Anne M. Obarski

Article Summary:

Easy ways to make every customer feel special.

Customer Care: Making Every Customer Feel Special

Have you ever been a lost customer? I mean a "real customer" who was left behind, left alone, feeling like you were taken for granted?

Sometimes it's a subtle feeling, and other times it's like a slap in the face.

Well, I'm still feeling the bruises of my last brush with being left behind. It happened last week when I was rushing to make a very early morning flight. As usual, everything was going wrong, from hitting the alarm one too many times to not packing the night before like I should have to racing to the airport at 5 a.m. in the pouring rain.

And did I mention, NO COFFEE!

I parked the car, ran into the airport with my carry-on bag barely touching the wheels to the ground, up the escalator around the bend scanning the signs for my airlines. Now, I must tell you that this is an airline I rarely fly and the reservations were made by the client. I finally spied the counter and then stopped in my tracks. There had to be 75 people in line! Who would have guessed that many people on a rainy, Thursday morning would be on the same flight?

I looked at all of their "happy faces" as I took my place at the end of the line. I glanced up at the monitor to happily see that the flight was going to take off a half hour late! Ahh, there is a God!

I have now been up since 3 a.m. and the anticipation of a 4 hour flight ahead of me and I am already breathing hard when what to my wondering ears I hear, the voice of the airline employee yelling at the top of his voice, "Next time you fly this flight you better get here extra early as there is ALWAYS a long line!"

I remember the silence of this primarily business crowd. I guess we were all a little bleary eyed to realize we were being spoken to like little children. I wonder what his point really was. Did he feel sorry for his fellow employee who was the "only" person checking all of these people's bags or was he using reverse psychology on us so that we wouldn't start complaining to him?

Either way, what flashed in huge letters across my mind was, "Buddy, there's not going to BE a next time!"

Little did I realize the day would get longer! We boarded the plane with no problem and pushed back from the gate and I thought, whew, we are on our way. Then the captain came on the intercom and informed us that this "new computer system" was telling him that one of the engines was not working right and we would have to re-boot the computer to see if that would fix the problem. Well, an hour later, as I watched the rain dribbling down the little airplane window we took off on our 4 hour flight which was now a very long 5 hour flight.

When you fly a lot on business, this kind of stuff just becomes an annoyance that many of us have learned we must put up with. But why? Why do we have to accept bad service? I think it is because sometimes, things do work like clockwork, exactly the way they should and we put those bad times in the back of our minds.

I believe we all have little "report cards" in our brains that give companies a grade each time we deal with them and sometimes we have lots of grades on the report card based on the number of employees we come in contact with for a business.

I will say that the man that yelled at the group of us standing in the line got an "F" for his actions but the overworked gal at the ticket counter got a "B" for being very nice even though she could probably choke her boss for not scheduling more people! The flight attendant seemed like she got up on the wrong side of the bed so I would give her a "C". The pilot, well he did his best, he even got us there on time, after all of that hassle, but there was no gate available so we were stuck again, waiting on the tarmac, he got an A-.

So the total grade for the airline for the whole experience was a C+.

You see that everyone your customer comes in contact with, whether in person or on the phone, affects the total perception your customer has toward your business. You may have a wonderful sales staff, but if the receptionist is rude to everyone who calls, the customers make an assumption that the whole company is that way.

So how do you guarantee a passing grade with your customers? How do you plan on making sure no customer gets left behind? I believe that the following acronyms will help you to stay at the head of the class!

1. MMFI-AM
I heard it said somewhere that customers listen to this pretend radio station in their head...MAKE ME FEEL IMPORTANT ABOUT ME! I know it was my fault that I was late to the airport. I hope I learned my lesson. But yelling at the customer doesn't help anyone. I will choose to do business with people who make me feel important. I read a quote that said the following, "People do things for their reasons, not yours". So why do people want to do business with you? Do you go the extra mile? Do you make them feel like they are your only client? Do you under promise and over deliver?

2. KISS
This is an old advertising term I taught in my college advertising class that stood for "Keep It Simple, Stupid". Giving good customer service is not rocket science as they say. Give customers your full attention and give them what they want, when they want it, and the way they want it, everyday. Now I know you are saying, but some of my customers will abuse us. Yes, you are right. I just read that Best Buy calls them "devil customers" and "angel customers". How many of each do you have?

Your "kiss" goal is not to make it difficult for your customers to do business with you. Period.

3. HAND and CARE
I have never really liked that phrase HAND - Have A Nice Day -, unless it is said with sincerity and it does not sound like you are a parrot and say that to everyone in line. K-Mart used the "CARE" word on their badges for awhile as it represented: Customers Are Really Everything. Once you realize that, you won't need the words to jog your memory.

In summary, make the customer feel special without wasting their time and build the relationship that will make them feel you care so much about them that they would never think of going elsewhere.

Before you know it, you'll be on their "honor roll"!

Anne M. Obarski is "The Eye on Performance!" As a professional speaker and trainer, Anne helps companies focus on the profit building service strategies that will keep their customers coming back. Anne presents nationwide keynotes, break-out sessions and customized training in the area of customer service. She has written "Surprising Secrets of Mystery Shoppers" and "Real World Customer Service Strategies That Work". For more information visit her website at www.merchandise concepts.com.

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