Through social media, people are talking about you whether you know it or not, like it or not. Customers who are dissatisfied with your service rant about their no class experience to others. They’re not just talking about you to their friends on social media. They’re telling everyone, even complete strangers.
If they’re not talking no class, then they’re just not talking about you at all. Customers who are satisfied with your service feel that their experience is good, not better, just average. Nobody raves about average. And satisfied customers won’t come back when they find something better or less expensive.
So don’t just serve to sell your products or services to customers. And don’t just serve to satisfy customers. Instead, serve to WOW them. Serve to CARE.
COMMUNICATE with each customer with a smile, eye contact, and polite interaction. Inform each customer transparently and interactively of the product’s or service’s function, liabilities, and advantages to them.
ACKNOWLEDGE each customer’s presence and value to you and your company.
RESPOND empathetically to each customer’s questions, concerns, and complaints.
ENRICH the experiences of every customer.
And when you CARE, each customer is WOWED and happy, intent on returning again and again, raving to others along the way.
The New Marketing is not advertising online to your customers. It’s your customers raving about you to others on social media.
Ever since I had my stroke in April last year, writing has been literally a labor of love. I hope that you have gained some insight into how to Deliver the World’s Best Customer Experience by not just serving to satisfy customers, but rather to WOW them.
I want to thank each of you for reading my blog this year. I very much appreciate you. In appreciation, and in paying it forward, for this New Year, I don’t wish you good luck in the future. I wish you GREAT success and fortune, literally and figuratively.
Merriest of Christmases and happiest of Holidays and New Years! May your New Year be GREAT out there!
For many years, there has been a stranglehold of the “Profits over People” mentality in business. Senior executives care about top-line revenue, product and labor costs, market share, the stock price, bottom-line profits, and even their competitors, more than their people. Listening to the sweet cha-ching sound of profits, these bad bosses do not hear their grumbling employees and complaining customers many hierarchical rungs below. Even if bosses could hear, they would wear noise-canceling headphones, oblivious to the employees’ concerns and customer complaints. And “Profits over People” bad bosses would demand “My way or the highway” to the employees. Bad bosses didn’t care much about employees and employees could care less about their bosses or customers.
Today, instead of focusing on “Profits over People”, envision “People First” as the solid foundation for everlasting business success. One caveat is “Employees First”. Managers will always see people as “employees”. Despite preaching “Employees First”, senior leaders would always have the rank and file employees “first”, on the bottom of the ladder, well below the leaders.
Recognizing “People First”, leaders will CARE for their people.
COMMUNICATE openly, transparently, interactively, and frequently any information that their people need and want to know. Listen empathetically to the people’s suggestions, concerns, and complaints. Express compassion with their recommendations and encouragement.
APPRECIATE the important roles, responsibilities, and efforts of their people.
RECOGNIZE, honor, and offer accolades for individual and team achievements, accomplishments, and acts of service to colleagues or customers.
EMPOWER people to make the right decisions for themselves, their colleagues, customers, and their business.
Whether it’s the turmoil of the pandemic, Skimpflation, or The Great Resignation, businesses will invigorate the New Normal with the “People First” culture. No longer are people taking second or third seats to customers or profits.
This cultural transformation of “People First” and the leadership commitment to CARE will enthuse and energize people to be engaged with their colleagues, customers, and the business.
When we create a great experience for people as much as we do for customers, we will earn the loyalty of both. And soon, without our focus on profits, profits will grow.
Customer loyalty is not by offering discounts, upgrades, or subscriptions to repeat customers. Real customer loyalty is built on service so great that customers return again and again, raving to others along the way. This week guest blogger Karen Hertzberg offers three QUI strategies to improve your service to keep customers coming back. You can read more about Karen at the end of her post.
What’s better than gaining a new customer? Keeping an existing one.
That’s why a high customer retention rate is an important goal for many businesses. Excellent customer service is one of the best ways to achieve this goal.
Customer retention supports long-term growth because it creates a loyal customer base. When these loyal customers are supported through great customer service, then they don’t have a reason to seek out other businesses.
Why Does Customer Service Impact Retention?
The quality of your service or product helps determine your company’s success, but a positive customer experience truly solidifies a strong relationship with your customers.
When a customer encounters great customer service, they trust that your company will treat them right no matter what issue pops up. This, in turn, makes them more likely to stick with your company the next time they need your products or services. You’re a safer bet than another company whose customer service quality is unknown.
Many business owners focus on building their customer base over delivering excellent customer service. But customer service shouldn’t be an afterthought. Your business is going to make mistakes sometimes, and solid customer service is the only way to make sure those mistakes don’t come back to haunt you.
How Do I Know if My Customer Service is Hurting Customer Retention?
Asking customers to complete a survey after a customer service experience will show you where your weaknesses are. Many times, businesses think they’re doing the right thing but they don’t have a solid understanding of what their customers actually want.
Let your customers tell you where your strengths and weaknesses are. For the best results, make your survey quick, easy to understand, and offer a reward, such as a discount on their next purchase, for completing the survey.
What Are Some Customer Service Strategies I Can Implement Today?
If you’re ready to rebuild your customer service strategy for the better, start with writing a mission statement. You should always strategize with your long-term goals in mind and a mission statement helps keep you focused.
Set Reasonable Expectations
While it’s tempting to brag about your excellent customer service, it’s far better to pleasantly surprise your customers than to disappoint them. That doesn’t mean you should set low expectations for your customer service. Just be mindful about making claims that your customer service team might not be able to live up to.
Be Honest About Mistakes
Don’t try to cover up any mistakes when you’re dealing with a customer service complaint. If something went wrong, your customer knows it. They won’t appreciate your dishonesty.
If you acknowledge your mistakes and do something to make it up to your customer (a future discount, refund, etc.), this shows your commitment to improving the customer experience.
I hope these tips help your business prioritize the customer experience to build up your customer retention. If you’re looking for more information about customer retention, the visual below debunks some customer service myths to set you on the right path for long-term growth.
Karen Hertzberg is a writer and digital content marketer from the Seattle metro area. Along with consulting on content strategy, she creates effective how-to and thought leadership content for several B2B and B2C companies. Empathy is her superpower, and she’s obsessed with clear, thoughtful written communication.
Facemasks, door signs, floor decals, partitions, and hand sanitizers won’t keep your customers. Such safety protocols in response to the pandemic are expected from your customers. While failing to implement them will cost you customers, maintaining those standards will not guarantee that you keep them. Your competitors are doing the exact same thing which means what you are doing is average, heightened like everyone else, but still average. And … wait for it … nobody raves about average. Customers don’t rave about a business that simply meets their expectations. Nor are they loyally bound to them. With these safeguards, you have simply changed a negative experience to one that is neutral. But what are you doing to move the experience from neutral to memorably positive?
CARE for your Associates first. Hearing about hospitalizations, the struggling economy, and massive layoffs every day, your associates are still anxious and concerned about their jobs. Reassure them by your actions that their leadership team CARES. Communicate. Appreciate. Recognize. Empower. Serve.
Serve your associates by asking at the end of each interaction, “What can I do for you?” And act on their suggestions to make your associates feel as happy working with you as you want your customers to feel about doing business with you.
Re-orient your Associates to the delivery of the customer experience in what is now the “not-so-new-normal”. In the first weeks of the pandemic, you were focused on introducing all the new protocols. Over the last few months, your associates consistently follow the safety guidelines, from temp checks to facemasks. Take time now to remind them of the principles of delivering exceptional customer service. Emphasize that since your customers cannot see their smiles, they need to use other body language, except handshakes and hugs, their words, and tone of voice to convey a warm welcome. Remind them to practice active listening and responding with empathy. Do they remember the forbidden phrases that distract in customer conversations? Make sure they know the difference between taking care of the customer which is a transaction and really caring for the customer, a relationship-building interaction.
Seek feedback and then act. You may know 10-20% of your customer complaints via your customer surveys. Your customers know 100% of what displeases them and your associates do, too, since your customers tell them every day. So ask your team directly, “What are you hearing?” Then act on their feedback to eliminate those pain points. Be sure to involve your associates in defining solutions to remove these dissatisfiers. Without their involvement, you will not earn their commitment to care for your customers.
Become a storyteller. Three things can happen after customers do business with you. They can say nothing because you gave them nothing to talk about. They can rant about you to others because they experienced such poor service that they want to make sure no one else makes the same mistake. Or they can rave about you. And if you want to have your customers tell stories about you, you have to give them a story to tell. Involve your associates to define key points in the customer experience where they are empowered to create memorable small “wows” so the story can end, “And they lived happily ever after.”
QUI TAKEAWAY: Remember nobody cares about how good you used to be before this pandemic. They only care about how good you are now. And now changes every day. You need to do the same.
This was originally published as a guest post on Shep Hyken’s customer service blog.
There are only two ways to make a profit in business. One way is to increase sales. The other is to reduce costs. Companies have relied on technology to reduce one of the most expensive costs in any business – human labor. Banks have replaced tellers with ATM’s, direct deposit and internet banking. Gas stations and supermarkets have moved to credit card readers and scanners, reducing the number of cashiers and eliminating gas attendants and grocery store baggers. Even hotels are experimenting with robots to deliver room service. But in this technological evolution, too many companies are confusing customer services with customer service. Customer services is all about how to speed up the transaction. Businesses have used technology to become more efficient at the process of serving customers.
But being good at customer services does not build customer loyalty. All a competitor has to do is ante up with the same technology. Now even non-related businesses are looking to take revenue from each other. Where banks might have been the first to offer self-service options and debit cards, stores now offer ATM’s and their own credit card services, stealing fees and interest revenue from banks. In fact, how loyal would you be to your bank if it started to raise fees for its services? When was the last time you actually walked into a bank and interacted with a teller? Businesses may have reduced labor costs by offering hi-tech customer services, but by reducing human interaction with their customers, they inadvertently have jeopardized customer loyalty. As a result, customer services may help to keep customers, but rarely does it increase sales.
Walt Disney had the best formula for boosting sales, “Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it they will want to come back and see you do it again and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.” Great companies will always remember that despite advances in technology, customer loyalty must be earned by nurturing a genuine emotional connection.
Focus on the interaction, not the transaction. Define ways to personalize the customer experience. Restaurants that take reservations usually ask the question, “Are you celebrating a special occasion this evening?” Many will offer a complimentary dessert for an anniversary celebration. But the best create a wow moment by personalizing the menu header with the couple’s names and delivering that dessert with Happy Anniversary and their names written in chocolate on the rim of the plate. Of all the pictures taken that evening of the food, which do you think is featured and forever immortalized on Facebook for their friends to see and like? And how many friends have gone to that restaurant hoping to have that same kind of experience?
Personalizing the customer experience can be as simple as using the customer’s name. Simple, but simply not done. Think back to the last several times when you were a customer. You hand a credit card with your name printed right on it to the cashier. Yet the last five times you used your credit card, how many times did the cashier use your name in giving it back to you? Rarely, if at all. An opportunity to embrace you, as a customer, is lost.
The sales adage that people buy from people they know, like, and trust should be your customer service mantra. If I were a retailer, I’d use the technology to make sure that the card swipe info would post the customer’s name on the mini screen in front of the cashier. I’d educate every cashier to look at the screen or the credit card and then look back to the customer to establish eye contact (trust), smile (likeability) and sincerely say, “Mr. Customer’s Name, thank you for shopping at Name of Company. We certainly appreciate it.” That small wow would make a big difference in having that customer return again and again.
QUI TAKEAWAY: Don’t confuse customer services with customer service. Real customer service is all about how to enhance the human interaction. As Shep Hyken has said, “The greatest technology in the world hasn’t replaced the ultimate relationship building tool between a customer and a business – the human touch.”
This week’s guest post is from Rhonda Basler, director of Customer Engagement at Hallmark Business Connections. I have been a longtime fan of her blog so I’m honored that she is sharing her customer experience insight here. I am convinced that if you commit to following consistently these five essentials, you will Deliver the World’s Best Customer Experience.
What does it take for your business to create remarkable experiences for your customers?
Think about that for a second.
Today’s customers don’t just want more from companies – they expect more from companies. Research shows 70% of buying experiences are based on how customers feel they are being treated, which means it’s up to companies to deliver the kind of experience customers are looking to have.
At Hallmark Business Connections, we believe in the power of the human connection. By providing customer care that supports your brand’s vision, mission and values, you inspire customer advocates to truly believe in your company’s products, services, and brand, and to share their positive feelings with others (friends, family, acquaintances, social media networks, etc.).
Here’s a closer look at 5 ways to earn customer advocacy through inspired customer service:
1. Commit Random Acts of Kindness
Independent consumer trends firm trendwatching.com has identified unexpected, meaningful actions as a major customer trend in business and I think we all know why: It’s the right thing to do.
Creating meaningful experiences for your customers doesn’t have to be flashy or expensive. Sometimes, it’s the smallest gestures – taking the time to listen and encourage someone in need or sharing a story or joke – that can have the biggest impact.
Committing these random acts of kindness can go a long way toward fostering customer loyalty, so it’s important for your company to consider what it can do to make the experience truly special to the individual. Only then can you provide the types of experiences that touch customers on an emotional level and create greater engagement with your company.
2. Be Proactive
Creating meaningful experiences for customers doesn’t just build customer advocacy: It also makes good business sense. After all, Bain & Company research shows it costs six to seven times more to acquire new customers than it does to retain existing customers.
To inspire true customer advocacy, you need to find ways of going above and beyond to show customers you’re committed to providing an exceptional customer experience. Examples of this type of proactivity involve checking in with customers to uncover the root causes of problems and fix issues before customers have the opportunity to get in touch with your company themselves.
This investment in improving customer retention is well worth going the extra mile. Try thinking about it this way: Instead of investing money to replace customers that have been lost, you’re focusing instead on building such solid relationships with customers that they refer you to new customers.
3. Offer a Plus One
According to McKinsey research, word of mouth is a primary factor behind 20-50% of all purchasing decisions. People trust friends and family more than virtually any other information source; in fact, they’ll pay two times more attention to recommendations from friends than other sources.
Given the importance of word of mouth referrals, make sure you’re giving your customers something to talk about! In every customer experience interaction, associates should surprise and delight customers with an unexpected, extra benefit that’s unique, thoughtful, and relevant to the individual.
These sorts of “plus one” benefits can make all the difference when it comes to not only the individual customer’s experience, but also the anecdotal stories that get shared with others.
4. Show Your Gratitude
The key to providing a positive customer experience is to make the experience meaningful and memorable enough for customers to still be sharing it with friends and family days, weeks, or even months later. There are many ways to do this, but sometimes the most effective is communicating two simple little words: Thank you.
Displaying heartfelt, sincere gratitude to customers is memorable – and it opens the door to doing business again. Acknowledging and expressing that you know the business would not exist without your customers can have a huge impact on how they feel about your company.
5. Put Yourself in the Customers’ Shoes
The business implications of the customer experience are huge: 55% of customers would pay more for a better customer experience and 89% of customers would quit doing business with a company following a poor customer experience.
What does this mean? For starters, it reinforces the pivotal role customer service plays in the way your customers feel about your company, which translates directly into how much they trust your company. But, to go a level or two deeper, it also suggests the importance of empathy as it pertains to the customer experience.
Hearing – and, more importantly, understanding – the emotions of customers can augment a positive experience or turn around a negative one. To truly understand what matters to customers (and provide the best possible experience for the individual), you need to be able to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Research, in fact, shows conveying this type of empathy can make or break a business.
Let’s go back to our question at the very beginning of this post: What can your company do to create remarkable experiences for your customers?
Keeping the above tactics in mind, try thinking about the various ways you can transform a customer experience from adequate to outstanding. By providing top-notch customer service at every step of the way, you can create the type of customer advocates who will share their positive experiences and inspire those around them to do the same.
To learn more about Hallmark Business Connections’ approach to creating a differentiated customer experience, watch our “5 Essentials For Creating a Differentiated Customer Experience”video:
Rhonda Basler is the Director of Customer Engagement at Hallmark Business Connections. An avid business trend watcher and strategic thinker, Rhonda’s customer advocacy expertise stems from more than 29 years of experience in data-driven and brand marketing for major corporations as well as small companies.
This week’s guest post is written by Nunzia Falco Simeone. Nunzia is Marketing Manager at Deskero and editor-in-chief of Deskero corporate blog about customer service and social media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find out more about Deskero at the end of her post. One of my favorite customer service mantras is “Think Relationships or Go Broke.” Nunzia offers advice not only to “Think Relationships”, but “Build Relationships.”
Modern customer care can’t be achieved by simply answering requests. You have to reach out, engage with people, get in touch with them. Customers won’t be content with a nice service: they want a great experience.
In order to realize that, you need to build a proper customer relationship. How? Here are a few tips:
Listen to your customers
Transforming customers into advocates and influencers is perhaps your most important task. And the first step is listening to them.
Do you know who your most important customers are? And why they buy your product or service? Do you know what they think about you? These are important questions that need to be answered.
…and talk to them
The relationship between customers and company should be two-way: it is important to listen to your customers and it is even more important that you talk to them!
Monthly newsletters, blogs, social networks are great channels to keep relationships strong on a shoestring budget.
What should you talk about? New features, achieved goals, special offers, testimonials, events. Also build your reputation as an expert by giving away some free insight. Have interesting things to say!
The best way to engage with people is to act like a person and not a brand. So, be personal by keeping track of conversations, getting your customers involved and following up. Build trust by engaging conversations both online and in-store and making them feel special.
Be more responsive and proactive, delivering on your promises and listening and observing to gain insights and then acting on them. When companies learn how to deliver personalized customer service, they build strong, lasting customer relationships and trust.
Reward loyal customers
If you reward your customers, they’ll reward you with their loyalty. Ask yourself: I am doing enough to encourage my customers to buy again?
If the answer is no, you should increase involvement and give them something of value in exchange for their attention, like a coupon, a special event, helpful insights and advices. You further involve your customers with your business with special events, gatherings, contests. And remember that if you don’t keep in touch with your customers, especially the most loyal ones, your competitors will.
Ask for customer feedback
Seek suggestions on new features as well as critiques of current products and features. Gather candid customer feedback through emails, contact forms and surveys. Also listening through social media can be useful for gathering feedback from customers; you should pay attention not only to direct comments or mentions, but to all the social experience: people can talk about your brand and you might not know that!
Deskero is a simple yet effective way to offer great customer service, and to take it to its next level through seamless integration with social networks. Follow us at @deskerocare.
Prior to my present position as resort manager for Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club, I served as the charter general manager for The Henry – Autograph Collection (Autograph Collection is Marriott International’s exclusive portfolio of independent hotels) when it was reflagged after 21 years as the Ritz-Carlton Dearborn, MI (Ritz-Carlton is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marriott International). Almost all the associates were former Ritz-Carlton “Ladies and Gentlemen”. Last year The Henry was recognized as one of Marriott International’s Hotels of the Year. I am convinced that while they are now The Henry associates they still would bleed Ritz-Carlton blue. And if you’ve every stayed in a Ritz-Carlton hotel you know there is something extraordinary about the refined delivery of customer service by its associates. So when fellow customer service blogger Ashley Furness offered to share an interview she conducted with Diana Oreck, vice president of the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Training Center, I quickly accepted. You can find out more about Ms. Oreck and Ashley at the end of the post. But for now, here is Ashley’s inside look at how Ritz-Carlton educates its associates to deliver its world-class brand of exceptional customer service.
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company is known worldwide for it’s “legendary service.” So much so, Apple uses the luxury hospitality brand as a model for its owner customer support traditions. For both, it’s all about anticipating the customers’s expressed and unexpressed needs.
These practices have not only increased word of mouth and brand loyalty. Ritz-Carlton also boasts among the best employee retention rates around. To create raving fans, they start with inciting brand enthusiasm from their team.
Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Ritz-Carlton leadership training center Vice President Diana Oreck. I asked her about customer service training, retention, performance measurement and more. Here’s what she had to share about Ritz’ super service sauce:
What sort of questions can you ask someone to find out if they’re caring and can anticipate customer wants and needs?
Well what you want to make sure you do is not ask yes or no questions. You’re not going to say, “OK Ashley, are you a caring person?” Because obviously, you’re just going to say yes, right? So what we do is we ask you in the interview, “Ashley give us a specific example of how you’ve cared for someone in the last month.” “Give me a specific example of anticipatory service that you have extended.”
Ritz-Carlton puts a lot of emphasis on successful new hire orientation. Why is this important for customer service training?
A lot of companies have a notion that employee orientation really needs to be a data dump of the company, and statistics and who’s doing what. It really isn’t. What we are looking for at orientation is passion. We want to make sure that that new person gets the feeling they made the right decision in joining us.
It’s all about them and it’s all about culture. We feel that orientation needs to be significant emotional experience. Because think about it – you are making a very big decision in your life to either start a job or change a job. So our two days of orientation, they are solely revolving around our culture, which we call the gold standards. And the reason we do that is we know that the culture creates passion advocates of our employees. Raving advocates of our brand and we don’t think that it’s realistic to ask that your customer be passionate, raving fans if your employees aren’t first.
Is this also something that helps with customer service employee satisfaction and retention?
Yes, it’s about engagement. I will give you an example. The lodging industry as a whole tends to run a 60-70 percent turnover in a year. Here at Ritz Carlton we run in the low 20s. It’s a huge difference.
What else do you do to promote retention?
We’ve got a vast list. Rewards and recognition is huge. Ranging from first class card, which is the most popular form of recognition at Ritz Carlton. Talk about less is more, it’s just a card that says “first class” and we give it to each other to thank each other. It can be peer to peer, peer to manager, employee to president, president to employee. And then we have things like birthdays, we give gift certificates. You can become five-star of the quarter. We don’t do employee of the month, because we find it’s much for meaningful if it’s the quarter. We are also one of the only hotel companies that still provide meals for their staff. We have gorgeous picnics in the summer and the holiday party and it goes on and on.
What metrics or qualitative data does Ritz-Carlton use to measure customer service training success (How do you know it’s working)? How do you collect this data?
Oh yes, we poll our guests once a month. The Gallup organization sends out 38 percent of guests that stayed the month before. It’s done randomly with the hope we will get 8-10 percent return. We live and die by that guest engagement number. This is the sum of responses to about 30 questions, including How likely is that guest to recommend Ritz Carlton? Were they delighted and satisfied with their stay? If there was a problem, did we take care of their problem? We know that if that guest engagement number goes up, we know that our training programs have been successful.
What are the biggest mistakes companies make when training customer service staff?
There not being specific enough. They’ll say things like “Give great service.” Well that’s nice, but people need a road map. Never assume anything, make sure you have your service standards written down and allow people to observe you in action. Don’t assume that their mother or father, or previous employer taught them what really great service looks like. Have a written service strategy.
What other successful customer service strategies have companies adopted by studying Ritz-Carlton?
It’s all about empowerment. The thing that our guests are most wowed about is that every single employee has $2,000 a day per guest to delight, or make it right. But we never use the money because that money is just symbolic. We are saying to our employees we trust you. We select the best talent. Just help the guest. We do a lot of training around empowerment. So I would say this – you need to empower employees. You also need to make sure that you are inspiring employees to bring their passion to work everyday and to volunteer their best. And you do that by reinforcing their purpose, not their function. Not the how to do your work, but the why of the work you do.
About Diana Oreck Diana Oreck is Vice President, Leadership Center and leads The Ritz-Carlton’s two-time Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award-winning corporate university. She brings more than 30 years of experience in hospitality to her role and was named as a 2011/2012 Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women. Under her leadership The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company was named the best global Training Company in the world in 2007 as ranked by Training Magazine.
About the Author
Ashley Furness is a CRM analyst for Software Advice. has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has appeared in myriad publications including Inc., Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. Before joining Software Advice in 2012, she worked in sales management and advertising. Currently, her research focuses on various topics related to CRM software, sales, customer service and marketing strategy. Follow her on Twitter @AshleyFurness.
This is a guest post written by John-Paul Narowski, founder of karmaCRM. Find out more about John-Paul and his company at the end of the post.
Recently I purchased a book from the local bookstore.
On the way in, I got a friendly “Hi, can I help you find anything?” from a passing employee. I asked where I could find small business books, and she gave me quick directions to the right spot. Perfect. I smiled.
As I approached the checkout counter with the book in one hand and my wallet in the other, the cashier greeted me with a warm smile and a friendly “Hello, I can help you right over here. How are you today?” As I handed over my credit card, the cashier even took note of my name. “Thank you, John. Would you like to sign up for our rewards program?” I smiled again. The service so far was outstanding – it made me feel like my business was truly appreciated.
I normally avoid rewards programs because I don’t like having all of the extra cards in my wallet. But on that day, the service I’d received put me in a great mood. I said yes. Not only did I say yes, but I also imagined returning to the store for my next book and using my loyalty card. After all, this local store was right down the street and everyone was so friendly.
But when I agreed to take the loyalty card, the happy customer service facade came down. It was as if the switch had been flipped off. The cashier (Claire was her name) stopped smiling immediately, and started typing on her computer, presumably bringing up the page where she could enroll me in the rewards program. Then Claire, the very same cashier who smiled, thanked me by name, and asked about my day, scrunched up her eyebrows. She gave me a puzzled look and asked, “what was your name again?”
I’m sure many of you have experienced something similar. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that Claire had been trained to follow a standard “customer service checklist” – one of those 3 step magic bullet systems designed to, in this case, get me to sign up for the rewards program. Smile, say thank you, read the name off of the card, and ask to join. I’m not the only customer that can see right through that – especially when it becomes obvious that the employee wasn’t really listening.
Let it be known – customer service is not a checklist. It’s a philosophy. Each customer deserves special treatment. Checklists don’t make anyone feel special. They just reinforce the fact that we are all treated the same. Checklists are what I like to call “doing the minimum.”
To Claire, forgetting my name was no big deal. To me, Claire represented the local bookstore. As Bill is fond of saying, “To the customer, YOU are the company.” When she forgot my name after her canned 3-step loyalty card checklist, it made a big difference. It was as though the bookstore had already forgotten about me, my money, and my choice to support their local business.
As a small business owner myself, customer service is one of my passions. After all, the customers pay for the employees, the store, the product, the lights, the counter, and everything else. But here’s the kicker. The customers aren’t thinking about all of that. They pay for their experience, not yours.
So why shouldn’t we focus on customer experience? I call this business philosophy customer-centricity. I’ve made it the focus of my entire business. Every decision I make, from hiring and training employees to refining my product, is designed to provide the customer with a better experience.
Next time you catch yourself or your employees following a checklist, ask yourself if the customer feels special. Then do something extra and see if it makes a difference. Grow out of relying on the checklist. Put in that extra effort to make the customer feel special. Trust me – the customer does care, and they are paying attention.
John-Paul Narowski is a customer-centric thought leader and founder of the Ann Arbor, MI-based karmaCRM, a small business software solution designed to help manage sales teams and build strong relationships with customers.
John-Paul, or JP as his friends call him, is fanatical about customer service and the customer-centric business model. Improving customer relationships is his passion and his business. Every decision JP makes at his company, from hiring employees to developing new features for his software, is based upon improving the customer experience.
JP was recently interviewed by fellow customer service expert, Shep Hyken, where he discussed further his customer-centric philosophy. You can read that post here. Find out more about JP and karma at http://www.karmacrm.com. You can also follow karmaCRM on Twitter.