by Chip R. Bell
Todays’ customers and prospects are bored with “pretty good service.” They want service experiences that are positively memorable — a story to tell — not those that are plain vanilla. When a brokerage firm decided to have fun with their phone tree by adding, “Punch eight if you want to hear a duck quack,” they were stunned. Over a million people called every week just to hear the duck.
At the same time, many homebuilders, fighting for ever-shrinking margins, have been forced to cut out the value-added extras customer use to get for free. So, what is the solution?
Innovative service (value-unique) can trump generous service (value-added). And, there are far more ways to get a “bang for the buck” in a simple but unexpected surprise than taking the predictable experience and simply adding more. Innovative service that takes the customer’s breath away gets employees excited and customers buzzing. Here are few principles and examples:
Create a Cracker Jack-like Free Prize Inside. The service techs at Sewell Lexus in Dallas program in the local radio stations for new car buyers from their trade-in and then lets customers discover it. In the hot Texas summer, service techs put a logoed bottle of ice-cold water in the cup holder right before customers pick up their vehicle.
Take Care of Those Special to Your Customer. Miller Bros. Ltd in Atlanta, an up-scale men’s clothing store, has a large gumball machine in its entrance. Beside it, a large bowl of pennies. Guess where junior gets to go while daddy is trying on trousers?!
Think Outside of Your Industry. Wayzata Dental in Wayzata, Minnesota is the Nordstrom of dentistry. Guests relax with a heated neck pillow, listen to an iPod, hook up to Wi-Fi, or watch a movie during the visit. Taking a page from Disney World, not just the dentistry world, guests (not patients) are treated with gourmet healthy drinks and treats.
Entertain Your Customers. Billy Rivera of Karaoke Cab in Charlotte, with a laptop in the front seat next to him and a screen scrolling the words on the back of the seat the passengers can view, offers customers over 39,000 songs. Some passengers so enjoy the wild sing-a-long, they ask Billy to keep driving around the block until the song ends.
Make the Experience Seem Magical. At Kauffman Tire in Woodstock, Georgia when customers walk in the store to purchase a tire, he or she is greeted with, “Welcome back, Steve.” And, this is even true for a customer who has not bought a tire in over a year. How? When a customer pulls into the parking lot, if the counter clerk does not recognize the owner of the vehicle, he quickly plugs in the license plate number into the computer and cross-references it with the name before the customer crosses the threshold.
Show off Your Generosity. Bouquets is an award winning flower shop in downtown Denver near many parking meters as well as a bus stop. Many businesses refuse to give change for meters and buses, except to customers, because it takes employee time to go to the bank for more change. Bouquets replenishes a bag of quarters daily, specifically designed to make change for anyone who asks. Coins are offered with a smile and a business card. Many people later become customers when they need flowers.
Stimulate Your Customers’ Senses. The Hotel Monaco (part of the Kimpton Group) adds enchantment to service. Instead of the boring white bathrobes, they provide leopard-print robes. All pets are welcome and if you forgot to bring one, a goldfish can stay with you in your room. Instead of a mint on the pillow, you get something new every night-a foreign coin, a lottery ticket, a flower.
How would you treat your customers if you knew that today was their birthday? Make every day your customer’s birthday. If Cirque du Soleil or Disney World were in charge of the experience you create, how would it change? Create an experience that gets customers and prospects talking and watch them become avid fans and your bottom line grow.
Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several national best-selling books. His newest book, Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service will be released in February 2015. He can be reached at www.chipbell.com.