Tag Archives: Customer 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?


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…

Delta-KLM broken stroller experience 3

Delta/KLM and the broken stroller (continued)

I must admit that I was quite skeptic about the response I would receive from the damage claim I filed with Delta/KLM. However, I was pleasantly surprised.

Technically, there really shouldn’t have been any question since they broke the stroller during my transatlantic flight from Boston to Amsterdam. (see International Travel Alone with an Infant…) However, as I’m not used to what one would exactly call “good” customer service, I was expecting the worst and a 1000 euro loss.

In order to move the claim forward I had to fill out additional information on the Delta web site and was requested to upload additional information (images of boarding pass, stroller damage, original receipt). Strangely, there was no open comments space to write any additional information. I wanted to tell my side of the story, so I uploaded a pdf document titled “URGENT” with additional information to let them know that they destroyed the only stroller I have and the urgency of the matter.

Tip: whenever you travel, don’t throw away anything (boarding passes, tickets for checked  baggage, tickets for baggage checked at the plane door, etc.) until the entire trip is over and you’re sure you don’t need it anymore. And, if anything happens, make the damage claim asap, directly in the airport where it happened at the service desk, if possible.

First, I received an automated email from Delta/KLM thanking me for my claim and letting me know that usually they responded within 10 days, but due to delays I should expect a longer wait time. Wonderful. So much for my urgency.

Delta email 1

However, much to my surprise, five days (4 working days) later I received a personalized email apologizing for the damage and telling me how to go about getting the repair/replacement done and how Delta-KLM would pay for it! I’m now in the process of getting the necessary paperwork from the store to finish this claim and get reimbursed.

Delta email 2

Mistakes and problems happen. What is important is the way that the companies deal with these mistakes and the overall experience for the client. So far, Delta-KLM is getting a good grade in my book!

International travel alone with an infant, a layover, and a broken stroller (Part II – Delta/KLM)

Unfortunately, similar to the trip with my infant at 4 months, I had a negative experience on the trip back home to Spain that marked the entire trip.

The plane ride from Boston-Amsterdam went more or less smoothly after securing the baby bassinet. (Note: I was told at check-in in Boston that they couldn’t assign me the seat with the baby bassinet. Apparently the only way to do this was to go to the counter at the gate and request it. I still don’t understand why this was not possible as I was given the baby bassinet on the way going…) Tip: make sure to get to the gate early to be the first to request the bassinet. I was the first in line and was able to get my seat switched, but if I hadn’t been lucky… Also, note that the bassinet weight limit is 25 lbs (printed directly on the bassinet), although the flight attendants mistakenly told me it was 10 lbs before attaching it to the wall.

When I arrived in Amsterdam with my infant half asleep and my 3 carry-on bags in my arms, I stepped out of the plane to find my (not cheap) stroller completely broken (and dirty). Delta had completely broken the stroller frame on both sides, and I was unable to put my infant in it. Not the best way to be greeted when you’re traveling alone and have a layover to catch. Fortunately, the Delta/KLM agents in Amsterdam were helpful and accompanied me to the KLM desk to file a damage report on-site and helped me to tape up the stroller enough to be able to put my infant in it to walk to my next flight. Tip: buy a cheap stroller for traveling. We only have one expensive stroller and traveled with this one, but damage to a 200 euro stroller isn’t as bad as that to a 1000 euro one…

broken side 1Broken stroller frontBroken stroller side zoom

Now the next test will be the response to the detailed damage claim that I just filed online with Delta. Supposedly I should receive a response in 10 days. To be continued…

You can assume I’m an English professor, but I’ll assume you’re a Flamenco dancer. (BBVA)

Today I had an interesting experience at the BBVA branch near my apartment. I say “interesting” because it was a mixed experience. I wouldn’t say it was a bad experience as the woman who helped me was nice; however, there were several things that went on during this interaction that were just basic customer service 101s gone wrong. Overall the employee was efficient and helped me to complete my transaction with a smile (minus one snafu – #7 below), but as with any experience with a bank here there are areas for improvement… :

  1. Loudly chewing gum in your customer’s face. This is a classic customer-facing no-no. I was happy when the woman decided to get rid of the gum, but I don’t know if spitting it out in a piece of paper in front of me was quite appropriate either.
  2. Continuously yelling across the branch to another employee. All I have to say is that if I were the customer they were talking about, I wouldn’t be so thrilled at my confidentiality.
  3. Checking your phone messages, laughing and writing back to whatsapps while the customer is sitting in front of you. No comment necessary.
  4. Discouraging the customer from conducting the transaction today. I went into the bank to open up a savings account and had to almost justify three times to the woman why I wanted to do it today. As far as I remember when I was a bank teller at 16 years old, it was a good thing to open up accounts for the bank’s income…
  5. Assuming personal details without any reason. The topic came up that I had been recently laid off (that was the extent of what I said). What I’m not sure of is how or why the woman felt it was right to say “You were an English teacher, right?” To which I responded back, “No, I was working for five years in marketing at a multinational consumer goods company.” I thought that would end the line of ignorant questioning. However… then the next question was “So you’re not going to go back home?”. To which I politely responded, “Well, since I’ve been here almost nine years now and have my husband and baby here, I don’t think so.” And that was the end of that. I should have asked her where she learned flamenco.
  6. Assuming I don’t understand a legal contract. After handing me the new account contract to sign, as I started to read it, the woman quickly told me that I just had to go to the last page to sign it (assuming I didn’t understand that I had to sign at the end). I said thanks, I know, but I always read things before signing them.
  7. Not knowing how your products work cross-channel. After opening up the account I asked if I could make transfers between the new account and my old one to which the woman responded that she had no idea, but that I should try it out later at home and see.

Overall a good attitude is the most important thing, and the woman helping me was nice, but a few quick fixes could go a long way to the overall experience here.

Banc Sabadell Calle Orense

Is this really the same bank and branch? (BancSabadell)

First interaction (not-even-close-to-good) Not too long ago I went to the BancSabadell branch on Calle Orense (Madrid) to conduct the simple transaction of depositing cash in my account. Now you might be wondering why this even deserves a post, but you’ll soon find out. When I entered the branch there was one person in front of me and another currently being helped. There were two tellers at the main desk (or so it appeared): one to the right who was dealing with the current customer, and a woman to the left with a plaque in front of her reading “Servicio al cliente” who seemed busy on her computer, but without any customers. Now, even if you don’t speak Spanish you can probably tell that this means Client Service. The woman sitting behind this sign seemed to be completely oblivious to the fact that there was a line of people waiting to be helped. The person in front of me moved forward, and I promptly moved to the “Servicio al cliente” woman and asked if she could help me. She looked up, gave me an obviously annoyed look and in a rude tone stated that no, I had to wait in the other line to be helped. I said ok, I’m just surprised because it says “Servicio al cliente” right here. She quickly retaliated and said “No, this is a work desk. Go back and wait in that line. “ She then returned to her computer screen.

Banc Sabadell Calle Orense

Now, after many years in Spain I’ve gotten used to the service, but could not believe the blatant rudeness and comic element here with the plaque in front of this woman. In the past I would not have said anything, but this time after the other teller (who was also quite unpleasant with me likely because she heard my conversation with the other teller) finished with my deposit, I said I’d like to speak to the manager. Her response was that the manager was not there and she did not know when he would be back. I asked for his name, which she did give to me, but to actually make the effort to go back to the branch at another point to try to talk to someone who likely would treat me in a similar manner was enough for me to just leave in an angry mood and bitter at BancSabadell.

Note to BancSabadell: the customer-facing part of your business and the daily interactions that your employees have with your customers are critical! An experience like this will not leave a customer feeling eager to invest in any other products at your bank.

Any employee who is client-facing (literally) and especially one with a “Client Service” sign in front of them should be prepared to treat customers with respect and a smile!

Second interaction (great)

Just the other day I walked into the same branch where I had had the wonderful customer service experience earlier detailed. This time I was going for a more “difficult” request, as I was interested in running a loan payoff simulation. Instead of going to the tellers, I immediately walked into one of the private customer areas and interrupted a woman who was busy at her desk to ask if she could help me. She immediately looked up, smiled and said that of course she could help me. And she did just that, with a smile.

Unfortunately the interaction that stands out in my head and that receives a few paragraphs compared to this last interaction is the negative one.

Zara Home Kids Calle Hermosilla Madrid

Did she just roll her eyes at me? (Zara Home Kids)

Women do it every day, but having a baby is tough work. (I’ll talk about this in more detail in a different blog). At the beginning, just getting out of the house becomes an ordeal or doesn’t even become an ordeal because you don’t end up leaving after all. Having said this, I was feeling quite proud of myself when I made it to the Zara Home Kids store on Calle Hermosilla 22 in Madrid when Nico was about a month old. The reason for the trip was to return a gift since I already had the same present at home. Unfortunately, I was already anticipating a problem… the gift receipt was good for exchanges within 30 days. We were on day 31. I had just received the gift a few days ago, but it had been purchased a while back. Of course when I mentioned to my sister that we were probably going to have a problem, she thought I was joking.

zara home kids

Sure enough, I was right. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until the girl who attended us tried to process the return and realized there was an error because of the date. She had to call her manager to “help out”. That’s when the fun started. The manager was a young woman, in her late 20s and very serious. At first she said that there was nothing she could do because these are the Zara rules (no apology at any point by the way). I then tried to politely explain that I understand there are rules but that I just had a baby and this was the first day I was able to get to the store to make the return..and it was day 31! I tried to nicely say that it really shouldn’t be a big deal since it was only one day and I wasn’t trying to get cash back. Again, she firmly (without any apology nor hint of a smile) repeated that she couldn’t do anything. That’s when I started to get a bit annoyed and dropped the extremely polite tone. After saying that it seemed ridiculous to me that there was nothing she could do as the store manager and that I was going to have to throw out the gift, she finally (with a very annoyed tone and gesture) said that I could make an exchange, but that was it. Ok, that’s all I wanted. With that she stormed off, like I had just made the most unreasonable request.

After a short browse I returned to the cashier (the manager was with her teaching her things on the computer. I guess she was new). The manager completely ignored me standing there in front of her with my exchange and continued to talk to the trainee for about a minute without even acknowledging me. When she finally did it was only to tell me that what I had picked out wouldn’t work because I needed to get something for the exact value of the original gift or more expensive. Could she have mentioned that at the beginning? With my hands up in the air I quickly went back and picked out other items. Meanwhile, my sister was looking on in shock (I think the only reason she didn’t say anything is because she doesn’t speak Spanish). Finally, back at the register one more time, and after waiting yet another minute to be not acknowledged by the manager, she finally went ahead to process the exchange. The whole time she seemed to be even more annoyed than me and verbally made it clear that she was doing me a favor. She also made it extremely clear that I could not make any return or exchange with the new items, as if I were a thief and trying to steal from Zara. Before heading out, as the manager was sighing, I stated that this was no way to treat customers. At this, she promptly rolled her eyes at me and continued talking to the trainee.

I would think that any store dealing with children or children’s items would have a little more understanding, or at least be cordial. Needless to say I have not returned to Zara Home Kids and will never go back to that store. Zara is a massive clothing superstore and my one little experience obviously isn’t going to damage it. However, how many other little experiences like this are happening at other Zaras around the world? How many Zara Kids customers are deciding to shop at specialized kids competitors stores now for a better experience?

Getting fingerprinted in Spain

When getting fingerprinted is a pleasant experience (Policía Científica Madrid)

Most likely when you think of getting your fingerprints taken, you think of being in trouble. (and if you’re an American reading this, jail probably comes to mind). Having lived here in Spain for almost nine years now I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been fingerprinted (and all for legal reasons!). Strangely enough it seems totally normal to me now. fingerprints Not every experience has been what I would call “pleasant” (I’ll refer to this in another blog about getting my NIE, foreign national ID card). However, during one of my many paperwork processes (if I remember correctly this one could be related to getting married here – see other blog), I had to get “special fingerprints” to send to the FBI for an official background check. What do I mean by “special fingerprints”? Well, this involves going to a special scientific unit of the national police and getting all ten fingers printed on a special fingerprint card that has to be previously picked up at the US Embassy (no cost, nor appointment needed. You just have to go to the US Embassy on Calle Serrano). Note: The first time I went to the Policía Científica for the fingerprinting I didn’t realize that I needed to have the official form from the embassy and that a copy of the form printed out on my computer wouldn’t work – IMPORTANT! That was about an hour of a half wasted to figure that out and run back and forth. Once you have the official form you have to go to the main headquarters (Comisaría General) for the police in Calle Julián González Segador (Metro: Pinar del Rey). Once there and after checking in at the main desk, they’ll escort you (literally with a police escort so you don’t get lost) to the Policía Científica Building (http://www.interior.gob.es/web/interior/el-ministerio/directorio/servicios-centrales/direccion-general-de-la-policia1) Both times I’ve had to do this (the first time wasn’t valid since the US changed their rules with the length of document validity…) I’ve been treated extremely kindly and even had a few jokes with the police. Once inside the police complex, people were quite friendly. Inside the Policía Científica building the two people who took my fingerprints were very friendly, and I was even able to chit chat a bit with them (I love to talk, but usually with formal settings don’t feel like it’s encouraged). With one of the woman officers we were even chatting about my new son and how she was going to be an aunt soon. I got fingerprinted and headed on my way in a great mood. No lines, snarls or nerves, overall a great police fingerprinting customer experience 🙂