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Don't Forget to Celebrate Your Customers, Too

Today marks the start of Customer Service Week.  It’s a great time to pause and reflect on the valuable contribution that the customer service team makes to the organization as a whole.  And it’s a great time to celebrate the professionals that provide service every day, often without any thanks or recognition. (Looking for a way to say thanks?  Send a free ecard)

As you’re celebrating your customer service team this week, it’s also a good time to stop and think about the ways you celebrate your customers.

Do you treat your customers like they’re invited guests to a party?  Do you make them feel like they’re an important and valuable part of your business?

One of our Call Center Demo and Conference keynote speakers, Chip Bell, recently released a book called The 9 ½ Principles of Innovative Service.  The book is “dedicated to the quest for being remarkable”, and uses personal stories to illustrate how customer service professionals can go above and beyond to improve the customer experience.

One of my favorite chapters in the book is focused on principle number seven: They Fly Fishing Principle.  In this chapter Chip tells the humorous story of a time when he and his wife were traveling through Texas (with their cat Taco) and needed a place to stay.  Not realizing that it was a University of Texas home game weekend, Chip hadn’t reserved a room.  Unfortunately, rooms were hard to come by, and it was especially hard to find a place that would welcome Taco as a guest, too.  On the verge of settling for a night sleeping in the car, Chip reluctantly called the local Four Seasons hotel.  Not only did they save a room for Chip and his wife, they had a bowl of food and water waiting for Taco upon their arrival.  The simple gesture made a memorable impression on the Bell family, and Chip says that his wife never wants to stay anywhere else now.

The moral of the story?  A great way to celebrate your customers is through personalization, which in turn goes a long way in building loyalty.

I’ve experienced this phenomenon for myself, too.  As a remote worker, I often like to set up office in a local coffee shop to get the creative juices flowing.  One of my favorite places to work is a local coffee shop called Sola Café.  There are so many things I love about the place.  They use fair trade coffee, they play great music at the perfect volume—loud enough to enjoy, but not so loud it distracts.  They have tasty, fresh, and healthy food options. The people are friendly, and the vibe makes me feel more creative and productive.  But above all, what I appreciate most is the way they personalize their service and make every customer feel important.

Sola uses the customer’s name when their order is ready;  not a number.  And often times, the regular baristas remember my name without even having to ask for it.  Sola also offers a customer loyalty program.  Purchase 9 drinks, and the 10th one is free. Their punch card reads: “If it isn’t perfect, let us make that right.”


But it gets even more impressive.

As a self-proclaimed social media addict, I often check in on Foursquare or Twitter when I’m out and about.  On several occasions, I’ve checked in at Sola.

One day, as I was sipping coffee and working on a newsletter, the owner of Sola came over to my table.  I had never met him before, but he greeted me by name.  He had seen my previous check-ins and tweets and said he was hoping to meet me in person and thank me for my business.  We chatted for a few moments, and now each time I visit the coffee shop, he makes a point of saying hi if he’s working.

Talk about making a customer feel valuable!

On page 73 of his book, Chip puts it this way: “When service is genuinely personalized, it reminds customers that they are vitally present in an important service relationship.”

So, what can contact centers do to personalize the service they provide and create Sola Café/Four Seasons experiences? 

1. Meet customers where they are.

Customers today want options. Recent ICMI research shows that 93% of contact center leaders believe that customers would be more satisfied if they were offered their channel of preference for support.  Yet, contact centers are still slow to adopt channels such as social mobile. These channels will quickly become traditional rather than emerging, so it’s important for contact centers to get on board now.

2. Listen.  (Really listen)

Establish a Voice of the Customer (VoC) program, gather customer feedback, and most importantly, USE the feedback to improve your service.  If you want to know how you can improve, asking is the best way to find the answer.

3. Make the customer feel like a friend.

Make sure agents know who they’re talking to.  Have them address the customer by name and ask questions specific to their location.  Ex: “How’s the weather in Denver today?”  “Will you be heading to the Broncos game this weekend?”  Also make sure your agents identify themselves so customers know who they’re talking to.  And this rule doesn’t just apply to phone interactions—this goes for social, mobile, and chat, too!

What innovative approaches does your contact center use to offer personalized service?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.  Looking for some inspiration?  Check out Chip Bell’s book, The 91/2 Principles of Innovative Service.