The Consumer Matters is the blog of Leslie Grandy, aka Gearhead Gal.  My passion is creating and delivering compelling products that delight customers through simple and elegant user experience design.

Subscribe To My Feed

Follow Me on Pinterest



Read my blog on Kindle



Looking for a job in product innovation or product design? 


example: innovation, product, mobile, design

city, state or zip

Jobs by SimplyHired




Entries in Consumer Experience (5)


The Haggler Is My Hero

Every local news station in the country has a consumer advocate who rights the wrongs of their audience, from bad dry cleaners to absentee landlords. The stories they recount are also personal ones, painted with tears and broken hearts of consumers' dreams shattered.  Over time, these white knights have filled the air waves with maudlin, ratings enhancing tales.

And then there is The Haggler. The New York Times' answer to "7 On Your Side" or "Ask Jesse". And like the venerable Times, The Haggler takes a higher road in his literary explorations of consumers' woes.  Well written, insightful, and focused in his upbraiding of wireless carriers, cable companies, rental car agents and countless inhospitable customer service reps, The Haggler's columns are a Sunday must read for me.

This Sunday's column, readable here, epitomizes what I love about this righter of consumer wrongs.  It all boils down to "The Catch."



Have You Created a "Golden Rule" Culture?

Whether or not you believe in the Net Promoter Score methodology of measuring customer satisfaction, or some other metric that gives you a sense of your customer's propensity to be an evangelist for your brand, if you are the steward of your company's customer relationship, you need to ask yourself, "Have you created a golden rule culture?"

What is a golden rule culture? It is where your employees treat your prospects and customers as they would like to be treated themselves. (I mean, really, do the people who work at call centers ever want to hear someone tell them when they have a problem, "I am sorry, but that is not a choice in my drop down menu" or "my screen won't let me do that"?) 

In a recent post on, entitled "The Value in Wowing Your Customers," the author, Fred Reichheld, discusses the value of "intelligent" acts of surprise and delight, those moments of "wow" that individual employees feel empowered to administer and which enable brands to connect with customers on a personal level. The notion is simple to understand, but not always elegantly executed - recognize that your employees are the embodiment of how important your customers are to your business.

Then ask yourself if your employees are in the best position - empowered mentally, technically, and physically - to reflect the level of kindness and empathy your customers should expect? 



A New Breed Of Customer Experience "Hosts"

When service is your product, customer loyalty can be a direct function of your employees' satisfaction with their job. Every employee knows that feeling empowered to do the "right thing" is not always as easy as it sounds. Management teams often post policies to organize and coordinate the activities of front line service employees who operate in the field and interact directly with customers. Believing that one rotten barrel can destroy the whole bunch, executives will bias towards reducing the amount of decision-making a service representative has to do in order to ensure a consistent "experience" for all customers with their brand.

But what happens when employees understand that service IS the product because management gives them tools and decision rights to actually solve customer problems and, in fact, prevent them? Employees of two service brands, The Morgan Hotels Group and Virgin America, represent the new paradigm of customer experience owners, employees who feel more like "hosts" not "agents."

The Free Online Dictionary defines a host as "one who receives or entertains guests in a social or official capacity." In personal social activities, we have no problem seeing hosts as people who treat visitors graciously and are aware of their guests' needs, making sure that they are comfortable and feel welcomed, not just when it comes time to say "please come again."

Flight attendants on Virgin America are called "teammates" and flyers are "guests." That mental model informs each employee how to treat a visitor who enters via the jetway and spends time in their day traveling via the airline. For Morgan Hotels, guests who take the time to complete a marketing survey after the visit are rewarded by a personal note from a Customer Experience Manager who addresses the guest's specific feedback, if the guest opts to invite the hotel to contact them. That person is prepared to continue the dialogue with the guest to ensure the guest feels appreciated for providing the insight on their own time about their interactions and stay with the hotel.

Social graces seemed to have disappeared with the appearance of the socially acceptable practice of anonymously posting nasty comments about online content or marketing material. It's always been easy to criticize the host who doesn't get it right - who makes us feel unwanted and underappreciated. But those are also usually the people who don't treat us as if they are entertaining or engaging us either personally and professionally as a host.



Destroying a Brand, One Geek At A Time

The clip-on ties, that nerdy white short sleeved shirt.  These are unmistakable elements of the Geek Squad brand, recently called Best Buy's "killer app" by the Los Angeles Times.  But the brand that holds up Best Buy's repair and installation business, has developed quite a reputation for geeks who feel comfortable wearing pocket protectors, but don't have a clue how to service customers.See also: Do You Have To Be Crappy To Be Big?

I recently brought the branded emissaries of geekdom a 10" Vaio laptop that I had running Windows XP and which increasingly showed the same blue screen error until it was impossible to get it to boot and stay booted for very long. Admittedly, the machine is 5 years old, but it is loaded with hardware goodies like a video cam, DVD drive, SD memory slot and it is as small as a netbook. And it is small and lightweight. When I gave them the laptop, I also had told the rep I had an iPhone video of the error sequence, whch highlighted the message that showed what the error was and when it occurred. They weren't interested. "We'll see whatever the problem is when we run our diagnostics." I now understand that means we only pay attention to the diagnostics. Our process means we don't have to listen to the customer, only what our diagnostics tell us. The receipt for the checked in laptop did not reflect the specifics of my use case, and it did not repeat what the video showed. It was a Cliff Notes version of what the rep entered as their abridged view of the problem they heard me describe - that is, what they agreed to do to fix a symptom.

I received a call from the Geek Squad telling me their diagnostics program showed a new hard drive was required. The machine used a 1.8" drive which Best Buy doesn't stock or order, and which is sold online by another vendor. The rep who called indicated that this would fix the problem and gave me the total estimate for the job, plus the cost of the new drive, which I'd have to order myself. In total, I could have a fully featured working 10" laptop running full Win XP for the cost of a netbook, he assured me.

I could find only one place online that sold the replacement part, and it had a 10 day return policy, so I ordered it online and verified with the Geek who had my laptop that I had found the correct part. I brought it into store two days later and five days later they called to tell me my laptop was fixed and ready for pick up.

At the counter, the Geek Squad rep told me that after working on the computer for five days, he was sure the problem was resolved, and he never suggested - and I didn't request - that we boot the machine up when I signed and paid for it to show us both it was indeed no longer generating the error. And, of course, when I got home and booted it up, the blue screen error appeared before Windows finished loading. The very same error message I had video recorded before bringing it in. In the same place in the setup process as before. Two more times I restarted and got the message and immediately called the store. "It was working when it left here," the manager said. "I don't know what you did since then." I asked him how he was sure it had been working since there was no proof.  I informed him I replicated the sequence as before and had the video on my iPhone from the week before and another I created this time. I asked if his diagnostics replicated my actual use case when the machine was first analyzed or after it was "repaired." The manager continued to repeat that his diagnostics said the hard drive was bad and they replaced it. "But you didn't actually repair what I brought it in for," I told him. "It looks identical to what occured prior to you charging me to replace the hard drive, which I had to separately source and buy." He insisted the hard drive was bad even though it didn't fix my initial problem.

At this point it dawned on me that the scalable, Geek Squad workflow process found a plausible explanation for my problem, and stopped looking. They did not identify whether what they found was an explanation for a symptom of the problem or the root cause of the problem. In fact, by never replicating my actual use case, no one really could be sure if they had fixed my problem. They may have even mitigated the issue, which allowed the OS to load on occasion, and that was enough to move the laptop off their bench.

I brought the laptop back to the Geek Squad counter the next day, open, awake, running on battery, and still displaying the same blue screen crashing message I had when I first brought it in. On the counter, the manager rebooted the laptop, and this time Windows loaded. "See, it's working," he shrugged, completely ignoring the blue screen I had on display. Clearly it was not cured, but one restart and the Geek in Charge wiped his hands of any responsibility for the fact I had walked in with evidence the problem that started the whole affair still persisted.  "We can diagnose it again," he offered. "Isn't that what you were supposed to have done when I originally brought it in?" I asked.

And that was when I realized I know longer trusted the nerdy know-it-all in his geek uniform to service my broken product, let alone my business.




Ten Original Sites Designed to Inspire and Provoke

Some times it pays to wander off the beaten path to find your inspiration. These ten sites all deserve credit for focusing on original content, not becoming blog clones.

 Geek Alerts

Brand Flakes for Breakfast

Lost At E Minor

Holy Cool

If It's Hip It's Here

The Jailbreak

Scribe Media

Card Observer

We Heart

Information Architecture Quotes