There are lots of courses and information available out there talking about the importance of customer service standards, key performance indicators (KPIs) in customer service delivery and world’s best practise with customer service. Each of these courses and theories has something positive to offer on the issue of customer service and certainly the most recent research suggest that consumers are putting customer service very high on their list of priorities when it comes to listing businesses to deal with.
In many ways, the great difficulty for us as business owners is to determine which of those customer service standards or which customer service ethos best matches our business. There are experts in customer service standards for a range of industries and what we have to try and do is to work out which best matches the industry we are in.
I came across an interesting solution to that very dilemma one afternoon when listening to ABC radio. Now a couple of interesting things came out of that. When I was a young fellow I remember driving with my father in his car and he would have ABC radio on and I would ask him to change the station, to which he would very politely tell me that it was the ABC radio he was choosing to listen to and when I was old enough to have my own car, and therefore my own radio, that would be when I could choose what station I was going to listen to. The great irony I guess lies in the fact that if we now fast forward to some 30 odd years later, I now have my own car, my own radio, and yet I still choose to often listen to the ABC.
Anyway, here I was listening to the ABC radio and there was a very interesting interview with the curator of the NSW Art Gallery. In the interview the curator was saying in social situations, people would often ask him if the art gallery had anything on. By that, they would be referring to any specific exhibitions. Now the curator initially said that he would often reply that no there were no exhibitions on at that time, and then he got to thinking that there was in fact always something on at the art gallery – there was always art on at the art gallery and so he decided to start answering using exactly that reply. When someone would ask if there was anything on at the gallery he would say, “Yes, there is art on at the gallery.”
That answer got me thinking about business. Marketing advisors will often talk to us about staying in contact with our clients and keeping them informed of special offers or special deals that we have on at that time. Personally I’m a great fan of keeping in contact with the client. At Red Monkey Coaching we maintain very regular contact with our clients, in fact we never let it go any more than about three weeks without having contact with them. This is to let them know that we are thinking of them and to remind them that we are here if they need us. Obviously, they may not want to retain our services right at that point in time but when they do decide that they would like to retain the services of a business coach, because of that regular contact ours will be the first name that comes to mind.
So I was thinking about that approach in relation to business and it occurred to me then that rather than simply letting our clients know when we have something special, what we can do instead is let our clients know that we always have something available, that we always have something special and that something special is our services and our point of difference in what we do. So in many ways it’s like the art gallery analogy. Do we have something on? The answer is yes. Yes, we have our services. Yes, we have art on.
The next thing that the curator of the art gallery had to say which I found to be very enlightening and which I found very easily applicable to business was in relation to the experience of the visitor, and in many ways the curator was quite clever in realising that the visitor to the art gallery is really no different to a client or customer. Our clients are in fact visitors to our business and whether or not the curator realised it at the time (and I have a strong suspicion that he did), he was really applying very good marketing principles to the manner in which he operated the NSW gallery.
Here is what he said. He spoke about the experience of a visit to the gallery and what it was he wanted visitors to take away from each visit, what it was that he wanted visitors to experience. And he very quickly identified three simple yet great factors in the service delivery standards at the gallery. He said that each visitor to the art gallery needed to go away with three things. Three simple things that each visitor could leave with and if he had achieved those three things then he considered his operation of the art gallery to be a success. I took some time to think about those three things and applied them to the operation of my business and wanted to show you how you could apply them to your business and, more importantly, how they apply equally to our businesses and the Art Gallery of NSW or any other state for that matter. Those three things were:
1. A wonderful experience.
2. Something tangible.
3. A burning desire to return.
In order to achieve those three incredibly simply but wonderfully insightful things, the curator broke down the service process of the gallery and we can apply those principles in the everyday service of our clients as well. Let’s look at them individually.
A Wonderful Experience
The curator wanted every visitor to the art gallery to achieve something as simple as enjoying themselves, because by enjoying themselves they had encountered a unique experience. In business, unless we are in a business where we operate in some form of monopoly, we want to be able to have our clients experience something unique and something memorable. We want our clients to experience something that sets us apart from our competition. And so the first point is a memorable experience.
The second point was to take away something tangible. Now in the case of the art gallery that was about going to the art gallery shop and buying something and walking away with something that they took with them. In the case of our business this can be related to the client buying something from us, so they come to our business, they get a truly memorable experience, an experience which sets us apart from our competitors and makes the client feel special.
The second point is that they walk away with something tangible, whether it is a product or a service (depending on which industry you are in), something that they have made a decision to take away with them and that they have paid you for. After all it’s great to make a memorable experience, it’s great to have satisfied clients, it’s great to have clients as friends but if they are not also buying something from us then it’s going to make it hard to pay the bank every month. So, the second thing that we want to achieve is something tangible – you want the client to walk away with something they have purchased.
A Burning Desire to Return
Now, this is how business grows. Yes, we can have a great experience with a client, yes the client can pay for a service but if the client doesn’t return and doesn’t have a burning desire to return then what we are operating is a crash and burn industry.
Now I know some very successful businesses that operate exactly on that basis. The difficulty with that is that you have to have an almost limitless supply of leads or clients if that is how you are going to run your business, because if you are going to crash and burn every client that comes to you, you have to make sure that there is another one to replace that one each and every time. In most cases that supply will eventually, and in many cases very quickly, run out. So we are left with the task of creating the very strong desire for the client to return and of course it is important to keep in mind a desire to return will also most likely lead to a desire to refer and again that is one of the elements of business growth. The burning desire to return is one of the concepts of exponential business growth I’ve spoken about in my keynote addresses.
The obvious question then is how we create the burning desire to return. This involves having a look at what the product is and this is a common point of misconception for many business owners in that they take the view that the product is the physical thing that they are selling. It is rare that this is the case. Even in the purest retail marketing sense, such as where the grocery store is selling a box of breakfast cereal, rarely is the product the actual box of breakfast cereal.
Perhaps one of the most striking examples of that theory lies in the dominance of one supermarket over another in the supermarket industry. Both supermarkets will stock the same or similar products and both supermarkets will use the same or similar marketing techniques and both supermarkets will have the same or similar pricing structures. What sets the supermarkets apart, however, is the desire on the part of the consumer to return to that supermarket as a result of the experience they’ve had whilst shopping there in the first place. In many ways, although this is a third component, it almost completes the circle back to the experience component that we first spoke about. Through providing a great experience, the client will develop that burning desire to return and that in turn will promote sales growth and market dominance.
The burning desire to return therefore comes from not just creating an experience but actually facilitating a process that makes the client feel special, because even in the most transactional of dealings in business there remains the ability to make the client feel special and that in itself will create that desire to return on the part of the client.
One of the really interesting and perhaps overlooked aspects of the various client service delivery processes is that, understandably, it focuses on the needs and desires of the client. Like all relationships and communication processes, however, the relationship between client and business is a two-way process. So the delivery of a certain level of service and meeting these criteria that we have discussed earlier for a client makes them feel special. The other thing it does is it makes the business operator or team member feel special about what they’re doing and have pride in what they’re doing.
One of the greatest lessons that I ever learnt in that process was to visit a supported working environment. It’s what we used to call years ago a sheltered workshop. I had the privilege of visiting a supported workplace which employed persons with Down Syndrome. They were involved in very simple and what some of us would consider mundane work but what struck me was the pride that they had in what they were doing. Yes, it was relatively simple work. Yes, it was probably mundane work, but they carried with them an enormous sense of pride in every aspect of the job that they were performing, so at the end of the day with that business the consumer was getting a good product so that their needs and expectations were being met and so too were the needs and expectations of the worker, in that they felt good about what they were doing.
Service industries are called that for a reason. It’s because the focus is on service and if we can take the opportunity to provide great service and enjoy the provision of that great service then the two-way relationship and communication process works at maximum potential. In that way, the client gets the best possible service and those delivering that product and service get the best possible satisfaction out of what they do.
So in summary we can see how those three very simple truths of customer service work hand-in-hand to create an opportunity for business growth and development. If you develop as part of your business and marketing plan:
* An experience for your clients and customers,
* Something tangible that they can pay for and take away with them,
* A burning desire to return, then you have met the criteria for guaranteed business growth.