Why Your Customer Service Is An Operations Centre
I am going to share a story of a most lascivious, wanton and secret affair I had.
This is such a personal experience and leaves me naked and vulnerable in revealing something some would consider wicked.
Before telling the story, let’s get some background context and relatedness.
From childhood, I’ve always enjoyed chocolate deeply.
Research has alluded to chocolate cravings indicating a magnesium deficiency.
That is a topic for another time.
I can remember as early as 8-yrs old finding molds, slowly heating different kinds of chocolate and finding whatever was available to experiment with; there were no microwaves back then.
We first connected in 1999 and became a regular item in 2002.
We knew we could never be in the open about our relationship and were mutually content with that.
It was enough that we could be together at all.
Our intimacy generated nostalgia, butterflies, sweat, soul reaching waves of euphoria and tingles up and down the spine.
When I migrated to Australia permanently we said goodbye.
Long distance relationships are fraught with challenges.
A few years later, in 2009, a serendipitous and fortuitous moment caused us to be mouth to mouth again.
Some people dabbled with the many flavours of Ben & Jerry’s.
I was always only ever faithful to New York Chocolate Chunk.
It didn’t matter that in the US it was a mere $3 and Australia commanded $12 a pint.
We were and maybe still are, deeply in love.
In 2019, Ben & Jerry’s removed New York Chocolate Chunk from their menu.
As Covid did it’s global rounds, I was sitting at home remembering our many beautiful moments together.
They were simple, moving and full of insight about life and purpose.
I found out about our separation in a way colder than a Dear John letter.
After spending 4-hours calling around to places listed on the Ben & Jerry’s website that purported to have my amour, I learned a few things:
- There were locations on the site that had closed down;
- There were locations listed that had changed their contact details;
- The ones that did answer had no knowledge of New York Chocolate Chunk or of where I could find it;
Finally, I was able to speak with customer service for Ben & Jerry’s.
It was most unexpected.
They were a multinational company that made products for major brands.
They were basically a white-label food producer.
It was an anti-climax because of the incongruence with the originating values and history of Ben & Jerry’s.
They have been around since 1978 and expanded, always with the frequency of contribution on the planet.
This was new.
It felt corporate and unpleasant.
The customer service person I spoke with assured me someone would be in touch about the decision to remove New York Chocolate Chunk from the menu and offer alternatives.
To date, it has been more than 60-days and no one has followed up.
I found out even though a pint was no longer available, I could get a pint filled from a Scoop Shop.
The closest scoop shop was 20km away.
I didn’t hesitate.
I called ahead to make sure they had it in stock and got my heavy duty freezer to brave traffic, smog and a boisterous, crowded mall to arrive at a scoop shop that was operated on behalf of Ben & Jerry’s.
The attendants were actually employees of the movie theatre company that leased the space.
They knew nothing about the history, values or promise of Ben & Jerry’s.
Of the three there, none had tried all of the products.
When I told them the story of how challenging it had been to get there, they were less than interested and told me it would be $21 a pint.
I shared it was advertised as $14 on their website.
They didn’t know their website address, so I showed it to them on my phone to which they said the offer was through another company and they couldn’t give me the offer.
After all that, I had no intention of leaving without my amour and I wasn’t going to be swayed by the ubiquitous mediocrity and apathy one experiences with most Australian businesses.
The manager finally cared enough to resolve the situation.
He realised that this was an opportunity for them.
Rather than me purchase from another entity online, I could purchase directly through them.
They were going to make out no matter what.
I purchased 3-pints at $14 each.
Admittedly, no ice cream is worth that much.
This is not about the value of New York Chocolate Chunk; this is about a love affair spanning for more than 20-years.
If you are a marketer or in business of any kind, let's unpack a few lessons.
5-Lessons For Customer Service And Life
You and I and humans and customers all over the planet, first make purchases because of our why.
We do not take action because it is the most logical or fill in the blank ____________.
We make decisions and execute because of an emotional imperative attached to a belief system and we then engage logic to substantiate our premise.
When you have people in your life (customers) who have decided to be with you, make it easy for them to continue to Love you by staying true to yourself.
Ben & Jerry’s has clearly broken off from their original values and that is a normal occurrence in life.
I am not concerned or upset about the way they have evolved.
The experience served as a wonderful opportunity to examine how I engage my clients.
If you are in business, choose who you are going to be in a relationship.
If you are only concerned with what you can get (sales and profit), your (business) relationship is going to be short lived.
No one wants to feel like a transaction, a KPI or notch in the belt.
In considering your purpose ensure the way you interact with your customers aligns with your soul.
We usually allow behaviours and people in our life that mirror the story we habitually tell inside.
Consider how you feel in a relationship that is resourceful.
Your amour loves and cherishes you in every aspect of being.
If you were going to send your amour a bouquet of flowers, you would make sure that the flowers as well as the delivery system were representative of your intentions.
In the story I shared, Ben & Jerry’s failed to ensure that the people representing their brand knew anything about them.
They also were not a match because they had little interest in their service offering other than accruing their hourly wage.
This is not to say they were lazy or mediocre.
They just were not a brand match.
While I was ultimately able to get what I wanted, it was after considerable effort.
Ben & Jerry’s as a brand failed to bring the tingle-experience in my purchase.
There was no gratitude or expectation in the transaction.
While I was standing there waiting for the 3-staff members to figure out what to do with me, I couldn’t help to wonder why they didn’t offer a cup of New York Chocolate Chunk while they sorted it out.
After everything I had gone through to have the experience, it seemed they were doing everything they could to ruin my experience of Ben & Jerry’s so I never went back again.
When you are in love, you are constantly thinking of your partner and what you can do to make their day. You want to communicate in as many ways as you can how much you appreciate them.
Many years ago, there was a brand called Max Brenners.
They had a great story.
Now, if you go into any of their stores, there is a distinct lack of hygiene or interest by anyone behind the counter to help you.
And I digress.
Look for opportunities to titillate your customers.
You can not do that if you do not know who they are or make the smallest of efforts to connect with them.
While Ben & Jerry’s does have their big corporate mission statements and events that contribute to the planet, they are no longer well communicated, have poor engagement and their intentions do not filter down to their own employees or frontline stakeholders.
Also of note, the overall mission is not generated, created or embodied by the employees.
Even criminal gangs are more effectively connected and loyal.
Who can you start to be if you were to treat your customers with appreciation and your employees with adoration.
More specifically, can you see the impact your customers have when you do not have cherished relationships?
When my dog was younger, he was fond of catching bats and bush turkeys.
He would bring their dead carcasses to me wagging his tail, saying, Look papa, I brought you a present and I am keeping our property safe!
I would always have to conceal my disgust and wonder why he never thought about the hygiene of capturing and killing a wild animal?
Didn’t he understand anything about ticks, fleas, intestinal worms, etc?!
Clearly not since he had no issues putting his nose in another dog's bottom for a greeting or a health check.
Again, I digress.
Poopsie, my now 70kg beautiful, black Cane Corso, was merely attempting to surprise me with a serendipitous gift demonstrating his pride and appreciation.
When you are in love, this behaviour is as natural as breathing.
If your Monday morning business meetings are more about prospecting, who you can “close” and sales forecasts, I promise, you are way off the mark.
Instead, start asking questions in these collaboratives about what you can do to demonstrate your appreciation for the customers you already serve.
Better still, what are ways you can communicate with your employees, not as part of a system…. as a mechanism of pure heart?
Every right of passage, including marking of time includes a celebration.
In my coaching of larger brands in Australia, I can not count the number of organisations that will capture client birthdays, and not to honour them, but to gather demographics so they can render their customers into a number or statistic on a spreadsheet to project their behaviours.
This practice is not wrong.
It is merely empty in a vacuum.
Nothing in nature functions that way purposefully, the way humans do and expect to thrive.
In the spirit of happy endings, my amour and I are back together.
We ended our ménage à trois with Ben & Jerry’s not because he was a bad lover; it was because he stopped caring about us in the same way as when we started together.
We wish him well and trust he will continue to grow in a way that meets his needs.
After several iterations, I was able to replicate and then improve the recipe.
Needless to say, our relationship is deeper and more delicious than it ever has been in the past 20-years.
Yes, I said it.
We are more in love now than ever before and can’t wait to create the next chapter of our journey.
Have you ever said that in one of your relationships?
Has anyone ever shared that with you?
What would it take for you to develop relationships with your customers such that it was a lifetime mutual contribution of respect and empathy?
Every single one of your customers is your lover.
If you can not serve them all with the utmost love and devotion, either scale down, select a different business where you can or do not be in business at all.
Our planet is a very small place.
More and more, all life on earth is becoming less tolerant of greed.
Harmony is the ingredient of longevity and Love is the fluid of eternity.