Perhaps it is easy to forget that those yawning, latte carrying, early morning, rail and bus commuters are clients of the transit system. But not in Japan. Harried, groggy or crabby, they’re still customers, and if you own the transit company, you want to keep them happy. Without them, the transit system could stall. That’s probably the thinking at the Japanese railway company that wants its employees to lift the customers’ spirits with a smile. And they’re serious about it. The company has installed cameras pointed at its employees to make sure they’re cheerfully smiling at commuters. The cameras have scanners that measure the employees’ smiles to make sure they meet the broad-grin code of conduct in their employee manual.
Perhaps that’s extreme. Especially among those who would rather not face another fake smile for fear of having to smile in return. But in today’s business climate customer service is getting a big overhaul in various ways. And it’s not just because of the recession. As Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos famously said, “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.”
It isn’t known if Target Corporation is monitoring its employee smile index but it recently asked customers to e-mail suggestions for improving their experience in Target Stores. And it recently took out a large newspaper ad to inform customers that it was taking their suggestions seriously. Employees will help customers check inventory at other stores for out of stock items in the current store, there will be a bigger selection of plus-size fashion and so on. But over at IKEA, they’re not yet caving in to Twitter protests about the company’s switch to Verdana from Futura. They think it’s mainly the font obsessed who care about this rather than the average customer. And those who received the catalog without noticing the font change might actually agree with IKEA.
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