3 Ways to Show Your Customers You Appreciate their Business


Caring for your customers can be a serious competitive advantage

You cannot claim you put your customers first until you actually do that. The money quote does not get that way without you doing a bit of "show me the money" work.

Entrepreneurs who build a business have customers – people who come back fro second and third transactions. Repeat business is based upon this kind of feedback: You show me you care, you're easy to talk with, you solve the problem.

Customer service is the best form of marketing you could ever execute, even when you call it operations, or design of experience. It's an attitude.

With every interaction, you have the opportunity to make a person whole, develop a relationship, and get a referral. That means that you helped them see you care about their needs, you are listening and hearing what they're saying, and they will win friends when they send people your way.

Not a small feat.

3 things you can do today

1. Provide exceptionally good service

That is defined by the customer, but you can get a good idea when you do. If you don't want your customers to kick at and shake the vending machine, fix it. Good service is for average people and none of your customers are average – each is a different person with different needs.

How do you scale that?

You do it by listening and hearing the request and problem when it is first presented. Lean forward, don't judge the intent, just take in the issue – then fix it. Do you know how much you lose in reputation and business by asking your customers to fill complex forms, navigate impossible phone systems, and call you back when you're ready?

Pick up the phone on the first ring, answer pleasantly, route the call as appropriate by leveraging your own internal relationships to make sure your colleague has the same sense of urgency you have. Be creative, brainstorm with the customer as necessary. Stop worrying about the form, start talking with your customer.

2. Be the person, humanize your business

I bet you if I polled you, you would tell me the names of the people you do business with – Mike the mechanic, Jim the personal trainer, Rose the hair dresser, Kathy the insurance person. They personify the brand in your eyes. As far as you're concerned, they are the company – your experience of the company depends upon the relationship you have with them.

How do you scale that?

Hire well, train better, provide incentives by rewarding the behavior of those who are customer advocates. Do you know who are the people customers love in your company? As customers we don't always provide feedback when someone is caught doing something right – we should. The feedback that comes is called referral – that we provide, if you inspire it, you hardly need to ask for it.

Say you're sorry, it's your fault. Give even the angriest or rudest customers pause. Then move to correct it. Stay in problem solving mode. That is the best way to gain credibility and diffuse rudeness. Ask questions, be interested in what input your customers are willing to give you. Customers can be rude, I know, especially in a retail setting. Don't lower your standards, be polite, pleasant, and helpful. The other customers in the story will notice both behaviors and empathize with you.

3.  Overcommunicate

Let your customers know what you are doing and are going to do at every step of the way. Follow through when you say you will, educate, teach, explain what is going on. Don't just say why a problem occurred (take note, for some people this is a deal breaker), explain how you're going to fix it and when you expect it fixed.

How do you scale that? If several customers are affected, select a member from your team to be the personal concierge for each customer or each group. This will let them feel the personal touch and will allow you to communicate personally rather than impersonally.

It's also good to use the active voice and active verbs – today something happened to a group of people is harder to take than the power in your block is still out for this reason. In your communications stay positive, proactive, and responsive. If you have new information, share it.

In an interconnected world, a problem in one company can affect many more customers than the direct few. Like in the case of PJM Interconnection, as I wrote a couple of years back, they give you power, but you never heard of them

Do you get exceptionally good service? Do feel you need to push companies to help you? When you make a requests, is the attitude of company representatives to your standards?


[edited from the archives]

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0 responses to “3 Ways to Show Your Customers You Appreciate their Business”

  1. Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Three simple, yet effective ideas, plus an Aston Martin used to depict competitive advantage, after all.
    1. What is the problem? The customer is not satisfied. Why is the customer not satisfied? Record (and track) the reason given, make the customer happy, advance.
    Not to say process isn’t important, as process is the foundation of consistency, but the process should be so exceedingly simple that anyone in the organization can adapt it to quickly – and creatively – solve almost any problem.
    2. Track the frequency of reported customer complaints. Then ACTUALLY REDUCE THEM. Share the data with the organization, with the world, encourage staff and customers alike to offer ideas toward the common goal of exceeding customer expectations.
    Large companies have the supply chain, resources, and tools to develop and bring almost anything to market. I’m waiting for the first company built on a model of engage the market to collaboratively design any product. Local Motors (http://local-motors.com comes closer than anyone else I know of, though they still specialize in vehicles.)
    3. It’s Blogging 101: Think, Do, Write.
    This week is off to a great start, Valeria. These simple ideas are supremely actionable.
    Would your customers tell their friends you provide exceptionally good service? Ask me about T-mobile, or Pandora, or Mitsubishi. Would your staff tell you what they do for a living every day on-the-clock matters? Would the average Joe on the street have any idea who you are?
    It’s a sense of direction, not a roadmap. Love it.

  2. I think so many people miss the great opportunity that is humanizing your business. Customers relate much more to a face/personality than a corporation. Especially when that company uses the personality to open up to customers and show a little of what is going on behind the big curtain.
    Unfortunately, some companies are really good at this while most are not. It’s hard to step outside the comfort zone and open the doors to your company for all to see. It’s hard to trust a person to be the best face for your company. The key is to make these decisions and stick by them, knowing the end result is worth it.

  3. isn’t it amazing how simple it would be to take ownership of recording the problem? Just that one step says: I heard you. In the tracking, also figure out where the trends are: The actually help the business understand why it is trading poorly.
    Those brands have not forgotten their promise.

  4. this week I keep seeing posts about humanizing the business, still. Do you think it is hard because companies talk themselves into hiring people they would not be ready to support? Which then makes other companies trying to poach those people, instead of truly looking at *all* candidates as in recent reports, kind of funny…

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