Set the tone for exceptional customer service!

October 9th, 2014

Customer Service - Modern copyFor years, researchers have studied disconnects between sender and receiver in electronic communications. It’s challenging to convey emotion and tone, for instance, via email or chat without the benefit of cues such as facial expressions, hand gestures, or vocal tone.

One study examined overconfidence over e-mail by comparing the perceived and actual ability of participants to communicate effectively. The results indicated that participants who sent e-mails overestimated their ability to communicate by e-mail and that participants who received e-mails overestimated their ability to interpret e-mail. Furthermore, participants who sent e-mails predicted about 78 percent of the time that their partners would correctly interpret the tone. However, the data revealed that only 56 percent of the time the receiver correctly interpreted the tone. As further noted, the receivers in the study “guessed that they had correctly interpreted the message’s tone” 90 percent of the time.

Earlier this year, Software Advice, an online firm that reviews customer service software, published a new study, based on responses from more than 2,000 consumers, that examines the impact of a support agent’s tone and language on customer satisfaction. Its research revealed that almost two-thirds (65%) of consumers actually prefer a casual tone in support emails, and that nearly half (49%) didn’t even find emoticons or colloquialisms to be inappropriate. This sentiment changed dramatically when consumers were denied a request, however, suggesting that customers expect help desk agents to adapt their tone to the situation.

A recent example supporting these findings that made national headlines was the chat conversation about a mishandled book order between a customer and an Amazon customer service representative. The conversation was unique in that the customer and Amazon CSR assumed the roles of Odin and Thor from Norse mythology. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a look. (Important: Notice that the Amazon CSR is invited into the role-play by the customer – and not the other way around.)

More than anything, this research reveals how our assumptions about the appropriateness of our electronic communications may undermine our effectiveness at work. So, first and foremost, self-awareness is key. Beyond that, consider guidelines that will contribute to the effectiveness of electronic communication, such as:

  • Always add a brief greeting rather than jumping right in to the business at hand. It can be as simple as opening the message with “Greetings” before getting down to business.
  • Use appropriate grammar, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation.
  • Avoid using ALL CAPS, which may be perceived by recipients as shouting.
  • Moderate use of exclamation marks.
  • Use caution when adding emoticons, such as smiley faces.
  • Avoid using all lower-case letters as well, which may appear overly casual or unprofessional.
  • Avoid colloquialisms such as “What up?” or “bro”.
  • Avoid using abbreviations or industry lexicon that may be misunderstood or not understood at all.
  • Always end a message with a brief farewell that conveys gratitude for the opportunity to serve and invites further communication/clarification (in other words, does not assume the issue has been fully resolved). Again, it can be as simple as “Thank you for bringing the matter to our attention. Please let me know if you have further questions or concerns.”

Misunderstandings are inevitable in the cryptic world of computer-mediated communication. But you can reduce the odds of (unwittingly) offending your customers by: obtaining a credible assessment of your ability to accurately convey or interpret written communication; raising your awareness of the impact of tone and language in electronic communication, and; establishing and adhering to guidelines that will set the tone for exceptional customer service!

Don’t settle for ordinary. Choose extraordinary. (It’s always a choice.) Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.

Watch the 90-second book trailer.

Illustration by Aaron McKissen.

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Your dentist knows if you’re flossing

October 3rd, 2014

Woman flossingI know I’ve done it. I acknowledge the importance of flossing and commit to my dentist that I’ll floss twice daily over the next six months between cleanings. Then, as my appointment nears, I’ll realize how inconsistent I’ve been and make a special effort to floss in the days preceding my visit.

During my oral exam, not wanting to put me on the defensive, Dr. Gates will generally ask me a non-threatening question such as, “So, how have you been doing with your flossing?”

That’s when I say something convincing like, “Uh… Can you repeat the question?”

Dr. Gates already knows the answer.

Next week is Customer Service Week and, similar to my flossing analogy, the customer already knows if you’re serving.

Even if service providers rise to the occasion in the shadow of a prominently displayed Customer Service Week banner, customers know the truth: Customer service across industries is pretty average – and that’s being generous.

Despite the hoopla, banners, and buttons lauding the importance of customers and customer service, the reality is that many customers at participating companies will remain underserved next week, as they were last week, and as they will be in the weeks to come. Besides, shouldn’t every week be Customer Service Week?

Customer service is not a campaign. It’s a commitment. Some companies will spend more time and effort staging events in preparation for Customer Service Week, October 6-10, than they will spend celebrating customers and delivering exceptional customer service during the remaining 51 weeks of the year.

And, despite the frenzied effort to compensate for inconsistency, just like Dr. Gates, customers will know the truth.

Don’t settle for ordinary. Choose extraordinary. (It’s always a choice.) Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.

Watch the 90-second book trailer.

Photo credit: BigStock Photo

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J.W. Marriott’s approach to serving customers

September 30th, 2014

J_Willard_MarriottWhen asked about his approach to work during an interview, the late J.W. Marriott, Sr. said, “There aren’t these two opposites, work and play, one bad and the other good. It’s having a vision of the way things ought to be, and then making them that way.”

Keep in mind that Mr. Marriott’s “work” – from the time he opened his first 9-seat root beer stand in 1927 until his death in 1985 – consisted of serving customers. Having spent two decades with Marriott, I had an opportunity to see this philosophy manifest firsthand in the direct service of tens of thousands of customers.

Although I retired from the company in 2006, 21 years after his death, my customer service philosophy continues to be shaped by the founder’s words. Let’s examine just four of them from the quote above:

Work: Work is inevitable. (Drudgery is optional.) Work consists of what we HAVE to do. In the context of a job role, this usually means executing the job functions (duties and tasks) for which we’re paid by possessing job knowledge (WHAT to do) and/or demonstrating job skills (HOW to do it).

Play: Play, in the context of a job role, consists of the opportunities people have to perform outside of their job descriptions, reflecting job essence: their highest priority at work. Too often, people view work and play as dichotomies – at opposite ends of a spectrum. Work, as defined above, is associated with what you HAVE to do in order to pay the bills. And play is seen as what you ELECT to do when you’re not at work. But this is a narrow and limiting definition of play.

Vision: Vision provides direction. It informs decisions. It answers the question of WHY employees do WHAT they do, HOW they do it at work. Companies that define and share a credible vision don’t just give their employees something to work on. They give them something to work toward.

Making: “Making” is a verb. It requires action. Before something is made, there is decision to make it – a decision born out of initiative and a willingness to expend discretionary effort in the moment of choice. Pro quarterback, Russell Wilson, made this point when he said: “Dreams don’t come true. Dreams are made true.”

Mr. Marriott was spot-on in observing that every job role consists of two parts: work (job function) and play (job essence). He also understood that a clearly defined, shared, and credible vision would drive constancy of purpose. Finally, he recognized that exceptional customer service doesn’t happen by chance. It happens by choice.

Don’t settle for ordinary. Choose extraordinary. (It’s always a choice.) Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.

Watch the 90-second book trailer.

Photo credit: Marriott International

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You’re not entitled to a gratuity

September 17th, 2014

The Envelope PleaseEarlier this week, Marriott International announced a campaign, called “The Envelope Please” to encourage the tipping of housekeepers. Envelopes will be placed in 160,000 hotel rooms in the U.S. and Canada. The name of the housekeeper who cleans the room will be written on the envelope along with the message: “Our caring room attendants enjoyed making your stay warm and comfortable. Please feel free to leave a gratuity to express your appreciation for their efforts.”

[Full disclosure: I enjoyed a 20-year career at Marriott International.]

When questioned about how much to leave in the envelope, Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson suggested $1 to $5 per night, depending on room rate, with more for a high-priced suite. Personally, I would have preferred he’d said, “$1 to $5 per night, depending on the quality of service received, with more for exceptional service quality.”

Consider these two terms:

Gratuity: something given voluntarily or beyond obligation, usually for some service

Entitlement: the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something

To me, when you attach a gratuity to a room night and rate, it implies that if you stay over as a guest of the hotel for a night or more, then you are now expected to place a sum of money in the envelope for the housekeeper – regardless of the room’s cleanliness or the housekeeper’s attention to detail. It becomes an entitlement.

This is a slippery slope. It suggests that guests who leave less than the recommended gratuity (or *gasp* nothing at all) – based on their perception of service quality received from their housekeepers – are “cheapskates” or worse… Or, guests are guilted or shamed into leaving an undeserved tip. (I can think of many last impressions that Marriott would like to leave with its guests, but “shame” isn’t one of them.)

My position on gratuities is that guests are not obligated to offer them and employees don’t have a right to receive them. Gratuities should be discretionary and based solely on the performance of the service provider. Attaching a sum of money to a room night and rate suggests an obligation for the guest and an employee’s right to receive an entitlement. The above definition of “gratuity” clearly states the opposite: Tips are given voluntarily or beyond obligation.

All of that said, I think the envelopes are a great idea. I just would have preferred that Marriott quietly place them in guest rooms as a prompt for guests to, at their sole discretion, offer a gratuity as a reflection of housekeeping service quality received rather than length of stay and rate paid.

Don’t settle for ordinary. Choose extraordinary. (It’s always a choice.) Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.

Watch the 90-second book trailer.

Photo credit: AP Photo/A Woman’s Nation

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When it comes to social customer service, most companies are hacks

September 16th, 2014

Annoyed customer copyHenry David Thoreau observed: “For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root.”

I thought about how this quote applies to many companies’ social media strategy. These companies are breathlessly “hacking at the leaves” of customer acquisition with their social media strategies rather than artfully honing in and “striking at the root” of customer retention.

Over the past several years, a majority of my attempts to provide feedback to brands on Twitter – pertaining to a recent product or service experience – were completely ignored. According to this blog by social media strategist, Jay Baer, I shouldn’t be surprised. (In the article, Jay cites research by Maritz Research and Evolve24 that revealed, of 1,298 Twitter complaints, only 29 percent were replied to by the companies in question.) In my case, when I returned to the company’s Twitter page after not hearing back, I saw that while they ignored my feedback, they found time to post a promotional tweet about their exceptional product or service quality.

Whenever a company uses a social media channel like Facebook or Twitter to blast a promotional missive to its legion of anonymous fans or followers, it’s largely “hacking at the leaves” of customer acquisition. Will someone really click on the link, access the discount code, and purchase the product? Perhaps the company’s analytics suggest that, on occasion, someone does. But are the recipients of these marketing messages really qualified prospects or, better yet, actual customers?

You might say that if they’re fans or followers, then certainly they’re qualified prospects or actual customers. Otherwise, you reason, why would they choose to follow the brand’s account in the first place? But look at your own behavior. Are you a qualified prospect or current customer of every brand you follow on social media? I follow Ferrari but I assure you that I’m not a qualified prospect. I also follow numerous coffee, wine, and beer brands that I’ve never purchased. I’m a fan of fast cars, coffee, wine, and beer, but that doesn’t make me a qualified prospect or current customer of these brands.

Now, here’s the irony: In each case when I reached out to brands on Twitter, it was clear that I was a customer:

  • In one case, I expressed disappointment in the way a local Xenith rep failed to deliver pre-ordered football gear in time for the start of the 2014 season. What I expected: Empathy. What I got: Silence.
  • In another case, I brought the unprofessional behavior of a supervisor to the attention of Smashburger. What I expected: Interest. What I got: (imagine the sound of crickets chirping)
  • In a third case, I shared a photo of an improperly made pizza with Papa Murphy’s. What I expected: Problem resolution. What I got: Nothing.

I cannot stress this point enough: In every case, it was evident that I was a real, live, paying customer! And in one case, I even offered indisputable photographic evidence. Still, no one bothered to acknowledge my feedback.

It’s well documented that current customers are infinitely more valuable than the anonymous masses of prospective customers to which companies market. According to Gartner, 80 percent of future profits will come from 20 percent of existing customers. Research by Bain & Company revealed that increasing (existing) customer retention rates by 5 percent increases profits by 25 to 95 percent.

Additionally, existing customers are much easier to sell. Market Metrics determined that, while the probability of converting an existing customer is 60 to 70 percent, the probability of converting a new prospect is only 5 to 20 percent. It just makes sense that consumers are more receptive to companies they already know and trust as customers.

Even so, it seems that a majority of companies would prefer to bombard hoards of anonymous prospects with promotional messages than respond to their current customers’ feedback. With all the evidence supporting the value of existing customers, it’s mystifying that so many companies choose to squander resources “hacking at the leaves” of customer acquisition rather than directing them toward “striking at the root” of customer retention.

Don’t settle for ordinary. Choose extraordinary. (It’s always a choice.) Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.

Watch the 90-second book trailer.

Illustration by Aaron McKissen.

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Does your company have a slogan or a purpose?

September 6th, 2014

CVSHealthMany companies have slogans that look good on websites, banners, and buttons, but often these slogans have little credibility among customers or employees. They are simply a set of words brainstormed at an ad agency that usually promise more than employees are prepared to deliver, and result in less than customers expected to receive.

CVS Health has a slogan: “Health is everything.” Last Wednesday the company stopped selling cigarettes and tobacco products at its 7,700 retail pharmacies. Although the decision to remove tobacco products from its stores will cost them an estimated $2 billion in annual sales, CVS Health chose to stay true to its commitment to people’s health. It chose to honor its highest priority: health is everything. CVS Health reinforced its credibility with employees and customers alike by staying true to its stated purpose.

I love this example because it illustrates an important point I make during my customer service presentations: Without a clearly defined purpose, there is no exceptional customer service. Most companies ensure that employees possess job knowledge (WHAT to do) and demonstrate job skill (HOW to do it), but then leave job purpose (WHY they are doing it) to chance. Whenever you leave 1/3 of anything to chance, it usually doesn’t end well.

This explains why most companies provide ordinary, routine, and transactional customer service: Their employees are given something to work ON and dutifully execute the mandatory functions of their jobs, oftentimes producing satisfactory results. But extraordinary companies aren’t content to give their employees something to work on. Like CVS, they opt to give employees something to work TOWARD.

Zappos, the online retailer, gives its employees something to work toward by guiding their actions with the purpose: “To provide the best customer service possible.” And the behavior of employees of the Mayo Clinic is shaped by the purpose: “The needs of the patient come first.” These employees not only possess job knowledge and demonstrate job skill, they also reflect job purpose.

I’m confident that the great majority of people who read this post, can clearly articulate WHAT they do at work and, if asked, could demonstrate HOW they do it. I’m less confident that they will have the same clarity around their highest priority at work, the organization’s purpose – WHY they do WHAT they do.

If you’re skeptical, just ask your employees/coworkers. My hunch is that if you ask five employees with the same job role WHAT they do, 80 percent of their responses will agree. However, if you ask these same five employees WHY they do WHAT they do, 80 percent of their responses will differ. This exercise serves as a litmus test to determine whether your company has a catchy slogan or an enduring purpose.

Don’t settle for ordinary. Choose extraordinary. (It’s always a choice.) Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.

Watch the 90-second book trailer.

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The X’s and O’s of customer service

September 5th, 2014

Xs and OsWith the start of the 2014 NFL football season, I got to thinking about how customer service is like football.

Two nights ago, my 11-year-old son and I analyzed game film from his season opener last weekend. Our observations weren’t terribly surprising or original: Block until the whistle sounds on offense and, on defense, wrap up when tackling, contain the outside corners, and keep the receiver in front of you.

These observations could make up the pre-game instructions for any youth league coach or, quite possibly, a football coach at any level. These are really the basics – the X’s and O’s – of football. It’s widely acknowledged that even with all the bells and whistles (from fancy uniforms to elaborate playbooks), the team that does the best job blocking and tackling usually wins the game.

In face-to-face customer service, “blocking and tackling” consists of smiling, making eye contact, and adding energy to one’s voice. By doing so, service providers express genuine interest in serving their customers and distinguish themselves from those who are content to simply go through the motions, treating each customer like the last customer.

So, if you provide service to a customer (or, internally, to someone who does), remember the X’s and O’s of face-to-face customer service: smile, eye contact, and vocal energy. Doing so is a winning strategy that will leave a lasting positive impression on most customers.

Don’t settle for ordinary. Choose extraordinary. (It’s always a choice.) Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.

Watch the 90-second book trailer.

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Unique knowledge separates the best from the good

September 2nd, 2014

Bell1 copyVoltaire, the 18th-century French philosopher, said, “The best is the enemy of the good.” I love this quote because, to me, it highlights the distinction between extraordinary and ordinary, excellence and mediocrity, and exceptional and average customer service.

Earlier this year, I attended a conference at the InterContinental Hotel in the Buckhead district of Atlanta. The lobby bar, aptly named Boubon Bar, stocks 70 hand-selected craft bourbons. It was there I learned from the bartender that the Manhattan cocktail is traditionally made with rye whiskey and stirred rather than shaken.

Some time afterward, I came across an article that listed other interesting facts about bourbon and learned:

  • Bourbon distillers can only use their barrels once. Although barrels are reused to age other non-bourbon whiskies, they cannot be reused to age bourbon.
  • The official mint julep of the Kentucky Derby is not made with bourbon. It’s made with Early Times whiskey. Because Early Times is aged in second-hand barrels passed down from the Old Forester bourbon distillery, it’s not actually bourbon.
  • During World War II, bourbon distilleries were converted to make penicillin. Shut down during prohibition from 1920 to 1933, with the onset of WWII, bourbon distilleries were repurposed to manufacture penicillin.

It occurred to me that this is the sort of novel information that an exceptional bartender – particularly at Bourbon Bar – should possess. I refer to these facts as unique knowledge.

Unique knowledge is not the same as job knowledge. Job knowledge is necessary for an employee to be proficient in his job role. It is expected by the customer and, generally speaking, is transactional. The making of a Manhattan by following a standard cocktail recipe demonstrates job knowledge. The bartender has simply executed a mandatory job function (the making of a cocktail) by adhering to established protocol (following an approved recipe, using the appropriate barware, ringing up the drink, etc.). And there are plenty of bartenders who are proficient at following drink recipes, using the correct glass, and operating a point-of-sale system.

But fewer bartenders share unique knowledge. Unique knowledge provides customers with “insider” information that is unexpected, valued, and memorable. It creates opportunities to spark dialogue and engagement with customers. It is relational rather than transactional, and inspires increased spending, hefty tips, and referrals.

Although this post has featured bartenders, the concept applies to every job role. What customer-facing job role do you occupy or oversee? Look for opportunities to provide the “best” customer service possible by uncovering and sharing unique knowledge – rather than settle for “good” service quality by merely executing a set of predictable job functions.

While customers appreciate efficient employees, they value knowledgeable employees. And the more unique knowledge employees possess, the more value they can add to the customer experience.

Don’t settle for ordinary. Choose extraordinary. (It’s always a choice.) Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.

Watch the 90-second book trailer.

Illustration by Aaron McKissen.

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Make no mistake: Employees choose whether or not to serve

August 26th, 2014

employee-blinders-copyDo you work hard? When questioned publicly, an overwhelming majority of us will respond that, yes, we work hard. I’m not sure what the percentage is, but I bet it’s close to the percentage of us who, in the presence of others, would claim to be excellent drivers who observe posted speed limits, consistently use our turn signals, and come to a complete stop at stop signs.

But what is the actual percentage of us who really work hard? A study by Yankelovich and Immerwahr reported that, when confidentially surveyed, fewer than one in four employees (23%) say they work at their full potential. Nearly half (44%) report that they do the minimum possible and only work hard enough to keep their jobs.  And three quarters of employees surveyed admitted they could be significantly more effective in their jobs.

Want to see these statistics in action? Check out this video Exposing Bad Customer Service by Jack Vale Films.

What stops these employees from closing the discretionary effort gap between what they are prepared to do and what they actually do? Experts name several causes, including:

  • the quality of the work environment
  • the organization’s culture
  • the nature of the employee’s relationship with his immediate supervisor, organization, and coworkers

While I agree these causes influence the amount of discretionary effort employees are willing to expend, I disagree that they determine it. In other words, regardless of external influences, employees have the freedom to choose their response to any given stimuli – including customer inquiries.

Here, I’ll reference Stephen R. Covey’s perennial book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Now, before you judge this post as passé due to the book’s 1989 copyright date, recognize that Covey got it absolutely right when he wrote: “there is a gap or a space between stimulus and response, and the key to both our growth and happiness [and, I would add, our effectiveness at work] is how we use that space.”

Covey claimed that, as human beings, we have the freedom to choose our response in any situation. He did not qualify his assertion by saying “in certain situations,” for instance, when the quality of one’s work environment is superior, or the organization’s culture is inspiring, or the nature of one’s relationship with her immediate supervisor, organization, and coworkers is healthy. He said, “in any situation.” Employees who blame having inadequate resources to do their jobs, bemoan the organization’s service culture, or cite apathetic coworkers or surly bosses as justification for their indifference are merely rationalizing their poor performance. In reality, they are forfeiting their freedom to choose their responses within these situations.

Dr. Covey identified what he referred to as four human endowments, or gifts, that people can access “in the moment of choice” to choose their response and, in so doing, improve their effectiveness (i.e., how they manage the space between the stimulus and the response):

  • Self-awareness: conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires
  • Imagination: the ability to create in our minds beyond our present reality
  • Conscience: awareness of right and wrong
  • Independent will: the ability to act based on self-awareness, free of all other influences

Had the retail employees in the Jack Vale video recognized that their behavior was a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feelings, the video would have had a dramatically different outcome.

For instance, if the featured employees exercised their self-awareness to recognize their personal standard of performance, regardless of the standard deemed acceptable by the store’s culture, then it’s likely they would have taken the initiative to properly serve the customer. And if they had chosen to use their imagination to improvise in the event that they felt constrained by inadequate tools and resources to do their jobs, then it’s likely they would have solved the customer’s dilemmas. If these employees consulted their conscience, certainly they would have concluded that their actions were wrong. Finally, had they recognized their ability to perform independent of others’ behavior or the established norms, they could have challenged the status quo by choosing to expend discretionary effort in the moment of choice.

Make no mistake: Employees choose whether or not to serve. Although factors such as work environment, culture, and relationships with coworkers can certainly influence one’s performance, they cannot determine it. Between the stimulus and the response, employees have the freedom to choose their response. The extent to which they exercise and develop the four human endowments empowers them to realize their unique potential and provide exceptional customer service, regardless of their circumstances.

Don’t settle for ordinary. Choose extraordinary. (It’s always a choice.) Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.

Watch the 90-second book trailer.

Illustration by Aaron McKissen.

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Keep working for the referral

August 11th, 2014

Promoter Color copyI know a successful Denver web designer whose mantra is: “Keep working for the referral.” In other words, even after he gets the business, he continues to work hard to deliver a breathtaking design to his clients in order to delight them – and inspire their referrals.

But what impresses me even more about Jeff is that, when the business doesn’t go his way, he continues to keep working for the referral. He is intentional about keeping in contact with clients/prospective clients and subscribing to their e-newsletters and blogs, regularly adding value by chiming in with comments and ideas. And he attends networking events where he’s likely to encounter them, often leading to conversations about their web successes or challenges. He sends clients (as well as prospective clients who turned him down) a holiday card containing a personalized, handwritten note in order to foster relationships into the New Year.

Less effective businesspeople tend to marginalize the value of prospects that say “no” (under the assumption that only paying clients are valuable, worthy of their time and effort, and capable of offering referrals to grow their clientele).

While Jeff’s efforts are occasionally rewarded with web design projects, they’re regularly rewarded with referrals. In fact, the activities listed above constitute most of his annual marketing budget and account for the majority of his firm’s new client acquisition.

His example serves as a great reminder to me that win or lose, always keep working for the referral.

Don’t settle for ordinary. Choose extraordinary. (It’s always a choice.) Order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin or purchase from select retailers, including Barnes & Noble.

Watch the 90-second book trailer.

Illustration by Aaron McKissen.

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