I recently had the privilege of speaking to the people of Ace Hardware about creating amazing customer service. If you know anything about Ace, you might be thinking that they could be the ones delivering the lesson on service — Ace has built its own special brand of customer service centered on being helpful. One of the corporate speakers at the event, Tom Knox, Vice President of Retail and Business Development, made a statement that really resonated with me:
We don't want to be known for having the nicest people. We want to be known for having the most helpful people.
Does this mean that Ace Hardware's personnel are not nice? No, I would say that «nice» is one component of helpful, but there's another element as well — being knowledgeable. It's the combination of nice plus knowledgeable that adds up to Ace's special brand of customer service.
Let's consider each component then. Have you ever done business with a company where the people were extremely nice, but still weren't able to offer what you wanted? You might remember thinking, «they are so nice» or «they try so hard,» and you might even have returned a time or two to give them another chance. But eventually, if they don't get the job done, you will turn to another business that offers the same product or service, looking for someone who will get the job done.
So then perhaps you find another business with people who are knowledgeable and offer the product that you want to buy. But if they are knowledgeable without being nice, you are not likely to give them your long-term business either. There may be a few customers who will put up with bad attitudes and a lack of appreciation, but the majority will move on. Customers want the total experience — nice people who know what they are doing — and don't forget that a quality product or service is a must as well.
For Ace Hardware, the equation looks like this:
Nice + Knowledgeable = Helpful
Ace promises to be «the most helpful hardware stores on the planet,» and they work hard to fulfill that promise of customer service. As the customers experience their friendly, knowledgeable service, they gain confidence, which leads to repeat business and eventually, loyalty.
So what components do you want to include in your brand of amazing customer service? Define how you will offer the total package — from the quality of your product to the attitudes and abilities of your staff — and you are on your way to happy, confident customers.