The red-carpet treatment is generally reserved only for celebrities. But why not your customers? This article published on c-suitenetworkadvisors.com offers three ways to make your customers feel like gold – and turn them into your strongest advocates.
Have you heard the phrase, “Customer Experience is the new marketing?”
In a world where your customers have more choices and louder voices than ever before, providing an exceptional experience is certainly key to building a brand that attracts new and loyal customers.
A study by McKinsey shows that 70% of all buying decisions are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. Gartner found that by 2018, more than 50% of organizations will implement significant business model changes in an effort to improve customer experience.
It’s not new that people like doing business with people and companies they like. What is new, in the past decade and going forward, is that in this age of social media and review sites, word of mouth has taken on a whole new meaning.
There’s no doubt that in order to ensure “word on the street” is positive when it comes you to your business, it’s imperative that you pay attention to delivering a red carpet customer experience. So, what does that mean and where do you start?
When it comes to improving the customer experience, there are three specific areas of focus:
- Warmth and Hospitality
The Technical area of focus centers on the quality of products and services you deliver, and the processes that enable you to provide a seamless experience across all channels.
To improve this area, consider the following:
- Do you deliver exceptional products or services?
- Do your customers feel they are getting their money’s worth?
- What’s the speed of delivery?
- How responsive is your team?
- How many interactions (with technology or people) does it take to get an answer to a question or a resolution to a problem?
- How knowledgeable is your team? Is there enough information at the customer’s fingertips?
- How well trained is your staff?
- How up-to-date are your systems?
- How many times do customers have to repeat information?
- How easy or difficult do you make it for a customer to do business with you?
Are you rolling out the red carpet, or the red tape? This is the question the leaders of the city of Ball Ground, GA asked themselves several years ago. At the time, they had a 3-page list of items that had to be completed before someone could establish a business in their city. They culled the list down to those procedures needed only for the safety and well being of their citizens. As a result, they’ve not only attracted new business to their community, but Hollywood as well. The Tom Cruise movie American Made was partially filmed in Ball Ground. Says city manager Eric Wilmarth, “Instead of charging them huge fees, we asked that the crews be fed locally, use local businesses, and work with the businesses to ensure they’d be made whole if they lost money during the filming process.”
How are you making it easy…or difficult…for your customers to do business with you?
Warmth and Hospitality
The Warmth and Hospitality area of focus is all about your people.
As self-sufficient as customer interactions may become in the future, at some point your customer will engage with a human being. In fact, many may prefer to work with a person and you may be making it difficult for them. (Red carpet? Or red tape?)
When they do, you want to ensure those interactions are warm, welcoming and helpful. Red-Carpet customer service is about making the person in front of you right now feel important. This comes down to the basics of genuine smiles, eye contact and learning and using customer names. You want each person they meet to exude friendliness and a sense of really wanting to be helpful.
To improve the hospitality area of focus, here are a few questions to consider:
- Are you hiring people with empathy and an innate desire to make others feel important?
- Are you training your team on customer service skills? While you may not be able to teach empathy or friendliness, you can train people on ways they can better show empathy or friendliness.
- Are your team members 100% present to your customers?
- Are your team members empowered to solve problems for your customers and go the extra mile to make them happy?
- How is employee morale? Have you spent some time building a service culture that lifts your team up, so they are ready to lift up your customers?
Remember, each person your customer interacts with is a reflection of your brand. Ensuring those interactions are consistently positive is critical to the overall customer experience. When you’ve created a place where your customers feel important and warmly welcomed, you’ve created a place where your customers return and bring friends.
The WOW area of focus is last for a reason.
While it may be fun to think of ways you can go over-the-top and delight your customers, those WOW moments don’t matter if your products aren’t up to par, your processes bog things down, and your people are surly.
However, if you’re providing a pretty seamless experience and your people are consistently warm, friendly and helpful, then you may want to look at adding some of the WOW Factor!
This is about going deep to really get to know your customers and using that information to deliver unexpected moments of red carpet awesomeness!
To improve this area of focus, consider the following:
- Do you have a process for recording the preferences of your customers?
- How can you add a touch of personalization to each point in your customer’s journey?
- Are your team members encouraged and empowered to surprise and delight customers?
- How far can a team member go to make a customer happy?
- What tools can you provide your team so it’s easy to add a little delight to the mix?
The WOW-factor happens when you’ve got your entire team engaged and excited about making memorable moments for your customers. For instance:
- Ruby Receptionists empowers their entire staff to send surprise cards and gifts to their customers. They even have a station with notes, wrapping paper and access to a gifting account.
- An employee at Tampa International Airport found a stuffed tiger left by a little boy. They took the tiger on a little “airport adventure,” documenting it in photos along the way. When the child and his parents were reunited with their stuffed friend, they were also presented with a photo album of all he had “done” while they were separated.
- ScanMyPhotos.com sends bouquets of flowers to customers on a random basis.
- An auto mechanic noticed a customer dancing along to the music playing through their sound system. After hearing her say it was one of her favorite recordings and she had lost hers, he pressed the track on a CD for her. It began playing through her sound system as she started her car.
These are the moments that make people want to talk about, write about, and post about your business in a very positive way.
As you think about upping your game when it comes to customer experience, consider each of these three areas. Decide on the most impactful strategy you could employ from each area of focus, and implement. Keep repeating and you’ll be able to look back and see great improvements in your customer’s experience. Why bother? Because when you roll out the red carpet for your customers, they run out and tell everyone they know.
Donna Cutting is the Founder & CEO of www.RedCarpetLearning.com and the author of two books on customer service, including “501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers.” Follow her on Twitter at @donnacutting