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The Audacity of Some Companies

The Audacity of Some Companies

The Audacity of Some Companies

My family and I traveled recently to my hometown for a wedding. The event was a great success and smiling faces pervaded throughout the evening. The travel, however, was a collection of mishaps and missed opportunities by the airline and the car rental company to earn our loyalty and sing their praises. Long story short, one flight was delayed causing me to hit a personal speed record racing through the concourse. Thankfully, I didn't knock anyone over and despite our asking the flight attendant to alert the connecting flight crew of our dilemma, she flat out refused. On our return trip, our last flight was canceled and we were curtly told NO to all of the options we presented; a car rental, perhaps a bus ticket, a hotel? Unfortunately, the service (or lack thereof) from the car rental company was the same. Each time these companies were presented with a "point of contact" or touchpoint with their customer, they responded with a negative and left the customer feeling negative about them. This could have gone very differently if the businesses understood the value of customer service. 

Companies are in business to make money, no question there. And there are several ways in which a company can increase its revenue stream from raising prices to cutting costs or services. But one of the simplest and too often overlooked ways is through excellence in customer service.  In his recently released book, Excellence Wins, A No-Nonsense Guide To Becoming The Best In A World Of Compromise, author and Ritz-Carlton cofounder Horst Schulze explains, " ... in reality, the people you serve are all the same. They are all people who want us to meet their needs--and we know we must do so if we are to stay viable in today's busy, interconnected world."  When you meet the customer's needs, you are telling them that they are important to you, that they matter to you--beyond the sale. He goes on to say, "The inner desires and feelings, the values, and the interests of the person are central."  Schulze built a legacy of providing excellent customer service.

Every time you engage with a customer from the first eye contact to the goodbye is an opportunity to 'wow' them and create loyalty for your company and your brand. These encounters called touchpoints, don't cost huge investments of money, they require investments of intent, personal and professional intent. Great customer service starts at the top. Looking at some of the greatest customer service-focused companies, Walt Disney, The Ritz-Carlton, Chick-fil-A, Costco, Trader Joe'sBuffer (app), Amazon, American Express, and Netflix, all are extremely successful because they value the customer and create a company culture around meeting the needs of the customer. What these companies have done on a large scale can be done in any size business. 

Take for example Kohl's Department Store. In a bold and a bit audacious move, Khol's new policy targets consumers' desire for convenience while hitting hard against digital competitors. Now, when you have an item to return to Amazon, you can just walk that item into Kohl’s and they will return it to Amazon for you. And get this, you don’t have to worry about packing the item in a box or paying for the shipping! This creates touchpoints for Kohl's to connect with buying customers by going above and beyond what is expected. 

In a similar move, some banks install coin-counting machines that anyone, even those that don't have accounts there, can come in and use. Why you might ask would they allow non-customers to use their machine?  Simple, the bank gets a steady flow of potential customers walking into their business every day. This creates touchpoints to establish relationships with people who one day may need a checking or savings account and maybe even a small business loan or mortgage. 

For the majority of businesses, without the customer, there is no business. So why would you not make every effort to set yourself apart or shall I say above the rest, and provide more than what is expected? In a case study conducted by marketing research firm Huify, it shows that it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing customer. The numbers show that excellent customer service pays off. If you increase your customer retention by just 5% you can increase your profits anywhere from 25-95%. The success rate of selling to an existing customer is 60-70% compared to the success rate of selling to a new customer at only 5-20%. How would you put that extra income to use in your business? 

As for my travel woes, I'll leave you with Schulze's wisdom, "Complaints don't have to become complications. With quick, alert, sensitive handling, they can be resolved and even result in good outcomes for the organization." 

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