Don’t worry about serving your customers. Somebody else in another company is always willing to do it.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional, a manager, a support person, a sales person, a housewife, or househusband. You’ve got a customer somewhere. You’re in the customer service business. And your success as a person or your survival as an organization will largely be determined by how well you do in customer service.
One of the key variables in that success or survival will be what your customers say about you. Make no mistake about it. Your customers will talk. In fact they’ll talk to lots of people about you and your service. The question is, “Will that talk be positive or negative?”
Most research says that most of the comments people make about customer service are negative comments. I don’t know if that means there is more bad service than good service out there, or if people just get a bigger kick out of sharing their war stories. Whatever the case, you can’t afford that kind of negative publicity.
It’s like the political candidate who had been talking on and on for about an hour. Finally, he asked, “Are there any questions?”
“Yes,” came a voice from the rear. “Who else is running?” You can’t afford that kind of publicity.
Unfortunately, some of the negative talk is warranted. Despite the fact that every research study says people want customer service to be as timely as possible, many organizations ignore the research.
For example, you can go into a retail establishment and see twelve checkout lines but never see more than one or two open for service. There seems to be a rule in some places of business that no matter how many customers come through the door, there can only be one person working to help those customers. Or you can go to your drive-in bank where they have eight lanes of “service” but only two or three are ever staffed. So no wonder there’s a lot of negative talk about customer service.
There is good news, however. After fifty years of market research and billions of dollars spent on advertising, one thing is very clear. Positive, word-of-mouth advertising is by far the cheapest and best way to maintain or grow your business. As I said above, your customers will talk. All you’ve got to do is make sure their talk is positive.
How do you do that? TREAT EVERY CUSTOMER LIKE ROYALTY. Treat everyone all the time like royalty. Give them the same respect, politeness, and promptness you would give to royalty. As keynote speaker Patricia Fripp says: “If you roll out the red carpet for a billionaire, they won’t even notice it. If you roll out the red carpet for a millionaire, they expect it. If you roll out the red carpet for a thousandaire, they notice it, but if you roll out the red carpet for a hundredaire, they tell everybody they know.”
If the concept of “royalty” doesn’t work for you, or if the concept is a little hard to grasp, let me phrase it another way. My wife and I were driving through Atlanta en route to our Florida office, and we saw a great advertising billboard that summed it up very well. It said, “We treat you like a person, not road kill.”
More specifically, GO OUT OF YOUR WAY TO LEAVE AN INDELIBLE, PLEASING IMPRESSION. As Art Sobczak, the number one telesales trainer in the country says, “First impressions are lasting impressions.” So do whatever you can to leave a great impression after that first sale with a customer.
Perhaps you could under-promise and over-deliver. In other words, you could tell the customer you’ll have his car fixed by 5:00 PM, but when you call at 2:00 PM, saying it’s all done, you’ll delight him. That will leave a great impression.
Maybe you throw in a free welcome gift. Maybe you send a handwritten thank-you note. Just get creative, and think of a few ways you could leave an indelible, pleasing impression. That will get the customer talking positively about you.
So will the use of names. GIVE OUT YOUR NAME AND USE THE CUSTOMER’S NAME. Have you ever noticed that you typically get better service in a restaurant where the server gives his/her name? Of course. When the server comes up and says, “Hi. My name is Sharon, and I’ll be serving you this evening,” you can expect and you usually get better service.
Chairman Norman Augustine of Lockheed Martin discovered the power of names several years ago. He said a number of mistakes started to show up at one of their facilities in Orlando. Parts were being omitted from component kits, and that was causing lots of problems for their customers at various assembly plants. Lockheed Martin was getting lots of complaints.
So Augustine got an idea from an auto dealer in Dallas. That dealer got very few complaints on the repair work they did. Every mechanic gave his name and home telephone number to every customer whose car he worked on. Augustine arranged to have his workers do the same thing. The workers put their names and telephone numbers in the kits they sent out, and they got a huge drop in complaints. The use of names seems to bring out the best in service.
Likewise, internal and external customers love it when you remember and use their name. When I was interviewing the employees of a supermarket asking them what they liked and didn’t like about their employer, I was surprised to find that one of their chief complaints was the fact the boss didn’t use their names. They weren’t even sure the boss knew their names. Instead of using their names, he’d always say, “Hey you” or “Hey mister.” It felt disrespectful to them.
Eva Gabor, the beauty queen and movie star, said, “I don’t remember anybody’s name. How do you think the ‘dahling’ thing started?” We can laugh at her cleverness, but in real life, it’s not the best strategy. You need to learn and use your customers’ names.
And if you really want your customers talking about you, and talking about you positively, COMMUNICATE WITH HUMOR. The best commercials frequently use this strategy. They make you laugh as they help you remember their products and services. For example, you probably remember the commercials that asked, “Where’s the beef?” and “How do you spell relief?” They used humor.
In a check of some successful businesses, I recently found the following humorous slogans. On one optometrist’s door was the sign, “If you don’t see what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place.” A muffler shop said, “No appointment necessary. We hear you coming.” And the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation said, “If you can’t understand why you should wear a helmet, your brain isn’t worth saving.”
In fact, it was this humor strategy that saved F. W. Woolworth. As a young man he decided to open a new store. When he was ready for the grand opening, a merchant down the street got a little nervous about young Woolworth taking some of his business. So he ran an ad in the local paper that read, “Do your local shopping here. We have been in business for 50 years!”
Young Woolworth couldn’t believe it. How could he deal with such formidable competition? What could he do?
Woolworth decided to counter his competitor’s ad with an ad of his own. It read, “We’ve been in business only one week. All of our merchandise is brand new.” It worked. F. W. Woolworth was a great success for years to come.
Action: Get your work team together, and brainstorm 20 ways you could treat your customers like royalty. Then decide to implement two or three of your strategies for seven days. Come together at the end of the seven days to report what you saw happen as a result of treating your customers like royalty. I think you’ll like what you see and what you hear.