Category Archives: Customer Loyalty

February 14: Customer “Show Your Love” Day

In our personal relationships, while we love those close to us as much everyday, Valentine’s Day gives us an opportunity to express it in a special way. And if you don’t think that it’s important to proclaim “I love you” to your significant other on Valentine’s Day, just try missing one. It should be no different for your customer relationships. People like to buy from people who want their business. And while you don’t take any customer for granted, Valentine’s Day is a great occasion to express your appreciation to your loyal customers. Make this day “Show Your Love” Day for your customers. What could you do on Valentine’s Day to offer a special “thank you” for their continued patronage and support of your business?

With that in mind, here is my Top Ten list of Valentine’s Day inspired quotes that can serve you well as reminders on how to “show your love” to your customers.

Love is doing what is best for a person regardless of the cost or response. R. Robert Flatt

The first duty of love is to listen.  Paul Tillich

Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get, it’s what you are expected to give — which is everything.  Anonymous

Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own. Robert Heinlein

Get not your friends by bare compliments, but by giving them sensible tokens of your love. Socrates

We too often love things and use people, when we should be using things and loving people. Anonymous

Anyone can catch your eye, but it takes someone special to catch your heart.  Anonymous

Love is like a tennis match; you’ll never win consistently until you learn to serve well. Dan P. Herod

Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing. Mother Teresa

That best little portion of a good man’s life – his little nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love.  William Wordsworth

Whether you are following me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or via this blog, I see you as my customers. So on this day, as sincerely as these written words can express, I really do appreciate your continued support. Thank you very much and Happy “Show Your Love” Day.

Now what can you do today to “show your love” to those who surround you in your business and those loyal customers who made you successful?

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Just because you don’t think it’s a big deal, it’s a BIG DEAL!

“Just because you don’t think it’s a big deal doesn’t mean your customer doesn’t think it’s a big deal. When your customer says it’s a big deal, it’s a big deal. And even when your customer says “It’s no big deal,” it’s still a big deal. Or why would they bring it up?” – Kristin Anderson, Performance Research Associates

Customers are paying for their experience, not your service. And customers buy with emotion and justify that decision with reason.

Several weeks ago, I was shopping in the local vitamin shop when I overheard a customer tell the cashier, “I think someone just left their credit card.” The cashier says, “It might be that woman’s,” and points to the lady outside just about to get into her car. It was very obvious the cashier wasn’t going to do anything else so the customer took the card and practically ran out to ask. It wasn’t hers. The customer brought it back, left it on the counter, and went about shopping in the store. The card was still on the counter when he went back with his purchase. The customer picked it up and placed it behind the counter. The cashier just left it there. He didn’t stick in the register. He didn’t give it to the manager. Nothing. That cashier didn’t get it. To that cashier, it was simply a piece of plastic. To him, no big deal. To us, as customers, credit cards are unbelievably valuable. If we ever misplace a credit card, let alone lose one, we panic. To us, it’s a BIG DEAL!

Last Saturday, while I was at home, my wife lost her keys at the local Walmart. Her keys were her car keys, the condo apartment keys, and the remote of the complex security gate. Fortunately, she had taken my car keys, but she had panicked and asked if anyone had found her keys. The Walmart service people had not and after searching for them throughout the store, told her they could call her back if they found her keys. Even though she was safely back home, she was distraught. After an hour she called, but they had not yet found them. Minutes later, we received a call to tell her that she could pick up her keys. We quickly came back and when we arrived, the supervisor exclaimed, “We found it!” and the security guard gave the keys to us. My wife was ecstatic, thanking them many times over.

As a customer, you know that we don’t buy from companies; we still buy from people. And we buy from people we know, like and trust. In just reading about what happened in the vitamin shop, you see as I see, as a customer, that the cashier is the store. And that one act that he does not think was at all important to him is the snapshot we take of that business. To the customer who found it, to the customer who hopefully will claim her card, and to me, we are all questioning the trust we can have for that store. And that mental snapshot stays with us until another snapshot of that business replaces it. In fact, for some customers, it may take a motion picture of positive impressions before that one snapshot is deleted. It takes 12 positive service incidents to make up for one negative incident. And some customers who have a bad experience may never give a business a second chance, opting simply to walk away, intent on never coming back.

To many customers, shopping at Walmart is satisfactory. Satisfied customers feel service is good, not better, just average. Nobody raves about average. And satisfied customers will leave when they find something better or less expensive. Walmart may lose many keys in a week, so much so, that service people may think keys are no big deal. But, like customers who lose their keys, my wife feels that those keys were a BIG DEAL to her. Customers have an emotional connection with you. The more emotional the connections, the more memorable the experiences, the more loyal the customers. And loyal customers will return again and again, raving about you to others along the way. 

QUI TAKEAWAY: Put on your customer experience hat. When you serve customers remember, “To the customer, you are not the representative of the company. You ARE the company”. If you are a customer service manager, reinforce to your team that each interaction with a single customer represents all of you as a business. Every act of any one individual is a customer’s snapshot of your company’s likability and trust. And every act, no matter how small, is a BIG DEAL. Customers don’t know how big you are. They only know how big you care about them.

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Great Service is Great Theater

Great TheaterIn their book, The Experience Economy, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore define that “Work is theater and every business a stage.” If you were an actor delivering a great live theatrical performance, the audience becomes wrapped up in the experience and as they walk out of the theater, they are telling their friends that it was the best thing that they’ve enjoyed in a long time.

It does not matter to the audience that the actors are performing for the 100th time. The audience has paid very good money to see the show and expect that the actors will deliver their performance with the same passion as on opening night. Your customers expect nothing less. As it is in Great Theater, you have to “act it like you mean it”. Do not confuse this with “fake it until you make it”. Your customers, like any audience, can see right through that kind of performance. Do you always feel like working every day, five days a week, 8-10 hours a day, on your birthday, the holidays or even on scheduled days off? Of course not. But do you think the customer really cares how you feel? Of course not! No customer walks into your establishment with an expectation of being dissatisfied. So you have to deliver Great Theater every day whether you feel like it or not.

When you perfect the delivery of the script, you perfect your performance. Break down your customer experience, act it like you mean it and deliver Great Theater. For example:

ACT ONE. Scene One.

 The Customer enters from offstage.

SERVICE PROVIDER: “Good afternoon, how may I help you?”

Motivation: Never say “May I help you?” If the customer is standing in front of you, he obviously needs help or he would have bypassed you completely.

CUSTOMER: “I believe I have a reservation. Last name is Smith.”

SERVICE PROVIDER: “Yes, Mr. Smith, we’ve been expecting you. Welcome to The Best.”

Direction: Maintain eye contact for at least seven seconds and smile as you say your lines.

Motivation:

  • As Dale Carnegie says in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” So start with the customer’s name.
  • What do you think is the very first question running through the mind of a customer when coming up to an airline counter, front desk, host stand, or reception desk? That question is, “I wonder if they have my reservation?” So to establish a great first impression, incorporate this statement into your welcome, “We’ve been expecting you.” It immediately removes that mental dissatisfier and puts the customer at ease.
  • Follow that up with the name of your business.

Let it all flow together.

“Mr. Smith” (you’re very important to us). “We’ve been expecting you.” (No need to worry about your reservation. We have it.) “Welcome to . . .” (Where did Mr. Smith feel the most comfortable in interacting with a company? With you, of course. )

QUI TAKEAWAY: Define each scene in the customer experience and practice it often off stage. Never practice on the customer. Then perform your role so well that all your customers say to themselves and others that your service was the best that they have enjoyed in a long time. And when you deliver that kind of Great Theater performance consistently, you will build repeat business and customer loyalty.

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No Surprises. No Excuses.

Displeased young girl has a serious conversation with the hairdresser

“Customers perceive service in their own unique, idiosyncratic, emotional, irrational, end-of-the-day, and totally human terms. Perception is all there is!”

Tom Peters

When your customers call or walk into your establishment, they already have a perceived expectation of what your customer experience should be. Your advertising, website and salespeople, which serve a promise to your customers, have already shaped that expectation. Deliver on that promise and your customers come to trust you. Fall short and you have broken that promise and trust. For example, a restaurant menu is a promise to your customers that what is printed on the menu is what you have to offer. If you have to tell a customer that he has an old menu, the new menus haven’t been delivered by the printer and the dry-aged steak is not on the new menu, then to the customer, you failed. He doesn’t care about the printer. All he cares about is his steak. And you failed to deliver it. And his perception is all there is.

Customers don’t care that it’s your first day on the job. They don’t care that you are understaffed because someone called in sick. Customers don’t care that the computers were down when they called.  They only care that they are your customers.  They are willing to give you their hard-earned money in exchange for an experience that they feel is more valuable to them than their money.  And when they come to you, they never have an expectation that they will be dissatisfied.

So how do you live up to your customers’ expectations? At the very least the customer experience you deliver should be with no surprises and no excuses. To your customers, any experience less than their expectation is perceived as a dissatisfying surprise. And any reason you offer to explain why you could not deliver is perceived as an excuse. And their perception is all there is.

So do everything you can to make sure there are no negative surprises. Get rid of any potential dissatisfiers.  For example, remove forbidden phrases such as “I’ll be back in a second,” Can you hold for just a minute?” and “I’ll be right with you.” Such phrases only frustrate a customer when more than 60 seconds go by.  Review all the customer touchpoints and take any negative issue and make it a neutral.  Minimize wait times. Clean dirty restrooms. Create “no hassle” return or exchange policies.  Then, as Larry Winget, the Pitbull of Personal Development puts it, “Do what you said you would do, when you said you would do it, the way you said you would do it.”  That’s it. It’s that simple.  Just “do what you said you would do, when you said you would do it, the way you said you would do it.”

And if the customer is unpleasantly surprised because you could not deliver, then offer no excuses. Simply apologize. Even if the customer asks for a reason, just say, “It doesn’t matter. We failed. It should never have happened and I apologize.” Remove the surprise and offer some form of atonement.

QUI TAKEAWAY: To drive customer loyalty, deliver to each customer an experience that has “No Surprises. No Excuses.”

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Your Satisfied Customers Are Leaving You

Too often, the only way a business asks for customer feedback is with the question, “How was everything?” And for many owners and managers, the response “Everything was fine.” is enough. If you are one of those who is satisfied with “Fine”, then know that your customers are leaving you.

Be Your Customer. You hear of a new restaurant in town. You decide to try it out. There is no hostess upon arrival. When she does return back to the stand five minutes later, she curtly asks “How many?” with no other greeting. During service the server wasn’t rude, but he certainly wasn’t exceptional. The meal took slightly longer to be served than you expected. The beverages were never refilled until you asked. Yet when the manager comes up to the table and asks, “So how is everything?”, what do you say? “Fine.” The manager is thinking, “Another satisfied customer,” but you’re thinking to yourself, “Never again.” Your customers are no different. If service is only adequate, there is no real desire to return.

Maybe that’s too harsh. What I’m saying is that if your customers perceive your service as merely satisfactory, it simply is not good enough for them to want to return. They’re perfectly satisfied for the moment, but they’ll switch to a competitor if something better or less comes along.

Loyalty among satisfied customers is fleeting. In fact, research conducted by Xerox and featured in a Harvard Business Review report by Thomas Jones and W. Earl Sasser, Jr. found out that on a 1-to-5 satisfaction scale, the very satisfied customers who ranked their experience a 4 were six times more likely to defect than the extremely satisfied customer who rated their experience a 5. Creating only satisfied customers will not build your business. In fact, if you are only creating satisfied customers, your business will suffer. Proof? How about Circuit City versus Best Buy? Borders versus Barnes and Noble? KMart versus Wal-mart?

Does your product have such an overwhelming quality or price advantage that your customers won’t consider your competitor? If not, then the key criteria to driving loyalty will be how your customers perceive their overall service experience.

If you want to retain your customers and grow your business, you need to deliver service that exceeds their expectations and more than satisfies them. So how do you do it? You must deliver a consistent experience without any dissatisfiers and full of positive Moments of Truth.

So what is the QUI takeaway in this one? Continue to ask the question, “How was your experience?” And when a customer responds, “Fine,” immediately ask, “Is there any one thing we could have done to make it more enjoyable for you?” Then do whatever it takes to deliver it before he has a chance to walk out the door.

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To be the World’s Best, Be Your Customer.

How do you get your customers to feel that their experience with your business is so over the top that they want to tell the world? In order for them to be WOWED, you have to answer this question for your customer “What would World’s Best look like?” or “WWWBLL”. The “World’s Best” experience is not as “the world” thinks it, but as the customer personally feels it. 

The customer pays for his experience. And he seeks the best value in his experience for the price you are asking him to pay. So a person living in Detroit who has a five-figure salary feels the best value isn’t a luxury plane to the Swiss Alps, but rather a four-hour drive to Boyne Mountain.

Once you understand the expectation of WWWBLL for your customer, then you need to deliver that experience consistently. There are Three Principles to answering the WWWBLL question: Be Your Customer. Create Their Experience. Be the Difference.

Principle One of the WWWBLL Experience: Be Your Customer

To your customers, their perception is their reality. Jan Carlzon, then president of SAS Airlines, coined the phrase “Moment of Truth,” which defined any time a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business, and based upon the collective sum of those “Moments of Truth” forms an unshakeable perception of that company.

Why is the male grooming standard at Disney theme parks so strict? If children are not brought to Walt Disney World by their parents, they are brought by their grandparents. Ask Grandma if she would leave her grandchild in the care of the teen attendant with visible body tattoos, long hair, unshaven beard, and multiple body piercings – a Moment of Truth. Grandma may not say it, but she’s certainly thinking, “Of course not! If he’s not doing drugs, he’s probably selling drugs.” That attendant could be Disney’s Cast Member of the Month. It doesn’t matter. Grandma’s perception is her reality.

If you dine in a restaurant for the first time, have a decent meal, but, at the end, step into the restroom – a Moment of Truth – and you find it filthy, you may not return. You are thinking to yourself, “If the owner doesn’t feel restroom cleanliness is important, he probably doesn’t think it’s important in the kitchen either.” Your perception is that if the restroom looks and smells this bad, then how clean could the kitchen be. And your perception is your reality.

Customers buy with emotion and justify that decision with reason. Customers are willing to pay a premium because emotionally it makes them feel better. Think about a Four Star resort spa experience. The reality is that you will go into a private room and take off all your clothes. A complete stranger is going to come into that room and for fifty minutes touch you all over your body. And for that experience you are going to pay the spa about a hundred dollars. Realistically why would you do that? Because emotionally you believe you feel so much more relaxed, it was worth it. Your perception is your reality.

If you want to relax at home, envision yourself in a “Calgon, Take Me Away” moment, soaking in a bubble bath, surrounded by candles and listening to Kenny G. You can go to any dollar store and buy a pack of ten emergency candles for a dollar. That makes each candle just ten cents – very reasonable. But for some of you, that is laughable. If you are going to relax, dollar store candles just won’t do. You’ll go back to that spa and get one of their scented candles. The spa sells their candles for ten dollars each. You could get one hundred dollar store candles for the price of just one spa candle. One hundred candles! You could have a bonfire in the bathroom with those candles! But which candle would make you feel better? You’d say it’s because the spa candle smells like mango-papaya. I could tell you that you could go back to the dollar store to buy air fresheners, pop them open and put them all over the bathroom. But you’d respond that it just wouldn’t feel the same as how the spa candle would make you feel. And as hard as I might argue, your perception is your reality. You, thinking like a customer, are willing to pay a premium because it makes you feel better. Now you are being your customer.

QUI TAKEAWAY: Your customers’ perceptions are their reality and they buy with emotion. Their expectation of customer service is no different. Maya Angelou said it best, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” If your customers’ Moments of Truth interactions with your business are “wow’s” and, in the end, they feel great, they will be sure to tell their world of family and friends. So how do you create an experience that will emotionally bond your customer to your company?

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WWWBLL’s wobble but they don’t fall down.

The customer service business is full of acronyms and abbreviations: CSAT, CEM, KPI, NPS.  For those who want to drive their companies to stand above their competition, let me add one more – WWWBLL. “WWWBLL” is pronounced “Weeble” just like the roly-poly toys. The toys’ tagline was “Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down.” WWWBLL stands for “What Would World’s Best Look Like?” And just like Weebles, the World’s Best companies may wobble in this economy but they certainly won’t fall down. So to stand above your competition, define “What would World’s Best look like” for your customer and then work very hard to deliver it.

Customers make a buying decision on three criteria: cost, location and reputation. According to Ken Irons in Market Leader, 70% of a brand’s reputation is based on the customer’s perception of the interaction they have with people. Nowadays it is not only your customers’ personal interactions and subsequent word-of-mouth advertising that will drive your reputation; it is also the viral impact when those interactions are posted on social media sites like TripAdvisor, Twitter, Facebook, or Yelp. Times have certainly changed when all you had to do to build your reputation was to include handpicked testimonials in your sales packets or advertisements. Now customers reading these third-party sites take the reviews as gospel from people they have never and most likely will never meet. Communications expert Michael Angelo Caruso has identified this tendency of web surfers, “If they hear it from us it is advertising. If they hear it from someone else, it’s the truth.”

If you are in their preferred location and if your reputation is WWWBLL, then customers will come back and tell others about you. The only way to drive such rave reviews is by having your customers feel that the experience you offered was so over the top that they want to tell the world. So how do you do that? How do you create a customer experience that answers the question “What Would World’s Best look like? There are Three Principles: Be Your Customer. Create Their Experience. Make a Difference.

 

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The customer is paying for his experience, not yours.

Customer Satisfaction Blue Grey HorizontalThe 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. An 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 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:

  1. No Surprises.
  2. No Excuses.
  3. 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. Be the Customer. The menu was actually our promise in writing. If the customer orders and the server says they have just run out of it, then it is 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. Be 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. Be the customer. 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.

QUI TAKEAWAY: 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.

 

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