Customer service guru Micah Solomon, author of Exceptional Service/ Exceptional Profit, says that you should make service fast and personal if you want to make it memorable.
REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR: Most home improvement customers are only going to buy a roof or windows once. Why is service an issue?
MICAH SOLOMON: Exceptional customer service creates loyal customers. Loyal customers are less price sensitive, more likely to refer, and more forgiving of your small foibles. That means greater profitability and less need to sell on a commodity-driven basis. Speaking as a homeowner, when it comes to choosing contractors, nothing matters more than a referral.
RC: What makes for good or excellent customer service?
MS: Speed. Today's customers expect speedier service than any previous generation. Not only speedier than their parents expected, but they want to be attended to even faster than they were at this time last year. In this age of iPhones and Droids and Amazon.com, you may as well not get back to customers and prospects at all if you're going to get back to them late.
RC: Is there one part that makes all the difference?
MS: Warmth. Bring some personality — some humanity — to your encounters with customers, online and off. For instance, why send marketing emails to customers from a “Please-do-not-reply-to-this” address? Invite them to respond directly. Then make sure someone answers those replies.
RC: Can a large organization treat customers in a way that's exemplary?
MS: Every customer should be remembered, as an individual. Ideally, you should work to achieve the computer-assisted effectiveness of a beloved bartender — the kind who would know your preferences, the name of your pet, when you were in last. Superb customer tracking systems — and an attentive staff — can create that same “at home” feeling in your customers, regardless of how big your business grows.
RC: What do you think are the most critical moments in making a good customer service impression?
MS: Psychological studies demonstrate that customers remember the first and last minutes of a service encounter much more vividly — and for longer — than all the rest of it, due to the way human memory works. Make sure that the first and final elements of your customer interactions are particularly well engineered because they are going to stick in the customer's memory.
RC: What other practices make an impression?
MS: Try to find ways to give your customers what they desire before they have to ask for it: Anticipatory service is the most direct route to customer loyalty.
Read a longer version of this interview at REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR online.