Over the last month, my family and I have moved from Chandler, Arizona to Newport Beach, California. We sold our house in Chandler, moved ourselves and our belongings, and bought a house in Newport Beach.
As so many of you who have done similar moves know, we became “turbocharged customers” during this two month process, hemorrhaging money as we fixed up our former house to get ready to sell, moved, and fixed up our new house. By my latest reckoning, we have dealt with 106 stores, companies, and service providers in the course of this move.
The overall lesson from this one customer is sober.
Good Customer Service is Rare
Out of the 106 companies, fewer than 40 did what they said and provided the product and service simply and as promised. And out of these 40 or so, only three (The Hill Group, Sierra Pool Service (480-703-66162), and Vanguard) provided the outstanding customer service that everyone claims to provide. Unequivocally, I would use these three companies again. But, 3 out of 106? Yikes!!
So what can the other 103 companies (and your company) do to deliver outstanding customer service?
Communicate and Keep Me Informed: The majority of companies do not live up to their commitment. So, if I do not hear from you, I assume that you are not doing anything for me: you are not working on my product; you are not ordering the parts I need; you are not working up that estimate you promised me tomorrow. Please keep me in the loop. Send me small updates (quick phone calls, E-Mails or text messages are all fine). Re-confirm for meeting appointments. And follow up after the sale to see how things are going.
Simplify Your Product and Service Offerings: Variety may be the spice of life. But, when we are buying an appliance or something that we may only buy once every 10 years, I want to make a simple and easy decision. In buying a gas dryer, the store had 26 different products all of which the salesman told me were the best, although he did not quite know why or how they were all different. I could not comprehend. So, I could not decide. So, I walked out. By contrast, another store offered three water softeners – a low price model, a mid price and a luxury version. I chose one (the low price, of course) and walked out of the store in 6 minutes. Further, the complexity of most companies’ product lines make it nearly impossible for the average undertrained sales person to be informed about the products or services that they are selling. Simplify your product offerings and you make it easier for the customer to buy and easier for your sales team to sell.
Get the Sale Before You Upsell: I have written before (Do You Want Fries With That?) about the benefits of upselling or selling additional products and services. The obvious point that I might have neglected is that you have to actually make the sale before you can upsell. So many of the companies I dealt with tried to sell me additional features, related products, service contracts, warranties, etc. before I had even agreed to buy the basic product. One salesperson went on so long trying to upsell me that I put my credit card back in my wallet and walked away.
Companies Neglect Yelp, Angie’s List and Other Recommendation Sites at Their Peril: Moving to Newport Beach, did I know a plumber or where to get my smog checked? I certainly did not research companies’ websites, look at their Facebook accounts, or follow them on Twitter. No. I went to Yelp, Angie’s List and other recommendation sites to find what people said about them. I know that these sites are not perfect; but reading between the lines you can clearly determine which are the best companies. Of the companies that I found on these sites, my success ratio for good customer service (if not great) was 90%, clearly better than the 40% for all the companies that I dealt with. In short, if you are not paying attention to these recommendation sites you are missing the boat, especially in attracting new customers.
- Micro-Targeting is Crucial: When I want to buy your product or service, I have a unique need or want. So, target me uniquely. If I want my tile grout cleaned, I do not want to know that you also service and clean wood floors, carpets, even outside patios. I want to know that you are great at cleaning and sealing my tile grout. Thus, companies’ websites and materials should make it easy to determine how they can solve your specific problem. As a simple example, my website (while certainly not perfect) directs you to different pages, targeting you depending upon the business challenges that you are facing. In short, micro-targeting is all about: I have a specific need; how can you solve that and only that specific need for me?
As we settle into our house, I look forward to enjoying the summer and avoiding the hassles of being a customer in a world where too many companies do everything that they can to make it laborious and stressful to buy from them.