Give Your Customers a Standing Ovation
I smile every time I think of one of my favorite clients from a number of years ago. What made it fun was a visionary, high energy CEO. The company’s sales came through a retail catalog mailed to customers who then placed orders largely via a call center. It was also a time the company elevated its emphasis on their customers’ experiences, not just the merchandise their customers purchased.
One component of the “voice of the customer” initiative was to hold a focus group session with a group of customers who were chosen because they had recently bought and/or returned merchandise. The first focus group was attended by all of senior leadership, including the CEO. At the end of the session customers were given a gift, and while they got a tour of the large distribution facility, the executives who watched the focus group worked on ways to translate insights gained into actions or, in some cases, a wakeup call to get more customer intelligence.
The highlight of the focus group session was inviting the customers at the end of their tour to have lunch in the employee cafeteria. Prior to their arrival, word was quickly passed that a group of customers were en route to the cafeteria. As they entered the large cafeteria, the entire room erupted into a lengthy standing ovation. It was powerful and affirming! And, in the words of one employee in the room, “This makes my challenging work worth it.”
In the following weeks, my conversations with the CEO revealed a fascinating discovery. The standing ovation became a metaphor for the sprit conveyed by the call center employees. Instead of, “Smile more on the phone,” or “Listen more to your customers,” it became, “Give your customers a standing ovation experience.” It was code for unmistakable valuing and obvious affirmation.
The Power of Appreciation
How many times have you had a buying encounter and the person taking your money never bothered to even thank you? We fund their paycheck and contribute to their company’s bottom line, and they fail to say, “Thank you for being my customer.” “Thank you for keeping me employed so I can provide for my family.” Research shows that indifferent service is detested by customers more than bad service. Customers can chalk up bad service to some systems error or cultural disconnect. But indifferent service clearly signals a complete lack of caring.
Most customer relationships don’t end in conflict. Most vanilla to death. Neglect is more dangerous than strife; apathy costlier than error. Great relationships—whether personal or professional—are fueled by affirmation. Nurturing the bounty of customer loyalty requires more than proper cultivation and seeding. It must be fertilized with attention and care. Superior service providers never take a valued relationship for granted and remain ever vigilant for ways to celebrate the joy of the partnership and express gratitude for the return it provides.
William James, the great psychologist, wrote, “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” Show your customers they are valued in ways they experience as obvious, bold and affirming! Give them a standing ovation!
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