A Stranger in a Strange Land

Companies should be treating their customers with the best care and experience, regardless of if you’ve got the budget the size of Nordstrom or REI. It will pay off in the short and long term for all parties involved. We’ll be your biggest advocate or your worst enemy. Need proof? Check out the lesson learned from FTD Flowers, Time Warner Cable, Blog Hosting Company, and Ryanir. Over the course of the month, you’ll read posts from fellow guest bloggers from around the world sharing their good, bad, or ugly customer service experiences…all of them very real. 
Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

The trendiest multi-tasker I know.

Today’s post comes from China (and the U.S.). Sandra is a dear friend, amazing editor/word-smith, and quite possibly more of my twin than my own sister.  Interests, fears, passions, pet-peeves, need for order and planning, you-name-it we’re pretty much identical. Even our husbands are alike in so many ways! But that’s a completely different blog post.  Read on about Sandra and her husband’s adventures while living abroad. How would you respond if you were in their shoes?  

As Americans it’s easy to forget that not every country has the same standards of customer service that we’ve come to expect as a constitutional right.

As a traveler, it’s good to remind yourself of that fact before you start banging your head on a brick wall … or the Great Wall, as the case may be.

Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

“The Great Wall of China.” Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

My husband has spent quite a bit of time in China for work over the past few years and I’ve been able to join him for some of it, thanks to a stellar boss and work team, the wonders of Skype and Dropbox, and the not-insignificant-advantage of working ahead several time zones. And while it goes without saying that success in navigating everyday life in China is dramatically affected by the quality of your Mandarin skills, we’ve had two experiences that offer lessons about customer service that hold true anywhere in the world—regardless of what language you speak.

Case study #1: China Southern Airlines

A couple of years ago we were flying from Shenzhen (near Hong Kong) to London via Beijing for a highly anticipated vacation. My unease began when we pushed away from the gate … and sat there for two hours.

I should explain that in China the plane will always push back even if the pilot knows with 100 percent certainty that he won’t be taking off anytime soon. After all, someone else needs the gate—there’s a billion other people waiting, right?

My worst fears were realized when we arrived in Beijing well after our connecting flight was scheduled to leave. As it transpired, that flight had been cancelled along with 400 others that day; we could immediately see that the “bad weather” being blamed for our delay was nothing more than stupendously bad pollution—as in, hazardous-to-your-health, looks-like-a-nuclear-winter, keep-the-elderly-and-babies-inside. We were going to have to stay the night.

Were there organized, efficient airline employees to meet us, take us to transportation that would whisk us to comfortable accommodations, and greet us the next morning to guide us to our rescheduled flight? Like how it worked for Todd when a Northwest Airlines flight arrived late in Japan due to a mechanical?

Um … no. No, there were not.

There were plenty of airline employees around. It was just that none of them seemed capable or desirous of offering any type of assistance. With every staff person we asked, we were repeatedly directed (vaguely) elsewhere, eventually joining ourselves to a frenzied, milling crowd at a ticketing counter and finally rushing to join a group of people who were getting on a bus to a hotel (feeling fairly certain that had we not, we would have been sleeping on the floor of the airport).

You could just see in the employees’ faces that they didn’t give a rat’s left butt cheek.

Fortunately things changed the next day when we returned to the airport and found the right person. After the requisite “strategic positioning” in line (fail to assert yourself and you will get NOWHERE in China), my unfailingly polite husband differentiated himself from the crowds of shouting Chinese by speaking calmly to the ticketing agent, expressing his appreciation for her efforts, and commiserating with her situation. Voila—a coveted spot on the standby list.

Of course, we almost missed our chance at that day’s flight because we weren’t warned more than two minutes in advance that we needed to run for the tram or the plane was going to leave without us. But that’s China for you.

 Moral: Be nice, and you might move ahead of the hordes.

Case study #2: Specialized Bicycles

Being something of a mountain biking fanatic, Todd decided to buy a bike in China to keep at least some of his sanity and physical conditioning.

 

Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

A ‘clean’ Todd. Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

 

While he is far from the local Specialized shop’s biggest-spending customer, their service is nothing short of jaw-dropping. The easygoing proprietor, Shark (note: Chinese people choose their own English names, sometimes with humorous results) will gladly:

  • Completely clean and detail a mud-splattered bike for next to nothing—even when it’s a different bike that Todd later brought from home (fanatics must have options …).

    Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

    A ‘muddy’ Todd. Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

  • Store the bike securely while Todd is out of the country and have it prepped, tuned, and ready to roll upon his return.
  • Add air to the tires, check brakes, and make small adjustments for free any time a customer stops by the shop.
  • Take a van to pick up a rider with a mechanical problem if they call from anywhere in the nearby region, at no cost.
  • Reassure a foreigner whose folding bike was just stolen from outside a local mall, and who calls him for advice, that she should not bother with the police, who will simply waste her time by collecting information that they will do nothing with. (That was me. Yes, it happened. Yes, I’m still sad.)
  • Give said foreigner a discount on a new bike to replace the stolen one. (Well, I guess I was a repeat customer … but still, a sympathy discount? Pretty nice.)
Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

The replacement. Photo Credit: Sandra Boedecker

Moral: Find good people to do business with, and stick with them.

Experiences with customer service in China have alternately made us smile in amazement and shake our heads (if not our fists) in disbelief. And they’ve given us some great stories—and lessons—about how to get what you need, whether you’re a local or a laowai.*

*mzungu, gringo, foreigner

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There’s no exchange of moolah behind these blog pages, pro-deals, or freebies with this series. What you see is what you get; real stories from real people who are sharing their experiences to challenge the status quo, inspire companies to take action, and ultimately build a life long customer. Be sure to check back this week!

July 15: I have renamed my WiFi network “TimeWarnerisHorrible” by Chris Miller

July 13: Our love affair with the world’s most hated airline by Kayla Robertson

July 12: Treat others how you would want to be treated. by Kristin

July 10: Where’s the Line? by Kristin McGunnigle

July 8: Do customers dream of electric sheep? by Stephen Ellis

July 5: Nike earns an A+ by Jackie Ostlie

July 3: How to Please the Queen by Katrina Taylor

July 1: Are you kidding me? by Evelyn Wolf

Nike earns an A+

Over the course of  July, guest bloggers from around the world share their good, bad, or ugly customer service experiences. It’s a place to complain, rant, and highlight opportunities for companies to improve. But, this series is also a place to celebrate when companies do well, processes work effectively, service representatives are our advocates, and we leave a situation as stronger believers in the product or service than we started.  
Photo Credit: Lindsey Minerva at http://www.lindseygolightly.com/

Photo Credit: Lindsey Minerva http://www.lindseygolightly.com/

Today, I’m sharing my experience with Nike and how one company has renewed my faith in integrated marketing and customer service.

I can be pretty obsessive especially with things that are beneficial to my health, family, and general well-being.  When we purchased our home, one of my biggest fears wasn’t the paint color, or the dinged up walls that our friend-turned-movers-for-the-day accidentally created, or our racists neighbors (I’ll have to save that for another post). No, it was having to give up our gym membership and not being able to continue my recovery and progression into ‘normal’ life post car accident.

A good friend, Kristin, who is equally as obsessed with health and fitness told  me about Nike+ Fuelband. At first the skeptic in me was like, “$149 bucks for a bracelet?! No way.” But the more she shared the self motivation, competition with friends, and overall approach to your health, I was sold. Especially, if it would help me maintain a healthy lifestyle sans gym membership. Bonus points?  Their user experience, user interface, mobile app, and overall digital integration was phenomenal. In fact, it’s the best I’ve ever encountered.

[Sending *high-fives* to their digital team.]

In February, we headed to the Nike store in Seattle where I finally took the plunge. The gal who helped us answered all our questions, reassured me that if my clear band turned brown from use and couldn’t be cleaned we could exchange it with the receipt, and walked me through how to resize my bracelet if I needed to. Sold.

Nike+ Fuelband

Nike+ Fuelband in White Ice

For the next three glorious months, I was in fitness heaven. Not only was I able to re-evaluate the way I looked at health and working out, but it also challenged me to stop counting calories and to be active, even if it meant walking our stairs at 9pm or getting back into a 5:30am workout regiment. And then the unthinkable happened, my Nike+Fuelband stopped working. Devastated, gutted, depressed, horrified are all things that come to mind. Also, my dependence on this cute plastic band is also pretty evident….just ask my husband.

So like any normal, social media savvy, digital marketer would do, I took to Twitter.

First tweets out

First tweet out to Nike

And like any normal, impatient, obsessed health junkie, I went to the Nike Store (with my box and receipt) the next day to see if they could so something.  Besides, I needed as much time to earn fuel points to try to beat Kristin for that week. I was already behind by a day and half!

Their in-store staff was extremely helpful and empathetic. They did a series of tests to confirm my Nike+Fuelband wasn’t working and swapped me out for a brand new one. We were in and out within 15 minutes. Even though their in-store customer service was awesome, I wanted to thank and update Nike’s social media team that I was taken care of. They could officially cross me off the list of folks they needed to follow up on.

Let’s just say for the first time ever, I was speechless. Their social media team responded in a way that companies only wish and hope (and train) their staff to respond and engage their customers. Their social media team completes the full circle of Nike’s awesome  user experience, digital marketing and design teams.

[Sending *fist bumps* to their social media team.]

Great examples of how companies should be using Twitter

Great examples of how companies should be using Twitter

As one who lives, breathes, and gets paid to be on social media, I really appreciate Nike’s approach on Twitter.  Not just for their prompt response, but also for their overall personality, voice, tone, and consistency. This is something that is difficult to achieve especially for large companies. Anyone remember FTD Twitter snafu? There’s a lesson or two on how NOT to use Twitter, regardless if you’re a large company. It’s nice to know the person tweeting me back from @NikeSupport has all the personality, wit, and charm I expect and want. Gone are the robotic, formal, corporate responses. Companies, larger and small can learn a lesson or two from Nike and how their integration of social media comes full circle for their products.

Have you had a great or horrible experience with a company over social media? What was the problem and how did the company respond? I want to know.

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There’s no exchange of moolah behind these blog pages, pro-deals, or freebies with this series. What you see is what you get; real stories from real people who are sharing their experiences to challenge the status quo, inspire companies to take action, and ultimately build a life long customer.  Be sure to check back for the next blog post.

July 3: How to Please the Queen by Katrina Taylor

July 1: Are you kidding me? by Evelyn Wolf

Top 5 things that will consume your life… if you let it

For the last five months this blog has sat idle. But rest assured, I have not. In fact, life has never been more full, more busy, and more insane than ever.  I’ve also realized that there are things that I’ve allowed to consume my life because I’ve let it. Which has also led me to reluctantly putting things that are important to the back-burner….like this blog.  I can’t promise it will get better but I can promise I’ll try.

1. New home ownership:  The moment  you realize you can paint the walls whatever color you want and you can buy nice, new furniture. Cue: multiple trips to Home Depot and Ikea.

One of the top contenders for a sleeper sofa bed.

One of the top contenders for a sleeper sofa bed.

2. Pinterest: Did I mention we are new home owners? I finally know what it feels like for brides who have multiple inspiration boards. Now, I just need to convince Kyle to let me get an hanging chair for our master topped of with fur-lined seat cover.

3. Work. With some recent changes in the office, it’s become all consuming all the time. I love what I do. I love the peeps I do it with. But, I need to bring balance back into my life.

 

4. The James Patterson Book Series’. Yes that’s plural. I’m addicted to all of his murder mystery crime novels. In fact, I think I caught up to Tac Anderson’s goal of reading a book a week with this crime series alone. Now Kyle can insist I do something product other than read and search Pinterest.

Photo Credit: Amazon Kindle

Photo Credit: Amazon Kindle

 

5. Nike+ Fuel Band. It’s changed my life. Originally, I bought this because I thought I’d have to give up my gym membership when we bought our home. Luckily, we were able to keep it but this little doo-daa, helps me maintain a healthy, active life. It’s gamification…or competition at it’s finest. Nike really has the best in class user experience, social + web + mobile + digital strategy I’ve seen to date. Oh and their Nike Training Club app is now my personal trainer, for free. I could go on and on and on about how much I love them, but I’ll save that for another post.

Nike+ Fuel Band Facebook App

Nike+ Fuel Band Facebook App

Think I can add to this list? Add a comment and let me know what needs to be added to this list.

Day 20: The Beautiful Life

Each year, some dear friends get together for our Annual Hutting Trip. The number of folks who come vary and the time of the season does as well. But I can guarantee you, it’s my favorite part of winter for me.  Ten miles of fresh powder, great friends, gorgeous views of Mt. Rainier (sometimes), awesome food, and three days of Settlers of Catan. Seriously, this is the life. The beautiful life. Nothing gets better than this.

Annual Hutting Trip

Annual Hutting Trip

The Water Line-Up

The Water Line-Up

Mt. Rainier

Mt. Rainier

Yummy Trail Mix

Yummy Trail Mix

This is what happens when you're losing at Settlers.

This is what happens when you’re losing at Settlers.

High Hut, Mt. Tahoma

High Hut

Mt. Rainier

Mt. Rainier

The Farewell Shot

The Farewell Shot

You just can't enough of her.

You just can’t enough of her.

Day 1: Surviving your spouse on an international trip
Day 2: Never order flowers online
Day 3: Bucket List
Day 4: Pet Peeves
Day 5: Biggest Fear
Day 8: A little honesty goes a long way
Day 10: A voice from the past
Day 11: Confessions from a wanna-be-cook
Day 13: Top 10 Must-Haves for International Travel
Day 14: Hi my name is Jackie and I am addicted to Senor Taco.
Day 17: Daily Life in the Ostlie Household…in Rhyme

Day 19: Superpower = Life without pain

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Because January can be boring. Join us for a January Blog-A-Thon. Post a photo, video, sentence, anything that you want to! And if don’t feel inclined to blog, do come back and see what we’re up to. I can guarantee you’ll be entertained.

Day 19: Superpower = Life without pain

This March will mark five years since my car accident that has left me with chronic back pain, neck pain, sciatica and all other compensating pains that come along with one’s body trying to get along with life. Gone are the days of multiple work-outs and awesome rock climbing trips. Back to back spin and swim workouts are no longer. An active life filled with long runs, half-marathons, four hour climbing sessions are of dreams. And the only hot yoga pose I look forward to is savasana.

http://www.dailycupofyoga.com/2011/12/25/yoga-nidra-for-sleep/

Photo Credit: Daily Cup of Yoga.

My super power would be the ability to live life and do all my favorite activities like rock climbing, running, swimming, spinning, weight lifting and bikram hot yoga all without pain. Life would be full to the brim with backpacking trips, rock climbing trips, and spin sessions. I wouldn’t be the only person in my work area with a tall desk, tall chair and an ergonomic keyboard. My check book would be full of more money versus my calendar full of physical therapy, and acupuncture appointments. I would actually be able to carry things up and down the stairs without depending on Kyle.  I wouldn’t need an ergonomic pillow. And I can sit for hours on a plane without having the utmost desire to drop and do some stretching mid flight. Oh, and I’d be able to do more things like this….

Photo Credit: youaresocool.net

Photo Credit: youaresocool.net

 

Day 1: Surviving your spouse on an international trip
Day 2: Never order flowers online
Day 3: Bucket List
Day 4: Pet Peeves
Day 5: Biggest Fear
Day 8: A little honesty goes a long way
Day 10: A voice from the past
Day 11: Confessions from a wanna-be-cook
Day 13: Top 10 Must-Haves for International Travel
Day 14: Hi my name is Jackie and I am addicted to Senor Taco.Day 17: Daily Life in the Ostlie Household…in Rhyme

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Because January can be boring. Join us for a January Blog-A-Thon. Post a photo, video, sentence, anything that you want to! And if don’t feel inclined to blog, do come back and see what we’re up to. I can guarantee you’ll be entertained.

full circle.

it’s been a while. i know. but life sure has been busy for the last month or so. i recently started on a new team at work. coupled with transitioning off my old team, finals, adjusting to new team dynamics and the ever constant demands of life, the blog postings took a bit of a back seat.  so here we are, at the end of june with little sunshine and still catching up on life.

my new job consists of marketing support for two teams. team world vision and 30 hour famine. i’m quite excited to be supporting a new team and an established team.  team world vision is a program for athletes who want to make a difference and change lives in africa. athletes raise funds for clean water and sanitation projects in africa while doing what they love.  30HF is a youth program that has been around for 20 years (you most likely did this when you were in jr. high or highschool) in which youth raise awareness and funds around global hunger.  both programs rock and i’m really excited because not only are there opportunities to grow and learn new things, but i’ll also continue to excel in areas that i am skilled in and are passionate about.

the other ironic thing is that i used to work in the sports industry a few years ago and wondered 1) why i was there 2) what else i could be doing 3) what God wanted me to learn from this 4)never mix passions with work. clearly God has a sense of humor because over 3 years later, here i am loving what i’m doing and am drawing on my experience in my past life.  i also laughed because i spent the last 3 days working the rock and roll marathon in seattle. expo life never changes and neither does race day. it was great to be back in the excitement and adrenaline of all the runners.  i was so eager to join them but alas, the cheer station needed me and my loud voice.  🙂  it’s been a great experience so far working and supporting runners and fans of World Vision in an industry that is so competitive and sales driven that you almost lose sight of what you’re running for and working for. besides, believing in what i do makes it alot easier to wake up at 5 am on a saturday and scream for 250+ runners i don’t know.

here’s some photos of the past few days and on race day. hopefully next year i’ll be running it. especially since i just got clearance to run this past thursday. this race season’s out but fingers crossed i’ll be racing a few next year.

the rockstars. kirsten, andrea and carrie.

our amazing intern and cheerleader, chelsea. we were quite chipper at 6AM.

team world vision cheer squad @ mile 5.

cheers.