When it comes to retaining existing customers and getting new customers, there are three basic options.
Unbeatable prices. Think Wal-Mart here. Their customer service is terrible but they’re prices are amazing, so people are willing to put up with poor service. Yes, they hate going to Wal-Mart, but they’ll put up with it for the low prices.
World class products. Think Bose or Beats here. Their products are priced high due to the quality. They attract customers who want to use top-notch audio products.
Remarkable customer service. If you can’t win on price or quality, customer service is your best bet. Given the crazy explosion of choices these days, customers care more than ever about customer service. They don’t want to wade through endless choices, they want to go to someone they trust.
In this post, we’re going to give you 10 amazing ways to blow the socks off your existing customers and get new customers through customer service. These aren’t complicated or expensive, but they demonstrate a passion for customers.
1. Send Handwritten Notes
Many companies are known for only caring about the bottom line. For doing whatever it takes to make a sale, no matter what happens to the customer. For being big, heartless, soulless corporations who are willing to step on the necks of their own grandmothers if it means making another dollar. Okay, that last one may have been a bit extreme, but you get the point.
We’ve all had experiences like this. You call their help line and spend 20 minutes trying to connect to a human being, only to have your problem not solved. It’s maddening. You feel like a tiny insect beating your hands against a faceless corporation.
Handwritten notes are a fantastic way to show that there are actually people behind your company. That you care about the customers as people, rather than just a bottom line. Notes also show that you took the time to write something by hand, which is rare in our texting, email, status update world.
Tanea Smith of She’s Got Papers says this about sending notes:
I believe that we’re selling an experience. In my efforts to have my customers feel special, with every order, we include a handwritten note inside a pink envelope with a foil stamped ‘Thank you’ on it. We also send a ‘Just because’ card at the beginning of each year in my trademark calligraphy penmanship.
2. Send A Freebie
Is there anything we love more than freebies? Sure, world peace and Christmas are great, but when it comes down to it, give us freebies every time. There’s something magical about them. They have a powerful psychological effect on us, drawing us to people and creating a sense of loyalty.
Giving out freebies allows you to create deep loyalty in your existing customers as well as attracting new customers. Plus, it’s an insanely cheap online marketing tool. What is the first thing most people do when they get a gift? Show it off on social media? An argument could be made that you’ll get more bang for your buck by giving out freebies than advertising.
This is an extreme example, but TD Ameritrade actually created 4 “Automated Thanking Machines” that looked like regular ATM’s but instead actually gave customers $20. As you can imagine, the response was ecstatic joy. Oh, and their YouTube video racked up over 24 million views. Freebies are great marketing.
3. Reach Out To Customers Instead Of Waiting For Problems To Develop
Unfortunately, most of our interactions with customer service happen when there are problems. Our cell phone catches fire in our pants, ruining our expensive stonewash jeans and our means of communication, so we reach out to customer service for help.
And while there’s nothing wrong with this, speaking to customers proactively, before problems arise, can go a long way in creating customer loyalty. This doesn’t have to be anything complicated. Send an email checking in, make a phone call, interact on social media. Nothing crazy, but it lets them know you care.
The Ritz-Carlton is passionate about customer service, and they make being proactive an integral part of what they do. As Carmine Gallo writes:
In a room-service visit it’s not uncommon for a waiter to tilt the TV in the direction of the guest and place the remote control on the service tray. During one stay the receptionist called me and said, “We see that you are scheduled to leave very early tomorrow. Can we leave a pot of fresh, hot coffee outside your door?”
4. Interact On Social Media…and Then Do Something!
Every company should be on social media, if only for the purpose of getting feedback from customers. But the companies who make a point of interacting with their customers regularly and then actually acting on those details are the ones who make a huge impact.
Again, you don’t need to go crazy here. Simply monitor social media sites for anyone talking about your brand. Look for positives, complaints, discussions, really anything. Then, when appropriate, jump in. Offer solutions for people experiencing problems. Give away things to people. Offer digital discount codes. It shows your customers that, unlike the behemoth companies, you actually listen.
When JetBlue received this complaint via social media:
They quickly responded back, offering him credit for his non-working TV over Twitter. Shortly after, he posted this on Twitter.
5. – Pay Attention To Little Details
Too often, companies only address problems when they become huge. Think Samsung and the exploding Note 7 here. They only set about fixing the problem when it became too big to ignore and videos were popping up everywhere of cars on fire. Seriously, that’s how bad it got.
Companies that focus on fixing even the smallest problems can see massive jumps in customer loyalty. It’s not that complicated. If your customers see you working hard on even tiny issues, they know you really care. They know that it’s not just about good PR or making a few extra dollars.
Zappos is known for their astonishing attention to little, seemingly unimportant details. One customer service representative literally spent over 10 hours on the phone, talking to a customer about…
…wait for it…
…what it’s like to live in Las Vegas!
That’s right. The conversation was about a problem entirely unrelated to shoes. And yet’s it’s this insane level of dedication that makes the company so popular.
6. – Be Crazy Generous
You’ve experienced the frustration of nitpicky, miserly companies. The restaurants who don’t do free refills, the computer companies that refuse to fix things a day after the warranty expires (looking at you Apple), and the airlines who charge you down to the ounce for your carryons. It makes you want to scream, in your best Elsa from Frozen voice, “Let it go!”
Generosity deeply resonates with customers. It demonstrates that, ultimately, you care about making things right and making the customer happy. Stingy companies come across as money-grubbing, Scrooges, and get a reputation as such. Generous companies, on the other hand, win a well-deserved reputation of caring about the things that matter most.
L.L. Bean has made a name for themselves with their incredible generosity. They allow returns on all products with no restrictions. If it’s an L.L. Bean product and you’re not happy with it, they’ll take it back in exchange for money or store credit.
In 2013, a woman returned a sweater she had purchased 10 years prior, doubting that the company would accept such a ludicrous return.
They did. No questions asked.
7. – Get Creative With Discounts
Almost all discounts have expiration dates. If they don’t, they’re not a discount, they’re simply the regular sale price. I know, deep stuff here. Issues tend to arise with customers when they want to leverage a discount after it has expired.
While most companies see this as a problem, you can use it as an opportunity to blow the socks off your customers.
Get really creative with giving discounts. If a coupon has expired, make up a fun reason to apply a discount.
“Well sir, unfortunately your discount has expired. However, I’m pleased to tell you that today is National Don’t Act Like A Jerk Day, meaning I’ll be able to still give you the 20% discount.”
Remember, people don’t expect this at all. They expect you to be rude and petty, and when they experience something else, it gets their attention.
8. – Pay Attention To Those Who Struggle
There are countless stories of massive companies stepping on little guys who need a break. The insurance company who refuses to cover a medicine because of a typo in the submission form, and other heartless tales of corporate greed. These experiences destroy your faith in humanity and tempt you to become a monk in the wilderness.
By working with customers who are struggling, you show both heart and humanity. You demonstrate that compassion can be a business value and that people are more important than cash. And believe it or not, these kinds of interactions tend to be powerful marketing tools. People like to spread stories of kindness.
This photo showed up on Reddit and went viral soon after. It’s not hard to see why. Kindness speaks volumes.
9. Loosen Up For Crying Out Loud
Most companies are notoriously stiff and robotic in their customer interactions. They use automated customer help lines, for crying out loud! You spend 20 minutes pressing random buttons trying to talk to a real, live person. When you do encounter a human, it’s obvious that they’re following a script.
It’s just like this…
Humor is a powerful customer service tool. Yes, there will be the occasional grump who wants to set the world on fire, but most people resonate with the occasional (or frequent) joke. When interacting with customers, don’t be afraid to make a humorous quip or three. It can quickly defuse a tense situation and also gives joy to your customers.
After a fake logo appeared on Google, this epic Twitter exchange happened:
10. Send Along A Little Something Extra
A central tenet of business is that everyone likes to get things. This isn’t profound marketing wisdom, yet it’s amazing how often this is ignored by businesses. They obsess about giving the bare minimum and not a touch more.
“I’m sorry ma’am, but you ordered a 12-pack even though you wanted a 13-pack. I can’t give you another one without charging you for an entire order.”
It’s maddening with a capital, “Mad.”
A simple way to connect with customers is to throw a little bit extra into orders. It doesn’t need to be something expensive that’s going to kill your profit margin. Even something small, yet extra, goes a long way. If you sell lights, include a couple extra bulbs in case one breaks. If you sell beef jerky, include a sample of another flavor. Every order becomes a gift for your customers!
When a JetBlue line was moving slowly and having problems, a JetBlue employee suddenly showed up and began giving out free airline tickets:
Someone from JetBlue came over and made an announcement to the people in line. He was giving away free tickets to anywhere JetBlue flies. The first free tickets would go to anyone whose birthday is today. It was nobody’s birthday. Then he moved on to trivia: free tickets for anyone who knows where JetBlue’s original destinations were. I didn’t hear the answer, because at this point I made it through the line and was headed towards the gate, but I heard applause as I walked away. This was applause from people who had to get to the airport two hours early on a Sunday morning because of airline computer glitches.
You may not be a big company who can compete on price or a craftsman company who competes on quality. But you can always outperform your competitors when it comes to customer service.
Brian Tracy said:
Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, “What’s in it for me?”
You can be a hugely successful company by looking for opportunities to help your customers.