Good customer experience is the best marketing strategy
The Butler Experience
“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises; he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
Marketing world is in flux. The power over brands is being taken away from marketers and companies, passing on to the consumers and the surprisingly discerning public. Purchasing decisions are based more on peer reviews, word-of-mouth and other non-controllable forms of communication. More and more brands and companies are losing the way they have controlled markets and spending habits of the general populus. All in all, times, they are a-changing.
But if we’re losing marketing as a way to influence customers to choose our products and services, what can we do? What are the actual ways we can convince the potential customers, who are more less likely to accept the value proposition of large or even small marketing campaigns, to invest in our products or services? Because that’s what they’re doing each time they purchase toilet paper or order a beer or reserve a seat in a movie theatre. They are investing their limited time on this earth and their (in some cases even more) limited money on what we offer, with the expectations (or hope) that what they get will in some way offer them a brief respite from worrying or give them something pleasurable. They don’t expect monetary rewards or income, they expect that we give them what they need, want and desire.
What we as entrepreneurs and salespeople, need to understand that in the center of all interactions we have with even potential customers, be the contact either digital, purely aural or face-to-face, is service. All business conducted anywhere in the world, either B2B or B2C is centered around good customer service.
An Entrepreneur report conducted in the United States found that nearly 64 percent of consumers believe that good customer service is more important than cost when considering which company to patronize. And we live in the world where word-of-mouth is more valued and trusted as consumer advise than ever. Social media and online reviews by customers instead of critics have enabled a veritable cornucopia of ways for the public to communicate both their ire and satisfaction with any product and service they’ve spent their hard-earned capital on. How often have you read a review with something negative about how the sales rep behaved? How often is there a horrible review that bemoans the customer service, that might otherwise be positive? In the world where customers and potential customers communicate with each other, good customer service can be the saving grace of otherwise bland experience.
Let’s consider an example then. What does good customer service experience look like? How do some companies get there? Ritz Carlton is one of the most famous (and expensive) hotel chains around. They get consistently stellar reviews and rank high on any customer service experience tally. They’re pricey and they’re posh as the Queens corgis’ diamond collars, but lessons we can learn from them are universal in the service industry. And face the facts, no matter your perceived field, now a-days, you are in the service industry.
Ritz Carlton has implemented a code of conduct that guides their employees to what they call the Gold Standard. This code of conduct is simple, but effective. It is only compromised of three simple rules, The Ritz Carlton’s Three Steps of Service:
1. A warm and sincere greeting. Use the guest’s name.
2. Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs.
3. Fond farewell. Give a warm good-bye and again, use the guest’s name.
Simple, right? With these steps, a hotel chain establishes few things about their service. First of all, these rules and this kind of communication is requisite on any of their locations, be it Mumbai or New York. A large corporation like the Ritz Carlton can and should take the time, money and coaching to ensure that where-ever their customer is, they feel that the familiar standards they are used to apply. That’s called branding. It ensures that that their patrons associate them with these standards and know to look for them. Sure, Ritz Carlton makes sure that their brand is enforced in other ways as well, through traditional marketing means and carefully curated image conveyed through popular media, but the lived experience of their customers is so much more important than that. If the experience is good enough, they’ve guaranteed a relationship with the patron that will last for a long time.
Look closer at all the rules. What are they all centered around? Customer service, yes, but also communication and relationships. First and last rules are about establishing connection between the customer service representative and the customer. They are used to create an illusion that the customer is an individual that matters to Ritz Carlton and further, to the receptionist greeting them. And that where good customer service can be found.
Where that illusion of care turns into actions and reality instead of platitudes and empty promises, is where the magic happens. For good customer service to happen, you can’t just lie to the customer and promise them the moon. If you promise them the moon, you better get your rocket ship ready for a quick nip to our orbiting neighbor and back. What good customer service does is add value to your customer. In Ritz Carltons’ case that is covered by rule 2. If the employees of the hotel can anticipate the needs of a customer and fulfill (especially if they are shy Finnish folk, who wouldn’t dare bother a fly, much less customer service personnel) before they think to ask, is word of mouth advertisement practically guaranteed.
A great example of adding value to customer service experience can be found right here, in Finland, the land of long obstinate silences. Most likely everyone has already heard of the amazing coat check attendants of Nordic Business Forum, that fix broken coat loops of visitors in their down time. It’s practically a cliché to tell that story while talking about customer service. But it is an awesome example of what adding even a little value can give. That small decision made by the customer service staff at the event brought Nordic Business Forum incalculable visibility in both the press and word of mouth. And all it took was just a needle, some thread and a bit of caring.
In the same vein, Ritz Carlton has empowered their customer facing employees to spend up to $2000 per guest per day to guarantee a pleasant stay for their customers. It may sound like a lot of money and it is. But let’s think about it. Why would any company, much less a hotel chain that receives thousands of customers a day spend that kind of money on essentially non-essentials? They provide quite adequate accommodations without taking on such expense already. Well, first of all, it’s not likely that even a fraction of that money is actually spent on any given day. But the parts of that money that does get spent, is another guarantee of a pleasurable stay. Customer service personnel already makes decisions on customer experience daily. Empowering them with actual decision making power with some actual authority behind those decisions can, in the long run, guarantee that the customer returns and is willing to give you that most coveted of all things: referrals and word-of-mouth. After all, there is no better marketing than recommendations of your peers.