Praise for a Faucet Maker

FaucetPraise for a Faucet Maker

About a dozen years ago my spouse and I remodeled the kitchen in our condominium. We bought a beautiful Moen faucet for the sink and have been very happy with it until recently when the little rubber piece on top of the extensible spout that covers the stream vs. spray mode began to wear out. Still worked OK, of course, but it didn’t look “pretty” anymore. So I was tasked with solving this problem.

To the web I went for the Moen website. One click to get to kitchen faucets. Another click to browse by collection. A quick scroll to find the Extensa model number. Then to Replacement Parts for an excellent pictorial illustration of the faucet parts. But not down to the little grey gasket. Only to the whole spout. Hmm. Copy the spout part number from the illustration, paste it into the Part Number box and, viola, the $44.05 pullout spout is ready to be added to my cart for purchase.

Trouble is, though, I don’t need a whole new spout for $44.05. I only need a rubber gasket to replace the one that is worn on my otherwise perfectly good spout. So to the Contact Us tab for a phone number, which was toll free, and then a phone menu that was mercifully clear and short with only a few minutes wait for a human being to whom I described my situation.

The customer service rep asked me for the faucet model number, which I had written down. She asked me a couple of questions about the faucet, including the location of the logo and the color of the spout and then asked me for my name, address, zip code and email address. When I inquired as to why she needed this information to answer my question about whether or not I could buy just the gasket I was informed that she needed the information to ship me, without cost, a new spout since the gasket was not a user replaceable item and since the faucet is guaranteed for life. She then asked if delivery within 5-7 days was OK or if I needed it sooner, in which case I would have to pay for expedited shipping.

I was, frankly, blown away by this kind of warranty and this kind of service. She asked me if there was anything else she could do for me and told me that I’d receive an email confirming my order for the replacement spout. And that promised email was in my inbox before I even hung up the phone.

Why am I telling you this story? Because I think it’s high time we tell as many people as possible about good customer service as we usually tell people about bad customer service. You see the horror stories all over the Internet. Complaints about never being able to speak to a human being. Complaints about things failing one day after the warranty expires. Complaints about rude customer service representatives.

Don’t you tell as many people as possible about your unsatisfactory customer service experiences and maybe tell one or two, if you even tell anyone, about the good ones? How will the companies with bad customer service improve if we consumers don’t provide them with examples of what good customer service looks, sounds and feels like? We need to publicize the companies that do it right and, in my humble opinion, Moen gets a grade of “A+” for their policies, procedures and people.

In writing this article I went back to the Moen website and noticed their tagline: “Buy it for looks. Buy it for life.®” And I guess they really mean it based on the way they walked the talk with me. I know that if I ever have to buy another faucet, or recommend one to someone else, you can bet that a Moen product will be high on the list.

There may be other faucet makers who do as good a job as Moen. I just don’t have any personal experience on which to base an opinion pro or con so I can’t comment with any knowledge about them. But if I ever do have a good experience with another company like the one I had with Moen I promise to publicize it as well.

Do you have example of things you are especially pleased about? Or about outstanding customer service experiences? Please share them and ask others to do so as well. Thanks for reading. Featured Author on Business 2 Community

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If I write it will they read it?

If I write it will they read it?

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If I write it will they read it?

If a tree falls in the forest when no one is nearby does the falling tree make any noise?

If a tree falls in the forest is the man wrong anyway?

What is the difference between the sound of one tree falling and two trees falling?

How do you know?

Do you know because you were there, or do you think you know because someone told you about their experience either in person or through their writings?

If you don’t know someone who has experienced something then you are very likely to learn many lessons in hard and painful ways. Unless, or course, you can read about them, understand them and avoid the hard and painful experiences.

But to do that, of course, you must make a conscious effort to read and understand what others have written – preferably before you are faced with a situation where prior knowledge would be extremely helpful.

Have you read something recently that will help you gain knowledge and wisdom or will you take your chances on being wrong in a critical situation?

Only you can choose. Featured Author on Business 2 Community

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The Cost, Price and Payback for Helping Others

Help IllustrationThe Cost, Price and Payback for Helping Others

When someone asks you for your help with something do you do a cost/benefit analysis before deciding whether or not to respond positively to the request?

Do you try to figure out what kind of “price” you should charge for helping others, perhaps in exchange for some help you might need now, or to bank in order to ask for a favor sometime in the future?

Do you have a different set of criteria for helping others depending on their relationship with you or based on what kind of benefit you could get in return for your help?

Or do you just help whenever you can, however much you can and without regard to the nature or circumstances of the person in need of the help?

My father used to drill into my head the following:  “Always help as many people as you can, in as many ways as you can, whenever you can. Because you never know when you might need some help and if you’ve never given any help it might be tough to find it when you need it most.”

And “If you help others you may never get back as much help as you’ve given. But if you hurt others that hurt will come back many times over when you can least afford it.” I think he was talking about bad good and bad karma before I know what those words meant. Sort of like “What goes around comes around.”

Zig Ziglar said “You can have anything in the world you want if you’ll just help enough other people get what they want.”

It takes far more muscular effort to frown than to smile. Do you know that a smile from you will almost always help someone else smile, and thus feel better? How much does it cost for you to smile versus to frown? Smiling is one of those “win-win” situations.

How much does it cost you to say “Thank you” when someone does something nice for you, even if it’s their job to do so? How much does it cost to say “I appreciate your help” to someone, even if their help was minimal but their intentions were good? How much does it cost to tell someone that they did a good job on something or, where appropriate, that they look especially handsome or beautiful at a particular time?

How much does it cost to click the Share button on your social media account when someone you know asks you to do so? Or to “+1” something on Google when you think it was OK or might be of interest to others even if it isn’t of much immediate interest to you? Or to re-tweet something where it might help someone with a project they are trying to promote?

I’m not proposing that all of us help everyone all of the time. That’s just not possible, except perhaps in special circumstances (e.g., where you have all the time and money in the world to give and having that richness hasn’t turned you selfish and immune to the feelings of others). But I am suggesting that helping whenever we can, without first trying to figure out a cost or price or quid pro quo, is a better way of living than the other way around.

I am privileged to have a lot of friends, both in the real world and on social media sites, who go out of their way to help others. They provide advice, they answer questions, they help organize in-person events and they volunteer to help in their communities. All without wondering whether or not they’re going to get paid for helping and without expecting some kind of payback.

I’m also not suggesting that you confuse helping with working. If you earn your living by providing commercial services, I wouldn’t expect you to provide detailed help and advice in your field of expertise for me without expecting me to pay for it. And I hope that you wouldn’t expect me to provide you with detailed marketing help and advice on your particular business issues without being paid for it.

But if you need a generic opinion, or a connection to someone, or some hints on what events might be beneficial for you, I’m happy to help – without charge – because it is something that I can do and am happy to do. I’m convinced that each of us individually and all of us together can make this world a better place just by helping each other whenever and however we can.

I hope you are one of them. And that the next time you are in a position to help someone that you do so – freely, willingly and with goodwill in your heart.

Thanks for reading. Your comments, as always, are very welcome. To read more of Jons’ thoughts and ideas, order The A to Z Blog Book from Amazon or Kindle. You’ll love it.Order The A to Z Blog Book - Print Version Featured Author on Business 2 Community  

Please Use Other Door



How do you feel when you are about to enter a place of business and are confronted by doors that are patently unfriendly to you, the door user?

The doors on the left in the illustration are a prime example of this. If you are the business owner, why pay for two doors when only one is usable? And why is it that you as the customer are always carrying something in the hand or arm that prevents you from using the other door?

And should you push to open the door or should you pull? If both sides have handles for pulling, you’d think you should pull, right? But how many times have you run into doors where that doesn’t work? I know I’ve met those unfriendly doors many times in my life.

How complicated would it be to put a push plate on the side of the door that needs pushing to open it and a pull handle on the side that needs pulling? Or make the doors pull both ways? Or push both ways?  Is this rocket science?

What has the design of doors have to do with marketing?  A whole bunch, it turns out. You want people to be in a friendly, pleasant and receptive mood when they enter your place of business, don’t you? Of course you do. So why make them angry and frustrated with a poorly designed entrance to your store before they even get inside? Isn’t that completely counterproductive to what you are trying to accomplish?  Of course it is. So don’t do it!

If you are not a brick and mortar enterprise, is your website design and implementation just as guilty of frustrating your prospective customers as the physical doors illustrated in this post? You might want to take a second look, or have someone unfamiliar with it take a look for you. You could end up really surprised — pleasantly or unpleasantly! What about your business pages on your social media sites of choice?  Are they easy or hard to get to and/or navigate within or around? Is there some semblance of logic to the navigation paths?

Everything your business does needs to be considered in light of your marketing objectives. Don’t make yourself difficult to do business with. Because people will go elsewhere if they can’t get through your door.

Comments welcome, as always.  Thanks for reading.

Some Further Thoughts on Creating the Customer WOW! Experience

A few weeks ago, on July 26th to be exact, I posted a written rant about how a meeting I’d just been to was concerned not with creating an initial WOW experience for customers but instead with damage control and reputation repair.

As some colleagues and I prepare to launch a new product and set of services, we have frankly been tempted more than once to “jump the gun” and start looking for fans, connections and clients before we’re really ready. Especially since there are some upcoming large networking events where we think we could get a lot of leverage and create a lot of buzz. Think the equivalent of trade show deadline for new product introduction.

We have, and I believe properly so, decided not to jump the gun on this as you’ll hear in the video embedded in this post. Even though we know we’re going to miss more than a couple of great opportunities to promote the new stuff, we think that having the infrastructure in place to create a real WOW! experience when we do introduce is worth any small loss of prospects in the short term.

Think about it.  It takes a long time to build a great reputation. It takes a very short time to ruin one. I heard again very recently that it takes only one “dumb s**t” to wipe out ten “atta boys” and I believe it.  So we’re going to take the time needed to get it right.  Website, social media, collaterial materials, markets, messages and media combinations. Tough as it is to wait, it is the right thing to do.

After all, do we really want to send the message to our potential new markets that we don’t have the patience and professionalism to do the kind of job for ourselves that we will be promising to do for them? I don’t think so. What do you think?

Burnt Toast

toaster with toastThere are lessons in the art of making toast. It’s different if you make it for one or two people on a weekend morning where you can watch the toast brown or when you know your toaster’s characteristics intimately from many years of use than if you make millions of pieces of toast to sell to consumers who’d rather not buy a toaster and make toast themselves.

Once upon a decade, a process specialist and quality guru named Deming tried desperately to warn America’s manufacturing sector that they were at risk from foreign competition, and especially from competition from Japan, if they did not begin to pay attention to improving product quality through better process control . But America’s manufacturing firms were not interested in hearing tales of doom. They were doing just fine, thank you.  So Dr. Deming went to Japan. And the manufacturers there really listened.

If you read my previous blog on the customer WOW! experience, you may know where this is heading. The American companies had process problems making perfectly browned toast. If it came out too light, though, they simply put it through the toaster again to get the right color. If it came out too dark, they had machines that would scrape the toast until it looked to be the right color. All of this rework and extra equipment and processing was expensive, of course, but the toast was eventually good enough to put on grocery store shelves. And price wasn’t an issue. They were the only ones offering toast to consumers in the grocery stores.  They could charge what they pleased.

The Japanese, on the other hand, had figured out how to toast the bread to the right color the first time, every time,  through careful control of the toasting process.  No secondary steps if it was too light and no processing through expensive scraping equipment if it was too dark.  Just right the first time. Higher consistent quality at consistently lower manufacturing cost. So much lower cost, in fact, that they could afford to ship it all the way to America and put it on store shelves at a slightly lower price than the toast sold by the American companies.

Guess who’s companies prevailed in the marketplace?

This is a true story. It is critically important to spend time, effort and money early in the design phase of a product, and the design of the process by which it will be duplicated in a manufacturing environment, if you are going to be successful long term in your chosen marketplace. The same is true for your marketing efforts.  Don’t they deserve careful research, planning and strategy development before you spend time, effort and money on tactics?  Of course they do.

Whether you do it yourself or get outside help, do it as right the first time as possible, measure your results, fine tune as needed and get that perfect shade of toast at a price your customers will love. Mmmm.

Your comments, as always, are welcome.

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Creating the Customer WOW Experience

I am flabbergasted. Incredulous. Blown away. Still in shock.

I  just came from a meeting of 50+ people who listened to four very bright and sincere customer service/customer support representatives from start-up companies in Portland talk about how they create the customer WOW experience when confused, disgruntled, frustrated or just plain mad customers call in because either they can’t use the product the way they want to or the product doesn’t perform as advertised or something else has gone awry between product functionality and customer expectations.

Hold the phone here, please! Why is customer support charged with creating the WOW experience? Why is top management charged with forecasting how many customer support people will be required based on sales volume? What if — and this is a revolutionary concept, I’ll admit — the product actually worked when it was delivered? What if it had a logical “idiot proof” set of controls or an error-resistant operational flow?

During the meeting I was taken back to my days in the 1970s when I taught electronic engineers how to design circuits to be easier to manufacture, test and service.  In fact I wrote the first book on that subject — Design for Testability — and later authored Managing Concurrent Engineering, a tome that proselytized the simultaneous design of a product so that it functioned as designed, could be economically duplicated in manufacturing, could be tested thoroughly to be fault free when shipped to the customer and could be serviced quickly and economically when it did fail.

When trade-offs had to be made between product functionality and the “-ilities,” product functionality almost always won out. In fact “feature creep” was one of the key problems that caused delays in getting products to market. But product functionality testing, or design verification as it was called, was held in the highest regard because the cost of shipping something that didn’t work as advertised could be huge enough to put a company out of business long before it could fix the problems in the product.

As I sat down to write this I noticed that Casey Wheeler had shared Seth Godin’s blog entitled “What’s in the box?” in the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network group on LinkedIn and that Michael Temple had commented on it by quoting Guy Kawasaki in The Art of the Start as follows: “… too many start ups try to work out ALL the bugs before taking their idea to the market. The only way to know if what you have to offer will work is to get it out there. Correct the mistakes as the feedback comes in. In time, you will perfect what you are trying to develop, but you will need the public’s help to identify what needs to be corrected.”

Well I beg to differ with Mr. Kawaski, folk hero to so many product developers as he may be. Because product development teams following his advice are the reason that four customer support people are still holding meetings like this for 50+ people audiences 40 years later! It is incredible. Shocking. Deja vu all over again for me. I’ll repeat my earlier question: What if the product actually worked?

I’ll be the first to admit that perfection is nigh impossible to achieve in a first product release. And that there comes a time when you must declare the product finished and get it out into the marketplace. But if you know it has issues, sell it initially to early adopters smart enough to work around those issues, not to the non-techie masses who need customer support people trained not only in solving product problems but in dealing with frustrated customers as well. Can we at least think about these issues early on in the development process?

OK.  Got that off my chest. I think. I have lots of stories about getting things right the first time instead of doing them over again. Including Deming’s story about the Japanese and the American companies making toast. I’d be happy to discuss my opinions on this subject anytime and welcome your comments. What do you think?


Keep It Simple, Please

I just saw a commercial for a new car (whose manufacturer shall remained unnamed – but it begins with a “C”) that talked about integrating all of the functions that used to be discrete buttons, knobs or slider controls in the car into a tablet-computer-like interface. And that reminded me of my old electronic design for testability preaching days where two of the key tenets were control and visibility.

The drawing below on the left represents and typical audio control panel in a car. The drawing below on the right represents what future ones will undoubtedly look like whether we like it or not.  What’s the difference?


In the example on the left, you can turn the audio system on or off with the push of one button.  You can select AM or FM by pushing one button. You can scan or seek stations with the up and down Tuning buttons, stick a CD in, adjust the balance and the fade and the volume. Very simple, very straightforward, all functions visible and easily controllable.

What about the example on the right? First you have to find the audio system menu. Then select radio. Then select AM or FM. Then go back to the top menu to select Balance or Fade.  The CD track previous and next buttons do double duty as the radio tuning down and up functions. And you can’t even find the volume control! Functions invisible without detailed knowledge of how the system works, or lots of trial and error or practice, and control impossible to achieve without multiple actions to get to the right places.

Do you call this progress? It violates all of the principles in Donald Norman’s book The Design of Everyday Things and everything I taught to design engineers about human interfaces. I think you’d be much more likely to have an accident trying to adjust your radio using the example on the right than the one on the left.

What’s this got to do with marketing, you ask? A lot, as it turns out. If you try to cram too many messages into your marketing communications vehicles you are only going to confuse people and make it much more difficult for them to reach their buying decisions. Clear, concise, easy to understand single messages — Save, Get, Solve, Gain, Avoid, etc. — are much more effective. Pointing out and even repeating a single benefit in multiple ways is preferable to including a laundry list of features just because the technology let us do that.

Does this make sense? Let me know what you think. I’d love to share your insights and experience with others and I’m sure they’d enjoy reading about them.