The MadAveGroup Blog
Will you create a memorable experience for your clients or customers today?
Will you listen a little more intently for unspoken needs or frustrations?
Will you offer an unexpected solution?
Will you push yourself a little bit harder to deliver an encounter they'll remember, come back again to enjoy, and even tell others about?
Will you find a way to add value and give more than is expected of you and your company? And will you do it willingly and cheerfully, recognizing the joy in that effort?
Not only is that how you earn loyal customers, it’s how - little by little - you make the world a better place.
It’s all up to you.
On April 9th, 2017, security officers representing United Airlines dragged a screaming 69-year-old passenger out of his seat and off a United plane, creating an indelible image of customer abuse and a public relations nightmare that could haunt the brand for years.
But four United employees needed those seats more than a few paying customers.
But the screaming passenger is a convicted felon.
But the fine print on the ticket gives the airline the right to remove anyone from the plane.
We live in a time in which everyone has instant access to a video camera and potentially a worldwide audience. Regardless of how those involved try to rationalize their actions, manhandling a customer should have never even been close to a solution.
On the United website, the company's Customer Commitment states that their goal “is to make every flight a positive experience” for their customers, that they provide “a high level of performance,” and that they're dedicated to delivering the type of service that makes them “a leader in the airline industry.”
United employs nearly 88,000 people around the world, so maybe it's unfair to expect that every one of their employees would live up to that portion of their brand promise. But how many people work for your company? Do they all know what you promise your customers, whether it's online or implied?
Are they empowered to make decisions that serve your customers and protect your brand image?
Do you remind them that the world is watching, even if your “world” is just a few hundred customers?
Make sure your employees know what your brand stands for, what's expected of them, and what will never be tolerated.
After spending a few hours with my car this morning, I was reminded of a marketing truth.
On my way home from running a few errands, I slid into a snowy, shallow ditch at the top of my road, and then struggled for twenty minutes to push my car out as dozens of drivers passed by me.
Finally, a nice guy in a pickup truck stopped to give me a hand.
When I got home I told my wife what happened, going on and on about all the people who had driven by without even slowing down.
But what I DIDN’T tell her was how, earlier that morning, the owner of a car care center here in town performed a diagnostic check on my car…free of charge.
I DIDN’T tell her how the very friendly technician at another shop flushed my radiator twice because it was so dirty…for no extra charge.
I DIDN’T tell her how the counter guy at the auto parts place cheerfully came out to replace my windshield wipers…free of charge.
Instead, I focused on the negative.
Driving into a ditch was nobody’s fault but mine, yet I came home and griped about all the people who DIDN’T stop to help, instead of focusing on the Good Samaritan who pulled me out.
The marketing truth is this: one bad experience can trump even many positive experiences in the mind of a customer.
As unfair as it may be, you can lose a hard-won revenue stream for life if you or someone on your team falls down on the job. And if that customer strings together two or three bad episodes with your company, your name might as well be Mud to everyone he knows – and anyone who reads his online review.
The good news for you is that every company makes mistakes. Companies are made up of people, after all, so mistakes are bound to happen, and most customers understand that.
What they don’t understand and what they won’t tolerate is your poorly handled response to their bad experience, whether it’s an insensitive CSR, your inflexible policies, or a perceived indifference toward them as a paying customer.
So, to promote more positive experiences and successfully address any bad experiences customers may bring to your attention, keep these three suggestions in mind.
1) Make sure your CSRs, operators, and other frontline employees are empowered to “make things right.” Don’t push away an angry customer by making her call another department for answers, or worse, not offering any solutions as a company.
2) Check to see if you have any service or return policies in place that are not customer-centric. If so, get rid of them, or at least re-work them as quickly as possible.
3) Finally - it’s an oldie but a goody - the customer is king (or queen). Make sure your team lives and breathes that one. Your customers keep you in business, and if you don’t treat them with the courtesy and respect they deserve, especially after they’ve had a poor experience with your company, your competitors will be happy to.
Many years ago when I lived in another town, I used to visit a farm stand during the summer months.
The lady who ran the stand didn't have nearly the selection of the local grocery store, and her produce was even a bit more expensive than the store's.
But she knew my name. And she used it every time she saw me.
She was friendly. She put an extra apple in my bag now and then. And every time I left the stand, she sent me off with a warm "thank you" and an invitation to come back soon.
I didn’t get any of that from the grocery store.
Yes, the store was fancier and air conditioned, but I never walked out with the sense that I had just been cared for.
The lady at the farm stand quickly earned my loyalty by making me feel important, showing her appreciation for my business, and giving me added value.
Can you see how that approach could go a long way toward helping you win and keep customers?
It’s much easier, less expensive and more profitable to sell ten different products to one happy, loyal person than to sell one product to ten relatively disengaged people.
So, consider making account penetration a higher priority: increase your share of each customer, rather than increasing your share of the market.
Meeting that goal requires strengthening relationships with your most important customers; learning their wants, needs, pains and goals, and actively looking for opportunities to care for them.
When you take a legitimate interest in helping your customers succeed, when you serve more as a consultant and less as a vendor looking for a quick sale, when you truly work on behalf of your customers’ interests, you’ll earn the type of loyalty that's necessary for deeper relationships to prosper.
Partner with your best customers. Find ways to get more involved with their businesses, and let them into yours. Develop ways you can work together for the betterment of both companies. As a partner that delivers real value, you become much harder to shake when cheaper competitors move into the market.
Finally, the customer whose business consistently nets your company a million dollars per year is more valuable to you than the customer who spends a couple thousand dollars once in a while, so why treat those two customers equally?
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply the basics of good service to every customer, but committing the same resources to the smaller client can't possibly yield the same return.
And if your employees believe there is no difference between customers, they’ll have no incentive to provide preferential treatment to those who deserve it.
However you choose to measure their importance to you, your more valuable customers should receive an even higher degree of service. After all, they pay for it every day with their loyalty to you.