Tuesday, January 20, 2009

OnlineSpin: Good Customer Service Works -- Or, How I Got a Pony!

Last week Cory wrote "Some More Positivity And Opportunity."

Rob Graham wrote in response, "Thanks for bringing this topic up. While I don't believe that wishing for better times will make things better, I do believe that any fool can point out the problem. The hard part is coming up with a solution.

It's worth keeping in mind that while unemployment rates are higher than they have been in decades, there are still plenty of people with jobs.

While there are lots of people defaulting on their mortgages, the vast majority are making timely payments on theirs.

As humans we pay attention to drama because historically it was those things that caused conflict that were most apt to kill us.

While times are undeniably tough for many of us, we need to keep in mind that most of us are not suffering life-threatening predicaments.

Sure, it's uncomfortable and uncertain -- but most of us will survive just fine.

In the meanwhile, it's worth focusing on the good of the world, or our industry and of the future.

Wringing our collective hands isn't going to result in much more than creating unnecessary anxiety and sadness."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Good Customer Service Works -- Or, How I Got a Pony!
By Cory Treffiletti

Good customer service goes a long way to cementing a relationship, and if you play your cards right, it can even get you that pony you've always wanted!

Some of you've probably heard about the "Emotional Bank Account" concept, which was created and developed by Steven Covey and refers to the value of positive and negative interaction between two parties. For every positive interaction, there's a deposit, and for every negative interaction there's a withdrawal. The goal is to make sure that you always have a positive balance in the account. This concept is simple, carries a lot of weight and can make up for any shortcomings that emerge in a relationship.

Recently I became reminded of this concept in action while interacting with my bank, which is Wells Fargo (specifically, the branch at California and Montgomery in San Francisco). I'd been working with Wells for years and never had any problems, but since getting married and creating a joint account as well as setting up a business account with them, I'd started getting nickel and dimed with fees. The fees were consistent, but made no sense -- because they seemed counter to what was explained to me when I started banking with Wells.

So like any good customer, I walked into the bank looking to raise the red flag and get my fees taken care of. I went in looking for a fight -- and was welcomed with a smile and no resistance. I walked right up to the teller, account number and statement in hand, and asked for the manager. Within four minutes I had the fees waived and was on my way.

Of course, that didn't totally resolve the issue. I've been forced to return to Wells Fargo six times to get the situation addressed, but because of the way they handle me every time with positive interactions, I find myself approaching the error with a smile and a relaxed attitude.

Never before have I dealt with the same issue multiple times and smiled! It's worlds different than when I try to call my cell phone provider or my cable provider, both of which leave me feeling frustrated and angry at having to work with them.

The folks at Wells Fargo know me by name, and they know my wife, too! They always greet us with a smile and they go out of their way to know something personal about us. They know where we went on our honeymoon, and they ask questions about our baby-on-the way!

At first I was caught off-guard by the constant smiling and "hello"s because of my innate cynicism from having spent so many years in New York, but once I got past the uncomfortable interaction with strangers, I found it pleasant and inviting to be welcomed into the branch. It separates Wells Fargo from every other bank I've used in the past, and especially this unique branch. It's the personal touch, and it works!

For our business, the analogy lies in the way we service our clients. Whether you're a media planner or a sales rep, knowing something about the party you're working with can go a long way toward creating a strong, positive, lasting relationship.

In negotiations, you're making both positive and negative transactions into the emotional bank account, but the goal is to maintain a positive balance. When you ask for bonus weight or added value, or when you can request a change in rates, you need to be fair and you need to aware of the needs of the other party.

When you're negotiating from the sales side, make sure you know the needs of the client and the ways that you can be of assistance. When problems arise, and they inevitably do, these positive transactions will outweigh the negative -- and the relationship will survive, possibly even thrive.

Get to know your peers more than just as a planner or a rep. Know them as people, and build a relationship that goes both ways so they will be willing to help you in the future. If you get their back, they're more likely to have yours!

Relationships are all about positive transactions. Once I was able to resolve my dispute with the bank, they made the ultimate deposit by giving us a pony! Of course it was a plush stuffed animal named Molly, but it was cute and it now sits beside the other array of stuffed animals that awaits our baby boy when he's born!

So if you're looking for a bank, check out our Wells Fargo office. If you're looking for advice: Just be honest and make positive transactions into the emotional bank account.

Cory is president and managing partner for Catalyst SF.

Online Spin for Tuesday, January 20, 2009:

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