Archive for the ‘Customer Service’ Category

What does immediately mean to you?

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Immediately can mean anything from seconds to years: depending on the context and the person making the commitment.

To me immediately usually means, by return email/SMS/tweet and almost instantaneously. I live online and most of my associates and friends do, however I often have to depend on others who certainly don’t have the same understanding of  “immediately”

Two weeks ago I made three calls; one to Apple Care, another to Adobe Support and the third to a Microsoft connection… all calls focused on ordering an upgrade CD for my new MacBookPro and iMac. All calls were made in the same hour on a Monday morning. I paid Apple $24 extra for expedited (overnight shipping) and it took 12 days to “immediately” arrive. Apple waited 10 days before shipping, according to the regular mail stamp on the envelope. I also called Apple Care in the interim to follow up …… my query was upped from supervisor to supervisor; and all I wanted was a shipping clerk to tell me it had been shipped and when :-) Adobe charged me $14 for expedited shipping and it arrived immediately in 2 days as promised. Microsoft did not charge anything extra; it arrived immediately in 3 days.

Generally online banking and web shopping inquiries gets an immediate automated “we’ll be back to you in 3 or 5 business days” response. So frustrating when I need a resolution immediately, especially if it’s money related!

Sears may have had their marketing right in 1900 focusing on the farming community with big catalogs, but one hundred ten years later they don’t have it anymore. Online shopping does not work the way hand delivering catalogs did; queries and complaints get a survey request response 3 days later and when filled out illicit no response. I gave up recently, went to a real life store and bought a lifetime supply so I never have to deal with them again….well I don’t think they will be around much longer as with Sears Immediately = never.

Last month I had a quirky sign-up issue with THE SHADE STORE ; as a new customer. I lodged my complaint in the little box, received an email immediately to my inbox and in less than 30 minutes Allison called from the Shade Store customer service and walked me through the sign up. With all the online tools available to an online business this is what I expect today. THE SHADE STORE understands what immediately is and since then I have placed 3 orders and each time the entire order & receipt process has lived up to my initial customer experience. Immediately is instantaneous return email or 30 minutes by phone to THE SHADE STORE!

In the car and boat restoration game (and I play that game as some of you know, who have followed our Italian speedboat restoration) and  I have to be somewhat more lenient or is that patient?. Immediately usually means around 6 weeks when restoring a vintage boat or car….. but can go on longer. Good restorations often take several years…… so it’s all relative they immediately tell me!

The building product websites (which I use profusely for our Architectural Design Solutions) are notorious for no response or 6 weeks. I recently asked for additional information for a new “roofing” product, and right after I gave up… I was contacted. What is so magic about an immediate response in 6 weeks when looking for building product information?

All these examples pretty much assume a similar cultural focus, same western wavelength….. but what about very diverse cultures?  Entrepreneur Ritu Raj wrote a post “Collaboration in a Multi-cultural Environment” for a twitter chat on business and the scenario near the end of his post was what got me thinking “immediately”…..“Sally and Ram work for the same organization. Sally is in the Bay Area, Ram is in Bangalore, India. Sally says “Can you please send me the report as soon as possible”, Ram interprets the request as “oh, Sally is not really in a hurry for the Report…….”

I might add that my programmer Ariba whom I have worked with on both our own projects and our client’s projects for over 7 years is originally from India and she has the same take on “immediately” that I do. She comes from the journalism space where you have deadlines; and wherever there are publishing, broadcast and race track deadlines I find people understand immediately. If you have had to produce a last minute TV commercial you know what immediately means!

So what does immediately mean in developing countries? Sierra Leone for example, where the non-profit I co founded, BankOnRain recently implemented a water related project for a school. If you are lucky immediately means 6 months, but often stretches to 2 or more years. There appears no sense of urgency, deliver sometime or next year ~ same difference. When our team told me some of the things they ordered in Sierra Leone for the rainwater collection and storage system installation would be there in 4 weeks and for sure prior to their arrival September 3, I asked if they had clarified what 4 weeks means :-) Knowing this about a culture you can plan accordingly and limit surprises and delays and you definitely need to lower your expectations and change your definition go immediately.

My favorite example of all time happened many years ago, when I was stuck between floors in a small two story residential Otis elevator. No phone was required in those days and of course this was before cell phones. Fortunately there was someone else in the house who called the Otis factory (about 60 miles away) for advice and assistance. They promised to get back immediately after hearing about my dire situation; “trapped in an elevator between floors”. When I did not hear back in an hour I assumed they were going to do an emergency site visit :-) So wrong…. but fortunately my “updo” provided a nest of hair pins and I was able to find a hole, which when poked with a hair pin in the exact right place released the door and enabled me to crawl out onto the second floor. Can you believe it, 24 hour hours later, Otis customer service called back and asked if the person was still trapped in the elevator? At least they called !

What is “immediately” to you? How can you  help companies and small biz improve the  “immediately” customer experience?

CASUDI ~  you can find me on Twitter, Google+, Twylah, LI and by email.

Designing Success