BY INC. EDITORIAL, INC. STAFF
When you've got happy customers, chances are you'll have a successful business too. Most of them will talk about just how much they care about their customers. Surprisingly, research reveals that only one-third of consumers felt that the companies they do business with provide adequate customer service. That's bad.
Chip R. Bell, customer service expert and author of the book The 9½ Principles of Innovative Service, says that the secret to delivering great customer service is to give your customers a surprise--something they didn't expect. Unexpected pleasurable experiences leave customers with the desire to return to your business and they will share their experience with others.
Here are Chip's suggestions for doing just that.
1. Cut wait times relentlessly.
Who wants to wait for service or to be bounced endlessly around voicemail systems? No one, and certainly not your customers. If you aren't providing great service your customers won't hesitate to find someone who can. Customer wait time needs to be eliminated or managed. Bureaucracy needs to be replaced with customer-friendly processes. Do these things, and your customers will reward you over and over again.
2. Turn mistakes into opportunities.
Customers don't expect perfection, but they do expect you to care about them. When customers have their problems resolved quickly and effectively, they often end up being even more loyal to your business than customers who never had a problem. A great recovery provides you with the opportunity to build business, not just save a customer.
3. Don't forget to put a surprise inside.
Who can forget the simple joy of opening up a box of Cracker Jack and finding a prize buried deep inside? How would you feel if the dealer you just bought a new car from took the trouble to program the radio by copying the stations you had programmed in your trade-in? It only takes a minute, but the effect is huge.
4. Don't wait until after the sale to provide service.
Decades ago, when the circus came to town, it was a really big deal. To make sure it was a big deal, front men were deployed ahead of time to put signs on telephone poles, place articles in local newspapers, and schedule parades down Main Street before the big top even opened. Do the same thing by thinking about the entire customer experience, from the initial need to the satisfaction of that need, and not just the main event. Anticipation and afterglow are important parts of any positive experience.
5. Once a year, sing Happy Birthday to them.
If there's one day every year we have the opportunity to feel truly special, it's on our birthday. Your customers want to feel special too, but not just one day a year. If you treat your customers like every day is their birthday, you will find creative ways to consistently amaze and delight them. And when you continue to amaze and delight your customers--to surprise them with remarkably great service--why would they ever go anyplace else?