My friend and colleague Bob Burg hits the nail on the head when he says, “while you cannot control the economy…you can absolutely control your economy.” Wise words aren’t they? The lesson is one that many a business, small, large, and all sizes in between would do well to give some serious thought to.
We get caught up in outside sources, those things which we can’t directly control, like how healthy, or unhealthy the economy is. Trust me, I understand the whole “low hanging fruit” argument — and I’ll even concede that in most instances it’s easier to do business and make sales when everyone around us is doing better, unemployment is low, and more people have an abundance of money with which to purchase our products and services.
However, since that’s outside of our control, you and I must ask the all important question, “what in this can I control.” Inside the answer to that question reveals actions which can be taken that will yield positive results. The answers aren’t always obvious, but they always exist provided we are willing to think them through, or reach out to others in the form of research, mentors, or whatever information sources happen to hold the answers we seek.
An often overlooked step that can be taken is to accept the idea that creating amazing customer experiences is a powerful, yet simple way to go about putting yourself leaps and bounds above others in the marketplace.
It’s a no-brainer, but provided you are willing to go beyond lip service, and truly create a culture in your business where everyone (even if you’re the only person in your business right now!) strives to create super cool experiences for your customers, you, and your organization can benefit greatly for choosing to do so.
This is particularly effective because, sadly, in this day and age most businesses don’t do a very good job in the all important area of customer service, or simply don’t even try. Whatever the reason, many companies are falling short in this area, the point you must understand is that if you and your organization are willing to go against the grain, and develop that culture of amazing customer service from top to bottom in your business you will put yourself in a truly enviable place.
You’ll benefit in untold ways, not the least of which will be increased profitability, and strong (yes strong!) ties with your customers because in many cases they will actually take the time to share the positive customer service experiences they have had with your company, letting others that they come into contact with know that they recommend you as a company they know, like, and trust.
If it seems like I’m taking you on some pie in the sky ride into the never, never land of customer service, bear with me. What I’m suggesting is well within the grasp of your organization — and it begins with a simple idea…
Every day, encourage the people in your business, starting with you, to look for and deliver cool customer experiences! The sky is the limit here as to what constitutes a “cool customer experience”, but we’ll delve into some examples and from there you can begin implementing new ones that you come up with, and in-turn start seeing first hand for yourself the vast benefits that exist for those companies that create Powerful Customer Experiences on a daily basis.
Recently I heard a terrific example of powerful customer service in action. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com was telling a story in a presentation where he and some people from his company were out with some vendors. They had been celebrating, when later on in the evening the idea came up that one of the vendors wanted to order a pizza, but because it was late already no places were open. It was brought up, half jokingly to call Zappos, because they’re so well known for their customer service (i.e. creating positive customer experiences).
This wouldn’t be so out of the ordinary, say if Zappos was a pizzeria, but they are a online merchant, best known for selling shoes (while they sell more than shoes, they don’t sell pizza). That said, they made the call anyway, just to have fun and see what would happen. So the vendor calls, and the customer service person on the other end answers the phone, “Thanks for calling Zappos.” “I’d like to order a pizza” the person says. Long pause… “Do you realize you called Zappos.com?” the person says in a bit of a confused tone, kind and friendly, but a tad confused just the same. The person goes on to explain to tell them where they are located, and that they knew they didn’t sell pizza, but since they were known for being so great at creating customer experiences they figured they’d call anyway and see if they could help them with this. Which by the way, I should point out in case you’re wondering, the customer service person had no idea that the CEO of Zappos was involved in the call, as far as they knew it was simply someone randomly calling in to their company — with the most odd of requests. The customer service rep said, “can you hold please.” Several minutes passed by and the person came back on the line with a list of several companies in the area they were located which would deliver pizza. Now that my friends is amazing customer service!
I’ll admit that’s an extreme example of delivering on great customer service, but if you can grasp the enormity that can result from delivering on customer requests you will understand just how much opportunity you can create for yourself and your organization, in-spite of whatever forces outside yourself may exist, such as whether the economy happens to be up or down.
Consider the story above, certainly it was an odd request, and no one would have really faulted the person had they simply said, “I’m sorry, we don’t sell pizza’s” — and hung up and gone on to the next call that was waiting in their customer support cue.
However, because the person who fielded that customer request made the decision to dig a little deeper, and just see if they were capable of delivering on what was being asked of them — a legendary example of amazing customer service was born. A story which is sure to be shared time and time again, with each telling building up untold positive brand awareness for the company behind it — Zappos.
Instead of simply filing the example above some place in your mind, starting now, commit to creating amazing customer experiences ongoing in your business. Every interaction with your customers offers up opportunities to do cool things for them. When you do such things, they will tell others, and in-turn those they share their positive customer experience with will gravitate towards you and your business. Giving you the chance to repeat the process.
Here are some ideas to help put you in the frame of mind necessary to create amazing customer experiences in your organization:
1. Dump the automated call screener — or at least give people the option at the beginning to bypass it and speak to a real life person. I get it, as a business, you think you’re saving money by having a computer route your customer to exactly where they need to go. The problem is, it rarely works out like you think it will, either the automated system can’t understand what everyone is saying (trust me, as someone with a southern accent I can attest to the fact that this can happen :-)) or it simply breaks down in some other part of the process.
You simply can’t imagine how often or easy it is for an otherwise neutral customer to become a frustrated one, simply because they were forced to run the maze of confusion in order to reach an actual person who could answer a simple question for them.
In a word, dump the computer, get a live person, or at least give folks an immediate option to choose a live person or remain in the automated process if they choose to do so. Make it easy. It’s amazing to me even today that doing this simple step can literally put a company above the competition, but that’s how rampant this example of terrible customer experience has gotten. Do the opposite and you will endear your customers to you with very little effort.
2. When someone has a problem do something extra special to let them know you appreciate them. Sure, in most cases fixing the problem is enough (it’s also expected) — but doing just enough isn’t going to put you on par as being known for amazing customer experiences. So lets go the extra mile a bit. One example could be including a gift certificate along with their order, or mailed to the customer along with a note saying, “we do appreciate you, we messed up (if you did in fact mess up) and wanted to give you this gift certificate (or whatever you send them) to let you know we truly do appreciate your support.”
The point is you’re acknowledging them and letting them know they truly are appreciated. Let me tell you, if you think that’s too much trouble, you’d do well to change that line of thinking because in this day and age your customer can become someone else’s in the time if would have taken you to say “I appreciate you as a customer”.
There are countless different things you could do based on the above example. The main point is to do something. Try different things, track what seems to get the biggest response and appreciation and then do more of that. If you have customer service people, as well anyone in your company you need to develop a culture where everyone really understands, and is empowered to create amazing customer experiences whenever the opportunity to do so pops up.
3. Acknowledge your customer in kind and cool ways on special occasions and just because. Send birthday cards (along with a gift card, one of your products, or just the card if that’s all you can swing) or a card or note acknowledging some special event, think: holidays, anniversaries, etc. — speaking of which, that’s where it comes in handy to keep up with that information in your company records, not just for marketing purposes (i.e. don’t just send another offer!) but rather to do truly cool things for them. You could make a point to reach out and thank your customers in some random way.
Imagine what a positive feeling a customer would get if they received a note from your company that said something like, “you’ve been a customer for a year now. We’re honored that you’ve allowed us to serve you and hope you will allow us to continue to do so. As our way of saying thank you please accept this “insert whatever gift you’d like to include”. Can you see the power in that? Can you see how your customer would likely share that story with several people they know? They will, believe me!
The opportunities to create such positive customer experiences are limitless, but they require a little creativity (not a lot) and action on your part to actually do the things we’ve discussed in a consistent manner.
I have outlined a few ideas above for you. Now it’s up to you to go beyond the ideas we discussed, get creative, begin testing, and watch in amazement as your customers share your positive customer experience stories with others.
The sky is the limit when you truly put your customers first. When you put into practice the ideas above you can quickly begin to create the kind of bond between yourself and your customers that makes it hard for your competitors to take them away from you.
Don’t just tell your customers you appreciate them through advertising, press releases, and marketing. Show them in your day day customer interactions.
It’s your life, LIVE BIG!
-What do you think of the ideas above? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.