Without cheering customers, your business will not stay alive. You can feature advantage benefit them to death and give them 10%off, reduce prices and spend millions on advertising, but as long as your customers are not singing your praises, your company will go down in a blaze of flames.
Creating cheerleader customers is not about getting them to come back. It is not about getting them to talk good about you. It is all about creating monsters that sing your praises from the hills to their friends until their friends have not lived until they have used your service. If you have done this once and the second tier of customers are awestruck from your services and pry their friends to use your service, you are really in business.
Fast talking promise making smooth talking smoke signals can sell them once. But it will be your performance on the stage that reels in the 3rd generation customer. In other words, the time you spend servicing your customers is like a movie production. You have the set, the stage, the actors, the marketing, the extras, etc… It all begins with the first scene at the first telephone call. Even before that is what “they” say about your company. How may I help you? How do you make your customers squeal with delight to their friends? The essence of good customer service is almost like forming third party in a relationship with customers. There’s the customer, you and there is the you-customer which is hopefully a relationship that that individual customer feels that he would like to pursue.
How do you go about forming such a relationship? That third party is a small seedling. You are strong. The customer is strong, but the third party is but a mere seedling in brand new soil in a pot. Too much water, no sunlight, move it around too much, water it too little, raise the temperature too much or too little and that little seedling will be nothing but rotten mush. How do you make it hum? How do we grow it into a massive oak? Its complicated. You will be judged mostly by what you do, and not what you say.
Providing good customer service IS a simple thing. If you truly want to have good customer service, ensure that your all of the players, set, scenes, tempo, advertising and other parts of your business consistently do these things:
1) Answer your phone like it’s the person on caller id’s birthday.
Get call forwarding. Hire staff if you need to. But make sure that someone is picking up the phone when someone calls your business. (Notice I say “someone”. People who call have come to accept that they will have to talk to a fake recorded robot.) Get a script and make it exciting and if the person answering the phone does not want a part in the play then you need to have open rehearsal and get someone else right now.
2) Under promise and over deliver.
Don’t just try to keep them. Wipe them out with your-zealous enriching attitude towards making them long term praise singers of your services. Reliability is one of the keys to any good relationship, and good customer service is not an exception. If you say, “Your new carpet will be installed on Thursday”, make sure it is delivered on Thursday with a bow on it, a thank you letter from the salesperson and the option to have it scotchguarded in the next 2 weeks. Otherwise, don’t say it. The same rule applies to client appointments, deadlines, etc.. Think before you give any promise – because nothing annoys customers more than a broken one.
3) If your customers mouth is moving, then that means you are listening.
How do you feel when your wife or husband makes you repeat something because they were too entranced by the television to listen? Even worse, if they acted like they were listening and were just trying to get you out of the room. What if you were to pick up on something simple that they say like “My son is always talking about the New Orleans Saints.” Show up with a Drew Brees (possibly the greatest quarterback ever) tee shirt at the next meeting and you will be the shizzle! Can the sales pitches and the product babble. Let your customer talk and show him that you are listening by making the appropriate responses, such as simply suggesting how to solve the problem. Repeat what they said 20 minutes ago or in a phone conversation. Listen to them like if you repeat what they say, you will get a ticket to ride freedom train.
4) Let them complain. Hear them out thoroughly and do the best to resolve the conflict.
You can hear the sales team in the cafeteria… “You can’t please all the people all the time”. Maybe not, but if you give the complaint your attention, you may be able to please this one person this one time – and position your business to reap the benefits of good customer service. In fact, most people will be happy with you if you heard what they said and resolve the issue throughout your company and that no other customer will have to endure the same treatment. Why would you ever want the same thing to happen again anyway? Ask them how it may have been better had you come at it from a different approach? Get the customer on your side and look at it from the same angle. Sometimes that angle will expose a major flaw and the only way to make them happy is to bite the big one. Bite it this time and when they or their audience comes back, that third party called relationship will take root and you will be happy.
5) Help people-even in ways that don’t benefit you.
The control arm broke on my automatic gate opener about two months ago. I called the manufacturer and they said that I had to ship it to them and they would see if they would repair it or send me another one. Well, I remember that a salesperson at Tractor Supply had taken the time to get to know me a little at the point of sale. I called him up and guess what? They said just bring it in and we will give you another one. I didn’t get the new box, but they took care of the whole thing for me. Tractor Supply is in Plaquemine which is about 45 minutes from Baton Rouge where I live. Where do you think I will buy whatever I need from? What did I just do? I guess that makes me a Raving Fan.
6) All of the players in your cast must be helpful, courteous, and knowledgeable.
Train them yourself or hire someone to train them. Train them enough to give every member of your staff enough information and power to make those small cheerleader creating decisions, so he never has to say those shaking in the boots words, “I don’t know, but my manager will be back after lunch and I will ask them.”
7) Go an extra mile or 100!
Take the customer to the item in your store. Answer any and all of their questions and then take them to the next item. You know what the extra step is. It is the one that will cause you to lose track of what you are doing that is not creating cheerleader customers. If you want to provide good customer service, carry the bags to their car, suggest other options to solve the same problem… They may not say so to you, but people notice when people make an extra effort and will tell other people.
8) Throw them something, Mistah and you can dance with their Sistah (or at least sell to them).
Discount coupons for future purchase, instruction videos on how to use the product, even a good old goofy peaceful smile. People do not feel good about themselves unless they feel they at least got a good deal. The large gestures are no more effective than the ones that didn’t take much. Attach some extra o-rings to the garden hose or give them a few extra copies for good measure. It’s a small thing to you, but the one that gets the extra copy will probably use your services too.
Become branded by your customer service. Creating consistently cheering customers will bring in more new customers than promotions, advertising and price slashing ever did!