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Maybe you can look forward to relaxing and digesting on December 26 after your holiday festivities, but for Gary Cocchiarella, who oversees customer service and customer support at Mattel, the day after Christmas is ten times busier than any other day. The onslaught comes from parents desperate for troubleshooting help with everything toy-related that involves any of the iconic Mattel brands, which include Barbie, Hot Wheels, Fisher Price, MEGA, Thomas the Tank Engine and American Girl.
Most of these calls received by Gary and his employees (70 permanent and 75 seasonal) are attempts to quickly solve problems encountered with kids’ new toys so their holiday playtime won’t be further interrupted. Depending on the request, his team springs into action, taking on the roles of shipping and logistics gurus, experts in toy assembly, and even, if necessary, one of Santa’s elves. (Occasionally, a parent will ask an “elf” on the Mattel team to offer reassurances to their child that the workers at the North Pole are going to get their beloved toy fixed quickly.)
Micah Solomon, Forbes.com: What are your principles for interacting with the parents who call you?
Gary Cocchiarella, Senior Director of Consumer Services, Mattel: I remind my team that behind every phone call there’s a child in the picture, a child who loves what we make and wants it to work. In particular, when we receive a difficult phone call, this visualization–that there’s a little girl or boy behind the request–is a big help. Also, past great products, like Hot Wheels Sizzlers and the Fisher-Price Garage, are cherished memories for many on my team and me, and we refer mentally to our experiences as customers ourselves as we strive to keep the consumer experience in the forefront in our work for the younger generations.
Solomon: Can you share a particularly memorable interaction with a customer?
Cocchiarella: A couple of years ago, a dad called us because he had purchased a Power Wheels for his daughter’s birthday. The shipping got delayed, and he knew it wasn’t going to arrive in time. We moved into action. I found the same Power Wheels model at our company store, had my team assemble it, and our mailroom staff brought it personally to the gentleman’s home in time for the birthday party. The day was saved, and later he sent us great pictures from the party.
Solomon: Can you share the strategy you use for hiring customer-facing employees?
Cocchiarella: We look for a baseline of experience in customer service, and we look for people who have the necessary empathy and sensitivity needed to handle some of the more difficult consumer contacts. The summary phrase we use is that we’re looking for an “altruistic service mentality.” The people we’re striving to hire will have the goal, front and center, of making sure the consumer is happy after their interaction is over.
Solomon: Have you started to use AI in any customer-facing ways?
Cocchiarella: We feel strongly that our customers appreciate having a person answer and give real-time assistance. So while we do have some deployments of new technology slated for 2019, they’re not aimed at replacing this connection, but rather at directing customers as quickly as possible to the right human being here who can serve them best.
Solomon: Considering the wealth of input your team receives directly from customers, have you found a way to channel this back into product design or quality control?
Cocchiarella: This has been a major initiative of ours over the past 18 months. My team and I have created a quality reporting database that summarizes all consumer contacts from North America (telephone, emails, social media, etc.) to allow our quality, design and development teams to understand what the consumer is saying about our products.
For example, a few years ago, a new version of the Barbie DreamHouse was released, and we immediately started getting a lot of callers on the line who were having trouble with its elevator. By sharing their specific feedback with the product development team, we were able to help them identify and address the issue. And I’m proud to report that newer iterations of the DreamHouse have been essentially trouble-free since then.
December 20, 2018 at 05:04PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs