Do You Provide Award Winning Customer Service?
We’ve been hinting for some time that we’d talk a bit about the “other” side of customer service. This is a simple but incredibly powerful concept that has revolutionized some businesses ... and it could be life changing for yours!
We all know how important customer service is. There are others who sell what we sell, others who make what we make, others who provide similar services to those we provide. So almost every business is forced to compete. Some compete on price, some on quality, some on convenience, some on speed, but almost no matter which of these aspects you focus on, you still need to provide great customer service or risk two big negatives: (1) loss of prospects and existing customers; and (2) reputation losses. In today’s world of social media and global connectedness, reputation losses can be swift and brutal. Here’s a quick example:
The Inflection Point ... Are You Winning or Losing?
Just a few days ago, a local business owner who’s a Facebook friend of ours went to a local furniture store about 10 minutes before their posted closing time. Just as she approached the door, the salesperson was locking up for the evening. Our friend asked if there was any way she could take just a few minutes to look at the merchandise, especially since she had made a special trip, and that she had a specific item in mind so it wouldn’t take long.
The salesperson said, “no,” and indicated that the store was closed. When our friend pointed out that it was not yet the posted closing time, the salesperson basically said, “too bad.” As you can imagine, that did not create a warm, fuzzy feeling for our friend.
Within a few hours, about 300 people had seen a short post on Facebook by our friend lamenting the experience and wondering whether others had encountered similar actions at the store. Indeed, they had, and as a result a large number of people now heard about several bad experiences at this particular store. Since our friend is well liked, the outpouring of sympathy and support was large.
Moments like that can be an inflection point for some businesses, especially small, local businesses with little room for error in their income/expense ratio. Just imagine how different the effect on their reputation would have been had the salesperson stopped, said, “you know, you’re important to us, so I’m going to stay open a few extra minutes,” taken the time to show our friend around the store, perhaps offered a good cup of coffee, and even dug up a coupon or otherwise created a sense that our friend was special and that her needs were understood. If that experience had been shared, it could have been an entirely different kind of inflection point ... one that could have helped the store turn the corner to a whole new level of business!
If you take away nothing else from this article, remember how critical it is to treat your prospects and customers well!
The Other Side is the One to Think About First!
But there’s another side to this business of customer service, and one that a lot of business people seem to neglect – that it’s critical to understand who your best customers are and to make sure you’re appealing to them – not just those who are already shopping with you, but those who are still looking around for a place to do business. Many business owners who go through our strategy and planning sessions recognize that they’re been engaging in indiscriminate marketing and, as a result, they have to sort through a lot of prospects who don’t fit with their unique style. It can also mean customer relationships that go bad over time because the two parties came together without a clear understanding of what the experience was going to be like.
This is a much deeper topic than we can cover fully in this article, but it’s so critical that we help you understand that the purpose of marketing is much more than just getting the word out that you offer stuff and that your stuff is great. If you take the time to identify not only what kinds of customers are likely to buy what you sell, but also what kind of customers you really want to do business with and what the relationship will look like over time, then make sure those aspects are clear in your marketing, you can not only build your business, but “tune” what kinds of people you do business with and their expectations.
The magic of this approach is that – with a little more thought and effort at the beginning – you can have a much better life because you’re doing business with people who like what you offer, who understand your reasons for your prices or processes, who share common interests, and who are more likely to be profitable and less likely to be a pain in the you know what!
Real Action Items for your Marketing Team
So what are some things you can do to attract the right kinds of customers for the long term?
- Tell them what to expect. “Our process includes 7 critical steps each month that require your input.”
- Tell them success stories. “Hey, the customers we serve best look like this ...”
- Tell them stories of struggle. “We don’t well with everybody. Customers whose primary focus is price don’t fit will with the kind of service we deliver.”
- Show how your style produces results. “Some people don’t understand why we do XYZ. Here’s why those steps are critical to their success!”
- Use graphics to help tell the story. It’s amazing how many businesses we see that use stock photos or generic graphics that don’t match either their own aesthetic or the aesthetic of the customers they really want. Create an atmosphere with all your marketing that attracts the right kinds of business!
- If you have an information gathering process, front load it. Get prospects to go through a strategy and planning meeting before you hire them as customers. That way, you can measure their commitment to the level of effort you need from them over the long term.
- Co-Create a work plan. If your work is likely to extend over weeks, months or years, it’s very helpful up front to establish standards together for delivery, completion and deadlines. But it’s even more helpful if your customer has taken part in establishing those standards. That gives them buy-in from the beginning and is much more likely to result in them understand why something needs to be done a certain way later in the process.
Don’t Have a Marketing Team? Is Yours Effective and Cost Effective?
We work with businesses of many sizes, from one or two person offices to multi-million dollar international businesses. Some have no marketing team, some have a part time employee who tries to run their marketing, and some have full blown marketing teams. If you’re a business owner, ask yourself this: “Am I getting a good return on my investment, taking into account not only what I have to pay my marketing vendors (ad placements, pay-per-click, website hosting, business listings, mailings, brochures, etc.) but also what I’m paying my marketing person/team?”
You might be stunned at how often the answer is either “no!” or “I don’t know!”
Don’t be that guy (or gal). Dig in to understand how to get better at your marketing, or to help your team get better. If it makes sense for you to look outside the office to build the reputation you want, we’d love to help you understand what that looks like.
Meanwhile, don’t forget ... great marketing can transform your business both inside and out. It all starts with making sure you know exactly what you’re aiming for.
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