Forget customer service. In it’s most basic terms, it’s definition can be ‘What our organisation thinks our customers want‘. And throw aside the current buzz phrase of ‘customer satisfaction‘ too. Why? Well, because your customers WANT more and possibly DESERVE more than plain old ‘satisfaction‘. Shouldn’t ‘satisfaction‘ be an entry point for attracting and retaining customers, rather than somehow a final destination?
In this article, I’m going to share with you how you can ‘WOW’ your potential and existing customers. You can even WOW your peers, internal customers, stakeholders and other parties too by applying these straightforward approaches, tools and techniques. And, the bonus for you is…..THEY WON’T RUIN YOUR HARD EARNED BUDGET as they are all completely FREE! Worth reading on?
The postcard which accompanies this article was the nice surprise I received upon arrival at a hotel following a long and tiring journey from the UK to Bahrain in 2008. This trip was my fourth to the Radisson Diplomat Hotel and upon entering my room, Room 914, on my pillow in a Radisson BLU branded envelope.
This postcard was inside the envelope. What a wonderful, authentic welcome from the hotel’s Executive Assistant Manager, Mr Alex Willats. Alex has since gone on to run award winning hotels in Thailand and Singapore – and with his approach to communicating and serving customers, it’s easy to understand why! There’s a media article featuring Alex further down this article for you to enjoy.
Good Practice – Is It Really Good Enough These Days?
OK, you may be thinking ‘Well a postcard welcoming you back is just ‘good practice’ if he knew you were returning.’ The key point here is…he didn’t know! I hadn’t been in contact with Alex for more than six months. My reservation was made through the hotel’s reservation team who, having spotted my previous visits asked ‘Mr Watson, you stay in room 914 a lot. Is that your favourite room, or would you like us to allocate you a different room with an even nicer view…also, without an adjoining door?’
Long story short. Someone in Reservations remembered my preferences (a pool view, ideally with a sunset, no adjoining door…as noisy neighbours can be really noisy when an adjoining door is involved) and then, thought to let the Executive Assistant Manager know of my visit. Good eh? It gets better.
Having taken a refreshing shower, I heard my room phone ringing. It’s the Restaurant Manager, a genuinely friendly Indian gentleman whose name I forget, who says excitedly, ‘Mr Watson, welcome back to your home in Bahrain. May I invite you to join us for dinner this evening, or if you are tired, I am very happy to arrange room service for you. Which would you prefer?’ Well, with an invitation so genuine, and refreshed from my shower, of course, why would I not wish to enjoy his hospitality and great food? But it didn’t stop there.
You Don’t Even Need To Speak The Same Language To WOW
The next morning, ahead of a busy day of business meetings, I decided to have a swim in the outdoor pool under the blistering sun. Within just a few seconds of my exiting the hotel building and heading towards the pool, a pool life guard named Ramu, from Kerala, quickly approached me with a big smile and in his heavy Indian accent and broken English said ‘Welcome back Mister Scott, I happy welcome you.’
Following a firm and friendly handshake, he then ushered me towards what he remembered (from 10 months previous) was my ‘favourite spot’ by the pool. And it was. Despite Ramu’s lack of English language skills, he asked me about my family, told me about his young daughter and how she was growing, and much more. Before I sat on the sun lounger, Ramu picked up the perfectly good towels which had already been placed on the lounger, jogged off to his little office, returning with what appeared to be even fluffier, bigger towels. Not at all expected or needed by me, BUT, RAMU WANTED to make my pool visit as special as he possibly could. He’s a life guard…NOT in Guest Relations…but he still ‘WOW’ed!
See, even when people don’t speak the same language, you can still have a ‘WOW’ experience.
But let’s move on from the Radisson in Bahrain and explore some other instances of ‘WOW’s’ and ‘Ouch’s’.
OUCH! THAT HURT….YOUR BRAND
Have you ever visited a restaurant, store or hotel and been greeted with ‘Welcome‘ and you just knew the employee was saying the words, but not really feeling the love? Strangely, one supermarket has employees who officially hold a job title of ‘Greeter’. The sash worn over the shoulder may be positive in its intent, but perhaps doesn’t present the best brand image.
Have you ever visited a restaurant, ordered more than two meals for your party, and at least one meal (supposed to be a hot meal) turns up cold, or at best lukewarm? This happened to my family last weekend, and we were three of only five diners in the restaurant! At breakfast time.
When this happens, are you too polite to mention your situation to the waiter or waitress? Do you mention it and then the Manager politely offers to ‘Make another one for you, right away‘? Does the Manager offer to remove the cost of the cold meal from your bill as a ‘gesture of goodwill‘, even though goodwill disappeared as soon as your meal appeared cold, which then took the focus away from enjoying your time together, and on to the people in your group offering you some of their meal? Perhaps when this happens to you next time….and it will at some point, politely advise the Manager that ‘I’ve come here today/tonight to eat WITH my friends/family, not AFTER them‘. Then be silent. You may soon find a greater discount is soon offered.
When you call the ‘Helpline’ for your bank, does the automated voice mention to you that ‘Your call is important to us‘, but never lets you know an estimated time that you will actually speak to a human being, rather than listen to ‘the voice’ which lacks empathy, or caller focus? If MY call is so important to YOU, please pick up the phone!!
Enough of my ranting. Let’s explore how you can ensure your prospective and existing customers can experience a ‘WOW’ rather than an ‘OUCH’.
1. Do What You Say You Will Do….Consistently.
Don’t under promise and over deliver. That approach lacks integrity, is intentionally misleading, and perhaps even dishonest in some cases. Tell your customer what to expect, when to expect it, and if there’s some form of delay expected, give them a timeframe for the delivery of what they are trusting you to deliver. Customers are usually understanding and patient IF you keep them informed.
2. Stop Using Lazy Language
‘Just one minute’, ‘I’ll be with you in a moment’ or the ever popular ‘ASAP’ are lazy language and can cause conflict – and lose your organisation customers. If you want something from me ‘ASAP’, you might want it in five minutes, and not a second later. ‘ASAP’ for me in my brain may mean up to thirty minutes, or even by the end of the day, because I have other priorities to focus on…for more important people than you.
Clarify ‘What do you actually mean by ASAP? Is it five minutes, ten minutes or something else?’. Easy to do and can help avoid a big headache.
3. Be Empathic
Forget the supermarket ‘Greeter’. Just encourage your colleagues to listen first, understand second, then, and only then, provide the guidance, information or service the customer actually WANTS rather than guessing based on your own experience and personal bias. My recent experience at a supermarket checkout raised a giggle when the female checkout assistant asked the customer in front of my in the queue “May I help you with your packing?” which is of course helpful. Then when it was my turn to be served she innocently asked “Do you need some help with your packing?” Notice the difference? Is she implying I am not capable of packing bags? That I NEED help rather than, might just appreciate help?
People warm to people who, as well as being technically competent, are genuinely friendly. Try it with your team and you’ll soon notice the positive difference.
4. Give Them A Free Upgrade
OK, this isn’t giving away freebies at will. If you’re a restaurant and there’s a young child in the guests party, is a colouring picture, jigsaw or other extremely low cost offering available?
If you’re a hotel and the guest’s room isn’t yet available, even though it should be, is it too much to ask for you to offer an upgraded room and/or facilities, just on this occasion? Not as a ‘Gesture of Goodwill’, but just because you want to WOW your guests, and perhaps they’ll love you for it, return again, even write a very positive online Tripadvisor review?
5. Ask The Question ‘What more can I do for you today to help you enjoy……?
This simple question has proved powerful in helping client organisations step in to their customer’s world, rather than expecting the customer to step in to the organisation’s. It’s empathic, it’s genuine, it’s respectful and, it provides you with more opportunities to serve the very person or people who are responsible for your organisation existing. And, it leaves nothing to chance and removed potentially dangerous, guesswork.
6. Do More Than Your Bit – Collaborate
So many issues and OUCH’s appear because one person believe s/he has done their bit, and they automatically, perhaps wrongly, expect other team members to do their bit too. If only it was that easy. Effective collaboration is such a powerful skill to possess within any organisation, that the absence of it creates, and maintains silo thinking, silo working, disjointed communication and – PROBLEMS!
Your organisation is packed full of what should be healthy, inter-dependent relationships. If it isn’t? You have some work to do. Perhaps take a leaf out of Alex’s book and Go Back To The Floor? http://bit.ly/1rl0Ynp
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