One person or experience can drive long-term loyalty

Adapted from an Article by Mark Lusky Originally Published in L&NW, November 2015

Often lost amid anger at poor customer service is the power of one – one person or experience that can turn a company, product or service into a rock star. I was reminded of this important asset while attempting to deal with, of all things, an internet service company.

Not known for stellar customer service, the telecom industry deservedly has gotten a bad rep. Dreading my impending activation, I braced for the worst and kept my fingers crossed for the best.

I had chosen a self-install, meaning that once the service activated, it was up to me to complete the setup process. When “the guy” came by to activate, I was awestruck by his desire to make sure everything went well. He was intent on identifying active jacks. Upon learning everything had been cut somewhere in the house previously, he installed a jack so that there would be immediate connection. He could have insisted on charging for a professional installation at $99, but he waved it off.

He also provided some inside information to help with future customer service inquiries, and his direct line. All of this was done without any expectation of reward. His efforts made me an immediate fan of a company I’d long rated as “mediocre” at best.

That’s all it takes in many cases. No fancy advertising promising the moon. No over-the-top self-aggrandizement about company performance. No celebrity spokespeople extolling excellence and caring.

Now, translate this to day-to-day operations in your company. If every day, at least one customer service interaction results in making a fan out of a former fence-sitter customer, both reputation and revenues can be favorably impacted. Not only will that customer be more willing to buy in the future, she or he will spread the word. That’s a wise investment of time to cement a loyal relationship.

Okay, let’s get really bold. Empower every one of your employees – even if they’re not customer facing – to reach out to one customer per day either to help resolve an issue or to perform a random act of kindness. This act can be offering a perk of some type with no strings (or sales pitch) attached to say “thank you” for their business.

The goodwill generated from this effort is bound to have tangible positive results. And it doesn’t demand high technology, extensive learning curves or massive amounts of money. It simply requires a company culture that seeks to treat customers with deference and a sincere desire to help.

In my case, the company was CenturyLink and the service was DSL internet. Never inclined to go either direction, I’d nonetheless gotten some positive feedback vis-a-vis the alternatives. “The guy” cemented the positive feedback. I’m now a fan, who will be much more willing to cut them slack than the “other guys” with whom I’ve worked in the past.

Are you willing to try this decidedly low tech customer service approach whose bells and whistles come in the form of accolades from happy customers? If so, here are a few tips to help reinforce the effort and gain some added value along the way:

1. Without being intrusive or insistent, outreaching employees who have a positive encounter with a customer who wants to respond with a “thank you” can suggest that the customer share their thoughts through online reviews or by sending an email through a designated company system. (In the email response, it’s okay to ask if it’s permissible to share the comments in public forums.) This will amass a cadre of raving fans over time – the stuff of powerful marketing and good reputation going forward.

2. Reward employees for their efforts. While the heart of the effort should be a willingness to pitch in for the greater company good, everyone enjoys acknowledgment. This can come in the form of individual perks, company-wide events and efforts, or both. At some point in the process, gather feedback (attributable where possible, confidential where there is reluctance) from employees involved in this effort. As with customer feedback and reviews, employee buy-in and enthusiasm can add a lot to your company’s marketing efforts.

3. Use the resulting efforts from all this to tell stories in a variety of self-promotional venues. Notice how many advertisers are now telling stories that support their philosophies instead of making an endless stream of claims about how their offering is the best around?

Think about the recent Nationwide Insurance commercials featuring the little kids frustrated with everything from being put on-hold for 55 minutes to not getting served at a restaurant. Then, when the little girl by the damaged car is told by her agent that, “We’ll take care of it,” we see her all grown up, followed by the tagline, “Nationwide is on your side.” Powerful stuff, without a lot of pompous rhetoric to accompany it. And it gets the point across beautifully. (It’s easy to remember both the overarching message AND the company conveying it – not an easy task in today’s information-overloaded marketing world.)

Turn the power of one to your advantage. You’ll likely see multiple positive outcomes.

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Mark Lusky, President, Mark Lusky Communications (aka The Happy Curmudgeon) is a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience. READ BIO

 

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