You Aren’t the Only Game in Town…
I am keenly aware that like most companies around the world these days, we aren’t the only choice our customers have for our products and services.
There are very few markets where the customer has absolutely no alternative and MUST buy from you (or do without).
Even the Best Products, Best Instructions and Best Guarantee Aren’t Enough
While I take great pride in the fact that among toner refill kit suppliers, we provide the best products, the best instructions and have the best guarantee in the world (no-time-limit, no fine-print), that still isn’t good enough.
“Own” Your Customer through Exemplary Customer Service
According to Ken Blanchard (another person I consider one of my “secret weapons”) if you want to “own your customer” in an increasingly competitive world, you can come as close to being guaranteed of being able to do that by providing exemplary customer service.
He goes on to point out that research has shown that you can increase your profits up to 255% by retaining only an additional 5% of your customers… (does this have you thinking, already, about where you might be neglecting to place appropriate emphasis?)
Aim to Create “Raving Fans” (not just “satisfied” customers)
In fact, he has found that the companies that strive to create “raving fans” (as opposed to mere “satisfied customers”) are the ones that even in down economies still find their business thriving.
(If you don’t understand why you shouldn’t be aiming just for “satisfied” customers, think about this… After a romantic interlude, would you like your partner to rate your performance to their pals as a raving fan, “It was unbelievable, fantastic, the best…!” or say something like, ”Yeah, it was satisfactory…”)
Raving Fans become FREE Advocates!
What happens when someone becomes a raving fan is that they no longer simply buy your product, they are more likely to become advocates and product endorsers (for free).
The reason they do that is not because they are trying to find new business for you, it is because you have given them something that is practically non-existent these days… “over-the-top”, “we’ll-do-whatever-it-takes”, customer service.
Poor, Bad, Terrible or Non-Existent Customer Service is the Norm These Days
In fact, think about this… Poor or even terrible customer service is so commonplace these days, the “horror” stories don’t even surprise or amaze anyone any more. Nowadays, bad customer service is the norm and terrible customer service is really common, as well. In fact, completely non-existent customer service is also par for the course.
How Can a Business Owner Plan to Provide Bad Customer Service?
What is hard to explain is how can business owners and their employees justify treating customers like dirt? Aren’t they experiencing the economic downturn? Are they that confident of repeat customer visits? Are they not worried about losing customers (or are their employees not worried about losing their job to the 15+% who are either unemployed or under-employed and would be willing to provide much better customer service if given the job)?
It Actually Cost Less to Provide “Over-the-Top” Customer Service
We decided to provide over-the-top customer service many, many years ago not only because it was the right thing to do, but because we realized it cost us far less money to make someone happy in the first place than it cost to fix a mistake and try to convert someone who you had let down or disappointed back into a satisfied customer.
Few People Say Nice Things Anymore (unless…)
We all know that human nature is far more likely to voluntary relate the horror stories concerning bad service, bad products, bad business practices. What’s the likelihood that someone will tell a story about merely ”satisfactory” customer service? Slim to none.
Think about this, would you go out of your way to tell a friend, neighbor, relative, co-worker about your “satisfactory” experience at a restaurant, car dealership, the quality of work turned out by a handyman, landscape service, car detailer? Of course not.
I’m certainly not going to volunteer the details of any business or service person to anyone if the best I can say about them is that my rating was “satisfactory”.
How Bad is your Customer Service?
We call all of our customers after they buy from us and ask them to tell us how we did. We even go so far as to purposely call customers who have had some sort of problem with their order and ask them how well we took care of the issues and how they would rate our services.
Is that fun to do? Of course not. Do we need to do it? Absolutely.
Get Some Guts (or some even more “pithy” term) and Call your Pissed-Off Customers
If you really want to know how bad you are doing (or how well you are doing), pick up the phone and call customers who had already had a problem of some sort and ask them to vent. You will get an earfull, but for free (other than your time and the miniscule cost of a phone call), you will get the best information on how you are really doing.
What Does it Take to Provide Legendary Customer Service?
How hard is it to move your customer service from terrible to poor, or from poor to average, or from average to great, from great to legendary?
Realistically, it doesn’t take a lot of extra effort to move your customer service forward by leaps-and-bounds. And, it starts with things like answering your phone (live – people are stunned), sounding more upbeat on the phone, saying “please” and “thank you”, returning calls when promised, sucking it up and admitting you are wrong (even when you know you aren’t and the customer is…), sending out a replacement, doing the work over again, etc.
Providing “Over-the-Top” Customer Service Makes You Money
Only you can make the decision whether providing “over-the-top” customer service is worth it (and only you can assess how much it will cost), but the companies that have been providing legendary service have found it actually makes them money in the long haul to do so.
If your Products or Services Suck, Work on that, too!
Now, let’s make certain we are on the same page… If you are providing crappy products or services and the complaints all have a similar tone (“Your products stink, they break really easily, your pool cleaning service is terrible, the paint is already peeling on my house”, etc.) , then your bad customer service is just the “icing on the cake” that is going to make certain people never come back.
If your products or services stink, either address them or prepare for not having to worry about customer service problems in the future (because you won’t have any!).
Great Products and Services, Coupled with Great Customer Service Makes Money
In fact, when asked, most business owners say they can’t afford to provide legendary customer service because they assume it costs extra money.
But, this short-sighted attitude comes about as a result of not doing their homework.
1-800-FLOWERS “Get’s it!”
Here is a perfect example. At the last possible minute, a member of the mastermind group I belong to bought his wife flowers for Valentine’s Day using 1-800-FLOWERS.
(I am not getting any affiliate or referral fees if you do go there so this is simply to relay the way a company that really “gets it” runs their business)
He ordered two dozen roses in a red vase with a silver bow.
When the flowers arrived, there was only a single dozen and they were in a silver-ish vase with a red bow. His wife was thrilled.
Of course, being a typical guy, he made certain he pointed out to her that he had really stepped up and explained what she was supposed to receive.
“I Just Wanted an Apology and a Partial Refund”
He called 1-800-FLOWERS and explained what the problem was.
Without asking for a refund (he would have been happy with an apology and a refund for the difference between what he received and what he had paid to receive), they refunded him for the entire order (everything was refunded, flowers, vase, delivery, etc.)
“You Don’t Need to do That!”
He was shocked that he received a sincere apology and a complete refund. He told them, “You don’t have to do that!”
They replied, “Yes we do, we messed up your order and didn’t come anywhere near meeting your Valentine’s Day expectations.”
He thanked them and was ready to get off the phone when they asked him if his address was the same as the address to which he had asked for the flowers to be sent.
He replied it was and they apologized, again, assured him the entire charge had been removed from his credit card and said they hoped he would consider using them, again, in the future.
“Of Course I Will Do Business with 1-800-FLOWERS Again!”
He assured them with customer service like this, he definitely would.
Two days later, he receive a $100 gift certificate from them and another apology card. So not only did they completely wipe out the charge for the entire order, they actually send him a $100 gift certificate to “buy” his loyalty (and being the extremely wise business people that they are, they received far more in return.)
How Can They Afford do be THAT “Over-the-Top” with their Customer Service?
How in the world can they afford to do that when they make a mistake?
I don’t have the “official” answer, so I can only offer my opinion, but I bet it boils down to only two simple things.
1. They most likely don’t make mistakes very often.
2. How many thousands of people over the years have they turned into raving fans after making a mistake and stepping up in this fashion?
Word-of-Mouth from a Raving Fan is PRICELESS
This story had all of us in the room stunned at their over-the-top customer service.
I guarantee many, if not most of us have told dozens of people (who have then told hundreds of people, and then thousands, by the time the story gets out there) about this sort of legendary/exemplary customer service.
What Did it REALLY Cost Them?
The initial order that was fouled up was under $100. They ate the cost of the order (and lost the profit, which let’s say was $50).
They ate the cost of the gift certificate (not the full $100 since all they are going to really be out of pocket is the cost of the flowers/service, so let’s say that is another $50).
So, for $100 (hell, let’s say they are out the full $200…) they have had their “over-the-top” customer service story repeated thousands of times.
Do They Remember the Mistake or the Unbelievable Customer Service?
Does my buddy or his wife even say a negative word about the initial order (maybe something like, “The flowers and vase were beautiful, it just wasn’t exactly what he ordered…”) or do they rave about the “You can’t believe what the folks at 1-800-FLOWERS did after my wife’s Valentine’s day flowers I ordered didn’t show up exactly like I thought they would…”
They get it… No much how much they paid for conventional advertising, it wouldn’t have near the impact as the much less expensive, real-world, testimonial they have received (and will continue to receive) from my buddy.
Okay, You Can’t Please Everyone…
Before I sign off for today, I will tell you that we know for a fact that no matter how “over-the-top” we try to go, there is the occasional person who just can’t be pleased. But, those people were going to be mad at your crappy service or products, anyway, so you did your best.
Turning Disappointed Customers into Raving Fans
And, for any other people who are the haters/complainers, you have gone the extra-mile and if you did it right, they are now raving fans.