Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Adorama's customer-centred service - or on-line reputation management?

I believe that as with any business providing a service to customers, at Adorama Camera we need to re-examine constantly not only what we are doing for our customers, but how we are doing it.
For on-line retailers, building relationships with customers must be the driver in terms of customer service.

It's been said many times, but customer service is a philosophy, not a department. It affects our ability to supply our customers' wants and needs and is the lifeblood of our business. Promotions and price cuts will bring in new customers, but to ensure long-term profitability and growth, those customers need to want to return to us to make further purchases.
Excellent Customer-centred Service is the ability to constantly and consistently exceed customer expectations, forming and maintaining relationships that each individual customer wants to pursue.

At Adorama Camera, we want customers to feel that they have a voice, that we are listening; the goals we set at Adorama could equally apply to all on-line retailers.

1. To develop and maintain clarity of purpose: understanding the goals of the service we are providing, and how and where these goals overlap with the needs of customers – and where customer needs may conflict with the needs of the business.

2. To create and manage relationships: to develop a holistic approach which encourages employees in all departments - whether senior management, sales agents, buyers, the warehouse, IT, marketing etc - to connect with each customer's situation, and then work to tie perceived ‘wants’ together with identified needs so that the two are one and the same.

3. To appreciate that while customers may not always be correct, every customer is entitled to his or her point of view; as a retailer it is our job to listen, understand and do the best to fit responses to meet customers’ requests rather than expect customers to ‘take it or leave it’.

4. To recognize that no two people are exactly alike, therefore it is essential to build as much flexibility into company policies and procedures as possible to try to meet the needs of each and every customer. Just because what we’ve been doing or the way we’ve been doing it works for 99.9999999% of our customers, as a committed retailer we will work to find a solution for even the single customer who needs something done differently. Until we’ve exhausted every avenue, we can’t expect our customers to compromise. After all, we need our customers to make us their number one choice!

5. To thank our customers: for their purchases, for their suggestions for improvements, for their recommendations us to others. A company’s best advocates are existing, satisfied customers!

6. To become personally involved with customers through the use of social media:
not only by communicating regularly on Twitter and Facebook, but by using social media such as photography forums, photo-sharing sites, customer blogs and shopping sites actively as it provides us with a fast, effective, relatively low cost channel to communicate with our customers, and gives our customers a forum to feed back about the elements of our service that they do – or don’t – like.

7. To benchmark our successes: to take what works - as well as what doesn’t - learning from it and improving on it. For example, back in 2006, Adorama feedback on resellerratings.com was a miserable 5.55 / 10, with a total of 243 reviews. In 2010, we are delighted to see that our feedback is up to 9.03 / 10, with 4,467 reviews. We still have a way to go to get that ‘perfect 10’, but we are headed in the right direction.

8. To add value or a unique selling point: for example, our photo lab, AdoramaPix, which produces high quality photo books and prints; Adorama Rentals providing photographic equipment at a fraction of the cost of buying new, our used department which currently holds over 25,000 units and pieces of equipment, and Adorama’s Learning Center.
The Learning Center produces a weekly op-ed digest of what's most interesting and significant in the photo world; buying guides which are refreshed regularly to ensure that they always represent current on-shelf merchandise; how-to articles covering a variety of subjects for different experience levels, and broadcast Adorama TV, regular instructional videos covering every aspect of photography.

9. To maintain honesty, humility and integrity: being upfront about what can be done and what can’t; doing what we say we will do – and never failing to apologize when we mess up.

10. To remember that genuine empathy as the key to every engagement. Where an in-depth apology and/or is needed as a result of either an error on our part, or a genuine misunderstanding, the starting point may not necessarily be that the customer is correct, but that the customer believes he is correct - whether as a result of previous experiences with the retailer in question, other retailers or life issues that may be completely disconnected from online purchasing or photography.

Whether on Twitter, a photography forum, a blog or shopping site, where I need to post a response, I always address the customer as an individual, although I know that my posting could be read by 70, 80 or 90,000 people!

Customer-centred service, or reputation management? You decide!

PS I'm always only an email away for advice or after-sales support with any order from Adorama Camera: HelenO@adorama.com

Helen Oster
Adorama Camera Customer Service Ambassador


  1. Hi Helen,
    Great post. What would be interesting is to see how you put these 10 CRM rules to work with Adorama.com.

    I really believe CRM is not a statement. Claiming to have a customer relationship managment strategy and tools to manage it is not enough. Customer service has to be part of your company's values and part of every employee's values. Zappos.com is another great example of what this means.

    Happy to discuss further with you Helen.


  2. Agree with you 100%, Stephanie.

    Adorama's commitment to improving service to our customers across every department, has seen the customer feedback at resellerratings.com climb from a miserable 3.75/10 in 2005 up to 9.45/10, today.

    A way to go, but headed in the right direction.