6 Ways to Develop Repeat Customers

Today’s Guest Post is by Duct Tape Marketing’s own Kala Linck – Enjoy!

You may have heard us talk about the Marketing Hourglass. The Marketing Hourglass refers to the entire customer journey, from when they first hear about your brand, to when they decide to purchase from your brand, to when they become a loyal customer and refer your brand to other potential customers. This technique, we’ve found, is the best way to find and secure business.

The bottom of the hourglass (“Repeat” and “Refer”) can be neglected when so much energy is going into finding and converting new clients and customers. Now that you’ve secured the business or converted the lead, you’re celebrating! Plus, you’re exhausted from all of the work it takes to make a sale or gain a customer. Today, I’m going to help you make sure that your clients are repeating. It’s vital that your customers return to your business a second and third time. When they become repeat customers, you rely less on the energy for new customers because

a) you’ve got customers coming back, and

b) those customers can refer you to new customers.

Products and services are different, which is why I put together three tips for each on things you can do to ensure you keep those customers coming back for more.

Services

Photo via PhotoPIn

Photo via PhotoPIn

Let’s start with services. There is a lot of pressure on the service industry to provide continuous support. Just one bad experience can turn a customer against you, and these things can help prevent that from happening and keep them coming back for more. The key is to be the most convenient offering of your particular service. You can do this by:

  1. Offer packages. If you offer packages, you’ll provide an immediate reason for a customer to keep coming back to you – at least until their package is over – giving you plenty of time to provide great customer service. By the end of their package, they won’t want to go anywhere else! A great example of this is something I recently experienced when I needed an eye exam. It’s necessary that each time I go in for an exam, I purchase contacts. So, by purchasing one eye exam and getting the next two free, my eye doctor is guaranteeing that I will make my next two contact purchases from them.
  2. Send reminders. One reason that I keep going back to my dentist is because every six months, they call to remind me that it’s time for a regular cleaning. When they call me, we schedule my appointment. Now, remembering to go to the dentist is one less thing that I need to do, and it’s that convenience that makes me a repeat customer.
  3. Offer an unexpected bonus. Many times, what we pay for is what we get. We can pay to get our yard mowed from seven different lawn companies, and when we get home we see that our lawn has, indeed, been mowed. Stand out from the other lawn companies by spending an additional half hour edging the sidewalk for a client. They will see the difference, and it will help them to remember to call you when they need lawn care again.

Products

Photo via PhotoPin

Photo via PhotoPin

What about products? All products, but especially if you’ve got a lot of competitors, need to ensure customers get value out of your product so that they will continue to make purchases. With products, you’ve got a margin to contend to. What are some subtle differences that you can offer without diminishing that margin? Here are three ideas that can help you maintain your customer base:

  1. Provide fast shipping. I don’t think I’m the only one that gets thrilled when something I ordered gets to me at the low end of the projected shipping timeline. Three days is certainly better than five! There is minimal that you can do when the package leaves your warehouse to head to your customer, but what can you do on the front end to speed up your process? Knowing how long packages take to get to your customers is the first step. Make sure your projections are accurate, under promise and over deliver, and if necessary, make some changes in your process to get your customers what they purchased faster.
  2. Offer points. Credit card companies have been doing this for years, but now products are starting to see the benefits of offering a points system. Much like the rewards program at your favorite lunch spot that you keep going back to because you’re SO close to that free lunch, rewards programs are a great way to stay in touch with customers and build loyal fans.
  3. Use special packaging. When packaging is personal or nicer than your average crushed box, customers are more likely to buy again. Most everyone wants to feel special. Whether it’s putting your product in a decorative paper bag with crepe paper before they walk out the door or adding a special customer note in their package when you ship it, that little touch of something extra will help your customer remember you for their next purchase.

There are many ways that your can make your customers feel like they are spending their money in the right place, and these are just a few that I have found to keep me coming back for more. You’ve probably been thinking about your product or service throughout this post. Have you come up with any ideas to implement into your customer journey? Or is there something that you already do that is effective? If so, please share below!

IMG_2750Kala is the Community Manager at Duct Tape Marketing. She’s a specialist in digital marketing, who loves nothing more than picking up a newspaper and tuning into the local stations. She’s worked with clients spanning a variety of industries and knows that people are the heart of a successful business. She loves to travel and try new foods, and documents her travels in her blog. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

 

Treat Your Customers Like the RASCLS They Are

 It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing, and today’s guest post is from Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network Member Scott Stern. Enjoy!

ARC---HourglassIf you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’re probably familiar with John’s Marketing Hourglass. You’re probably not familiar, however, with the CIA’s Agent Recruitment Cycle (ARC).

“Wait,” you’re probably thinking right now. “I thought this was a marketing blog. Why are we talking about how the CIA recruits spies?”

Well, as a former CIA officer-turned-marketer, I can tell you that the Hourglass and the ARC describe a similar process—with surprisingly similar goals—and are effective for similar reasons. The structural similarities between the two are interesting and you can read more about that here, but what’s more important is why they work and how you can use that understanding in your business.

The most relevant concept here is one called RASCLS. I first encountered the idea in a CIA training course and, briefly, it describes the six universal principles of influence and persuasion (according to Dr. Robert Cialdini). Each of these can be applied throughout the Marketing Hourglass to help guide your offerings and content.

The 6 Principles of RASCLS

  • Reciprocation – Simply, people feel an obligation to reciprocate in kind when someone gives them something. Case officers are trained to always provide amenities, like tea or food, to an agent since it unconsciously triggers in an agent the drive to supply something in return. This is also why the “try” phase of the Hourglass works and is so important. Your provision of something at little or no cost to your customer creates an immediate bond and engenders a sense that they need to provide something in return.
  • Authority – People naturally respond to authority figures.  Case officers are trained to be confident in their tradecraft and knowledge and to subtly emphasize their position of authority in comparison to the asset. You shouldn’t try to emphasize your authority over a customer, but do take the time to establish yourself as an authority in your industry or on whatever it is you’re selling.
  • Scarcity – Not even spies can escape the laws of supply and demand. Case officers emphasize use this to their advantage to both force their developmental assets to agree to recruitment (by implying it’s a limited time offer) or to get better and deeper information by implying some kind of “pressure from Washington.” Try to add a sense of immediacy to any call to action or sales message. This is as simple as changing a download button from reading “Download” to “Download Today.” Just don’t overdo it.
  • Commitment and Consistency – There’s the idea out there that CIA officers use and discard assets and show no regard to their safety. This actually isn’t the case at all. We’ve learned that by showing assets our deep commitment to them and their safety and then being consistent in our actions on that commitment, we earn their trust and loyalty and they are more driven to work for us. The same is true for your relationship with your customers. A consistent commitment to quality products and service will create better customers.
  • Liking – I was once in a training course on recruitment for non-case officers. We were taught to work hard to find something that we shared in common with the developmental, a shared like of a type of book, music, whatever. And if you couldn’t find something, you just made it up. You shouldn’t go that far with your customers, but you do want to try to get them to genuinely like you. People are far more likely to do things with and for people they like. Use that.
  • Social Proof – This is a tough one in intel, but an easy one in business. Case officers most traditionally use this by implying information from other sources as a way to get their asset to admit or divulge something they may be holding back. Alternatively, it’s something a case officer must keep in mind as something they have to overcome to successfully recruit the asset – no social system in the world looks kindly on those who commit espionage. In a business, your social proofs are your referrals, testimonials, or other public demonstration that others know, like, trust, and buy from you.

headshot-150Scott Stern founded Red Stripe Strategy, a small business marketing consulting agency in Chicago, after eight years as an analyst and targeter at the CIA. He applies the skills developed there to help companies develop and implement marketing strategies that speak directly to their ideal customers. Red Stripe Strategy is an inbound marketing certified HubSpot partner agency. Check out our website to schedule a free consultation and get your free Small Business Marketing Quick Start Kit. Or just come say hi on LinkedInTwitter, or Facebook.

 

The Power of Gratitude in Marketing

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing, and today’s guest post is from Nicole Kohler – Enjoy!

photo credit: pixabay

photo credit: pixabay

As a business owner, you probably say the phrase “thank you” multiple times a day without thinking about it. You thank your employees for their hard work, your customers or clients for working with you, or potential leads for getting in touch with you.

Saying “thank you” is probably automatic for you at this point. But what if expressing your gratitude could grow your social media following, boost your website conversions, or even attract new customers and leads?

A few months ago, I noticed that when I thanked people for sharing the content I’d written on Twitter, they seemed more likely to follow me than if I’d simply favorited their tweet. After doing an in-depth study of this trend, based on my last 50 tweets of gratitude, I discovered that around 26% of the people that I thanked for sharing my content followed me, just because I said “thank you.”

NCK-thank-you-diagramGratitude can be a very powerful tactic for growing your customer base and increasing conversions on your website. When you express genuine emotion (including gratitude) to others online, you’re humanizing your brand – and making it easier for others to connect with you.

Here are three ways you can harness the incredible power of gratitude in your marketing.

Create Actionable “Thank You” Pages

A customer’s journey on your website doesn’t end when they click the “place order” or “submit form” button – or at least it shouldn’t. By creating a more actionable “thank you” page at the end of a transaction or form submission, you can strengthen your relationship with that visitor and have them take additional desirable actions.

Along with a genuine note of thanks with a photo or other personal touch, you should consider adding any of the following to your page:

  • An explanation of what happens next (ex. when will they get their order? When will they hear from you? How can they contact you with questions?
  • Links to your social media pages
  • A call to action for a survey or questionnaire
  • Something fun, humorous, or touching that will make your customer smile!

Say “Thank You” When You Hit Important Milestones

Did your Facebook page reach 15,000 Likes? Is your Instagram account up to 1,000 followers? Now isn’t the time to be patting yourself on the back (well, okay, maybe just a little). Don’t forget: without your fans, none of this would be possible!

When you reach important business milestones, try to find a way to thank your fans, followers, and customers. It could be as simple as posting a message of thanks, or sending a personalized “we appreciate your support” email. Or, if you operate an ecommerce store, you could celebrate by sending out a coupon or special discount code.

As a small business, it’s important not to let the dedication of your fans go unnoticed, even as you continue to grow. Your customers will expect your acknowledgement and gratitude if you celebrate your early victories, so don’t forget about them as your wins get bigger!

Go Above and Beyond

Sometimes writing an email or tweet to a customer just isn’t enough to express your thanks. If a customer does something really incredible for you – like writes a glowing blog post about you – you should respond in kind.

In cases where your customers have been especially kind, you should have a plan to go above and beyond for them. This may involve something like:

  • Sending a handwritten note or card
  • Shipping them a free T-shirt, sticker, or piece of merchandise
  • Surprising them with a free shipping upgrade or addition to their latest order
  • Meeting them in person to treat them to lunch
  • Giving them your time – listening to their suggestions and acting on them where appropriate

Customers don’t always expect these “above and beyond” reactions – so by surprising them, you may delight them enough to strengthen your relationship with them, or convert them into a paying customer (if they aren’t one already).

Get Ahead With Gratitude

The next time you’re looking for a way to improve your marketing, think about using gratitude in one of the ways I’ve listed above. Saying “thank you” can have some unexpectedly powerful results!

NCK-150-headshotNicole Kohler is the Web Content Strategist for WebpageFX, a full-service Internet marketing agency. When she’s not blogging, tweeting, or writing about marketing, she can be found playing video games, hanging out with her husband and pets, or enjoying a good piece of classic literature. Follow her on Twitter @nicoleckohler.

 

Social Media Gives Consumers and Brands a Direct Connection

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Jessica Davis  – Enjoy! 

photo credit: Matt Hamm via photopin cc

photo credit: Matt Hamm via photopin cc

Remember a time when it was not possible to share your opinions about a specific product with others because there was no outlet. Not too long ago, the consumer was considered to be at the bottom of the pyramid. There was no way to display dissatisfaction with the services received or products purchased.

However, consumers today enjoy a very different situation, all thanks to social media. Through social media outlets, consumers have been able to easily convey their opinions – whether it be criticism or praise – about various brands. There is now an opportunity for consumers and brands to actually build a working relationship in which views can be exchanged and opinions can be voiced.

For brands, understanding the consumer and knowing what they think about the product can prove to be very beneficial. Also, brands with a strong consumer following can benefit from starting a direct line of communication through social media marketing to engage with the very consumership that purchases their products or services. Along with big-name brands and corporations, small businesses and start-up companies can also benefit from having a proper social media system in place.

Social media – a public forum

Social media websites provide a platform for buyers to voice their opinion in an open forum where their voice can be heard by other like-minded individuals. By building strength in numbers, consumers can get their point across to reputed organizations and brands, and force them to change their product through the use of social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and more. Take the recent example of consumer outrage in Canada and USA against Vitalife’s dog treats, which, according to claims are of inferior-quality and have been linked to the deaths of many dogs. Many of the consumers have banded together on Facebook, demanding that the product be pulled off the shelves.

This is just one of the many ways consumers have found for making their voices heard. Brands too, have realized the potential that lies in using social media for marketing purposes, and several brands have adopted this medium as one of their main marketing tools. Through sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more, brands can make important information available for their loyal consumership. This can include exclusive sales, promotional offers, rewards, etc., Information about the product and its production process can be shared with consumers who feel more empowered after gaining more knowledge about their favorite product. Companies can make more use of this opportunity by posting details about the product and organization along with the process that is involved in the creation of the product.

Brand-consumer relationship

There has also been a dramatic shift in the relationship between a brand and a consumer. Social media has taken power and control out of the hands of large corporations and famous brands, and has put it in the hands of the consumers. Realizing this, many CEOs and other top level executives of big name brands have taken to Facebook and Twitter to engage directly with the customers who might be buying their products.

Through the use of social media companies can chart out their marketing strategies depending on what the consumers feel. Companies are posting questions, and asking consumers to share their views on a new product, suggest a flavor for a specific food brand, and are even asking consumers to submit their art for a new logo or product cover. Businesses are not just sticking to content on social media, but also creating interesting podcasts and videos to promote ideas for new products and campaigns. This process makes the consumers feel more involved in the marketing process and the fact that they have provided some input in the process makes them trust the brand more.

Consumer interaction through social media

More and more consumers have started interacting with each other over websites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more, and promoting their favorite products on these platforms. This gives the business more exposure, and an opportunity to understand their buyers, their needs and their dissatisfaction. Businesses can gain more insight on improving their product by spotting unhappy customers early on and taking steps accordingly.

Ensuring that consumers feel valuable can help businesses stay two steps ahead of their competitors in this ever-changing market. Social media has drastically changed the marketing game for businesses. The sooner companies realize the importance of social media and the role it plays in marketing, the sooner they can start reaping the endless rewards it offers.

Jessica Davis photoJessica Davis is a Content Strategy expert at Godot Media, a leading content services company. She works with other Godot copywriters to create engaging and effective web content for businesses and individuals. She is also interested in technology, social media and fashion.

 

Why You Need Social Media for Customer Support

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Abby Perkins– Enjoy!

ducttapemarketing.com_SocialSupport image

photo credit: shutterstock

There’s more to running a successful business than having an incredible product or service. Those things may generate revenue, but to attract – and retain – loyal customers, you need to provide impeccable customer support. Companies with reputations for taking care of their customers tend to fare much better than those who leave customers hanging.

These days, companies of all sizes are upping the customer service ante by being readily available on social media. And now that the practice has been around for a while, one thing is clear: Customers love being able to interact with brands on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Companies that extend their customer support to the social media realm tend to have better reputations than those that don’t.

The takeaway? Any business that wants to provide top-notch customer care has to be active on the most popular social media sites.

Think Before You Commit

Before you get too excited about providing customer service via social media, make sure you’re in it for the long haul and will actually follow through. The only thing worse than not having a social media presence is having one that’s been abandoned.

For instance, if a customer tries to interact with your brand on Twitter and is greeted by crickets – he’s not going to be too happy, and he’s not likely to keep coming back. Your earnest efforts can backfire dramatically without follow-through, so be prepared to give it your all before you start going social.

Why Should You Have Social Support?

Like many business owners, you may have been drawn to social media by the promise of enhancing and broadening your marketing efforts. Social is certainly a great way to promote a brand, but it requires a different strategy.

Traditional marketing efforts don’t fly as well on sites like Twitter and Facebook. People on social media don’t want to be preached to – they want to engage in conversations and interact with their favorite brands. That’s why social media is such an effective way to deliver top-quality customer service.

Not convinced? Consider these benefits, for both customers and companies:

Instant gratification

Consumers are used to wading through confusing telephone menus and waiting around for email replies. Through social media, you can surprise them by responding almost instantly to their questions, comments and concerns. And this doesn’t just satisfy the customer, either. It also shows that customer’s followers – and potentially many others – that your company actually cares and is committed to handling customer service issues quickly.

Personalized – and personal – service

Consumers vastly prefer dealing with living, breathing people than with nameless, faceless corporations. Some of today’s savviest companies allow customer service reps to let their personalities – and even photos – to shine through on social media. UPS, for instance, has photos of its customer service reps on its Facebook page, allowing customers to put faces to names.

Next-level interactions

By monitoring social media for mentions of your brand, you can reach out and surprise people in positive and memorable ways. CitiBike, for instance, responded to a customer tweet about a biking mishap by sending him a gift card for a new pair of jeans. The customer responded in kind by tweeting positively about the experience. CitiBike didn’t just make his day – they benefited from the transaction, too.

Positive feedback

It’s true that people are more likely to post negative online reviews than positive ones – most people aren’t prompted to take the effort to post a review if they were satisfied with the service. But social media is different. When a customer has a positive experience with a brand, it only takes a second to post about it on Facebook or Twitter. When you actively support your customers through social media, you’re more likely to experience this positive word-of-mouth.

Image control

People like complaining about companies, brands, products and services on social media because it feels good to have an outlet for your grievances. Brands can capitalize on this tendency by quickly responding to negative comments and working to quickly correct them. Because it all plays out in the public social media realm, it’s yet another way for a brand to market itself and promote its image.

Which Companies Do Social Support Right?

Still not convinced about the benefits of providing social customer support? Just take a look at some of today’s biggest companies to see where social support can take you.

  • Netflix is famous for offering highly responsive and effective customer service. The company trains its employees to use social media to react in real time.
  • JetBlue constantly monitors social media for customers who need help, and has earned a reputation for surprising people with its responsiveness.
  • To ensure people get the help they need as quickly as possible, Nike uses a separate Twitter handle for customer support.

If you’re looking for a way to outshine the competition, delivering top-notch customer service via social media is a great place to start. Just remember – don’t drop the ball. If you’re going to do it, do it consistently, effectively and correctly.

Do you use social media to provide customer support? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

AbbyPerkins_TalentTribune 150x150Abby Perkins is Managing Editor at Talent Tribune, a SoftwareProviders.com blog.  

 

The Secret to Getting More Repeat Customers

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Rachel Daley– Enjoy! 

So you’ve made a sale. “YES! I sold my product! Ultimate goal met!”

Mmm… not quite.

One of the most critical post-sale mistakes is to assume that your job is done once you make the sale. What if I told you that you can turn that one sale into repeat sales to grow your business?

Turns out, what you do after the sale is just as important as what you do before. The ultimate success of your business depends on a strong, personable relationship with your customer base to build trust. Customer trust leads to customer loyalty, which leads to customer recommendations, which means more customers!

So how can you get the most out the sale you just made?

Ensuring customer trust and future sales all comes down to great customer service.

In fact, 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.

But you already knew that.

So I’ll give you another little insider secret… your customers are your friends. Okay, maybe not exactly, but this is what I mean:

Friendships take work before, during, and after you become friends.

Customer relationships take work before, during, and after a sale.

You want those repeat customers who bring in other customers. They are the life line of your business! To build that kind of security, you have to build post-sale relationships with your customers even after their payment has been approved.

$ell 240x180

How to “stay friends”, Even After the Sale

Just think about how you treat your friends…

You keep in touch

Keep an email list of your customers so you can send newsletters with your business’s latest news and promotions to keep them in the loop. You can make things personal even by sending a mass email! Mailchimp has a great free plan, or check out Tiny Letter.

Answer all questions and respond to comments quickly! Staying on top of your social media, emails, and site comments is one of the easiest ways to continue the relationship post-sale. TIP: If you’re getting a lot of comments and questions maybe find some help to manage your social media.

You show gratitude

Remember those two magic phrases Mama taught us? Please and THANK YOU. Make sure to send a “thank you” when you receive notification of a sale. It may just a quick typed message, but it adds that personal touch even through the computer screen.

Offer a discount code to returning customers to make them not only want to come back, but also feel the love. EX: offer 10% off their next order.

  • Make things viral by getting them to share the deal with friends through a tweet. example: Yay, I just bought this item on www.shop.com and got 10% off my next order from @shopname

You go out of your way for them

Go even further and send a longer note with the product when you ship it. Bonus points if you handwrite it! Make sure to personalize each note with the customer’s name so they know you took the time.

You know them on a deeper level

Who knows what your customers want better than your customers themselves? Get to know them by asking for their input. TIP: Create an interactive quiz or ask fun yet helpful questions on your Instagram. Customers will be more likely to respond! The key is to not make customers feel obligated to answer questions because they are not paying for obligation.

Do it for free in 3 easy steps with Google Docs:

google docs survey 240x180

You respect them as human beings

Mama also said treat others the way you want to be treated. Keep that in mind and there’s your answer to how to engage with your customers before, during, and after a sale.

Similar techniques are used for pre-sales marketing of course, so these shouldn’t seem foreign to you. Just don’t assume marketing ends once the sale had been made. To create success with longevity for your business you have to create relationships with longevity. So after your next sale, follow these tips and you will gain a boost in sales and return customers that will bring their friends in no time.

Rachel DaleyRachel is the resident content wizard over at MadeFreshly. Helpful and inspirational advice for eCommerce is her specialty there, but when she’s not busy writing you will probably find her at a track meet or adventuring around California with her Canon T2i.  Follow her on Twitter.

 

9 Ways to Connect With Your Community

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Roger Connors and Tom Smith – Enjoy!

biz-community

photo credit: 123rf

Feeling out of touch with your business community? No connection, wrangling tough relationships, regularly brokering messy disagreements? Just how does a business owner or manager get back in touch and move the needle on even the most stubborn issues?

With consistent, well-practiced feedback.

Feedback is a principle that, if practiced, is the key to overcoming blind spots and achieving improved results in all aspects of your life—both personal and professional. Individually, with teams, and even entire communities and organizations.

The key: You just have to ask for it.

 

But before you gather your team or blindly ask what others think of you (highly risky without a bit of practice, by the way), consider these 9 proven tips that will help you get your head right—so you can solicit, respond to, and use feedback to succeed in business.

  1. Go after it. Feedback doesn’t just magically happen with the wave of a wand. You have to be proactive and make it happen. Stay connected with customers or prospects by seeking feedback even when you believe things are going great—sometimes what you think isn’t what is actually happening.
  2. Have courage. Seeking constructive feedback can be scary. Remember, whoever you’re asking feedback from is already thinking about your performance; you’re just hearing what they already believe.
  3. Welcome awkwardness. Remember that almost everyone fears offering feedback about as much as they fear asking for it. People worry it will backfire, and they value their job or relationship over saying anything—which is why momentum stalls in the first place. Revel in the discomfort and seek feedback anyway.
  4. Be convincing. Assure your audience, customers, even your employees that you really do want to know what they think. They need to know there won’t be any blowback from you if they honestly tell you how they see it.
  5. Get positive. Though it might be hard to believe, it’s easier for people to offer positive rather than negative feedback. You have to ask for constructive feedback. Try “What can we do better?” instead of “What are we doing wrong?”
  6. Listen. After asking for feedback, you need to do the hard part—listen. Listening can be difficult, but it is one of the most meaningful steps of exchanging feedback, and it is important that you listen to everything. Then act on what you hear that makes sense.
  7. Be grateful. Don’t let constructive feedback, no matter how unpleasant, skew your view of the person who’s giving valuable input as to how you can improve your processes. Remember: their insight could help improve performance or efficiency. Express sincere gratitude for their willingness to share in the first place (see tip #2, courage).
  8. Make it a habit. Make getting feedback a habit, not a one-time thing. Ask if it’s okay to follow up, even suggesting you meet again for a reality check just to keep yourself in line.
  9. Be nice. Finally, be nice to yourself and others. You can’t make any important changes overnight.

Right out of the gate you might want to select someone you’re comfortable with, then get started by simply asking, “What feedback do you have for me?” You might need to tag it with some context; like “How do you think we could have improved this product?” or “What improvements would you like to see in your campaign?” Once you’ve listened, don’t impulsively respond with a long defensive response. Graciously and professionally say, “Thanks for the feedback. We really appreciate it, and want to do anything we can to make your experience with our company better.” Your gratitude will signal you aren’t defensive (even if you really are) and that you are happy they took the time to share their opinion.

RogerTom_150x150Roger Connors and Tom Smith are co-authors of a new book, The Wisdom of Oz: Using Personal Accountability to Succeed in Everything You Do (September 2014, www.thewisdomofozbook.com). They are multiple New York Times Bestselling authors and innovators of the most extensive body of knowledge on workplace accountability ever written. Their firm, Partners In Leadership (www.partnersinleadership.com), helps management teams facilitate large-scale cultural transition through proven methodologies, and has helped clients produce billions of dollars in improved profitability and shareholder value.

The Key To Ideal Customer Service: Making Exceptions

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Duane Forrester – Enjoy! 
photo credit: Copyright: kbuntu / 123RF Stock Photo

photo credit: Copyright: kbuntu / 123RF Stock Photo

It was a dark and stormy night as I entered the store. I’d ordered a (geekishly expensive) camera from said store and was still waiting for it to ship to my home, a couple of states away. However, my travels unexpectedly landed me in the town where the store-that-shall-not-be-named-because-I’m-not-that-vindictive is HQd. As such, I thought I would drop by and see if I could save everyone some trouble and just pick up the camera if it hadn’t yet been shipped.

So I walked up to the customer service desk to learn that my camera had not shipped and was, in fact, in the store. “Excellent,” I exclaimed. And that’s when the help desk staffer lowered the boom (or was that thunder?):  “I can’t give it to you. It has a shipping order attached.” Knowing the intricacies of running a retail business, I was sympathetic and, instead, offered to just eat the cost of shipping myself because I really wanted to leave with that camera. In other words, I was asking the staff to make an exception to their policy.

They wouldn’t. And here’s why in today’s social, everybody’s-got-a-mic-and-an-audience world, the first point on a business’ policies list should be “Know when and how to modify policy.”

But back to the store…

Long story short, no one would give me the camera—not even the manager, not even the head of sales. The camera had a shipping order and that was that. I left the store (absolutely for the last time) without a product I had already paid for that was mere feet from me. And you can rest assured my audience heard about it.

Policy can no longer always trump customer service. In fact, plenty of companies have been “modifying” policy for years.

Look at the companies that excel in customer service. Nordstrom’s is clearly not going broke even though it accepts returns on all products – even items they don’t actually sell. Zappo’s has become the darling of internet shoppers thanks to handling shipping issues with such grace and kindness people rave about them online. Companies like Comcast and Delta have learned to use social to keep customers happy. They understand the social currency and value of modified policy.

Can you bend the rules all the time? Of course not. Even some of the time is probably too much. But if you can school your employees on business decision-making and its potential value instead of hammering home hard and fast rules, you’ll be better off on multiple fronts. Happier customers. Empowered employees. Awesome stories shared.

And in case you’re wondering, I did eventually get my camera. It’s great. But every time I shoot with it, I remember this experience and I remember how I won’t shop at this particular retailer again. Today, a couple of years after this happened, I’m in the market for another camera and simply refuse to even think of them as a point of purchase. Flexible customer service could’ve changed that.

duane-bw-fullsizeDuane Forrester is a Senior Product Manager at Bing and just an OK photographer. Say hey on Twitter:@duaneforrester.