On 60 Minutes this past Sunday, Maine Senator Angus King called Maine “a big small town.” When interviewer Jon Wertheim asks what he meant, King responds, “If you’re from Maine and you stop on the New Jersey Turnpike for gas, and the car next to you has a Maine plate on it– I guarantee within 30 seconds you can establish someone you know in common…that’s the way Maine is. People know each other. And there’s still a sense of community and caring about each other.”
Then, Wertheim asks, “What do you attribute that to?” King replies, “A little bit of geographic isolation, for one thing. If you’re in a small town and if you’re in a business, repeat business is all there is. You’ve got to, as we say up here, use people right, or they’re not gonna come back. That engenders– a sense of community and– and relationship…”
When Wertheim inquires how to import such qualities of Maine as being placid, measured and reasonable to Washington, D.C., King says, “I think those qualities exist all over America…in many parts of America…we just have to try to ring the bell of common sense.”
King’s words speak to customer service issues that can make or break allegiance to a brand or company. Among them are:
Handle customer service as though repeat business is all that exists. Obviously, in many larger companies, there will be a continuing stream of new customers. Those who work hard to retain customers via stellar customer service are building relationships that not only will endure with that customer, but the many people they will refer and the many positive reviews they give. Although Costco gets many new members, their retention rates are superlative. So, there’s an ever-growing cadre of people who become a marketing machine because of consistent, complimentary word-of-mouth.
Use the “bell of common sense” to accrue to the customer’s benefit. The Wall Street Journal reports that “Amazon, Walmart Tell Consumers to Skip Returns of Unwanted Items…In some cases, it’s cheaper for the retailers to refund the purchase price and let customers keep or donate the product.”
The article notes, “Amazon.com Inc., Walmart Inc. and other companies are using artificial intelligence to decide whether it makes economic sense to process a return. For inexpensive items or large ones that would incur hefty shipping fees, it is often cheaper to refund the purchase price and let customers keep the products.
Lorie Anderson of Vancouver, Wash., was pleasantly surprised when she tried to return online purchases of makeup at Target and batteries from Walmart. The chains issued her a refund but told her to keep the items.
‘They were inexpensive, and it wouldn’t make much financial sense to return them by mail,’ Ms. Anderson, 38 years old, said. ‘It’s a hassle to pack up the box and drop it at the post office or UPS. This was one less thing I had to worry about.’”
Common sense prevails in two areas: The company actually saves money in these instances by not having to incur shipping costs higher than the price of the product; and, what a great way to enhance customer satisfaction! Anything that lessens hassles and worries is likely to ring the customer service bell during these stressful times.
While 2020 was a challenging year, customer service changes bolstered by pandemic consequences actually have strengthened positive outcomes. Remote work environments, increased empathy and initiatives implemented to weather the storm have contributed to making and keeping customers happy more consistently. As success stories have spread through social media, mainstream media, word-of-mouth and reviews, companies are adopting measures that have proven successful elsewhere. More companies are discovering what enlightened enterprises have known for years: taking great care of customers benefits both reputation and revenues.Mark Lusky
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Mark Lusky (aka The Happy Curmudgeon)
is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm. He’s a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience, and author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage.