How’s your customer service? How’s your brand? Good enough to turn people away? Good enough to say, “we don’t want your customer?”
It is for Paddi Lund, the crazy Australian dentist. He’s built such a great word of mouth referral scheme he can afford to take down the sign over his surgery and lock his front door.
Were you to go to his practice in Melbourne, you wouldn’t be able to get in and you’d be greeted with the following sign outside his premises:
“If you haven’t been to see us before, we’d like to tell you that we take only people who are referred by our current clients.”
In short a very polite, “Go Away!” And since setting up his closed shop referral system, Paddi Lund’s revenue has gone up!
How about you? Would your revenue go up if you turned customers away? Would your brand stand up?
It’s simple. The job of most customer service operatives is to get rid of you as quickly as possible. They want you off their desk, off the phone, off their numbers. They just want to get rid of the problem. They’re not interested in solving it.
They’ll pass you to someone else, they’ll say they can’t help, they’ll say it’s not their department, but they’re target is to get through as many calls/people as possible, not to actually solve any problems.
This doesn’t make for very happy customers (or very happy employees for that matter, but that’s a whole other blog post!).
If you want delighted customers who come back and bring their friends next time follow this very simple rule – who ever speaks to a customer first should own the problem!
As a customer I don’t care how you organise yourself internally, I’m not bothered about who’s fault it is, or who’s job it is, I just want to explain my issue once and for it to be dealt with.
The way to achieve that is to make all you employees part of your customer service team. Every single one! All of them responsible for whatever issues a customer brings to them personally.
They don’t have to solve them themselves, but the should be responsible for them being solved.
Customer service is absolutely necessary! Get it wrong and you’ll lose clients. Not only that, but you’ll lose potential clients as well, because the client that you lost will tell others not to use you!
The bad news is that even if you get it right you could still lose clients, if you get the customer experience wrong.
You see, customer service is about ensuring your customer is dealt with in a way that is polite, timely, appropriate and acceptable (to the customer!). Where as customer experience is the whole package! The entire interaction that a client has with you, your environment and your product – the colour of the walls, the smell of the office, the employee dress code, the shop layout, the length of the queue, the sales conversations, the time spent, the product features even the weather! – every single touch point where a customer interacts with your organisation is part of their experience!
You may not be able to change the weather, but if you design your customer experience well, not only will you keep your customer, but just like a customer who has bad service tells all their friends about it, a customer who has an awesome experience tells their friends, so they become not only a loyal customers, but a customer evangelists for your company that gives you repeat business, AND drums up new custom as well.
You effectively create a volunteer for your marketing department! Which, lets face it, in todays market we could all really do with!
Quite frankly I want to cry! You’ve made me cry – a grown man! It’s not a pretty sight. I feel like you’re stalking me. Everywhere I turn there you are.
It all started in September 2011, when I received a cryptic and interesting correspondence suggesting that you and I were going out again! That I’d come back to you after all this time. But it was news to me because I’d moved on. I’d grown. I’d changed. I’d found someone that made me happy – EDF energy (ah, just the sound of her name)…er…anyway…where was I?
However, when I phoned up to deliver the bad news, you denied you ever knew me. That I wasn’t even on your “system!” So I did a little digging – super sleuth that I am (I have a hat and a magnifying glass and everything) - and discovered that you’d filed me under business. Well, that really hurt! After all the years we’d been together, it was all just business to you! Ouch! I was angry. No, I was beside myself. I knew you couldn’t mean it, so I did some more digging and discovered that it was just a business further up the street that you were wooing, you must have accidently put my address down instead of theirs. It must have been subconcious, because of your ongoing feelings for me! I knew you still cared.
But I still could not be with you; what would EDF think (ah, just the sound of her name…). So I called to tell you that you needed to let me go and put me behind you, filed neatly under “erroneous transfer”. I thought we’d finally parted ways as friends, but I was wrong. Your lust was too strong. Your desire for me too intense. Your passion to have me too insatiable. You wanted me too much!
So you kept sending people to woo me; to declare your undying love for me. Thrice you sent them, in your vain attempts to capture my heart once more. Oh, they said they were here to “read the meter”, but I knew the truth. I knew you’d sent them to win me back. You’d even sent one just last week, claiming to be “reading the meter” for the previous occupant, who has not been a resident here for four long years. I knew no one could make such a silly error and it was me you really want to see. But alas we cannot be together. It has been to long. It will never work. We are too different now!
Yet still you continue to intice me to call you, just to hear my voice. Only this week you once again forced my hand – I realise we’d agreed to be friends and you promised to take good care of little BAXI Potterton for me during your yearly visit and if he needed any special extra care; which I thought was an honourable and noble thing to do (and a steal for just £17 per month). But then I noticed you started charging £19.14, without even having the courteousy to let me know to my face! I was shocked, but I knew you only did it so you could talk to me one last time!
I know you still love me, but there is too much water under the bridge. I’ve found someone else; someone I think can make me very happy. A new, younger, prettier supplier (ah, just the sound of her name). And we just need to be left alone to live our new life together!
You need to move on. You need to let you go. You need to forget me! You need to confirm and assure me that there are no, none, zero, not one (not even a little one hiding behind the sofa) British Gas energy (either electricity of gas) accounts registered to my address. I think it would be for the best if you stopped worrying about Baxi Potterton too, and just returned the £19.14 for this month and cancel our agreement. I know he’ll miss you, but in the long run it’s better this way.
It’s all for the best. I’m sure there is someone one out there for you….don’t give up hope.
And the reply (kudos to British Gas MD Phil Bentley for joining in the spirit of the original email!):
Dear Mr Drury,
Thankyou for your recent email. I’m really sorry to hear of the poor service you’ve encountered from British Gas, for which, please accept my personal apologies.
I’m not a nobel laureate, and can’t possibly follow your missive, other than to say it’s extremely commendable of you to retain your sense of humour in the face of such provocation from British Gas.
There’s clearly a problem here and therefore I’ve asked my specialist team to look into this and sort it out as a priority, which I’m confident they will do. We will ensure the transfer away from ourselves is completed smoothly for the energy accounts. I’ll check on the boiler cover – we usually expect our customers to stick to the one year contract, otherwise people would cancel after Winter, and start again in Autumn.
My apologies once again for letting you down – I do hope your romance blossoms…. but she is French, you know, and somewhat fickle and, according to OFGEM, our marriage-guidance counsellor, she has the worst track record of lasting relationships in the industry!
With very best wishes,
MD British Gas
And the interview on BBC Radio Newcastle:
I recently attended a lecture on marketing and I heard a statistic that as shocking as it was didn’t really surprise me. According to a recent study at Durham University, 68% of customers move to a different supplier/provider purely because of the way their first provider treated them. That’s over two thirds of YOUR customers moving to a competitor, not because of your product, but because of the way it was “packaged”. Gone because of something that is totally within your control. Gone, so have to find a new customer to replace them and hope that the same thing doesn’t happen to this new customer.
How on earth do organisations get it so wrong?
From my experience, organisations who struggle with customer service and customer retention do so because they have made some poor assumptions about their clients. Usually based on two general misconceptions:
1. Customers understand and judge your expertise based on their sound judgement of the goods or services you’re providing. Wrong: your customers make judgements about your business based on all sorts of different, odd and emotional reasons. They may well use a logical argument to justify their judgements (post-rationalisation), but don’t be fooled, their judgement is not based on their sound judgement. They don’t understand your business like you do.
2. Non-core areas of business are far less important than the core area. Wrong: If customer don’t make sound judgements of the quality of goods and services, then what do they judge you on? They judge you on how they were treated. They judge you on the experience you gave them, so the non-core areas of business are critical to ensuring that your customers believe that you’re good at what you do.
Don’t get me wrong, your product or service is extremely important. You need to get it right or you will, more than likely, go out of business, but it’s not enough on it’s own. You need to get the non-core areas of your business right too. Those parts of the business that are not essential to performing your core business function (taking photos if you’re a photographer; selling shoes if your a shoe retailer), but that are absolutely critical to your overall success. Your “non-core critical extras”. By critical extras I’m talking about are all the things that make your customers feel good about doing business with you. All the things that make them say, “Wow, I wasn’t expecting that!”
Imagine you are on the phone to a big multi-national company. After negotiating the automated system, you finally get through to a human, and you’re told that they can’t possible deal with the issue, so they put you through to someone else, who asks you to explain the entire issue yet again. When you’ve finished retelling your tale, you’re told that you’ve been put through to the wrong department and you need to talk to the people upstairs. Before you can protest you’re put on hold to listen to ‘Greensleeves’! Eventually a third person picks up, but he too declares innocence and wants to put you through to someone else, but not just anyone else – the person you first spoke to five minutes ago!
When you get off the phone from a call like this all you want to do is tell someone, anyone who will listen and you want to let everyone know never to use this company. EVER!
But wait a minute! What if the opposite was also possible? What if you could give your customers such a great experience, such fantastic service that when they leave you, all they want to do is tell someone how great you are! They just have to tell all there friends that they must buy from you! Guess what! Some companies have seen revenues rise by as much as 40% by giving their customers such a great story to tell.
Imagine you have a leak under your sink. So you call out a plumber. He turns up on time. He does the job. He tidies up and leaves. Great. If one of your friends asks about a plumber you might pass on the number, if you remembered it.
What if you had a leak in the evening and you call the same plumber. He was just on his way out to a posh dinner, but he pops over anyway. When he turns up he’s wearing a smart Dinner suite. A crisp white dress shirt, with a beautiful silk bowtie – hand tied – and a carnation in his button hole. He neatly lays out his tools, completes the job without getting dirt on his pristine attire. He cleans up, smiles and hands you the carnation as he leaves. The next day you’d tell that story to someone, whether they asked about a plumber or not. Now that’s giving your customers a great story to tell.
Giving a great story can not only give you loyal customers, but it can create customer evangelists for your company that not only give you repeat business, but drum up new custom for you as well. Effectively, volunteers for your marketing department.
A great story comes from examining every part of your customer’s journey and make sure it’s an awesome experience and there are two ingredients that can help that happen. Getting these two right doesn’t guarantee success, but without these two you are guaranteed to fail.
1. Get the right people, who are passionate about your vision of customer service in the right jobs and let them get on with doing what they are good at, what you employed them for.
2. Provide the right tools and systems to make it as easy as possible for those people in the right jobs to provide consistently great service.
In order for you to consistently deliver a high quality customer experience you need to have people that believe in your vision and are passionate about making it a reality. People that are with you. This is where companies like McDonalds fail so badly. Where ever you go in the world, if you order a Big Mac, it’s going to be exactly the same. You’ll get the three buns, you’ll get the lettuce. You’ll get the two burgers and you’ll get the little dollop of pink sauce. Exactly the same, anywhere in the world because Ray Croc has provided the tools to do it. He has systemised every part of the process so that any unqualified 16 year old can do it. Unfortunately any unqualified 16 year old does not share the vision of great service at the customer end. They don’t really care about what they’re doing which is why the food is the same, but the experience is shockingly poor. You need to put right people in the right place. People who want to deliver what you have asked for. To do this some companies need to spend more on recruiting the right people and less on training the wrong people.
Once you have the right people, who are behind your vision then you need to provide them with all the right tools, systems and support to consistently deliver on the promise. To deliver excellence time and time again.
They need to know exactly what good service looks like. They need to know how they are expected to deliver it. They need the freedom to be able to solve problems and issues that arise that don’t fit into the normal agreed patterns. They need to be given not only the responsibility, but also the authority to perform. We’ve all been on the phone trying to solve a problem and the person you’re talking to says, “I can’t make that decision, I’ll have to ask my manager”. I’ve always wondered why they don’t have those powers. If you have the right people in the right jobs doing what they are good at, with the right attitude then they’re going to do what’s right. Give them to tools to do it! In their book “Now discover your strengths”, Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton quote a study in which they asked employees whether at work they had the opportunity to do what they do best every day. In companies where employees strongly agreed with this statement, customer satisfaction went up 44%.
If you get the right people in the right positions and you give them to right tools you can give your customers an awesome story to tell. You can have your customers spreading the word about your product or service. You can create customer evangelists. You can hold on to your 68% of clients that usually leave and you can gather your competitors 68%. And guess what? Your revenue will go up.