Print Girl Makes a Major Change

Written By: Kim - Feb• 16•11

I cut my publishing teeth before desktop publishing existed. I know how to use a typesetting machine, pica pole, Xacto knife and a wax machine. Anyone not in the publishing business or under 40 can Google those terms. At my college newspaper, Troy State Tropolitan, we had one Mac computer my senior year. It eventually changed the way we did business — for the better.

I have been extremely loyal to the newspapers I read; faithfully renewing my subscriptions and filling my head with the latest news. I resisted the trend of getting all of my news online. I still liked curling up on the couch over the weekend to read the paper.

© Kriss Kzhurlatowski via stock.xchng

Many newspapers offer a free digital subscription with a print subscription. Because I own an iPad, it is extremely convenient (and doesn’t weigh much) for me to simply carry my iPad with me to work, download the newspaper’s app, log in and read the news. It’s a great way for me to use my time while I ride the commuter train. I often find stories I wish to share on Twitter or LinkedIn, which means if I read the hard copy newspaper, I have to log in online to send it along. This week, I decided this was inefficient — basically touching the same news story twice in order — to share the information.

So began my quick emails to The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times. My fourth paper is local and doesn’t require a log in to read it online. Yes, I still maintain a home delivery because I believe in supporting community newspapers.

The only newspaper that responded with the answer I was looking for was The Washington Times who converted my annual subscription over to digital only (which costs less than the printed version). Both the Post and the Journal gave me the standard: “We are sorry that you want to cancel your subscription, blah, blah, blah.”

I never said I wanted to cancel my subscription. I was simply asking to no longer receive the paper version because I wanted to get my news online only. Don’t people read their emails? Why hasn’t your approach to customer service changed with the times?

This is 2011: the laptop, smart phones and now tablets have revolutionized the way we consume content. Why hasn’t your policy/offer/database/customer service approach changed as well? What in the heck are you waiting for?

So after two more emails to both the Post and the Journal, the Post did offer me a digital-only subscription called e-replica. The Journal still will deliver my paper edition unless I want to cancel my subscription.

Good thing I use newspapers in my garden.

Anything You Need It to Be

Written By: Kim - Jan• 19•11

How many of us hear those words from our vendors? From our employees to our customers? The places we shop? Sure, we can customize our fast food, NFL football jersey and license plate. But, really, who actually says these words to you? From a customer service perspective, why can’t they say this to you? Why aren’t we empowering our employees to deliver exceptional service?

I like to mix up classes with traditional walking or treadmill workouts to avoid workout boredom. Since I am new to yoga and unsure how other instructors handle their classes, I have noticed my yoga instructors saying, “This class is anything you need it to be.”

For the naysayers in the group, this doesn’t mean we’re a bunch of wishy-washy students. It simply means that each of us is there for a different reason. Some are there to improve their finely-tuned bodies or yoga skill; some to relieve stress; some to learn.

But as I hear this from my instructors, it got me thinking (after class) that this is an exceptional approach to customer service. Who does this best? Why are most industries so slow to adapt this philosophy? Can this kind of client service mentality ever be the norm?

Nordstrom’s and the Ritz Carlton are two companies that continually get noticed for their approach to customer service. Nordstrom’s employee handbook, for years, was a single gray card with this rule: “Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.”

Ritz Carlton’s employees, or members as the company prefers to call them, are allowed to spend up to $2,000 to bring instant resolution to a guest’s problems. Do any of you know of other companies who do this? How great would our customer experience be if more companies did this? How much more loyal would we be?

I am brand loyal, given a good experience. Eighteen months ago, I purchased a new phone. Since then, the phone had to be replaced by the mobile company five times due to defective merchandise. It happens. But the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over expecting a different result. When I asked for a different handset, I was told,“Our policy is only to replace defective phones with the same model.”

This policy helps prevents customer fraud and is common at every mobile carrier. But in an effort to prevent fraud, how many of us have walked away from a mobile company we were happy with because the handset was crap? Could this have been prevented? Absolutely. Oh sure, we could upgrade to another model to the tune of the non-contract price, but who wants to do that? More importantly, who should do that?

I have been with the same mobile company for eight years. I am extremely pleased with my coverage, my plan (I have two kids who text all the time) and do not experience dropped calls. Years ago in the mobile telecom industry, customer churn was 18 months, on average. Now, it’s even less.

I pay my bills on time. I have four phones on my account and am authorized for up to six lines. So, why can’t the customer service rep give me a different phone model at a reasonable price? Because she has not been empowered by management. No one has given the front-line employees any authority.

Listen up corporate America: Your customer service reps are on the front lines.

They deal with all sorts of people at every stress level imaginable. And, they are often the lowest-paid employee you have. Empower them to use good judgment. Not only does this make for happier employees, it makes for better customer service, which builds brand loyalty. All of which contributes to a better bottom line.