Lucky's Blog

Monday, August 27, 2012

Customer Service Squared

Customer Service is my passion. For over two and a half decades I have spent most of my career trying to provide the Ultimate Customer Experience to my customers. Whether you call it the WOW factor,  plus one, blowing your customers away, or any other of the latest trendy catch phrases, it all comes down to one thing. What are you going to do to make your customer feel special? If you don’t know the answer to this, you better start figuring it out. Competition is stronger now than it has ever been and if you are not willing to take the time to make your customers feel special, your competition will.
Many companies put their focus on new business, profits, production, or a whole laundry list of other metrics that affect their bottom line. However, the most important thing you will ever do to help your bottom line is to make your customers feel special. A legion of customers who are as dedicated to your service as you are to their needs, will result in an army of satisfied customers singing your praises from the mountain tops, which will bring in more new business than a team of sales people and a huge marketing budget.
The sad part is that very few companies take the time to exercise this very impactful process. In fact, quite the contrary seems to be the norm. It seems that most companies take their customers for granted. It is like, “Got-em, who’s next?” There doesn’t seem to be any focus on creating cost effective solutions, getting to know your customer’s business model and how you can help them be more competitive, or taking the time to listen to what the customers are saying. If you want to provide a better customer experience, the first step is to stop selling and start listening. The second step is, make them feel special!
Just the other day I was in Virginia doing a QC check on our team members. I walked into our customer’s store (a National big box home improvement chain) and asked to speak with the manager. A man named Trevor came out and asked if he could help me. I explained to him who I was and that I was there to perform a QC check on the work we had done in his store. Trevor looked perplexed as I started asking him questions such as, did our technicians introduce themselves? and did they let him know what areas would be effected before they started their work? As Trevor nodded his head in affirmation, his affect changed and he said “Stop!… Let me make sure I understand you correctly. You are here just to check on the work your technicians did?”
I said, “Correct.”
Trevor then asked if I was trying to sell him something, I said, “No, I am just making sure that my team members are performing to the standards I have set for them and that you are happy with their performance.”
 As he continued to look at the business card I had handed him when I introduced myself, he said, “And you traveled all the way from Tampa to inspect their work?” I explained that I had many other stops, but yes, I was here to check on the work my Virginia team is doing. Trevor’s face started to relax and he began to smile. He said, “Do you realize that I have been a manager with this company for over ten years and in that time I have dealt with literally thousands of companies who came out to perform service on our store? Not once in the ten years I have been here has one company ever sent someone back to check on the work that was done, let alone someone of your status in the company, or from as far as you have come.” We then continued to walk the store together and look at the work my team had performed. Trevor was very complimentary about my team members and went on to tell me how impressed he was with the respect they showed the customers and how little impact they had on the store’s operation. Once completed Trevor told me what a pleasure it was meeting me and thanked me for my visit. I told him the pleasure was all mine and was on my way.
As I was driving to my next QC location, I couldn’t get Trevor’s words out of my head. How is it possible that such a high level customer has never had another company do a follow up visit for such an extended period of time? While I felt pretty confident that I had made Trevor feel special, that wasn’t the original intent. We have several steps we have included in our overall process to insure that our customers feel special as well as some steps that result in unexpected admiration. But the truth is that we really do care and there is no trick or process that can have the same results. Either you genuinely care or you don’t.
Take a minute and really think about this course of events. If a customer of this level, that has such a high level profile, is not getting even the basic care of a follow up, what does that say about smaller customers? If you are looking for a place to differentiate yourself from the rest of the market, customer care seems to be a place with plenty of room for new players.
When you consider the amount of effort, time, and money, it takes to land a customer, it boggles my imagination why you wouldn’t use everything in your arsenal to keep them. While I am the first to admit that I am a little OCD about quality and customer service, and I hold my team to a much higher standard than the industry trend, I will never understand why companies don’t put their primary focus on building the customer relations they already have in place. As long as it takes to earn the business of your customers it only takes seconds to lose them. So stop running specials and start treating your customers like they are special.  Remember there are multitudes of your competitors just waiting for you to slip up so they can get their chance. The long lasting effects of actually caring for your customers and making them feel as special as they truly are will propel your business through the rough times and help you soar long after our economic recovery.

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