Courting service excellence
The parallels between courting your true love and customers are closer than one would think …
Last year we focused on leadership and the need to take the business forward. But to really cement leadership, you need to lead in service excellence – or customer satisfaction, as most refer to it.
The challenge, however, is to forget the term customer satisfaction; as most businesses are rated over 90 percent, all within a clutter of great customer service. By rather focusing on service excellence, and looking at the process as a courtship, I believe you attain the correct focus.
There are four legs in the process of romancing the customer as you would a love interest:
• Courting – the initial meeting, in this case with the customer;
• Transfer of trust – the exchange of important and sometimes personal information, in this case the customer’s information;
• Date night – the actual date experience, or in this case the actual service experience promised by your company or its advertising;
• Afterglow – the feelings we carry forward from the entire experience, specifically how the customer feels at the conclusion of the experience.
One must also bear in mind that we cannot separate people or product/service elements of the service experience; customers see this as one package. The people element relates to what the person serving the customer communicates through words, tone, body language and presentation. The product element relates directly to the product or service the customer receives, such as the presentation of the invoice or research report.
Cast your mind back to your own initial courting experience and that first impression you got at the initial meeting. The initial meeting with the customer could be face to face, via a marketing brochure, an advertisement or a phone call. There are some important key factors in the courting phase.
Very often this important aspect is underplayed as, subconsciously, decisions to buy or continue with the process are made within a few minutes of the initial meeting. People make an assessment of the person when they first meet. From a business perspective it is, therefore, critical that this first meeting is positive. Key areas of first impressions are: appearance – which should be neat, clean and in line with your company’s business image; body language – which should be positive and inviting; and tone of voice – which should be warm and engaging.
Engaging the customer:
When the customer enters your place of business it is most important to engage him or her as soon as possible. The key areas of focus should be:
• Your opening words of introduction and greeting;
• Listening – it is important to be clear about the customer’s needs as this aspect of communication is often the cause of misunderstanding;
• Honesty – customers generally have researched your product and do not want to be fooled;
• Consideration – attempt to see things from the customer’s perspective.
During the courting process one must make the customer feel welcome, important and comfortable in your environment.
Jannie Koegelenberg is passionate about promoting positive customer experiences. He runs the EDGE Training Consultancy, a leading provider of world-class training and development programmes that meaningfully change and impact on people’s lives. He has a 38-year track record in the motor industry, having worked at Mercedes-Benz distributor United Cars and Diesel Distributors, Ford Motor Company SA and Toyota SA Marketing.