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It Pays to Make Your Customers Look Good

Fans of Basil Fawlty who are in the service industry will cherish what they learnt from Basil; and how we both laugh and cringe at the bumbling character of Basil as he manages to offend customers, employees and suppliers.

 

How often do each of us, as customers, experience service providers who are clueless?

Consider the case of an owner of a beach-frontage house in Byron Bay who, when seeking the advice of a local real estate agent recently, was told. ‘Oh no you won‘t get over $1 million in this market.‘ She had her own idea: it was only one of a few dozen frontages and despite sluggish sales would have definite ‘scarcity‘ value. She offered the home to a buyer‘s agent in Sydney who told her she ought to pitch the house as a ‘lifestyle home with holiday income potential‘. This complimented her strategic thinking. He thus augmented the offering and got a share of the eventual commission.

She eventually sold the property for $1.2m. Whose services will she use in the future? Not the first agent!

Closer to home

Recently my local council (government) got a contractor to remake the road. Everything ran late. No communication with residents. Driveways left half done for two months. Dust and dirt. It had the obvious outcome of making the local council look bad. Why would they use the contractor again? Good communications and more customer care could have ameliorated any delays or problems.

How often do each of us, as customers, experience service providers who are clueless?

Consider the case of an owner of a beach-frontage house in Byron Bay who, when seeking the advice of a local real estate agent recently, was told. ‘Oh no you won‘t get over $1 million in this market.‘ She had her own idea: it was only one of a few dozen frontages and despite sluggish sales would have definite ‘scarcity‘ value. She offered the home to a buyer‘s agent in Sydney who told her she ought to pitch the house as a ‘lifestyle home with holiday income potential‘. This complimented her strategic thinking. He thus augmented the offering and got a share of the eventual commission.

She eventually sold the property for $1.2m. Whose services will she use in the future? Not the first agent!

A smarter way

Now consider the other side of the spectrum where clients will go the extra mile to deal with people who make them look good. Imagine you are a ‘boutique‘ travel agent in Hong Kong handling discerning customers looking for their next ‘experiential‘ holiday. You discovered an Australian ‘experiential tourism‘ operator ‘" Wild Bush Luxury ‘" and have received rave feedback from your first group who experienced one of the operator‘s Northern Territory bush safaris. The entrepreneurial operator has gone to great lengths to ensure that each guest‘s experience is first class, because HE knows that word of mouth is far and away the best means of promoting his business.

Communication

Good communication and continued good relations with the operator and a strong methodology of tracking feedback is a winning business formula.

In many industries there is almost a resignation to being let down by business suppliers ‘" missed deadlines, project delays, poor service delivery, cancelled appointments, slow payments, become par for the course. Such ‘cultural norms‘ are warning signs for a business service provider.

It is only with a mindset of delivering ‘optimal customer experience‘ above all else that will determine customer retention rates, referral rates, and up-sale potential that can vastly increase the ‘lifetime value‘ of a customer.

It‘s an oft-used mantra in personal development work (think Steven Covey‘s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) that doing the basics in person-to-person interaction, requiring mutual respect, integrity as the building blocks of trust: doing what you say you‘ll do may be a simple mantra but it may also set you apart as the go to service provider in your industry. And if unexpected delays eventuate, then immediate and clear communication that reframes delivery milestones are of paramount importance.

In the illustration of Wild Bush Luxury the operator, Charlie Carlow had many years experience as a ‘buyer‘ of tours when an employee for a large multi-national travel business. He understood from first-hand experience, the buyer‘s needs. In grappling with the challenge of differentiating the business from other travel companies he needed to take measured risks often with unproved operators in destinations ‘off the beaten track.‘ Once a decision was taken, the buyer wanted peace of mind of mind, and certainty that the expectations of the client were not only going to be met but exceeded. This formed a great bond of trust between buyer and the operator, one where the operator could offer additional products and destinations having secured all the necessary mechanisms to ensure service delivery to the end customer.

Furniture retailer

Consider too the case of high-end furniture retailer Moss Furniture who sells such items as Caesar Stone bench tops and dining tables. In establishing supply arrangements with the supplier, Caesar Stone, the shop owner had to ensure that quality and delivery milestones were not only achievable but met. The customer, paying thousands of dollars for the product, would not think kindly of either Caser Stone or Moss Furniture if expectations were not met. Moreover, a good outcome wins word-of-mouth endorsements for both companies.

Long term retention marketing and is created through exemplary customer service. It‘s that basic.

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