Make 'Service' Extraordinary –Farquharson/Tedesco
When did ordinary customer service become extraordinary? When did getting a client on the phone become akin to winning tickets in a radio station promotion ("Congratulations! You're the 25th caller!")? Somewhere along the line what was once expected in everyday business disappeared. Perhaps people got too busy or maybe the basics were no longer deemed as necessary, but we now live in a sad world where "No problem" has replaced "My pleasure" and essential customer needs go unanticipated and therefore unmet. Perhaps the better question to ask is, how can you benefit?
Customer service died at roughly the same time when common courtesy became uncommon. The goal of voice mail was once to get someone to call back. Today, when that actually happens, you'd be wise to purchase a lottery ticket. You're on a roll! The I, me, my world we inhabit has given rise to a new breed of rude. But cynics beware: In every problem there is an opportunity!
Three true stories. Three customer service nightmares:
A guest is staying at the Holiday Inn in Independence, OH, and the power goes out in the middle of the night. Okay, that's fine. Lying in bed that morning, the man runs through the list of what's to come once his feet hit the floor and ponders the implications of an electricity-less existence: Cold shower, a challenging shaving experience, dressing in the dark, no coffee...NO COFFEE!!!???
Must. Warn. Others.
Calming down and eventually peeling himself off of the ceiling, he remembers that the Holiday Inn in Independence, OH, probably has staff working on the problem. That thought gives him the confidence to get out of bed. Picking up the phone, the conversation went like this:
Them: "Front desk..."
Him: "Hi. What can you tell me about the power outage?"
Them: "The entire hotel is out."
Him: "Okay. What's the deal on breakfast and, more importantly, coffee?"
Them: "What do you mean? The power is out. Sorry for the inconvenience."
Him: "Got it. Thanks."
Our question: Why didn't the manager on the night shift ask, "What can I do to anticipate my guests' needs? Dunkin' Donuts sells a 'Box of Joe' that holds 25 cups of coffee. There's a Dunky right across the street and, miraculously, their lights are on. Perhaps I might send someone over with $50. Heck, the hotel is going to lose that and probably much more in refunds anyway." When the man went down to the front desk to pose that question, he stopped upon seeing the night manager talking with the morning manager, laughing over the coffee that the former had bought the latter on the way in.
The lesson: Anticipate.
On a motorcycle ride through Cape Cod this past July, Bill stopped by a gift shop where he found the perfect Christmas present for his best friend. It was a special order item that, he was told, would come in by the middle of September at the latest. No problem. The order was placed and Bill was told to wait for a phone call.
September came and went without that call. October was racing by as well, and Bill felt the need to check in:
Bill: "Hi, I'm just checking on my purchase."
Them: "Oh. We haven't even ordered it yet."
Bill's thinking: &^%$#$%&
Bill (through gritted teeth): "And why is that?"
Them: "Because we need to wait until we have $2,000 in orders and we don't."
Bill: "Why didn't you call and tell me that?"
Them: "Why would we? It's a Christmas gift, as I recall. You've got plenty of time."
Our question: Regardless of the fact that, yes, there is plenty of time, if a customer was told that the order would be ready by the end of September and it wasn't, why didn't someone at the gift shop anticipate the frustration of the customer and pick up the phone to relay that information? Is that kind of anticipation really that extraordinary?
The lesson: Communicate.
There is a fantastic Website called airbnb that allows you to find rental properties anywhere in the world at prices well below that of hotels. Everything from a home to an apartment, right down to a bed within a house, are available. A request was made for the West Palm Beach, FL, area for a couple of weeks in January. Plugging in a few variables, a number of options came up and e-mails went out to four owners with questions regarding their amenities and whether four people would be accommodated. The e-mails went out on a Saturday afternoon. Here's a timeline for their response time:
#1: 45 minutes
#2: 3 hours
#3: 2 days
#4: Still waiting
The interesting thing here is that the first respondent didn't actually address the question posed, much less answer it. He simply reached out to say he had received the message but was unavailable until later that day, at which time he would (and did) respond and answer the questions completely. The "vendor" who responded in three hours was prompt, but returned a generic e-mail that had nothing to do with the initial query. Simply put: She didn't read the question. No surprise that the prompt response is the one that got the reservation. The others? Not so much.
The lesson: Don't hesitate!
Common sense is no longer common. Good service is a rarity and what was once "entry level" is now extraordinary, but only because it is no longer done. What can you do to anticipate the needs of your clients? Think. Put yourself in their shoes. It's not difficult. Communicate. Overcommunicate if need be. Respond promptly to requests and calls, even if it is to say that you can't talk right now. It will be noticed every bit as much as when you don't.
Do you anticipate your customers needs? If, for example, a print run is going to be late, do you think to call the customer up and offer a small set of digital copies in the meantime? Are you calling clients ahead of time to let them know delivery status? Are you calling people back right away even if it's just to tell them that you can't speak to them right now? Some people won't notice and won't care. They are not your customer. Those who do, will find a way to do business with you. Why? Because they lie in bed when the lights are out, wonder what will happen next and notice when someone "buys the coffee." And, when these people find someone who anticipates, communicates and doesn't hesitate, it stands out.
Do the ordinary. It will be extraordinary. Do the extraordinary. It will be rewarded. PI
—T.J. Tedesco, Bill Farquharson
About the Columnists
T.J. Tedesco is team leader of Grow Sales, a marketing and PR services company that has served graphic arts companies since 1996. He wrote "Direct Mail Pal 2012" and seven other books. Contact Tedesco at (301) 294-9900 or e-mail email@example.com. Bill Farquharson is the president of Aspire For. Through his Sales Challenge and Tuesday eWorkshop training programs, Farquharson can help drive your sales. Visit his Website at www.aspirefor.com or call him at (781) 934-7036.
Bill Farquharson is a sales trainer for the graphic arts. Email him at Bill@AspireFor.com or call (781) 934-7036. Bill’s two books, The 25 Best Print Sales Tips Ever and Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing…and How? as well as information on his new subscription-based website, The Sales Vault are available at BillFarquharson.com.