Building an Iron Fence: Going Above and Beyond on Customer Service
The Secret to Success
The secret to excellent customer service really isn’t guarded all that heavily. In fact, if you paid attention in kindergarten, then you already know how to make your customer service initiatives at your business a success. The “secret” is basic good manners.
Of course, in order to take your ability to serve customers from “good” to “great” you’ll want to build on the concept of good manners. But being polite, using terms such as “ma’am” and “sir” and offering your help and expertise beforeit is requested all are part of the basic foundation for great customer service.
Building an Iron Fence
Marketing Mastermind Dan Kennedy coined a phrase for customer service: “Build an iron fence around your herd.” In other words, take such great care of your clients or customers that they would never even consider going to somebody else, even when offered an incentive. You accomplish this through that foundation discussed above as well as going above and beyond customer expectations.
Give your customers something to come back for. Maybe it is a price much lower than all of the competitors; maybe it’s a wonderful incentive program. Maybe it’s the most knowledgeable and helpful employees in town – you’d be surprised how many people would pick a higher price in return for a company they can trust to answer their questions and solve their problems efficiently. Whatever you do, give them something that they cannot get anywhere else. And, when you do screw up (not IF, WHEN) don’t meet their expectations. Meeting expectations means you fix the problem. You need to go above and beyond just fixing the problem. You need to EXCEED their expectations and give them an experience they never dreamed of! After all, studies show that a satisfied customer will tell 2-3 people about his good experience with your business, whereas a dissatisfied customer will tell a whopping 8-10 people what went wrong and why they all should boycott your products or services.* Nobody can afford to simply satisfy customers anymore.
Tips for Keeping the Fence Strong
1. Offer the unexpected. Low price, incentives, deals for both new and old customers, and helpful advice from a knowledgeable staff will have your customers leaving with a bright smile and a sincere wish to do business with you again.
2. Embrace problems. Don’t let mistakes on your part or complaints from customers get swept under the rug. These are excellent opportunities to wow your customers and identify holes in your system. If you’ve made a mistake show how well you can fix it. And if there is a complaint, do your best to show your customer that you are going to find a way to make their experience better the next time. This is your time to shine – show off!
3. Know how and when to apologize. This goes hand in hand with number two. Whether you believe the customer is right or wrong is absolutely irrelevant. Always apologize for whatever the mistake or complaint is and then sincerely make an effort to record what went wrong so that you may find a solution.
4. Live assistance. Whatever you do, whether you run a major corporation or a local grocery store, have a living, breathing person there to offer assistance when your business is open. There is nothing more frustrating to a customer than trying to use a machine to check out without any support or calling a company and spending an hour pushing buttons on a phone only to come full circle without any answers. It’s true that some customers won’t need the operator, but the ones that do will be extremely glad that you’ve offered them a person to speak to.
5. Show, don’t tell. It’s great that you have your employees trained to be well mannered and to have several phrases that they can spit out to meet ninety percent of customers needs. But for the other ten percent you need to have trained employees that can show sincere action that matches the phrasing. You can tell a customer anything. But showing that you will actually do it will impress and bring back more business.
*“How Customer Service Works”, HowStuffWorks (http://www.howstuffworks.com), by Susan Gladin. HowStuffWorks, Inc. 2006.