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Lunchsense Lands a Star
Oct 17th, 2011 by Chris

This is the Stella Star.  Look for it on the best websites!Online shopping has become everyone’s favorite way of finding what they need.  It has never been easier to locate products and comparison-shop for the lowest prices, yet how do we choose between multiple sites that offer the exact same deal?  More often than not, great customer service makes the difference, but who wants to find out the hard way that a site isn’t up to snuff?  Consumers can now look to the stars for guideposts to the web’s best retailers.

STELLAService rates the customer service of online stores – anonymously, and rigorously – and issues their distinctive trust marks to those that make the grade and receive an “elite” or “excellent” score.

We’re happy to announce: Lunchsense has been awarded a STELLAService star for “excellent” customer service.

STELLA’s anonymous evaluation process stress tests more than 300 elements of the online customer experience.  They navigate sites, conduct usability tests, order AND return products, interacting with companies via phone, email and (when applicable) online chat.  It’s all done undercover (we had no idea we were being tested), so the results are unbiased and “true to the experience.”

“The beauty is we don’t need their permission to do it,” STELLA CEO, Jordy Leiser says.  “We just go and become customers.”

While the preponderance of customer-generated, online reviews can prove helpful, STELLA recognized a need for independent, third-party evaluations done by professionals.  “The crowd-sourcing idea is very important because you want to know what the community thinks,” Leiser says.  “But they capture a very small percentage of the market, often only the extreme experiences.”

STELLA is serious about the business of evaluating customer service and they’ve convinced some big players to buy-in, securing $1.75 million in venture funding from key Wall Street investors.   And fifty of the top online retailers are already displaying the STELLA trust mark including big names like Diapers.com, Zappos.com, and 1-800 Flowers.com.  Only stores that receive an “elite” or “excellent” rating are entitled to display the STELLA star.  According to the STELLA site,

This seal is the only trust mark on the Web that objectively and credibly communicates to shoppers that a store is truly dedicated to providing great customer service.

Passing the test once is only the beginning. STELLA evaluates stores repeatedly – at least once a year – so we have to keep meeting their “elite” or “excellent” benchmarks, or we’ll lose our star.  And, because the reviews are conducted anonymously, we never know when we are being scored.  Getting the star is a fabulous feather, but keeping it means maintaining a consistent track record of outstanding customer service.

Lunchsense has always taken a “keep it simple” approach to customer service.  We want you to be completely satisfied with your lunchbox purchase, and we do everything we can to insure that you are.  First and foremost, we’re real people.  We strive to be accessible, friendly and accommodating, and we want our site to be as well.  Shopping at Lunchsense should be a comfortable, agreeable experience—it wouldn’t be sensible any other way.  If you find that we haven’t met your expectations, PLEASE tell us – we’ll listen, and we’ll try our best to make things right.

We’re extremely proud of our “excellent” customer service rating from STELLAService.  It feels great to be counted among the web’s stars!

Nancy's Yogurt: what customer service should strive to be
Oct 20th, 2010 by Nancy

nancys_logo_wstarsI wrote a few weeks back about how and why I gave up my fax number, and mentioned that I’d have a nice customer service story as a follow-up.  Here it is:

Awhile back I bought a small tub of sour cream (Nancy’s brand – a local dairy) and, upon opening it found it was laced with grainy little bits.  The sour cream tasted fine but the texture was unsettling, so I pitched it and dropped the Nancy’s company a quick email explaining the problem.  I didn’t have my receipt, and it was only a couple of bucks’ worth of sour cream, so my highest expectation was that they’d write back and say “thanks for letting us know” and maybe they’d send me a coupon.

But no.

I did get that email, which explained that the grainy bits were protein something-or-others, and the writer asked if I could tell them what I paid for the sour cream so they could reimburse me.  They also mentioned that they taste-test every batch of sour cream before it gets packaged and shipped.  Overall it was a very nicely penned note, and I was satisfied.

I wrote back to tell them that I didn’t know what I paid, and a coupon would be fine if they had one, and I envied them their taste-testers job.

Then about a week later I received a big, bulky enveloped from none other than the Nancy’s yogurt company.  In it was not one but three coupons, and a beautiful canvas shopping bag, AND a HAND-WRITTEN NOTE from Elaine Kesey, owner of Nancy’s yogurt herself, thanking me for my support.  The postage alone for that package far exceeded what I paid for that grainy-but-otherwise-edible sour cream in the first place!

As a small-biz owner I’m confronted daily with one of the hard facts of business life: expenses.  Customer service is just one of many, and happens to be one expense that (unlike rent, payroll, taxes, etc.) we are not beholden to pay just to stay in business, or at best we pay “in-kind”: we reimburse our dissatisfied customer with just what that customer paid.

But the problem is that we can’t put a dollar amount on dissatisfaction.  Nancy’s yogurt demonstrated exactly what I hope Lunchsense will always offer: a genuine, heartfelt, personal response to every customer.

Please, let me know how your experience with Lunchsense turns out.

Life and times of a small biz: what's a fax number worth to me?
Sep 24th, 2010 by Nancy

fax machineA couple months ago I eliminated my fax number.

Although I wasn’t going out of my way to get rid of it, I am now no longer reachable by fax.

I guess it isn’t accurate to say I eliminated my fax number.  Actually, it was taken from me.  Here’s what happened:

I subscribed to a service called eFax that assigned a telephone number to me that served as my “fax” number.  If someone wanted to send something to me, they’d dial that number then eFax would email me a digital file (like, though not, a pdf) of the sent pages, and I’d be good to go.  Best of all, it was free, simple, and seemed a good environmental choice – no trees were killed in the conveyance of information to me.  eFax did offer several other “premium” plans that came with a monthly price tag, but since I’d receive maybe one fax every other month, the free option was absolutely sufficient for my needs.

Recently, I worked with a customer that apparently didn’t have my email address, but did have my fax number, so he sent me a handful of faxes – about six in all, each about three or four pages in length.

What I didn’t realize (or more likely since I’d had this service for a couple years, what I didn’t remember) was that if I sent or received more than 20 pages in a single month I’d not qualify for eFax’s free service any longer.

So I was a bit surprised to get a notice from eFax stating that because of my recent activity I no longer qualified for the free option and in order to continue using their service I’d have to upgrade to the premium plan.

SO – Does $17 a month seem a bit steep for a biz to pay for a service that it uses maybe 6 times a year? To send or receive information that can also be conveyed – in better form – via email?  Which, ironically, became my only choice not because I sent a bunch of faxes, but because someone else sent just barely 20 pages in a 30 day period?

‘Seemed that way to me, but I wanted to find out if eFax felt the same way.  I called them several times, and was given the same answer several times – in order to keep my fax number I had to cough up $16.95 a month.

After mulling it over, I realized that (even though it feels otherwise) THIS WAS NOT BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE.  The eFax phone people were cordial, honest, and straightforward. The 20 page limit was there in my original plan, I exceeded my free limit, and I was shown the door.

THIS IS ONLY A REALLY LOUSY BUSINESS MODEL.

The fax number just sat there in my signature block, quiet and safe and staid: address, phone, fax, email, website.  It wasn’t really doing anything except adding one more line to the block, and maybe adding the perception of one more nugget of legitimacy to my operation here: “see? I’m a REAL biz – I have a fax number.”  Now that it’s gone, though, I realize it won’t be missed.  While I feel for the people that have my contact information but don’t know the fax number isn’t live anymore (although so few of them fax anything I’m not losing any sleep over it).

But as a small biz owner, I am somewhat more concerned to think that eFax considers this a viable way to do business. Yeah, they weren’t making any money off me, so why should they care?  Here’s why:

They hasten the demise of their own services by kicking me out.  They weren’t losing any money on me either, but they did lose a whole lot of goodwill.

I hear it said that bad customer service stories are repeated nine times by the “victim”.  I don’t want that kind of storytelling about Lunchsense, ever.

It’s actually not been that big of a hassle to get my fax number off my “collateral” (that’d be the name for all the paper stuff that has my biz information on it), as most of it I print on-demand – for example, I have the file with the letterhead, and when I need to write a letter, I write it and print it (or, more often, email it).  Invoices, packing slips, carton inserts, whatever – most of it either didn’t have the fax number to begin with or I only print in small quantities.

I can also email printer scans for someone who has to have my signature, so the ONLY THING I’m now left without is the ability to receive a fax.  It is no significant loss, frankly.

Please: do you have a similar story?  If you were me, what would you have done?

Next week: a customer service tale that I strive to emulate.

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