The goal of any business is to attract and retain customers. And customers actually make it very easy for you. No customer walks into your establishment and says to you, “Here is my money. Now, dissatisfy me please.” In fact, your customer comes in with an expectation that what you offer could be more valuable than his money. Nobody knowingly expects to pay good money for a poor product or service.
If it’s so easy, why isn’t your business doing so well that you are literally turning away customers? It’s because you already are turning away customers and you may not even know it. You cannot think you are only selling a commodity or service to your customers. You are not in the product business. You’re not even in the service business. You are in the experience business.
Think of your top three competitors. They have a similar product. In fact, if your competitors really wanted to, they could come pretty close to replicating it. What they can’t replicate are your people. And it is your people who deliver your experience. A recent American Express survey found that 70 percent of consumers are willing to spend an average of 13 percent more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service. So the good news is that if you understand that your company is in the experience business and you get the experience right, you reap more revenue and repeat customers.
The bad news is that, in the same survey, 78 percent of consumers claimed they have abandoned a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience.
Ultimately, for you to retain your customers you have to think like your customer. You have to understand that you are in the experience business and the customer is paying for his experience, not yours.
So how do you create an experience that will retain your customers and attract new ones? Here’s how in just three steps:
- No Surprises.
- No Excuses.
- One Percent more.
No Surprises. Find out what that expectation is of your customer. Then deliver it plus one percent more. That’s a take on the “Underpromise. Overdeliver” service mantra. As a hotel general manager, I defined that the restaurant could never run out of any item that was on the menu. Think like the customer. The menu is actually our promise in writing. The customer orders and the server says they have just run out of it – an unexpected bad surprise for the customer. The server, manager and chef thinks it’s OK to run out of something – our experience. If they kept everything in stock beyond demand it would lead to higher food costs – still our experience. But the customer sees it on the menu and expects that he can get it with no surprises – his experience. And the bottom line is the customer is paying for his experience, not ours.
No Excuses. Of course, on busy nights, we did sell out of certain items or it took too long for an order to be served. Step two: No excuses. “I’m sorry, we had more people order that than we expected.” or “I’m sorry, we’re a little understaffed tonight.” All that is really the restaurant’s experience – our experience. Think like the customer. The customer decided to eat in the restaurant with the expectation of being satisfied. Any reason the restaurant gives to the customer is “heard” as an attempt to explain why the restaurant could not deliver – an excuse. Here is what the customer is hearing “So what that you’re sorry. I still don’t’ have what I wanted.” No excuses. Better to respond to your customers with an “I apologize.” Since you could not deliver their expected experience, you need to give them something, at the very least, a sincere apology. Then follow up with a gesture of atonement.
One Percent More. Deliver an experience that is just a bit more than what the customer expected. For example, customers expect your business to open on time. As a customer doesn’t it frustrate you when you go to a store that clearly posts that it will open at 8:30 a.m. and it actually unlocks the door for its first customer at 8:45 a.m. – their experience. And if you were that customer on your way to work, didn’t that 15 minutes seem more like an eternity with each passing minute – your experience. And as the customer, you were paying for your experience, not theirs. Your customers expect the same from your business. So what’s the 1%? Just make it a Best Practice to open 10 minutes before and stay open 10 minutes after your posted times. Remember, to the customer, it is not the one big wow that will separate you from your competitors; it will be the 1001 little “wows”, those one percents, that will make the big difference.
So remember, the customer is paying for his experience, not yours. Deliver their experience with no bad surprises and if there is a surprise for the customer, apologize and fix it with no excuses. And always add just that one percent more.