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You didn’t think you’d hear from me today, did you? Well, in the words of Gomer Pyle, “Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!”
Let’s talk about delighting customers. By now you know me well enough to know how fanatical I am about customer service or experience. I use words like extraordinary, remarkable and verbs like dazzle and delight.
Companies talk about it because talk is easy. Execution is hard. Doable, but hard.
Unfortunately, companies can be lulled into thinking they’re doing a good job when they’re not. Just say it and believe it. That’s enough.
Well, to be fair it used to be enough. But the Internet changed all that. Now, people can publish and talk. Word of mouth used to mean you bought a new car, took it home and told your neighbors where not to go buy a car. Because your experience was awful. The car? She’s great. But the dealer where we got it, not so much. That was our word of mouth. That was then.
Now, we go home, aim our phone’s camera at our face while we show off our car’s interior. Then we turn the camera on the outside of the car as we offer a review to anybody interested in this particular model. We share our dealership experience in the video. For good or bad. And we post it on YouTube, Facebook and as an Instagram story. We also figure we’ll post a review at the dealer’s Google profile, giving them 2 stars. “The paperwork took us 4 hours! Four stinking hours just to get out of the door with our new car. Don’t shop here unless you’re craving the need to feel like a hostage.”
That’s our word of mouth today. Companies have no place to hide today. The worldwide web exposes us. All of us.
I know what you’re thinking. How can our company possibly meet the expectations of today’s customers? How do we protect ourselves against the unreasonable client who refuses to think we’re giving it our best? Answer: you can’t. Jerks are going to be jerks.
Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! You can’t let the jerks dictate how you roll. So because you can’t dazzle 100% of the people you’re not going to bust your tail trying? That’s a bad business model. Lean into it. Make up your mind that even if the jerks write a bad review of your company, you’re going to remain devoted to doing the right thing – delighting every customer!
Make up your mind. Decide.
That’s the real key to delighting customers! And no, it’s not easy to decide.
Have you ever found it hard to forgive somebody, but you eventually relented and did forgive them? You just wallered it and wallered it, refusing to give in. You told yourself how undeserving they are of your forgiveness. You justified it 8 ways to Sunday. You fortified yourself, entrenching yourself more and more into your position of not forgiving them. Until you realized you were working a lot harder not to forgive them than you would if you just let go and made up your mind, “I’m going to forgive them and move on.” In an instant you did it. Something clicked inside of you and caused you to at long last decide to forgive. That gave rise to other actions that likely served you well. Much better than holding onto the grudge or whatever else you were feeling.
That’s how it works with delighting customers. Fret about all the downsides. Find every excuse for neglecting to do it. Justify it with spreadsheets and all the perceived outcomes you can imagine. You’ll devote more effort into being poor or mediocre at serving customers than you will at rising above the crowd and living in the Land of Delight!
Over deliver. Under promise. Manage the expectations. That’s what we’ve all heard. Forget it. It’s not that complicated.
I’ll shock you with a really simple truth. Politeness alone will put you above the crowd. Having people who say “please” and “thank you,” or “sir” and “ma’am” is a competitive edge. Mere politeness involves more than just words though. Mostly, it involves attentiveness. Walk up to a cashier in a store where somebody is anxious to help you right away. I’ll be behind you with a crash cart to resuscitate you when you faint in shock if they immediately pay attention to you. We’re all too well acquainted with pathetic and indifferent service.
Are you telling me that it demands greater effort to be attentive than it does to be indifferent? Does it take more effort and time to great a customer with “Good afternoon. Welcome!” – than it does to say, “Can I help you?” (drives me completely crazy, but that’s because I ran retail companies for too long)
Attentiveness. Politeness. Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! You can delight customers.
Honesty. Directness. I talked about those yesterday. For good reason. Those are also delightful to customers. We appreciate it, even if it’s not exactly what we wanted to hear. It beats being lied to. Or surprised in a bad way down the line. “Surprise! I told you we’d have that project completed this week, but I was wrong. It’s gonna be done in 2 weeks!” That’s not delightful. To anybody. Including us. I haven’t met anybody yet who enjoys delivering bad news, especially when it involves them telling somebody they can’t do what they promised.
“It’ll cost too much.” Sometimes a CEO or entrepreneur worry that the cost of delighting customers will be too high. This admittedly happens when we’re operating companies that aren’t at the top of the price point. People operating on price and or convenience can find it hard to get their head wrapped around. It’s easy for Uber or Walmart or Amazon. They’ve got scale working for them. Or so goes the logic. And I immediately jump in – “Well, you can’t successfully scale negative profits. So how do you suppose that works?”
It’s that proverbial story of the guy selling watermelons at a loss. He buys them for $2, but sells them for $1. “How do you make a living?” asks a stranger. He replies, “I make it up in volume.” The math doesn’t work.
Here’s the math that does work. Delighting customers pays. Always.
Doing the right thing pays. Always.
Will it cost you? Yes. It may cost you in profits on a single transaction. It may cost you in a variety of ways. But it scales because delighting customers is a way of life that generates more business that won’t cost you. Measure the transactions one at a time and they’re not all going to cost you. Put the effort into having processes and systems designed to dazzle and delight EVERY SINGLE CUSTOMER. Make delighting customers the norm inside your company. You won’t “take it in the shorts” as one CEO told me, lamenting how his company had to take care of a client who had a bad experience. Will you have to forego profits every now and again? Absolutely. Because if you don’t, you won’t delight the customer.
But I’ve got another surprise for you.
The Power Of Recovery
Recovery is what happens when you take an unhappy customer from disgust (or potential disgust) to delight. It’s a great opportunity. I love recovery opportunities! They’re terrific for shoring up your customer base. There is no better opportunity for building a foundation for a successful business.
Examine transactions and insist on each transaction earning its keep…you’ll lose.
See an opportunity to make an unhappy customer delighted and do whatever you can to surprise the customer with your willingness to dazzle them — and watch the shock and awe they’ll feel.
That word of mouth that happens in this digital age is more than worth the cost, or the profits you’ll forego. Delighted customers can’t wait to share their story. Give them something to talk about. It’s the fast path to growing great!
Be well. Do good. Grow great!