August 25, 2014

Surprise & Delight : The Power of the Personal Connection in Customer Service


Customer service as an asset, not a problem

In a lot of ways, people are more familiar with the bad kind of customer service than they are with the good kind. When we think about support, our thoughts still gravitate towards bad interactive phone systems, cheesy music, and a general, inescapable sense of frustration. Again and again, companies faced with a choice between doing what's right for their customers, and doing what meets some more quantifiable internal goal, choose the latter.

Why is this? Like a lot of nebulous, non-transactional issues, the impact of great (or terrible) customer service is somewhat tricky to measure. Increasing cost -- and yes, good support costs time and money -- without a hard goal for revenue growth is hard enough for things like R&D, or marketing. Doing it "just" to make people who've already purchased your product happy is even harder.

Still, the ROI of good vibes isn't IMPOSSIBLE to measure, and we're getting better at it. The Harvard Business Review found that companies who deliver top-notch customer service earn more than twice as much revenue per customer than similar companies with inferior service, and remain as repeat customers for FIVE TIMES longer.

These analytics shouldn't be surprising, because they align perfectly with common sense. If you treat your customers well, they'll love you. And if they love you, they'll spend a lot more money on your offerings, and stick with you for longer.

How to think like a company with great customer service

If you need an example of customer service that makes people smile and looks great in a spreadsheet, look no further than Zappos, who CEO Tony Hsieh has turned into the quintessential pro-customer company. Hsieh's is a big believer in the concept of "WOW" -- customer service experiences that are truly special.

How to WOW Your Customers

"WOW is such a short, simple word, but it really encompasses a lot of things. To WOW, you must differentiate yourself, which means doing something a little unconventional and innovative. You must do something that's above and beyond what's expected. And whatever you do must have an emotional impact on the receiver. We are not an average company, our service is not average, and we don't want our people to be average. We expect every employee to deliver WOW."


At Contactually, we think about this concept a lot; we want to deliver as many "WOW" moments to our customers as we possibly can. Here are a few basic principles from Contactually COO -- and voracious customer advocate -- Tony Cappaert (maybe being named "Tony" just makes you love customers?) that can help you do the same.

Step #1 - Make yourself available

Tony : "Too many businesses shy away from making themselves available to people when, in reality, it's the number one thing you can do to turn people into lifetime customers. If you're a one-man shop or a small business, consider putting your personal cell phone number on your website, and in your email signature. I've been doing this for years, and I rarely get spam calls. What I do get are calls from customers, with questions, problems, and everything in between -- and those customers love the personal touch."

And if you're too big to handle all those calls yourself?

"At Contactually, we implemented Olark on our site -- it allows us to chat with our customers whenever they're on our site. They love it!"

Step #2 - Show some personality

Tony : "Regardless of the size of your company, there's no excuse for always being so 'corporate'. Customers like buying from people they like; people they can relate to. So show your personality across your company -- on your website, social media accounts, and in your email. At Contactually, we're a small team of people that love dogs -- so we show all across our site! Puppy photos on Facebook, blog posts showing photos of the dogs, you name it."

Admit it -- you'd rather deal with people like this.

Step #3 - Engage whenever possible

Tony : "Whenever you can personally engage, do it. As Contactually has grown, we've expanded our customer base to thousands of people. In the good old days, I knew every customer. Today, that's just not possible, but we're still constantly looking for ways to connect personally. For example, once a week everyone in the company sits down and writes at least one personal letter to one of our customers or partners, thanking them for being a customer. It's a simple act that only takes a few minutes, but our customers are blown away by the effort. When was the last time a company you buy from sent you a personal card? The more you can connect like this, the more your customers will know you, like you, and look forward to doing business with you."

Step #4 - Surprise and delight

Tony : "There are all kinds of systems and processes you can put in place to make sure you keep your customers happy. But no matter what you do, it's still important to take a step back sometimes and do that one crazy thing for a handful of customers that will just knock their socks off. We call this "Surprise & Delight" at Contactually. Once a month, we make a point to reach out to a handful of customers and just do something extra special for them. It can be anything -- sending someone a bunch of cupcakes for their birthday, a mariachi band while a team goes out to lunch, or simply a quick Youtube video where everyone in the office thanks them for their business. It can be anything! We're combining all three of the points I've already mentioned by going above and beyond to showcase our personality and connect with our customers in ways they'd never expect from a business. Take a few minutes each month and start doing it in your own business. It's easy and -- equally important -- it's fun!"

Customer interactions are special -- make 'em count

Nothing is more important to your business than the relationship between you and your customers -- and that's customer service! And while it may seem easy to put on the back burner, these special, unique relationships can be enormously beneficial to your business. They motivate employees, function as the best kind of free marketing, and yes... ultimately drive revenue.