Building your business, and your reputation, is more challenging than ever in this uncertain economy. You may not have resources to finance brand-building through marketing and communications, but there is one thing you can do – one thing that’s shockingly rare, that doesn’t cost a penny, and that will absolutely set your business apart.
When was the last time you had a customer service experience that was so impactful you felt compelled to tell someone about it, or proactively recommend the business to a friend, without prompting? I’m willing to bet it happens maybe once a year.
E-mail, the internet and social media have increased our culture’s pace. And, my belief is that, as a result, common courtesy has decreased. What didn’t used to pass for exceptional customer service, unfortunately, passes today. When I greet a cashier, sometimes they smile in surprise and return my greeting, and sometimes they scowl at me and respond begrudgingly, as if I’ve crossed some invisible line dictating that people shouldn’t be civil or courteous to one another. A real estate attorney I know shakes the hand of everyone he meets. He recently introduced himself and shook the hand of a valet in Brookline, and the man responded as if no one had ever shaken his hand.
Think of customer service as common courtesy taken to the next level.
I rave about my bank, and often tell the story of an experience I had more than two years ago. I received a call early one morning from Sheik, the banker I see every time I go into the Beacon Street branch, who always greets me by name even though I’m not a millionaire. He called because a large check was pending, and he could see funds to cover it in my savings account, but not in my checking. Would I like him to transfer the funds to avoid an overdraft? Excuse me, did I hear that correctly? Is this my bank calling to do me a favor, to prevent me from incurring a fee? It was one phone call for him, but made me feel like my bank was actually looking out for my best interests, not just trying to make money. I tell everyone who will listen that they should bank with Cambridge Trust Company.
One other story comes to mind. I was talking recently with friends who just moved. A few months after moving, they unpacked some boxes and found that three platters they received as wedding gifts were broken. My friend couldn’t remember who had packed the box – if it had been him/his wife, or the movers. He called the moving company, Pony Express (don’t be deterred by their website), to let them know, purely as an FYI and with no expectation. The person he spoke with asked him to find out if the items were still available; one could still be purchased at Pottery Barn, but the others were no longer in production. Shortly thereafter, he received a call from her that they had found the two that were no longer available on eBay and purchased the third from Pottery Barn, and he would be receiving them shortly. He was beyond impressed – this kind of service from a local moving company? They could have just written them a check (which he wasn’t even expecting), but they actually went on eBay, found the platters, and purchased them.
As I write this, it strikes me that both of these businesses are local, and I’m guessing they empower their employees to make decisions like these, versus customer service people at a larger company who must adhere to their scripts.
A few suggestions:
- Think about what you could do for a customer or client today that would be something extra, something valuable.
- Hire people you trust and empower them to make decisions.
- Review your customer service philosophies and practices with an eye toward opportunities for improvement, and always keeping in mind how you would like to be treated.
I can promise you that your reputation and business will only improve and grow by going the extra mile.