I hope you had a wonderful time celebrating the 4th! Such a great holiday – great, casual food, time with family and friends, and minimal cost. Doesn’t get much better than that! Even though I love design, decor, and entertaining, sometimes it’s just nice to have the pressure off. Kind of a calm, “neutral” holiday.
Speaking of neutral, neutral can be good, very good – neutral decor, clothes, gardens. They can all be gorgeous, serene, relaxing even. To me white, tan, and off white are some of the most beautiful colors, if you can call them that! But when it comes to business? Neutral can be a killer.
A lot of businesses have a reputation for delivering “write home about it” kind of service. The kind of service that you think about for days. The kind that gives you those warm tingly feelings. But most of the time, you don’t get that. You go into a business, do whatever you need to, and get out. It wasn’t good, it wasn’t bad, just neutral. And that’s a killer.
One company that sticks out in my mind as the king of neutral, is Nordstrom. I know they actually have a reputation for spectacular customer service, but to be honest, I’ve never experienced it. I’ve been in there dozens of times, and to multiple locations, and never experienced anything outstanding at all. The words I’d use – fine, nice, clean and uncluttered, not too busy, and pretty. But outstanding? Nah, doesn’t come to mind. No one in all of my time has done anything surprising or outstanding. Nor has there ever been any surprising or outstanding service provided. It’s just been, neutral. Now, will I stop going to Nordstrom? No. But will I spend a lot of money there, over another store? No. Would I go to a competing store if their employees were consistently super friendly, outgoing, and had a unique service that was available? Yep! In a heartbeat. Do I dislike Nordstrom? Nope, not at all. I just feel very “neutral” about it. Because who remembers neutral? We just don’t have enough brain space for that. You don’t want to deliver a neutral experience, just as much as you don’t want to deliver a neutral or mediocre design. Now, it doesn’t have to be a million dollar, five star experience either. But it does need to be memorable.
Sometimes being memorable is as easy as this – tell your customers what to expect and then actually do it, do everything in a nice, friendly way, take full responsibility for problems and apologize for them, be on time, and ask throughout the project if your customer is comfortable and satisfied with the way the project is going. Just doing those things alone often puts you in the top 1% of businesses. But, to make their time with you really stick, you have to try and go a bit above and beyond.
It’s like dating. You don’t continually date the person you felt neutral about. You date the person who stands out in some way – they’re more kind, considerate, funny, quirky, they have the cutest smile (my husband!) whatever, but something about them stood out. And that’s what you want in your business. You want your time with your client to stand out. You want them to remember it as an overwhelmingly good experience. You want them to have such a great time with you, that they can’t help but tell everyone about you. Just like when you meet “the one,” you just can’t keep your mouth shut about them – much to the chagrin of those around you!
Here’s a few strategies on how to do that
- Have a rendering done of a big client’s home or the room you designed, then have it framed and give it to the client as a parting gift
- If your client has children, bring over a couple of small toys (make sure that it’s safe and age appropriate), or tickets to a local children’s activity to an in person meeting (but preferably show the client first as they might not want their children to have the toy)
- At the beginning of every meeting (on the phone or in person), spend a few minutes asking the client how they’re doing and how their family is doing – and then follow up with any information the next time. (For example, if they tell you that in the upcoming weekend their child is having a dance recital, during your next meeting ask how the recital went).
- When your client is experiencing an issue during their experience, get involved. Say the contractor is late, don’t just tell them, oh, he’s always like that he’ll be there sometime day. Pick up the phone. Make a call. Hunt that man down! Be as invested in making things right for your client, as you would to make it right for yourself. If a shipment is a day late, find out why. And always get back to the client in a timely fashion. And if you aren’t able to find an answer quickly – let the customer know that and that you will continue to work on it until you do.
- If a customer isn’t sure about a design decision, don’t just get pushy or irritated, try to see things from their perspective. Take a moment to ask them why? They don’t have the vision you have, so sometimes just explaining things in a different way, or again, will help. Something is holding them back, and it’s best to find out just what that is rather than say, let me know when you’ve decided. Now this doesn’t mean constantly pester them until they’ve made a decision. Sometimes people do just need time. But first, ask if there’s anything you can do to help.
So the next time you have the opportunity, go above and beyond. Take more time than you usually do to explain something to a client, to learn about who the client is and what their family enjoys to do, and to make their day easier. Because really, isn’t that what we all want? For someone to take on the responsibility of making our day a little easier? I sure do! So let’s go out and do it!
Let me know in the comments below how you’ve experienced above and beyond customer experience!
And if you’d like to get help making your business the one customers remember, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started!