John DiJulius | Customer Experience Blog

November 25, 2009, 2:15 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

John DiJulius

Fortune Small Business’ cover story in the October 2007, issue is titled “Extreme Customer Service.” It opens by pointing out that overall, customer satisfaction is getting worse and customer rage is rising. Get this: “Fifteen percent (15%) of ticked-off customers entertain fantasies of revenge.” The article cites several examples of outstanding customer service by companies who are “stealing sales from the bigger, impersonal stores.” Both John Robert’s Spa and I are featured in the article. Read the entire article here.

Is Customer Service Making a Comeback?

This is great news because in the last 15 years, customer service has gotten lost. The focus for businesses has been artificial growth based on acquisitions, first-to- launch novelty products, and marketing gimmicks. But none of this has resulted in customer loyalty! Recently there have been numerous findings demonstrating the correlation between customer satisfaction scores, customer loyalty, same store comparable (comp) sales and profit. All of this has resulted in the re-emergence of customer service as a critical benchmark — like it was just invented.

Spiral Effect

You probably have heard me talk about how the rise of e-commerce in the last 10 years has resulted in our society having 1/20 the human interactions of 20 years ago. There are fewer relationships as customers are now seen as an account number and/or a transaction. A bigger problem has resulted in the rapid decline of people skills in the younger generations. It is a spiral effect that is hard to slow down or correct. E-commerce exploded due to the fact that consumers were getting tired of lousy customer service from retailers, sales reps, etc. Since they didn’t see the value in dealing with a human being, they cut them out and did it themselves online, and in most cases saved money (i.e. travel agencies). Businesses recognized the growing trend and put more money and resources into their e-commerce presence and less toward customer service training. In fact, with more customers going online, businesses were able to dramatically reduce their front-line payroll. All of this has caused an even larger reduction in face-to-face interaction and an increase in dissatisfaction for the consumers who choose to deal with employees at brick and mortar merchants versus online shopping carts. Now at the stores, with fewer people working, there is less assistance in finding product and longer checkout times.


Recently I was boarding a Continental flight in Phoenix. Just as we were about to board, the gate agent did the usual pre-board announcements. However, this time it was different. He said, “Hello. My name is Gregory and I REALLY want to thank you for being here with me today. If you weren’t here, I wouldn’t be here.” As I was boarding I noticed Gregory saying hello to the two people ahead of me, by name, and then he thanked them for flying with Continental. As he did that, he touched both on their elbows. I assumed they knew one other. As he took my ticket he said extremely enthusiastically, “Hello, John,” and before he returned my ticket, he further scanned it, then handed me my ticket, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I really want to thank you for all the business you give to us and for being one of our best customers.” Wow! He made my day! I watched as he engaged everyone by name and genuinely thanked each person. Stunned, I boarded the plane and light-heartedly asked the stewardess, “What is wrong with that guy? What the heck is he doing working for the airlines?” As if to say, why isn’t he at Disney or The Ritz-Carlton? She laughed and said, “Who, Greg? He’s always like that. He is crazy!”

Both of our comments were a sad commentary. While it wasn’t my intention, my remark should have offended her. Instead she views him as “crazy” or an anomaly. I saw a client of mine, Ilana Isako, from SS&G Financial on the flight and I asked, “Was the gate agent as nice to you as he was to me?” Her eyes lit up and she said, “He was so nice. He asked me if I pronounce my name I-la-na and then he said, ‘thanks Ilana for traveling with us today’ and touched my arm.” We were both shocked at how personable this gate agent was to everyone who boarded. Continental needs to video tape Gregory and make it a training video. If this was the norm, do you think or would be so popular?

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