8 ways to win over customers and make mom proud (review of Jeanne Bliss’ Whould You Do That To Your Mother?)

momThis review first ran in the May 26 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Would You Do That To Your Mother? The “Make Mom Proud” Standard For How To Treat Your Customers

Jeanne Bliss

Portfolio / Penguin

$36

The manager of the Hollister store at Limeridge Mall in Hamilton won over this grateful dad and would make her mom proud.

I was there to replace my daughter’s new t-shirt. The colours on the red, white and blue shirt ran the first time through the wash.

I brought the accidentally tie-dyed shirt back to the store to make sure I bought the right replacement.

When I got to the register with debit card in hand, the manager didn’t get a lecture on how to wash clothes. She apologized that the quality of the shirt didn’t live up to my expectations or Hollister’s standards. She then exchanged the shirt at no charge. No receipt? No problem.

It was what Jeanne Bliss would call a make mom proud moment. Called the godmother of customer experience, Bliss has led the customer experience at Land’s End, Coldwell Banker, Allstate, Microsoft and Mazda and is the cofounder of the Customer Experience Professionals’ Association.

“We need to take how we are treating customers personally,” Bliss writes in her book Would You Do That To Your Mother. “Thinking of our moms at the end of our decisions helps to get us there. That’s why I suggest you imagine her in moments when you’re making decisions or taking personal actions. The image of her, of what she’s meant to you and what you’ve learned from her, can be a powerful and instant reality check. It can make us pause.”

So picture your mom as a customer, client, student or patient where you work. Here are eight ways you can make her proud and win over the people who keep you in business.

Honour your customers’ time and their clock. “Would you give your mom a four-hour window in which you might show up for a visit?” Don’t expect your customers’ lives to revolve around your schedule. At Amazon Prime, the entire customer experience is built around answering two questions. Do you have what I want? And can you get it to me when I need it? Shorten your service windows and move faster.

Take the monkey off your customer’s back. “Would you make your mom do work to get good service, which you could have easily done for her?” Don’t force customers to take on extra work themselves to resolve an issue. You should be doing the heavy lifting.

Don’t leave customers in the dark. Proactively communicate for peace of mind. When something doesn’t go according to plan, give customers the heads up before they start calling and going on social media. And then keep them updated until the problem’s fixed.

Allow for graceful departures and leave the door open for future returns. “Would you charge your mom a penalty for cancelling her subscription with you? Or would you take the opportunity to learn why she’s leaving and thank her for her business.” Keep your customers with outstanding service and value rather than contract terms and “gotcha” clauses buried in the fine print.

Make it easy to get help. “Would you put your mom through your phone tree before solving her problem?” Make it quick and effortless to get your attention and assistance. Your ready availability will reflect how much you really care about your customers.

Stop the customer hot potato. Quit bouncing customers around to different people and departments. Adopt a one-company mindset so that whoever deals with your customer can resolve the issue.

Fix the paperwork rigmarole. Communicate in plain and simple language. Say more with fewer, less complex words. “Write your communications like you’d write a letter to your mother.” Reduce the redundancy, number, duplication and complexity of forms. Deliver understanding instead of jargon and piles of paper.

And finally, spare your customers from having to repeat themselves, provide the same information and answer the same questions over and over again. “Would you make your mom keep reintroducing herself to you?” Show that you know and care about your customers by delivering relevant, personalized experiences.

Do these eight things for your customers and there’s a good chance you’ll turn one-off transactions into long-term relationships.

“To put this in the simplest terms, do you deliver pain or pleasure? Do you make it easy and a joy for your customers to do business with you?”

Through 32 case studies, Bliss shows how companies are treating customers with the same care, attention and respect they’d give to their own mothers or for a dad who’s pulled a ruined shirt out of the wash and needs to make things right with his daughter.

@jayrobb serves as director of communications for Mohawk College, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.

Review: This I Know – Marketing Lessons From Under The Influence by Terry O’Reilly

this i knowThis review first ran in the March 27th edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

This I Know: Marketing Lessons From Under The Influence

By Terry O’Reilly

Alfred A. Knopf Canada

$34

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.