in Business/Marketing

The Importance of Customer Service with a Side of Relationship Advice

Holding HandsWe’re all fully aware of the dating process. You put in you’re time – brush up on your charm skills, take her out for a nice seafood dinner (and then hopefully call her again), play the role of the gentleman as you politely decline to ‘come up for coffee’ for the first few dates – all of this leads up to that fateful moment – you’re at her door, you lean in, overcoming the awkward silence, and land the first kiss. One thing leads to another and before you know it you have three kids, a second mortgage, and floral bedsheets.

Relationships take work, they take time to develop and commitment on your part. We all know the ‘rules’ – we know what it takes to get someone to (hopefully) fall in love with us (women, the above examples applies to you as well, I’m not singling men out here). But so often we forget that these same practices, the wining and dining, swooning and complimenting – they carry over to the business world. Providing exceptional customer service goes hand in hand with opening the door, complimenting her on her new haircut, and yes, even paying for dinner (or at least reaching for the check). It’s all about providing a memorable experience that keeps them coming back again and again.

Times they are a-changing. We’re no longer living in an economical dictatorship. People don’t want to be told what to do, they want to be provided with information.  They want YOU, as the seller, to persuade them, to convince them that what you’re ‘selling’ is better than the rest. Those who master the art of persuasion, the give and take, and understand that ultimately the final buying decision is up to the customer, are the ones who will realize the most success.

Just as you can’t make people fall in love with you, you can’t make them buy what you’re selling. It’s all about romancing your customers – turning on the charm, taking them by the hand (figuratively speaking), and giving them a reason to fall in love with you, your product, and your service.

James Chartland over at CopyBlogger sums it up perfectly in his recent article: Old School Marketing No Longer Working? Blame Canada

No one wants to be told what to do anymore. They want to be persuaded, gently convinced that what you have to sell is really good for them…

So now everyone wants you to be helpful like that. They want you to give them valuable information and tell them directions and hold open doors for them. They need to know that you’re willing to give before you receive.

No more me, myself and I. It’s all about asking what you can do for your customers today.

Next time you’re wondering how you’re startup can compete with the big businesses of the world – throw on the charm and remember that customer service goes a long way.

Add Your Voice

Comment

32 Comments

  1. I’ve wasted a lot of hot air trying to convince sales staffs’ of this very issue. The hard sell doesn’t work anymore. I try to approach every client with something like this, “What goal(s) are you trying to accomplish? Based on those goals I’ll provide you with content/resources and share with you what our company is capable of doing that we think can help you achieve those goals. I’ll separate it out into a couple of buckets and you’re welcome to mix and match until you find the tool set that you think is most suitable for you.”

    One thing I find particularly interesting is how internal operations can end up being such great marketing and soft-sell techniques for selling. There’s a great read on this from Zeus Jones. This is a topic I’m pretty passionate about, yet one I feel like most traditional sales teams just don’t understand at all yet.

    • Yes and yes Ryan. The days of force-feeding sales pitches down the throats of consumers are long gone. It’s too easy for us (as consumers) to do the research ourselves. The goal of a salesman is simple to faciliataite and hold our hands through the process, preaching the benefits and providing exceptional customer SERVICE along the way.

      To your second point – I see HUGE opportunities for businesses looking inward to better their internal efforts, then make them transparent for consumers to see. Threadless does an AMAZING job of this in my opinion. Not only do I want to buy their shirts because they’re cool – I want to work there because it looks like an amazing, caring, fun environment. Knowing that the staff is passionate about the work they do inspires me to do more business with them. Other businesses should follow suit.

  2. I’ve wasted a lot of hot air trying to convince sales staffs’ of this very issue. The hard sell doesn’t work anymore. I try to approach every client with something like this, “What goal(s) are you trying to accomplish? Based on those goals I’ll provide you with content/resources and share with you what our company is capable of doing that we think can help you achieve those goals. I’ll separate it out into a couple of buckets and you’re welcome to mix and match until you find the tool set that you think is most suitable for you.”

    One thing I find particularly interesting is how internal operations can end up being such great marketing and soft-sell techniques for selling. There’s a great read on this from Zeus Jones. This is a topic I’m pretty passionate about, yet one I feel like most traditional sales teams just don’t understand at all yet.

    • Yes and yes Ryan. The days of force-feeding sales pitches down the throats of consumers are long gone. It’s too easy for us (as consumers) to do the research ourselves. The goal of a salesman is simple to faciliataite and hold our hands through the process, preaching the benefits and providing exceptional customer SERVICE along the way.

      To your second point – I see HUGE opportunities for businesses looking inward to better their internal efforts, then make them transparent for consumers to see. Threadless does an AMAZING job of this in my opinion. Not only do I want to buy their shirts because they’re cool – I want to work there because it looks like an amazing, caring, fun environment. Knowing that the staff is passionate about the work they do inspires me to do more business with them. Other businesses should follow suit.

  3. You sort of touched on this, but I wanted to expand on it….keeping with your metaphor: unless you’re wicked good looking, most lady-folk are going to have no reason to care about you until you actively court their interest. This is exactly the same for customers. Unless you just reinvented the wheel, customers aren’t going to have any reason to give you the light of day. You have to be the one who initiates that relationship and then continues to cultivate that relationship with superior customer service and an experience they’ll want to call their girlfriends and tell them about.

    So, give the girl/customer a reason to like you, give them a reason to keep on liking you, and eventually they’ll develop loyalty that is so valuable in a (business) relationship.

    • Or you could just be really good in bed, right? (metaphorically speaking)

      You are dead on here – unless your Johnny Depp (damn him) women aren’t going to fall head over heels for you without a hitch. You have to give people a reason to like you, a reason to fall in love with you, a reason to ‘buy’ what you’re selling. Once you figured out how to be ‘special’ the success, the fame and fortune, are sure to follow.

  4. You sort of touched on this, but I wanted to expand on it….keeping with your metaphor: unless you’re wicked good looking, most lady-folk are going to have no reason to care about you until you actively court their interest. This is exactly the same for customers. Unless you just reinvented the wheel, customers aren’t going to have any reason to give you the light of day. You have to be the one who initiates that relationship and then continues to cultivate that relationship with superior customer service and an experience they’ll want to call their girlfriends and tell them about.

    So, give the girl/customer a reason to like you, give them a reason to keep on liking you, and eventually they’ll develop loyalty that is so valuable in a (business) relationship.

    • Or you could just be really good in bed, right? (metaphorically speaking)

      You are dead on here – unless your Johnny Depp (damn him) women aren’t going to fall head over heels for you without a hitch. You have to give people a reason to like you, a reason to fall in love with you, a reason to ‘buy’ what you’re selling. Once you figured out how to be ‘special’ the success, the fame and fortune, are sure to follow.

  5. I like this age of customer service. Companies are competing to create good experiences for their customers, not just good products. I think that goes much further in terms of customer loyalty and word of mouth. Even banking has become pleasant. Honestly, banking.

    • With banks (and the same can be said for many other lines of business) there are so many of them, they’ve become such a standard that the logical next step when considering competition is to take a step back and ask ‘What can we be doing better than the other guys?’ Enter customer service: Service can always be approached from a new angle and customized to optimize the consumer experience. Rates and prices can’t forever be lowered, but customer service can ALWAYS see improvement and specialization. Again, it’s not about being the best, it’s about offering something innovative and unique.

  6. I like this age of customer service. Companies are competing to create good experiences for their customers, not just good products. I think that goes much further in terms of customer loyalty and word of mouth. Even banking has become pleasant. Honestly, banking.

    • With banks (and the same can be said for many other lines of business) there are so many of them, they’ve become such a standard that the logical next step when considering competition is to take a step back and ask ‘What can we be doing better than the other guys?’ Enter customer service: Service can always be approached from a new angle and customized to optimize the consumer experience. Rates and prices can’t forever be lowered, but customer service can ALWAYS see improvement and specialization. Again, it’s not about being the best, it’s about offering something innovative and unique.

  7. When speaking about relationships, I do think that customer service goes hand in hand…give them something to come back for and so they will stick with the ‘product.’

    However, I think one piece that you left out is that authenticity and being real is what sparks chemistry and why a person loves a product. You’re so right that you said you can’t force anyone to buy your product, it has to be romanced and done right. I know that my favorite products/brands try, but they’re not forcing anything down my throat and they’re keeping it real for their audience. Just like with a relationship, I would hope they’re not putting on a customer service front by buying meals, schmoozing, being polite but then that all changes once we start dating. Be WHO you are from the get go. I really think you can work for it, but forcing a relationship just doesn’t happen. It is usually relatively natural and although there is a lot of work and effort to go into it, it will work or it won’t in the end.

    Such interesting thoughts to combine the two. Love it!

    • Well said Grace. If you aren’t genuine, you might land a one night stand, but you won’t ever build a lasting relationship. Ryan raises an interesting point about companies and their need to remain transparent – promoting the good they do by letting their guard down and being themselves. You may not please everyone, but at the end of the day, you will always be happy with yourself if you know you’ve been genuine and honest along the way. Thank you for sharing your much-needed womanly perspective here (interesting to see that all who commented are men – except you, of course).

  8. When speaking about relationships, I do think that customer service goes hand in hand…give them something to come back for and so they will stick with the ‘product.’

    However, I think one piece that you left out is that authenticity and being real is what sparks chemistry and why a person loves a product. You’re so right that you said you can’t force anyone to buy your product, it has to be romanced and done right. I know that my favorite products/brands try, but they’re not forcing anything down my throat and they’re keeping it real for their audience. Just like with a relationship, I would hope they’re not putting on a customer service front by buying meals, schmoozing, being polite but then that all changes once we start dating. Be WHO you are from the get go. I really think you can work for it, but forcing a relationship just doesn’t happen. It is usually relatively natural and although there is a lot of work and effort to go into it, it will work or it won’t in the end.

    Such interesting thoughts to combine the two. Love it!

    • Well said Grace. If you aren’t genuine, you might land a one night stand, but you won’t ever build a lasting relationship. Ryan raises an interesting point about companies and their need to remain transparent – promoting the good they do by letting their guard down and being themselves. You may not please everyone, but at the end of the day, you will always be happy with yourself if you know you’ve been genuine and honest along the way. Thank you for sharing your much-needed womanly perspective here (interesting to see that all who commented are men – except you, of course).

  9. A fantastic Topic.

    Relationship Marketing and strong Customer Service is what has been the
    cornerstone of our businesses since the lat 1950’s

    I got the idea from an old Fart, Wallace Wattles, who stated so well
    Always deliver more REAL Value than ever Received in Cash Value

    It is fun to do business with the same peopel over an over again, for decades,
    and very profitable, with the High cost of Customer acquisition.

    There is an interesting Observation about successful marketing,
    and relationship building in the middle of this Quick video.
    Will appreciate hearing comments
    A visit to Our Place

    Thanks for your Time and Enrgy

    • I know the pitfalls all too well of becoming overly focused on results and forgetting about relationships. As you said, you might be making a ton of money – but at what cost? How many bridges have you burned down to get there? Business is about a BALANCE of relationships/results. And when you focus on relationships, the results are almost surely to follow. Thanks for coming by Chuck, and again for the awesome review/summary of my Under30CEO article.

  10. A fantastic Topic.

    Relationship Marketing and strong Customer Service is what has been the
    cornerstone of our businesses since the lat 1950’s

    I got the idea from an old Fart, Wallace Wattles, who stated so well
    Always deliver more REAL Value than ever Received in Cash Value

    It is fun to do business with the same peopel over an over again, for decades,
    and very profitable, with the High cost of Customer acquisition.

    There is an interesting Observation about successful marketing,
    and relationship building in the middle of this Quick video.
    Will appreciate hearing comments
    A visit to Our Place

    Thanks for your Time and Enrgy

    • I know the pitfalls all too well of becoming overly focused on results and forgetting about relationships. As you said, you might be making a ton of money – but at what cost? How many bridges have you burned down to get there? Business is about a BALANCE of relationships/results. And when you focus on relationships, the results are almost surely to follow. Thanks for coming by Chuck, and again for the awesome review/summary of my Under30CEO article.

  11. Agreed. When you work in a telecom company, like I do, you realize that many times the product is pretty much the same, regardless of the company. You sell commodities. and the hard part for most people to realize, is that most makerts are turning into commodities markets (freelancing and consulting come to mind). So, how do you differentiate yourself? How do you make people choose you? By making them fall in love with you, by pure romance. What gets me sales is not the price or the product, it’s me and the people in my company. The team that goes the extra mile, wins. It’s all about respect.

    • Couldn’t have said it better myself Carlos. It seems so obvious to us, but there are still so many out there who just don’t get it, or are too far swayed on the side of ‘results at any cost’ to remember what, or who, brought them to the race – the PEOPLE, their customers, and those relationships. With social media continuing to develop, we’ll continue to see businesses get ‘back to basics’. Twitter and Facebook will never replace the one on one relationships that should be forged, but can be an excellent tool to facilitate the B2C relationship model.

  12. Agreed. When you work in a telecom company, like I do, you realize that many times the product is pretty much the same, regardless of the company. You sell commodities. and the hard part for most people to realize, is that most makerts are turning into commodities markets (freelancing and consulting come to mind). So, how do you differentiate yourself? How do you make people choose you? By making them fall in love with you, by pure romance. What gets me sales is not the price or the product, it’s me and the people in my company. The team that goes the extra mile, wins. It’s all about respect.

    • Couldn’t have said it better myself Carlos. It seems so obvious to us, but there are still so many out there who just don’t get it, or are too far swayed on the side of ‘results at any cost’ to remember what, or who, brought them to the race – the PEOPLE, their customers, and those relationships. With social media continuing to develop, we’ll continue to see businesses get ‘back to basics’. Twitter and Facebook will never replace the one on one relationships that should be forged, but can be an excellent tool to facilitate the B2C relationship model.

  13. Joe, the TV used car salesman, has been dead for at least 30 years. Romancing is not enough either. A potential client buys from you when he or she perceives that you have a service that can take away his/her anxiety or concern. The value you bring is your ability to resolve my problem–whatever it may be. Sometimes, I don’t even know I have a problem, so you’re going to have to help me realize that I have a problem–that you can resolve for me. That’s real value.

    Yeah, some consultants, architects, and even lawyers and physicians are selling commodities–lured by pricing. That’s both stupid and unnecessary. Eventually, clients want more than a commodity bought on a price basis, and that’s when the astute salesperson can resolve the problem created by buying commodities. I doubt that in the long run anyone buys products. Theoretically, and at a depth level, we’re buying a presumed service that we think resolves problems–even if it’s Tide soap. If you’re selling a commodity, you’re probably not selling, just pushing a product.

    Major corporations look for authentic salespeople who work to understand every potential client, learn from that client and assist that client in resolving issues. This requires a terrific amount of ability: questioning, listening, learning, developing social contracts, and even building community. I’ve noticed that people who have the competencies to do that always have work. The rest are just. . . well. . . plumbers.

    • Dan – you raise a VERY interesting point about us as consumers and our buying decision. Another layer to the ‘onion’ of marketing and sales. From the sales perspective, we ARE selling much more than a product, and as you said, something that hit home with me, is selling that ‘resolution’ to people who may not even be aware they had a problem in the first place. Making them realize that there is a need there and that what I’m selling is the best solution. Very interesting thoughts – gives me a lot to think about.

  14. Joe, the TV used car salesman, has been dead for at least 30 years. Romancing is not enough either. A potential client buys from you when he or she perceives that you have a service that can take away his/her anxiety or concern. The value you bring is your ability to resolve my problem–whatever it may be. Sometimes, I don’t even know I have a problem, so you’re going to have to help me realize that I have a problem–that you can resolve for me. That’s real value.

    Yeah, some consultants, architects, and even lawyers and physicians are selling commodities–lured by pricing. That’s both stupid and unnecessary. Eventually, clients want more than a commodity bought on a price basis, and that’s when the astute salesperson can resolve the problem created by buying commodities. I doubt that in the long run anyone buys products. Theoretically, and at a depth level, we’re buying a presumed service that we think resolves problems–even if it’s Tide soap. If you’re selling a commodity, you’re probably not selling, just pushing a product.

    Major corporations look for authentic salespeople who work to understand every potential client, learn from that client and assist that client in resolving issues. This requires a terrific amount of ability: questioning, listening, learning, developing social contracts, and even building community. I’ve noticed that people who have the competencies to do that always have work. The rest are just. . . well. . . plumbers.

    • Dan – you raise a VERY interesting point about us as consumers and our buying decision. Another layer to the ‘onion’ of marketing and sales. From the sales perspective, we ARE selling much more than a product, and as you said, something that hit home with me, is selling that ‘resolution’ to people who may not even be aware they had a problem in the first place. Making them realize that there is a need there and that what I’m selling is the best solution. Very interesting thoughts – gives me a lot to think about.

  15. Matt — A nice simple article about what customer service means.

    One point that may be missing is that when you are working with people in any capacity, you will have times that you do not know the answer. You shouldn’t answer with a ‘I don’t know’ but a ‘Let me find out and I’ll get back to you in x time frame’

    And then…the hardest part…FOLLOW UP!! You need to do this. You are not some sort of supercomputer and are supposed to know all the answers, but if you say you are going to email/call me, I’m waiting for you to call /email me.

    Following up is absolutely key, and can be a deal breaker in a heart beat.

    • Great points Ryan. Admitting you don’t know the answer to something is never a bad response to give as long as you ensure that your client or customer’s question will be answered (in a timely manner) once the proper research has been conducted. And your emphisis on the follow up is spot on. There’s nothing worse than being promised a solution to your problem only to be left hanging.

  16. Matt — A nice simple article about what customer service means.

    One point that may be missing is that when you are working with people in any capacity, you will have times that you do not know the answer. You shouldn’t answer with a ‘I don’t know’ but a ‘Let me find out and I’ll get back to you in x time frame’

    And then…the hardest part…FOLLOW UP!! You need to do this. You are not some sort of supercomputer and are supposed to know all the answers, but if you say you are going to email/call me, I’m waiting for you to call /email me.

    Following up is absolutely key, and can be a deal breaker in a heart beat.

    • Great points Ryan. Admitting you don’t know the answer to something is never a bad response to give as long as you ensure that your client or customer’s question will be answered (in a timely manner) once the proper research has been conducted. And your emphisis on the follow up is spot on. There’s nothing worse than being promised a solution to your problem only to be left hanging.