You Can't Fake Great Customer Care

I took my car in to my local Honda dealership last week, to replace a broken window.
While I was there, I mentioned to the Service Manager that I have been a loyal customer of theirs for 13 years.  In that time, I leased two vehicles from them and last year purchased our third Honda with that dealership.
In addition, I have had all three vehicles serviced by their Service Center.  I told him that in all that time, I NEVER received so much as a thank you, any special gifts, or sign of their appreciation.
What was his response?  He agreed to give me a whopping 20% off the window replacement… a $70 value.
So, as I’m waiting for my car to be serviced (and fuming about their grand gesture of appreciation) a Honda representative in a white lab coat sits down and asks me how I am doing.  After I complain about my experience just a few minutes prior,  he says: “I’m sorry, I am not authorized to do anything.”   When I asked him why he sat down to chat with me in the first place, he told me he works in their Sales Department and was talking to customers to see if they would like to purchase their vehicles or sell back their used vehicles.
So I told him not too kindly: “Then you can’t be of any help to me.”  He replied: “Okay, let me know if I can be of “FURTHER” assistance.”
Lately, I have been doing a LOT of training with organizations to help them develop world-class customer service.  If you are going to try to implement customer care programs that make ANY difference to your clients, you absolutely must know that there can be no HALF measures.   You have to be fully committed, and in it for the long haul.  Insincere efforts can be spotted a mile away by today’s savvy customers and do much more harm than good when your organization abandons them.
Therefore, to institute a compelling customer care program and embrace it as a new culture, you need to have champions at all level of your organization that serve as customer advocates.
You also must include your customers in the process, to learn from them what they expect and what they consider to be exceptional service.  Those of your employees that deal with customers and provide the service must be responsible for defining the exceptional service to be delivered then tasked with, trained on, and incentivized to deliver that exceptional service in order to achieve lasting competitive advantage.
It is seven to ten times less expensive to retain customers than it is to acquire new customers.  Following are several best practices that you can implement immediately to achieve exceptional customer care that is meaningful and valuable to your customers, and drive higher client satisfaction which in turn leads to much greater client retention rates.
* Treat your top 20% most valuable customers differently.  Their loyalty and repeat business has earned them the right to be treated in a special light.  The Pareto Principle tells us our top 20% of customers generate 80% of our business.  These customers should be handled in a special way.  Reward them for repeat business, and thank them for referrals, endorsements, and testimonials.
* Tie employee performance reviews to metrics that quantify delivering customer service, i.e. number of positive customer feedbacks, number of at-risk customers saved, number of clients successfully renewed, etc.
* Treat your customers like employees and employees like customers.  For further background, check out the book: “The Value Profit Chain.”  Instead of keeping secrets from customers, engage them in conversation about ways to improve your offerings, let them “alpha” test new products and services (typically reserved for employee testing) and let your top clients set their own prices (within reason.)
* Gather ideas from the employees in your organization that deal with your customers on how to continue improving your customer care.
* Empower client line staff to make decisions that help you ensure exceptional customer service.
* Have your Management Team and outside experts “mystery” shop your business to see what it is like to engage your organization by walking into your store, interacting with your business through your website or calling your business.
“To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.”  – Daniel Adams
* Train all your customer care phone representatives to work with clients to resolve their issues when they call into your business regardless of length of call. Have your Senior Management listen in weekly to customer calls and work in your store to take orders from customers and engage with them.
* Create a culture in which your employees thank your customers for their business, have every person that enters your store be told “please come again” WHETHERY THEY PURCHASE OR NOT, have all client-facing employees smile, maintain eye contact, and give out random gifts.
* Create loyalty/appreciation programs that offer gifts and assigns points earned that are meaningful to customers.  You accomplish this by including your customers in the client appreciation program development process.
An example of an organization that was built on delivering great customer care is Zappos.  Read how Tony Hsieh built a powerful culture slavishly focused on customer care.
* Offer liberal/equitable product return policies.
* Establish a zero tolerance policy for rude, inappropriate employee behavior when it comes to interacting with your customers.
* Publish your client engagement and customer care policies, standards of employee behavior, and rewards programs in your store in plain site, on your website, in your marketing efforts and recruiting strategies, and train your customer care practices to all of your employees during their orientation, throughout the year, and tie bonuses and promotions to those employees that “live” your customer is king credo.
For other great ideas, check out Chip R. Bell’s book: “The 9 1/2 Principles of Innovative Service,”
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Executive Coach, Management Consultant, Business Coach
No Organization is Too Small to Plan Big.