This review first ran in the March 27th edition of The Hamilton Spectator.
Alfred A. Knopf Canada
It’s not my fault but it is my problem.
This Disney World mantra is worth adopting if you’re serious about delivering superior service.
When customers come to you with a complaint, don’t duck or dodge. Don’t transfer their call, forward their email or tell them to talk to someone else. Don’t pass the buck, say your hands are tied and tell them nothing can do done.
Instead, clean up the mess even if you didn’t make it. Own the problem and stay with your customer until she gets a solution or resolution.
“Obsessive customer service is one of the best ways to trump the competition,” says Terry O’Reilly, author of This I Know, co-founder of Pirate Radio and Television and a CBC radio host of Under the Influence. “Your competitor’s lack of obsessive customer service is your opportunity. Delivering consistent, superlative, standout customer service is one of the best ways to cause your competitors to find you really, completely irritating.”
Yes, customer service costs money. But you’ll make far more money than you spend, says O’Reilly. “Memorable, outstanding, go-the-extra-mile, I-can’t-believe-you-just-did-that-for-me customer service is as rare as a winning lottery ticket. But if played daily, it is a winning lottery ticket for the company. The return on investment is ten-fold.”
That’s because great customer service fuels word of mouth which O’Reilly calls the most powerful advertising of all. Happy customers rave, dissatisfied customers rant and social media amplifies both.
One way to earn those rave reviews is to go the extra inch. “Smart businesses search for ways to deliver the smallest touches to make an experience memorable. The smaller the detail, the more intrigued and impressed I am,” says O’Reilly.
Along with being a game of inches, marketing starts by answering a fundamental question.
What business are we really in?
“Don’t answer that question too quickly. Most people get it wrong. Yet it’s the most important marketing question you can ask yourself. Until you answer it correctly, your marketing will always lack focus,” says O’Reilly. “If you truly know what business you’re in, you will be selling the right thing and solving the right problems.”
What you’re selling and what we’re buying can be two very different things. You sell products and services while we buy solutions. “Customers don’t want your product,” says O’Reilly. “They want the benefit of the product. People buy benefits. Not products. Not features. And they buy these solutions from companies they can relate to.”
Molson isn’t in the beer business, says O’Reilly. They’re in the party business with beer as the social lubricant.
Michelin doesn’t sell tires. They sell safety.
Starbucks is in the coffee theatre business. Nike is in the motivation business. Apple sells personal empowerment while Coke sells happiness.
“You have to quietly observe what customers are really buying from you. They will tell you, but you have to listen carefully. The best marketers are the best listeners.”
Having won hundreds of international advertising awards, O’Reilly is well worth listening to. His book should be required reading for entrepreneurs, small business owners and leaders of non-profit who don’t have monster marketing budgets and ad agencies on retainer.
@jayrobb serves as director of communications for Mohawk College, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.