Make sure you are adamant about giving the best possible customer service there ever was.
Great customer service can make the business whereas poor customer service can break it. Indeed poor customer service can break your business even if your product is great.
Great customer service can make such a difference.
Here is a real live example of a recent customer interaction that shows really superior personal attention towards great customer service all the way from the top. The CEO and majority shareholder of the company stepped in instantly and responded to a negative feedback from a disgruntled customer.
Here is the correspondence:
Email as of September 14th, 2012 at 6:38pm:
“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
I bought a third lung from Brownie Dive a few years ago. I bought it right after visiting the Fort Lauderdale boat show. I was very impressed with the presentation and with the service rendered!
This is up until two days ago (Wednesday, September 12, 2012) when I brought my two regulators to “dealership x” (name and address kept anonymously here). To begin with I was ignored by X (name shown anonymously here, but known by this website owner) due to a phone call for about 10 min.
During that time a lady walked in with an in-house insurance matter. He then immediately came off the phone to attend to the lady. ( obviously someone from his bosses office)
While then “finally” talking to me, he seemed to be bothered by my questions and told me ” if you are doing a certification in equipment service you will be able to answer those questions for yourself” …which I found extremely rude.
Despite it all I had no choice but to leave my two regulators ( Claim Check # 29318) to be services and cleaned …I asked him how much it would be and he explained to me that it would be US $ 90.00 per hour + parts…I told him to go ahead with the service (possible repair) and detailed cleaning. I also said that I want to be absolutely sure that they are safe to be used by my family and myself. He assured me that when I receive them, all will be fine…
I have just received them back ( Friday, September 14, 2012) with the words from X: ” tested, repaired, cleaned and ready to be used …have fun” and I was charged US $ 109.18…now here comes the disgruntled part:
The regulators look as if they have not been touched…I opened them up and they look exactly how I left then there…the salt residue on it is still in the housing. But most of all the seal inside does not sit on the required rim . The units are not cleaned…and it leads me to believe that they were not services either.
I am not a trained professional, but I must tell you that if you are charging me money, you better give me service. And this is not the service I had expected. Take a look at the pictures below and tell me if this is the standard of work you usually give customers.
I am not going to accept this …If I am not fully refunded for the service rendered and if I am not offered a complete overhaul and cleaning and full repair if necessary of theses units, I will be forced to take this matter further.
As I said before, I left the units for them to be serviced ( repaired if necessary ) and cleaned…please see pictures and the invoice attached. You decide if these units look like they were cleaned, serviced and repaired!
Also please explain to me where in the unit the “Standard Demand Valve 2nd stage” that was changed is located.
So if I am looking at your website and I am listening to your speeches on trade shows, I am confident that Brownie’s is the brand to trust in the third lung market…you have lost my trust and my support…
I am expecting to hear from you shortly.
Sascha (the rest of the customer’s information including surname is kept confidential here)”
Response from the CEO as of September 16th 2012 at 5:33 pm:
Please rest assured the level of service you report is inconsistent with our
standards. If someone from our organization has not corrected this matter by
the time you receive my email, please know that we will do so the first of
this week. I have been with the company 32 years now and encourage all
members of our team to strive for excellence. Your note and confidence in
our brand is important and will cause the appropriate response. My cell
number is below my signature line if you should need to reach me directly.
Robert Manuel Carmichael
Brownie’s Marine Group
(he even put in his personal cell number here, which I have taken out for his privacy)”
What is relevant to notice here also is that September 14th was a Friday, so in other words the email came in Friday evening after business close. The response from the CEO came on September 16th, meaning during the weekend, while the business is still closed.
What is also relevant is the fact that the email from the disgruntled customer came into the company’s main email address which is distributed amongst all the front people and top key people of the company and so was the response from the CEO. In other words the response from the CEO served as a great response to a customer ensuring personal attention and commitment to rectify the problem from the very top. While at the same time this also meant that all the key people in the company would be seeing this very personal response to the customer. The response thus served greatly also as an instruction to everybody in the company to step up and do right by every customer, to extend every courtesy and show superior customer service to every customer in every situation and whenever possible.
Interestingly enough, the customer was actually complaining to the manufacturer of the product, whereas the service was carried out at a dealership under the manufacturer. So in fact the complaint was actually addressed to the wrong company. But by stepping in, the CEO from the manufacturing company simultaneously also makes certain that the dealership in concern and their CEO learn about the mindset and customer service position from the top of the product chain. In fact consider this: As a manufacturer you aren’t really better than how any of your dealerships represents you. It’s that old reference about only being as strong as your weakest link. The CEO of the manufacturing company did well, by responding in this fashion, not just by the customer, but also by every link inside and internally in the organization and sales- and service distribution of the company. Indeed the CEO also made sure that his response was cc’ed to the CEO of the dealership in concern as well as to the dealership’s main email address also.
It should be noted here, that the dealership in concern is a top dealership and that they would have treated (and did treat) the complaint in similar fashion themselves regardless of the CEO of the manufacturer in concern. Naturally there must have been a slip up in the actual service that was provided in the first place, but sometimes as we all know unfortunately that happens too.
Which brings me to the next illustration:
They are doing something right at Nick Nanton and his CelebrityPressPublishing:
CelebrityPressPublishing is headed up by Nick Nanton and his great team of people. They offer lots of different programs including materializing great book collaborations with some of the top thought leaders of the country each within a specialized field for specific books. CelebrityPressPublishing then publishes the books and launches them onto the market and follows through with pre-launch press releases as well as post-launch press releases and also carry out many more other relevant chores of collecting great material and perfecting it all into fantastic valuable books.
Personally, I have had the great pleasure of having been invited to collaborate on several books. One of these came about as a result of a Mastermind group that I had the great pleasure of being part of. If you do not know what a Mastermind group is, I have written about it elsewhere and you can study and read about it there.
Now, since I had already taken part of a couple of other book collaborations with CelebrityPresspublishing I knew what to expect which is also why I became aware that all of a sudden part to the expected equation seemed to have been omitted during the latest book release. Indeed what was missing seemed to be some of the correspondence and notices on the book release date as well as a few of the pre-launch Press Releases.
After having mentioned this slightly ad hoc in a correspondence or two with a team member or two from the company, I decided to finally make sure that I notified the CEO of CelebrityPressPublishing. I did so in a brief email on September 19th 2012 at 5:20 pm by forwarding him an email to one of the great team members of his at 5:18 same day about the same issue.
Well, so here’s what happened:
At 5:24 pm, i.e only 4 minutes after sending the email off to him, Nick Nanton personally calls me up and apologizes for the hiccup. We talk about it in very friendly terms and without me saying much of anything nor sounding too disgruntled, he instantly offers me a special event leading up to another event of his he knew I was participating in already and he offers me this special event and not least very special experience free of charge (the official charge for it is at US$ 1,000 per person). How’s that for customer service?
But further to the story, as mentioned I sent off my email message to one of Nick Nanton’s team member as mentioned at 5:18 pm that same day. At 5:47 I receive an email from same team member asking for my phone number. But she had found it before I get to reply to the email and she is already on the phone with me. She comes clean and tells me that unfortunately they have recently had to let some people go, who had been in charge for some very specific jobs, but apparently didn’t handle them fully. This is the reason for the few lapses in the deliver-ability and why I was not experiencing everything to quite the high level that I had come to know from previous experience.
What is even more interesting to know is the fact that I thought she was calling as a result from speaking with Nick Nanton, seeing he is the CEO and all and that perhaps he had asked that she would also follow up. But that wasn’t the case. In fact the team member, Angie Swenson as she is named, wasn’t even aware of the fact that I had just spoken to Nick Nanton, nor was she copied on my email to Nick Nanton.
Now a couple of great things about this is the following. First off, not just one of them reflects, but actually both of them, which tells me that the company goes to great length at making sure all team members are up to par. Also they reflect instantly and both of them extend every possibly and pleasant courtesy to me as a client. Nick even compensates me right off the bat with a very valuable experience that doesn’t come cheap and Angie with very personal insights to what actually had happened.
A further thing that I appreciate from the way they handled the story is the fact that Angie offered me an explanation. All too often I believe that people and companies will resort to white lies and not just come clean with the clients. I’m not necessarily saying that everything should be known by the client as that might not serve best the client-company relationship nor the outcome, but telling white lies has a nasty tendency to eventually mold us and possibly turn us into something we really don’t or shouldn’t want to be.
Also customers are usually not that stupid anyways. They more than likely suspect something is up way before they are told by an inside of a company. But then when an inside of a company comes clean and offers an apology, then so much more respect is earned by that company. Usually we as clients will forgive them right away and actually be potentially even more pleased about being customers with them. Especially if we as clients know they are handling the issues and fixing them for going forward.
Talking from experience
I’m talking about this from experience here. I truly felt great about being a customer of a company that treated me like Nick Nanton and Angie Swenson did. I also really loved the way Robert Carmichael, CEO of Brownie’s stepped in and handled the disgruntled customer note, showing and leading the way for the employees of the manufacturer, but also for the dealership management as well as their service and sales team.
I have personally run a number of different companies. Two of such companies each had more than 200 employees and I know just how difficult it can be to get everybody aligned with the mindset and appreciation for a company’s customers as one should show. I have also enjoyed great successes from having the best teams in place and fortunately even experienced great financial rewards stemming from such work too that such great teams brought about. Unfortunately, I have also experienced great failures and losses of a lot of business when certain teams were a far cry from being optimal let alone had a clue of what good (not to speak of great) customer service was. In fact I have even experienced a great company falter heavily from having a really poor team in place of what used to be a great team.
The limousine service company that I used to own and operate gave me such experiences. Before I purchased it in late 1986, it suffered from a team that I found lacked vision and courage to do something new. When I purchased it I changed the team quickly and reached with the first year of ownership what even today seems unreal: A 3200% increase in its bottom line. And a lot of what we did was just to offer something better. A better experience, a better performance and a much better service. Along the same time we also increased the prices considerably, but I believe that people will pay for value, so if you give enough value, people will be willing to pay a price for that, possibly even a premium.
My best results with the limousine service business, which incidentally was the largest of its kind in Denmark where I’m from originally, came about, when I had the best team (especially the best second hand person in place).
On the other side of this medallion was the experiences of having the worst team in place. Unfortunately, as mentioned I have also experienced that situation. At one point of my ownership I actually had people in my booking and service office who had no clue apparently about service. They redirected all phone lines into one mobile phone, because they found this easier, not really realizing that they simultaneously cut down basically 10 or 20 phone lines into the company down to just 1! Imagine all the clients who called in vain and probably eventually said to themselves: “Screw that! I’m calling another company”. The personnel I had at that time also got upset when a client changed their schedule last minute or even if a client came last minute with a wish to rent a limousine. I mean, come on! If a customer wants to buy from you, you must do everything in your power to make it happen and in fact you should just be happy about the fact the client is calling you.
Even if you really cannot serve the client because you simply are fully booked or out of capacity due to short notice, then you should just straight away check with your competitor to see if they can do the job for you on behalf of you. Like I will always say: “If you say no to the client, you’re not changing the needs of your client, but you are diverting – in fact forcing – the client straight over to your competitors. It is better that you serve your client even with the help of your competitor rather than saying no and thus forcing them to go directly to your competitors anyway”. If you service your client even with the help of your competitor, you still retain the client relationship and possibly still retain your pricing policy and possibly even make your same margins, but most of all you serve your client’s needs and the client know they can rely on you. That is valuable to the client and it is certainly valuable to you, especially for all the future assignments from that same client for which you can deliver with your own company’s services and resources.
So ask yourself if your service standards are up for the test? Are you and not least all the other parts of your organization fully attentive towards bringing the best of services?
Clients may be willing to pay a premium for your services if you handled them well, but failing great customer service and you will soon see an outflow of your customers opting for less expensive services elsewhere, where quite possibly they do have a handle on great customer service.