The possibility to provide exceptional service is available to almost any company—if it believes in its people, is willing to innovate, and really cares about their customers’ experience..
Today, few companies create a legendary or memorable customer service experience. Most provide average service, and only go through the motions to improve. The giant, waving inflatables on the roof! Free coffee! Free balloons for the kids that they’ll pretend to like while you’re there! Smiles! Handshakes! Emptiness.
Silly or fancy marketing campaigns to manipulate their customers’ buying habits doesn’t impress, differentiate or add value to the customer. It’s so average that customers don’t even notice it. It’s almost as if customers are blindfolded while buying and can’t easily describe what happened in their purchase experience. They are left with no strong positive emotions. When things go wrong it’s the opposite. These types of experience produce strong negative emotions:
- rude or discourteous or unknowledgeable employees
- product that is of noticeably poor quality
- delays in service
- fixing product quality problems
- pricing issues
Customers will remember and share their bad experience or complain to as many people as they can. Upset customers commonly let their emotions run wild with negative word of mouth advertising. Brain research tells us that a strong emotional response to a situation is what creates a lasting memory. The lack of helpful positive memories or the abundance of outrageous negative memories are huge detriments to any company.
Legendary service is rare and difficult to achieve. We believe it is on par with the examples set by athletes like: Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, Serena Williams and Lindsey Vonn. Each one is a sports legend who has excelled time and time again in their own competitive sports, providing lasting memories for their fans.
Legendary service occurs when a company, through its employees, serves the customer so well that the customers receive a powerful, positive, and emotional reaction that propels them to repeat the experience. This takes a healthy investment of time, money, training, coaching and recognition.
The payoff is that besides feeling pleased with their purchase, customers become believers in the company and are repeatedly drawn back. Their experiences and behaviors are exhibited in sharp contrast to that of the mind-numb or upset customers. The happy customers write complimentary letters, tell friends about it, share their delight with a company manager, and begin to increase their purchases at the business. Their experiences are capable of producing a loyalty that may draw the customers back to buy exclusively from this business for years and even decades.
We know from our research that if a company creates a high performance atmosphere and continually coaches and trains their employees, this level of committed service is achievable. Unfortunately, this is exactly where too many companies and managers fail. They believe in technology and profits more than in their employees.
Note the characteristics of legendary service providers below. Passionate employees do the first three, and the next four come from loyal customers. All of this creates unsolicited media attention which is a capstone achievement resulting from legendary service.
Providers of Legendary Customer Service..
1. Exceed expectations – Employees love working at the company; they search for ways to delight customers with each daily service encounter.
2. Achieve service levels that are better and different than the competition – Happier and passionate employees provide new ideas so the company can innovate and distinguish their service from others.
3. “Wow!” the customer consistently – Employees routinely go the extra mile because they want to.
4. Become promoters. The positive emotions customers receive when engaging with the employees make them want to spread the news.
5. Share word of mouth advertising. People talk positively and the word spreads beyond a market and industry.
6. Keep coming back. Who wouldn’t want to buy again?
7. Generate viral media attention. As the positive buzz spreads, the media from many sources begins to report the good news.
In the supermarket industry, Wegman’s has figured this out. Wegman’s is consistently the #1 grocer, if not retailer, in America, It’s not “just grocery shopping” there, it’s an event. The smell of freshly baked bread fills the air. Customers can take a cooking class to advance their culinary skills or dine at Wegman’s food court while shopping there. A friend recently sent me an email lamenting a host of poor service experiences he’s had in a variety of companies. At the end he added, “Well, at least I still have Wegman’s.” They have established themselves as the gold standard.
As a manufacturing company, Apple is still relatively new to retail but it certainly isn’t a rookie. They designed their stores so customer engagement is outrageously different. All of their products are accessible for demo and their employees are the “geniuses” that offer expert advice and involvement. There are no sales clerks that don’t care in an Apple store. They demonstrate their superior technology and service capability by checking out customers on the spot, using their phones to collect the customers’ payment and sending a receipt immediately to their email. This allows a nice demonstration of their technology even while they collect your contact information–without offending you at all.
#1 Reason Why Most Companies Fail
In a world where businesses are competing for the same customers while selling products essentially similar to those of their competitors, there are few places to make a distinction that allows the customers to win. We all know from personal experience that we will often pay more when we can depend on the business to take real care of us. That’s where most companies fail. They don’t “buy-in” and don’t really care. They invest little in their employees so their employees don’t care. (That’s why employee disengagement is so high.) The employees don’t give that personal touch or effort. In the world of commerce, we all tend to worship on the altar of price and technology. Yet it’s most often the rare personal service or assistance we receive that captures our loyalty as customers.
Exceptional service leads to legendary reputations. The possibility to provide service of this quality is available to almost any company if it believes in its people, is willing to innovate, and really cares about their customers’ experience. The bottom line is uncomplicated: sales and profits soar. Conrad Levinson, author of Guerilla Marketing books, said, “There is extraordinary chemistry that exists in long-term relationships.”
About the Author
Rick Conlow is CEO & Senior Partner of WCW Partners, a performance improvement company. Based in Minneapolis/ST. Paul, Minnesota, WCW work with clients in a variety of industries worldwide to help them excel in sales, service and leadership, facilitating business growth and vitality. Rick is author of Excellence in Management, Excellence in Supervision and Returning to Learning.