I was speaking at an event last week. If it seems like I am always speaking at events, I agree. I actually spoke at 11 events in the first 15 days of February. This particular group of medical technology professionals was struggling internally. Their implementation team felt that the sales organization was selling the wrong stuff. The sales organization felt that billing and operations were causing customer problems. They looked to me to find out what they should do. I asked how the customer is feeling through all of this. One of the managers said, “We are very responsive to issues. Our clients feel that we have good customer service.” I explained that acceptable customer service drives away customers.
Getting It Wrong
My wife and I recently got on the grass-fed beef craze. My wife found a local ranch, and made a purchase. I jokingly asked, “Did you have to buy a whole cow?” She said, “No. Just half.” Quickly we determined that we needed a freezer. We searched online, found the freezer, and a store to purchase it from. When my wife went to make the purchase, the store could not process the payment using the recently issued store card.
I contacted the company via social media. They replied by asking me to fill out a form online. The social media team then confirmed receipt of the form and said someone would be in touch ASAP. Several hours later, there was still no contact. I phoned the company, and they said they’d contact the store manager. Within five minutes, she called and said, “We messed up. This should not have happened. If you’ll give us the chance to make it right, I’ll personally take care of it.” The next morning, we made the purchase and she discounted the freezer as a token of good faith.
I am sure that internally, the company is checking boxes: “We have a complaint form online. We have a social media team.” What they are forgetting is how their actions or inactions impact the customer. When you tell the customer someone will respond ASAP, in 2016 that means responding in minutes, not days. Corporate blamed the store, the store associate blamed the corporate card processing. Ultimately, the manager took care of the customer.
Getting It Right
I had the pleasure of having my wife join me on a trip to Austin, Texas over Valentine’s Day Weekend. I contacted the JW Marriott in Austin via social media. I asked if they could sprinkle rose petals in the room for our arrival. They said, “We’re on it.” Our flight arrived earlier than expected. I again used social media to contact the hotel. They said, “We’re ready for your arrival.” When we got to the room, they had placed rose petals on the bed in the shape of a heart with a long-stemmed rose across it. Of course, my wife assumed they were doing that for every guest. Oh well. I asked the hotel via social media and in person who I could thank. They replied, “Knowing you are happy is thanks enough.”
The great thing is that as a business, each person took responsibility for making sure that the task was completed. Nobody was seeking credit, they just wanted to ensure that the guest was thrilled. It was a great experience.
What You Can Apply In Your Business
Blaming another department or even another vendor does not help your customer. You might be a sales professional who discovers that accounting messed up the billing. Avoid the temptation to throw them under the bus. Don’t suggest that your customer contact billing. Instead, think like the Marriott team did and take charge. You might say, “Let me reach out to our accounting team and see what I can get done without taking any of your time.” Your extra steps of service will help earn repeat and referral business.
Simply checking the boxes as the home improvement store did will actually cost your business, not earn more. Smart companies have shifted from customer service to customer experience. It’s not about saying you have completed certain tasks. Rather, you need to constantly consider how your actions or inactions change the experience for your customer. Anything that does not move the customer in a positive direction might be acceptable, but is not exceptional.
It’s Your Turn
When has “acceptable” customer service turned you away? When has “exceptional customer experience” caused you to do more business with the vendor? Share your experience on Twitter or LinkedIn.
This post originally appeared on Forbes.com, reprinted here with permission.
About Ian Altman
Ian Altman helps companies around the globe grow their revenue and business value with integrity. You can read his articles about integrity-based sales leadership on Forbes.com. Business luminary, Seth Godin, recommends his latest bestselling book, Same Side Selling, as one of two books you should read on consultative selling. Ian successfully built and sold his prior companies growing the value to more than $1 billion.