales-prioridades-estrategicas-empresas.html

Gym picture

Finding a great gym…deserves a piece of cake. (Go Fit)

Like a lot of Americans, especially those living in a city like Boston, I’m a fan of working out and going to the gym. Strange as it might seem here in Spain (or normal as it might seem in Boston) I can’t imagine not belonging to a gym.

As you may know, sometimes just getting the motivation to work out can be enough in itself, so you want to make sure you find a gym that’s inviting and makes you want to keep going back.

Gym picture

Now, here in Spain I wouldn’t say that people don’t work out because you can go to the big parks on any weekend and find them filled with people running, practicing yoga, skating, etc. (the weather definitely helps as well). But… gyms in general here definitely are not as popular. And you don’t have the same American craziness of everyone working out during lunch time and then eating lunch at their desks. From my experience trying out a few different gym chains here, I’d have to say that they can leave a bit to be desired….*:

  • Urban Fitness and Electrification (San Bernardo area). I got electrified at least a few times every time I worked out here. Read again. Yes, shocked. The treadmills were insulated behind glass panels without much space between them and the wall. Now I’m no scientist, but I can only guess that so much energy with so many people running in such a small, closed space and so much built-up friction could be the reason. I would like to think it was just poor planning, but after a while I just got too nervous that “the big shocker” could come one day, and I quit. Aside from this, the gym itself was rather small and ordinary. 
  • Holiday Gym and the Whistle Blower (Bernabeu/Lista). Holiday Gym is a large chain with gyms all over Madrid. In general, these gyms are quite inexpensive and provide the basics to have a decent workout. Don’t expect anything special, and don’t expect great group classes. One of the main reasons I go to a gym is for the group classes like Spinning or BodyPump, etc. One day shortly after joining Holiday I decided to try out a Step class. Now, keep in mind that I had been going to Step classes for over 5 years back in Boston and considered myself pretty familiar with the moves… the professor was a whistle-blower. He didn’t talk much; he pretty much just blew a whistle and made crazy moves with his hands, and supposedly people were going to understand this. Needless to say, I don’t speak “whistle” and promptly left this gym.
  • Fit Island and the Silence (Las Tablas). I tried out this new gym in my neighborhood not too long ago because of the location. It definitely has potential as it’s really big and has a lot of new machines. However, of the few spinning class that I tried out the professor was really new and with only a few participants, it wasn’t exactly the most motivating. Another problem I saw here was that there were no classes on Sundays (maybe this has changed by now).

….until I joined Go Fit (http://www.go-fit.es/Paginas/home.aspx) Go Fit does a great job of providing a full-service fitness center (fitness machine room, group classes, large swimming pool, sauna, children’s activity center, etc.) and a great cross-channel customer experience. How? Keep reading:

Gym Spain Go Fit

  • Physical experience in the gym. The group class instructors, music, structure and overall energy are great. But Go Fit takes it one step further, adding surprises to excite its members and shake up the ordinary like Master Classes with guest instructors and special-themed classes (and I won’t forget my surprise with the Halloween dressed-up classes and contest).Go Fit Halloween
  • Experience outside of the gym. From time to time during the spring/summer the gym organizes group classes outside, under the sun, like during their “Olympic Days”, as well as organizes groups for running races and biking outings.
  • User-friendly and updated web site. This might seem simple, but it’s not always that common to find businesses with an updated site with the latest news and schedules. Now recently, due to customer feedback, you can reserve spots in group classes through the site as well.Go fit Reservas
  • Frequently-updated Facebook page with responses. Go Fit posts center updates/news and writes back to user comments and complaints. They listen to customers such as with complaints (including my own) about problems to find parking (they installed new parking this summer) and a request to have instructors names be listed on the schedule (now included).
  • Interesting email newsletters. Just today I received the latest newsletter with info about signing up for a new “challenge” that the gym has set up: sign up for a team led by one of the trainers. The team that has run the most collective distance at the end of the month wins a number of prizes including workout gear and beauty prizes.

Overall, in my opinion, Go Fit provides a great overall customer experience and keeps on innovating. I’ll be curious to see what new events are in store for the coming months!

*Note: these comments do not necessarily refer to the current gym experience if the installations and/or classes have changed since I was there.

Customer Service Spain

When it doesn’t pay to call customer service.

When doesn’t it pay to call a company service line? When you (the customer) are the one who is paying. Literally.

Being from the US I’m used to calling a company’s 800 number and being able to speak to a representative to solve whatever issue I may have. Here in Spain you can almost always find a number to contact a company’s “atención al cliente”, but beware … You may be the one paying for the call.

paying customer

Unfortunately, I didn’t discover this until one day I received a whopping 40€ phone bill after calling Iberia’s 902 prefix customer service line to book a trip with my infant using points. It wasn’t possible to do all of this on the web site, so I picked up the phone and called customer service. I was quite impressed with the friendly person that assisted me and with all of her help to get everything in place. Since the transaction was a bit tricky involving using my loyalty points, including an infant on the ticket, reserving a baby bassinet, etc., the whole process took over a half hour. I was quite satisfied with everything until I received my phone bill a few weeks later…

customer representative

Here’s how to avoid having the same thing happen to you:

You can find alternative free numbers to most of the 900/901/902 toll customer service numbers here in Spain by looking up the number on one of these websites:

http://nomas900.info 

http://www.lineas900.com

http://www.nmn900.com

So what went wrong with the experience here? In my opinion, the biggest mistake was the lack of transparency on the company’s part.

Transparency is key. It’s really not that tricky. A good way to gain customer’s loyalty and repetition is with honesty. No one likes feeling that they’ve been tricked. If I had known I were going to pay for that call I may not have been happy about it, but at least I would have known what I was getting into and would not have been shocked later. Each interaction a company has with its customers has an impact on its brand. In this case the impact was two-fold: originally great customer service, then subsequently an angry feeling of being tricked and having to pay without knowing it. The result? The negative experience is the one that is definitely most impactful and remembered.

As a last reflection I’d like to share a great Salesforce.com article in Forbes that talks about Great Customer Service, including the importance of every interaction and transparency:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/salesforce/2014/09/13/truths-great-customer-service/

Somehow I feel like the authors would just be shaking their head reading this post! As I’ve mentioned from the start of this blog, the Customer Experience will be the next competitive battleground, but it’s clear that there’s still a lot of groundwork to be done until we get there.

Toothpaste incident El Corte Ingles

Why I waited 15 minutes to pay for toothpaste. (El Corte Inglés)

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a stickler when it comes to anything customer-service or customer-experience related. Perhaps this is since I’m American or perhaps it’s because I worked on a Customer Experience research team for several years…in any case, as this blog reflects, I am a strong proponent of taking customer experience seriously.

The other day I was at my favorite department store, the Corte Ingles, browsing around to pick up a few items. As are a lot of shoppers, I tend to be attracted by special price promotions or packaged bundle promo packs that promise X amount of savings. So when I saw a special offer for toothpaste that I use frequently, BOGO (buy one get one) 70% off (double packs in this case), I grabbed a couple packages. Alas, it was too good to be true. When I got to the self-checkout and rang my items through they did not come up as the second pack at 70% off.

toothpaste

At this point I had a couple of options: 1. I could just say “forget it” and only buy one pack to avoid having to talk to someone and avoid any hassle or 2. I could talk to an employee and try to figure out what was going on. Now, let me just take a moment to explain that my intention wasn’t to cause a problem, and it’s not that  I couldn’t pay for the toothpaste, but I decided to use this situation as a test to see how the store would react.

Here’s how the test went: 

1. My first response from the employee was one of surprise, but not the defensive, the-client-is-wrong type of response. She said I could go back to the shelf to check if I wanted. So I did.

2. As it turns out, the product was marked incorrectly on the shelf. The 2nd unit at 70% off was correct, but this was related to a different product, not the one shown with the tag.

3. When I returned and told the employee what I had found, she said that she would have to confirm it with the price department (or something like that). She seemed happy to do this, but told me it would take a few minutes. Again, since I had already decided to use this as a test, I decided to wait.

4. It’s a good thing I wasn’t in a rush. Between 5-10 minutes later the employee received a call back confirming that the item was marked incorrectly on the shelf. At this point I was expecting a “Sorry. It is what it is. You can buy it or not”.

5. However, the employee then rung up my items and applied the discount as it should have been, had the items been marked properly on the shelf! Now this might not seem like any big deal to many of you reading this, but I must say that this sort of “the customer is right” attitude is not something I’m used to over here (even though I really was right).

This is why I waited 15 minutes to buy toothpaste. This is why I’m a loyal Corte Ingles shopper. And this is why I (and I’m sure quite a lot of other fellow shoppers, judging by the typically long lines) are loyal Corte Ingles customers willing to spend a little more (see Paying Premium) for a good overall experience.

El Corte Ingles

Would you be willing to pay a premium for a good experience?

Don’t answer right away… Living here in Spain has made me reflect on the topic of paying more for quality and service. Is it worth it? And how much?

There’s a certain very-well-known department store where it’s generally a fact that you may pay a bit more for your purchases, but you can almost always expect friendly, knowledgeable service and no hassles when you run into any problem. After having one too many hassle experiences of running into a problem only to find that you as the customer are wrong (example: See Zara Kids post) or that you can’t make a return for some reason, sometimes it’s worth the price to pay a little bit more.

If you’ve ever lived or traveled to Spain, you’ve probably heard of the Corte Ingles, the massive department store sprawled out around the country. The Corte Ingles has everything – from clothing to a supermarket to a travel department. If you go to the supermarket chances are you’ll notice that prices are slightly higher than your local small supermarket like Mercadona, Día or Ahorramás (some typical stores in Madrid). The supermarket is always packed and with lines at the checkout. So, why would people be willing to pay more to buy the same thing they could get for less at another location?

el-corte-ingles

Let’s think about travel insurance. When you go on vacation or buy a plane ticket there’s always an option to pay for additional insurance in the case that something goes wrong. Do you buy it? What about car rental insurance? The last time I was in the US and rented a car I decided that $25 a day for complete coverage was a lot of money. However, when I learned there was an option to pay less than half of that ($11 a day) for partial coverage, meaning I wouldn’t have to worry about any scratches, small crashes, etc., I signed up. Of course, both of these examples refer to additional services that must be purchased to avoid hassles. Here, we are talking about knowingly paying more (perhaps only 50 cents or perhaps a few euros) to have ease of mind.

Yes, we are still battling an economic crisis here in Spain. But that doesn’t mean that customers aren’t willing to spend. If you take a walk on any day when the sun is out you can generally find packed terraces with people enjoying a bit of sun and a beverage. And you can usually expect lines or reservations necessary at a lot of restaurants during the weekend. And during “rebajas”, the huge rebate and offer shopping period right after the holiday season, the stores are crazy. Crisis? What crisis? Consumer spending is on the rise (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-05-29/spain-growth-accelerates-as-household-government-spending-rise.html)

Similarly, with consumer goods products it is true that the Private Label is growing at an enormous pace (http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2014/how-private-label-and-retailers-are-disrupting-the-trading-envirornment-in-western-europe.html) but it’s not just price that’s factoring into this growth; quality is a key factor as well. Private label is innovating and providing quality to customers; customers are willing to pay for quality and innovation, with Private Label or with branded products (within set premiums).

81% of European consumers are willing to pay more for superior customer experience. (http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/press/1883120) And 44% are willing to pay a premium of more than 5%. What does this mean? Making customer service and customer experience a focus of any business (yes, it’s just as important as other departments!) pays off to increase sales and retention. Still not convinced? Do a simple survey of customers and the facts will speak.

http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/the-10-reasons-customers-pay-more.html (See No. 6 and 8)

So how much premium are you willing to pay? 5% 2% 10? In my case I would say my premium here in Spain is definitely higher than that in the US. Why? Because I know that the concept of the importance of customer experience is still a novel idea here in Spain, but I prefer good treatment. Back in the US generally the customer is always right and the need for higher premiums isn’t as important.

As I said in my section on Customer Experience, I believe that this is the next competitive battleground here in Spain. Sooner or later…