How to Attract and Keep Customers

How to Attract and Keep Customers

When was the last time you had a customer service experience that was so outstanding it just blew your socks off? It probably was a long time ago. Sad to say, but customer service seems to be headed in the same direction as the Titanic. Why?

One reason is many people feel customer service jobs are beneath them. The other reason is in order to cut costs many businesses have eliminated the human element, replacing it with a frustrating conglomeration of voice mail, email, and online request forms. Wise companies realize the front-line employee is the most important person in the company.

The Ritz-Carlton hotels makes customer service an art form. Unlike other places, they know if you treat your customers well and make a special effort to connect with them–guess what? They come back, tell their friends, and build a long lasting relationship of loyalty.

Not too long ago, my wife and I stayed at the Reynolds Plantation Ritz-Carlton at Lake Oconee, Georgia. Upon checking in, we dropped off our bags and took a seat in the lobby to enjoy the view of the lake. A few minutes later a service person named Susan introduced herself, beginning a friendly conversation. She asked us why we were staying at the hotel. I said, “We are here for our wedding anniversary.” With a very big smile she told us, “Congratulations. Let me go get you some champagne.” Wow! This was the first of two episodes at this hotel that would capture my loyalty as a guest of Ritz-Carlton.

Later that evening a knock at the door caught us by surprise. Greeting us again was Susan. This time she surprised us with a luscious piece of cake carefully presented on a plate. In icing was this inscription, “Happy Anniversary.” Wow!

It was not a stroke of luck we stumbled across Susan. She, as well as other Ritz Carlton employees, are selected carefully and thoroughly trained on how to identify guest’s unspoken requests. They follow a process called the “Three Steps of Service.”

Step 1 – Warm welcome
Step 2 – Anticipation and compliance
Step 3 – Fond farewell

It is during Step 2 where staff members seek out and discover guest’s needs or wishes. Then they present it in a way to create a “moment of truth.” In our case, it was the champagne and the anniversary cake.

Now, let me make an important point to the critics. I know many of you are saying, “I expect to be treated well at fine hotels–it is what I pay for.” Let’s consider this. The same principles and standards of behavior demonstrated at the Ritz-Carlton can also be applied at your local car dealership, bank, or any business, can’t they?

A Gallup survey found over a one month period a customer who is “emotionally connected” to the organization spent 46% more money than a customer that was satisfied, but not emotionally bonded with the company.

To help keep your service businesses competitive, consider the following four steps of exceptional service.

Step 1 – Select the right people. Successful businesses realize the front-line customer service person is critical to the success of the business. So they spend more time recruiting and hiring the right people.

Step 2 – Set performance standards. Design and develop how employees are supposed to act and respond to customer needs and requests.

Step 3 – Sustain on-going training effort. For many people good customer service skills do not come naturally. Successful businesses train their staff.

Step 4 – Specify consequences for behaviors. You must hold people accountable. Reward those who exceed the standards and develop those who do not.

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