“The extra mile is a vast, unpopulated wasteland.” – Jeff Haden
Unfortunately, the above quote is often true. Every day on social media we see complaints about how companies have done someone wrong. There are far too few people and companies putting customer service as a priority and going the extra mile for their customers. We have gotten used to poor customer service and it may seem as though there aren’t any great companies left any more.
It only takes some simple steps to be seen as better than your competitors and help keep you and your brand top of mind. Here are 5 ways you can easily go the extra mile for your customers:
1) Show up and be present. Respond to inquiries, comments and questions on social media right away. Set up alerts so you are notified when someone posts to your Facebook page so that you or your staff can immediately reply in a light, but professional manner. Quickly responding to posts and comments can show your customer that s/he is valued and important at all times, not just when placing an order.
The same is true for email and phone calls. If you’ve posted a contact email and/or telephone number, be sure to reply as soon as you can during your set business hours (be sure to make it clear when your business is open and what your average response time is to set expectations with customers so they’re not trying to reach you after 5 pm or on the weekends if your business is closed at that time.)
2) If you cannot help, direct them to someone who can. Imagine if you posted on a business’ Facebook page asking if they made mineral makeup and the reply was ‘nope, we don’t!’ versus ‘Sorry, we don’t make mineral makeup, but here are 2 colleagues I recommend, here are links to their websites.” I would certainly appreciate the second example! It only takes few moments to make a lasting impression. The customer is likely to remember that you went the extra mile for them and will come back to you when they need the items that you do make.
3) Serve the customer however possible. We’ve all heard the quote ‘the customer is always right’. At the same time, we’ve likely all had ‘that’ customer who is a pain – the one who demands too much, goes against policies and threatens to complain if they don’t get their way. These bad apples are thankfully few and far between and it is fairly easy to steer them away by having and sticking to clear guidelines and policies for important areas including methods of payment accepted, shipping times and methods and return policies. But for those who truly have an issue, then do whatever you can to make it right with that customer. Give your staff permission and encourage them to do the same as well. It is much better to send a replacement bar of soap than to pay your staff to argue with the customer for 15 minutes and have the customer end up spreading negativity about your company online.
Truly listen to the customer complaint and determine what it is they’re looking for – someone just to hear their concern? A replacement product? Their money back? Or something else? If you can connect with what they’re truly wanting and can serve them, you will likely not only resolve that issue, but you may find a loyal customer once s/he has realized that you do care and are willing to make it right.
4) Follow up. This is an area where many small businesses fail to go the extra mile. After someone has placed an order, you can set up automatic emails to be sent a week or so later ensuring the order arrived and that s/he is satisfied with the products. Invite the customer to contact you with any questions or concerns, and if they’d like, to post a review on your website. This may nudge the customer to post a positive review online, and if there was a problem with the order, s/he may appreciate the opportunity to speak with someone to resolve the problem right away.
5) Find ways to surprise and delight your customers. This can be done in a number of ways, and with a creative business, it can be simple and inexpensive, too. For instance, how can you make the unboxing process delightful for your customers? If you place an order from a big box retailer, the item will often arrive in a box, with a packing slip and perhaps some bubble wrap – nothing exciting or personal at all.
But as a small business owner, you have the opportunity to provide an experience for your customer when s/he opens their order box. Take the time to wrap products in tissue paper with a branded sticker and include a free sample and a handwritten note (bonus points if you personalize the note!). Your customer will be much more excited to receive your products and will feel appreciated because of the little bit of time you spent making their order special.
Another way you can surprise and delight your customers is to under promise and over deliver. Upgrade shipping from first class to priority shipping (at no charge) so the order arrives sooner. State in your policies that you’ll ship within 4 days but really strive to ship the same or next day. We all love getting orders in the mail sooner than we expect, so put yourself in your customers’ shoes – think about what you appreciate and how you can do the same for your customers.
These are all simple ways that you can go the extra mile for customers and create wonderful customer services experiences. For further reading on excelling in customer service, I highly recommend the book Zombie Loyalists by Peter Shankman.
How has a company has gone the extra mile for you that really made a big impression? Share in the comments below!