Turning Adequate Customer Service into a Memorable Customer Experience


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What is the difference between adequate customer service and a truly memorable customer experience? This should be a constant question that drives companies, none more so than aspiring young or small ventures. Although this is subjective based on the values of the individual, most can agree that they can recognize it when they see it. The good news is that there are plenty of adequate or terrible customer service providers, so you are ahead of the game just by truly valuing you customer’s opinion of your customer service operation. The great news is that size and financial resources do not make much of a difference. Memorable customer service is one area where many companies can compete, but few do.

A recent trip to New York had me thinking about what differentiates good customer service from memorable customer service. My wife and I prefer to stay with friends so we can spend as much time as possible with friends. Nothing says “remember the old days” like sleeping on a pullout again. It also provides us with a telling perspective on customer service based on the numerous front desk personnel we encounter.

On Friday, we tried our standard fare approach of walking past the front desk while engaged in conversation so we would appear as though we were residents. We carried no luggage and I held my keys in my hand as if I were preparing to check mail. The person at the front did not recognize us despite our frequent trips to the area. He called out to us, required us to sign in and call the apartment before allowing safe passage. The dedication to safety is admirable and this is adequate customer service. We felt a bit annoyed at the process, lost a couple of minutes, but completely understood. Customers generally understand the purpose of rules, but when that is all they remember from an encounter, an opportunity may have been missed.

The next night, we traveled with another couple to a mutual friend’s apartment. We had three bags with us and the other couple was new to the area. We certainly could not pose as locals returning home. As I reached into the trunk to gather my bags, someone told me not to worry about it, that he’d get it. Once I got past my “Please don’t mug me?” instinct, I saw it was someone from the building’s door staff. He insisted on taking all of the bags and placing them on a luggage rack for us. We had to fend the helpful hands away to be allowed to take our own luggage to the friend’s apartment. He never asked for a tip or requested we sign the front desk book. Others sign the book, but we were accepted as if we were VIPs.

Was security so bad here that anyone was welcome to walk right in as if they were rent-paying residents? Midtown Manhattan is not exactly known to give the warm fuzzies to outsiders.

As it turns out, it was a bit of recognition and plenty of reward. We have visited frequently before (albeit, just as often as the first place) and we have been seen around with the friend enough times for the front desk team to assume we were visiting the resident. They were quick to recognize us from previous visits, which is half of it. But why be so nice? I lamented not providing a tip since we did have so many bags and were treated like royalty. To that, my friend later told me, “Don’t worry, I take care of them at Christmas.” I have no idea how well my friend takes care of those who take care of his friends who visit, but it was clear it was plenty enough.

To expand this concept to broader customer service, including that within the contact center, I realized just how important personalization and intelligent rewards are to a memorable customer experience.

Creative Personalization, Not Creepy Stalking

Unless you have a small operation, it is nearly impossible to remember the face of every customer in your store. In a call center, you cannot recognize the voice of your customers or even their phone numbers. However, it is possible to make your customers think that you know might know them somewhat. This can be done by intelligent use of technology, including CRMs. Expand the functionality of your CRM to include personal information of customers, including preference profile information that stores previous relationship information, personal information including spouse or children’s names, birthdates, interests, etc. Relevant information can vary by company, industry, customer demographic and even geographic location. These do not need to be mandatory fields, but encourage agents to use them when it is organic. For example, if someone purchases a shirt, asking the customer if it is for them might elicit a response that it is for their son or daughter.

Listening is often just as effective. Customers are apt to be far more revealing when they feel comfortable with the CSR. By having a robust platform, your agents can add information that is provided even without prodding. This capability is not new to CRMs, but it is vastly underutilized.

Companies should also strive to build each customer’s preference profile over time rather than turning the first interaction into a personal inquisition. The experience might be memorable (in a negative way), but the method of extracting personal information should not be. You do not need to use that information for each subsequent interaction. If I tell you that I have four children, you do not need to ask me whether I would like to purchase something for each child every time that I call. Using the gathered information is part art (soft-skills), part science (technology platform). I still remember Baskin Robbins sending me a coupon for a free scoop of ice cream on my birthday. However, if they showed up at my door requested me to purchase a t-shirt, I would remember for the wrong reason.

You want to have technology platform and established processes in place so your agents can listen to the customer, identify an area where the perfect nugget of personalization can either be used or extracted for future use. Companies need to develop the processes that are in sync with their brand, your customers and your objectives. However, for this to work, you need higher caliber brand representatives who can operate in an environment that is not overly scripted. It is a delicate balance, to be sure.

Intelligent Rewards

You do not need to throw mountains of money at a doorman to earn their respect. Likewise, loyal customers are not necessarily those who are the most price-sensitive. Companies who try to reward loyal customers solely via cost cutting are creating an environment of unrealistic expectations and diminishing profits. Reward your loyal customers with access to specials, but mix non-monetary access as well (early-bird deals, access to sales after the sales deadline has ended, complimentary unannounced upgrades, complimentary rewards with a partner selling other goods and services). Smaller companies can even create access and deal exchanges to expand their network without spending too much money. You may attract customers inside their doors the first time with discounted prices, but the best customers return because of their experience with your team, products and services. Once they are hooked, there is no need to keep throwing hard earned profits away. If a customer returns solely because of price, then your grasp on them is limited by your competitions ability to undercut you. Larger companies can always beat you there, but you can certainly control what happens when they are on the phone, on your website or at your store.

These principles are not overnight solutions. They require a dedication throughout your organization (starting at the top, but just as important at every level of engagement), investment in resources and rewards for top-performers. And although these are only two of many important potential drivers of memorable customer service, they are both within your organization’s control.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

James Koller
Serving as the Senior Business Analyst for VIPdesk, James works with internal teams to develop solutions for new opportunities. He has more than eight years of relevant experience in business analysis, project management, proposal writing and strategy execution. In his free time, James enjoys traveling, reading business and leadership books and cooking foods that he can neither pronounce nor replicate.


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