Now that you have the attitude that it takes to satisfy your customers, I am going to help you to become a customer service Energizer Bunny which means that you are going to "go the extra mile" with your customers from now on. What that means is that you are going to go beyond satisfying your customer…you are going to create what authors Blanchard and Bowles (p. 13) call "raving fans." To me the term "raving fan" conjures up images of those wild and wooley grandstand fans at the Nascar events. It is obvious that these fans are thrilled. They yell, gesture wildly and exhibit all manner of behaviors to indicate how much they care about their favorite race car driver. These are the kinds of fans you want your customers to be. How can you get that kind of over the top adoration and loyalty?
My answer to that question is to focus on the details of delivering Positively Outrageous Service (POS).
Stories of Positively Outrageous Service will be the success stories of the millennium, but only a few organizations will actually serve outrageously and those organizations will be the memorable ones…they will be the ones everyone can tell a story about that will top all the other stories.
Words to describe POS are surprise, fun, unexpected, not necessary, playful, caring, entertaining, and outrageous. Not all of these words will apply every time to every situation. To me the person who delivers POS is indeed the Energizer Bunny, the one who creates memorable experiences for both internal and external customers.
So let's focus on some real concrete things that you can do.
Do the random and unexpected… add an element of surprise and novelty that "jolts" the attention of your customer and creates an experience that's memorable and different from what is expected. Knowing that you can't possibly do the outrageous all of the time, keep your customers guessing by doing it only on occasion.
Note: Random rewards beget regular behavior. For example a free dinner given to a couple randomly in a restaurant on a Tuesday evening might just cause the couple to continue to patronize an out of the way restaurant on another Tuesday evening (usually a stay at home night) on the off chance that they just might once again…eat for free.
Do something out of proportion to the circumstances… take the above scenario and make it out of proportion by giving everyone who comes into the restaurant on a Tuesday night a free dinner once a month…everyone! Just suppose that everyone meant 200 customers on that particular evening.
Invite your customer or client to play or be otherwise involved… some businesses have a built-in advantage. Their customers are already "in fun" when they arrive like at the baseball stadium.
Note: Being in fun means showing up with the mind set that as a customer you can be comfortable and have a great time.
Smart operators of any business look for opportunities to invite their customers to play. It may be as simple as asking your customers for their opinions or to share their feelings or their ideas. It might be involving people in sharing their perceptions via a comment book or framing pictures of groups of clients and hanging them on the wall where service is delivered or in a marketing brochure or using them as actors/actresses in an educational video for your facility.
Note: Being invited to play makes customers feel welcome…think about it! Usually asking one customer to play will cue another one to join in the fun.
Create customer loyalty (hopefully forever)… this comes from making customers feels at home, like family by remembering their names and something personal about them.
Create compelling word of mouth… by making your service so unusual that your customers will feel compelled to go home and talk about it to at least 4-6 other people. Customers are known to ignore clutter, tolerate less than comfortable surroundings when they receive unusual service.
Note: Remember, both internal and external customers want an experience wherever and whenever they seek service. You can provide that event for them by going the extra mile.
Let's get even more specific. Consider novel solutions to common customer problems, consider things that the customer is likely to wear or display and focus on the unexpected.
Do your customers need help using your service? Is there something novel you could do to assist your customers in using your services? Is there an interesting, perhaps fun way to package your services? Could you make a show out of delivering your services?
How do your customers arrive at your worksite? Is there a novel way to receive your customers? Is there something unique you could do to make your customers waiting time more pleasant? Can you think of something outrageous to do with parking or traffic? Can you make a game out of any aspect of your service?
What could you do that would be considered out of proportion? First, think about what is normal and then how you could go overboard. If a restaurant could earn your attention by serving a complimentary dessert, it would be out of proportion to offer an entire meal as a complimentary gesture. What kind of move or action would be comparable in your operation?
What other facilities, businesses, or service organizations share an interest in your organization's success? Who wants you to succeed? How can they contribute expertise, facilities, services or dollars to your POS plan or approaches? How can you apply this concept in your work area?
What related businesses are good candidates for co-marketing? Who else wants to be involved? Think of those organizations that share your customers, but not your services. These make terrific co-marketing partners and may be found in areas you would never expect. Example: a local hospital approached a local community college to co-promote a health fair with them. The hospital wants the community to come to them for services and the college wants their business too. There is no conflict…both organizations have the same goal.
What local events, charities, or groups are candidates for an outrageous promotion? Discovering ideas for outrageous service to the community means getting involved by sharing your expertise and providing education. Letting the community use your facility conference rooms for monthly meetings is a good way of getting local people involved in your organization…it brings them into your facility where they can get familiar with it. The result is usually a future customer of your services when it is needed. For example: A hospital allowed a local woman's investment group to use one of its conference rooms. Since women make the majority of health care decisions including where the family seeks medical care, you can see the logic of such a move by the hospital.
Some other ideas for delivering positively outrageous service to either your internal or external customers are even more detailed and include the following:
- Send cards for special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
- Have a "service blitz"…one day every three months when everyone gets on the phone and calls a set number of customers to thank them for their business.
- Visit the customer in person when it makes sense to do so (for external customers it may mean only when they are somewhere in your facility for some kind of service.
- Say thanks orally, in writing or by sending gifts of appreciation (which do not need to be expensive but rather unique).
- Ask customers what they expect or want from you.
- Hold open houses for customers and make the refreshments memorable.
- Make the customer a hero 365 days a year.
- Offer free good or samples that will help your customers in some way.
- Keep customers informed of changes in policies and rules; give them plenty of notice.
- Send congratulations for customer or their extended families' achievements such as graduations, promotions, etc.
- Be easily accessible even if it means giving out home phone numbers for emergencies.
- Have a hot line for "hot" customers.
- Refer business to your customers who are in business.
- Have a monthly give away lunch or dinner raffle…put customer names in a fishbowl.
- Verbally and within earshot of others, compliment your customers.
- Offer no charge favors of service if possible.
- Develop a newsletter for customers and offer them an option to contribute where indicated (client corner).
- Send customers articles of interest to them.
- Ask often, "What is the most I can do for you today?"
- Return phone calls promptly…within four hours (maximum) of the received call.
- Play the game of "guess how many jelly beans or M&Ms are in the jar" and give the jar to the winner. This is a great idea to use in a waiting room. Customers get to know each other by passing around the jar and estimating the number inside. It goes over well at holidays. You can use candy corn for Halloween, red and green M&Ms for Christmas and so on.
- One doctor's office had a produce give away tabl" in their waiting room. Staff brought in vegetables and flowers from their gardens and encouraged clients to take some home for free. This was well received especially by elderly clients on a fixed income. What a healthy unexpected treat!
- Conduct monthly customer satisfaction surveys.
Some would say that doing the above things overextends an organization so that they cannot do their regular work, but to me it is a way of doing your job so well that customers keep coming back sometimes for the rest of their lives.
Consider the 25 service actions ranked in order of importance by customers as yet another source of ideas of how to deliver positively outrageous service. They are:
1. Being called back when promised.
2. Receiving an explanation of how a problem happened.
3. Providing information so they know what number(s) to call.
4. Being contacted promptly when a problem is resolved.
5. Being able to talk to someone in authority.
6. Being told approximately how long it will take to solve a problem.
7. Being given useful alternatives if a problem can't be solved.
8. Being treated like a person, not an account number.
9. Being told about ways to prevent a problem in the future.
10. Being given progress reports if a problem can't be solved immediately.
11. Ability to talk without being interrupted.
12. Not being put on hold without being asked permission.
13. Being treated with appreciation for their business.
14. Having an actual person answer calls.
15. Being told responsible staff member's names and phone numbers.
16. Getting through on the first call.
17. Offered suggestions on how to keep costs down.
18. Ability to speak with someone on the first call that can solve the problem.
19. Receiving an apology when an error has been made.
20. Being helped without having to be put on hold.
21. Having the phone answered by the 3rd ring.
22. Being greeted with "Hello" or "Good Morning."
23. Being able to reach the organization after 4 pm.
24. Being addressed by name.
25. Being able to reach the organization before 8:30 am.
It's your turn now! Take some time and think about your internal and external customers. What specific things cold you do that would demonstrate that you are trying to go the extra mile? What could you do that would make your customer tell 4-6 other people about that experience?
Remember, any service transaction can be evaluated in terms of quality, accuracy, speed and show. Give anyone a quality service, delivered to their liking, do it quickly, and you've got a perfect picture of a well-oiled, efficient organization.
But, involve them in the process and make the service an experience and you've got the touch of showmanship that will make you more than outstanding… you'll stand out! I'd like to conclude this part of the program with an anonymous poem that seems to put in a few words everything I have been trying to say about delivering positively outrageous service.
The best kind of service ever given
Is random, unexpected.
If you’re kind of crazy, you’re just right.
In fact, you’ve been elected.
Positively Outrageous Service is the kind of thing that once started gets contagious. And that's the part that makes work fun, when service gets outrageous.
And how about these statements?
- The things that impress you and causes you to do more business with an organization are the same things that will impress your customers and encourage their return.
- If you promise a lot and deliver more, you will always have satisfied customers!
- If you exceed your customers' expectations, you will always have satisfied customers!
What this all means everyone is that you are really going to have to work at delivering exceptional customer service. A recent survey in Sale and Marketing Management magazine concluded that:
- 25% of people are in a Comfort Zone at work…maybe (don't laugh) in a parking zone.
- 57% are on the fence.
- Only 18% really test their potential.
I encourage you to blast out of your comfort zone when it comes to your customer service and try some of the suggestions for delivering knock your socks off service. Good luck!
I know what you've probably been thinking. What about those customers who never seem to be pleased or those who are angry and obnoxious from the moment you first have contact with them. I am sure you want to know what to do for them or about them, right? Maybe you feel that no matter what you do to deliver outstanding customer service, it never, ever seems to work with these challenging clients. In fact I'll bet the following says it all for you.
Quote from someone who has never served a customer in his life
Was I right? Did I get a smile out of you? I hope so because you need a sense of humor and willingness to give an upset client the benefit of the doubt if you are to successfully work with them. I have a brief approach that may help you deliver that outrageous customer service that we have been discussing to challenging persons.
See No Evil, Hear No Evil
If you start thinking of these challenging customers as "jerks and idiots," before you know it, you'll start treating them as badly as they are treating you. Maintain your perspective and think optimistically…perhaps this is just a bad day.
Customers feed on your reactions. They will use your responses to them to justify their own obnoxious behavior. Maintain your pleasant demeanor.
Ignoring their crude, rude and derogatory remarks and actions send the message that they can slam, bang and curse all they want, you are not going to be intimidated…that you are going to remain the adult in the encounter.
Note: Don't quote your organization's rules or policies to the customer from hell to justify your actions…it just gives them something concrete to yell about.
Surface the Tension
Angry, temper-tantrum-throwing customers are so wrapped up in their emotions that they often forget that you are a living, feeling person. Surfacing the tension is a way to gently remind them.
Try saying: "Have I personally done something to upset you?" Or you could try, "I'd really like to help you. Please give me a chance." This last phrase usually works real magic because most people will give you a chance.
Surfacing the tension is an approach that usually helps return the irate customer's focus back to the issue, encouraging him to vent about the problem, not the person.
Note: Be prepared for the customer who answers, "Yes, you have upset me." Find out why and correct the problem or misperception to the best of your ability. Always be sincere.
There are times when you are not obligated to continue on with an obnoxious customer…when you have been shocked, offended or dismayed by language or behavior.
Transferring the customer to someone he or she can or wants to continue on with is not a cop out… it is a way to move beyond a customer's negative, nasty behavior.
During the transfer, the customer goes thru an "adult time out" and is able to hopefully leave a temper tantrum behind with you and start fresh in an adult fashion with the new contact.
Build Contractual Trust
For the customer who refuses to be transferred, continues to threaten you verbally and begins to physically abuse you with fists in your face or pushing and/or shoving: Make positive eye contact, smile, and say, "I'm sorry but unless we can find another way to have this conversation that doesn't involve abusive language or physical contact, I am going to have to call security."
Note: Use "I" statements not "you" statements. "You" statements create resentment and abusiveness. "I" statements clearly communicate that you need a customer to stop a particular behavior because you can't accept it. Example: "I can't talk to you when you are shouting and yelling at me. It's scary and makes me very uncomfortable. I will be glad to talk to you when you stop yelling and shouting."
This has been a very brief discussion on challenging customers but helpful, I hope. I would like to leave you with some parting thoughts:
"Look for the gifts…the things that every unpleasant encounter can teach you about dealing with ugly human behavior." --- Rebecca Morgan, Morgan Seminar Group
"The things that frustrate and alienate you as a customer are the very same things that frustrate and alienate your customers." --- Anonymous
We have covered a lot of information on customer service. I hope you have enjoyed the journey. To end this program I would like to invite you to develop a personal action plan right now based on all that you have learned about customer service.