As Steve Jobs stepped down from Apple, I was reminded how emphatic Apple customers are about the brand, and how Apple has used those brand ambassadors to grow their company to be the largest in the world. It’s not everyday you see someone trying to convince a friend why their choice of brand is so much better. Think about it — Apple fans will go to extremes to “convert” Windows users to their side.
We’ve all heard that it’s cheaper to keep a customer than find a new one, but just keeping customers just isn’t enough. Satisfied customers don’t tell all their friends about your company. Happy customers don’t go out of their way to refer you to colleagues. So how do you turn “happy” customers into brand ambassadors?
Customer Service to the Core
Most customers will need help at some point or another. It might be immediately after the sale, or it might be years down the line. If you look at companies with hoardes of passionate brand ambassadors, you’ll often find a culture of customer service.
Look at Zappos, a company known for their extraordinary customer service. One story that the founder Tony Hsieh likes to tell happened as he was meeting with some vendors. It was past the hotel’s cutoff for room service, so Hsieh suggested they call Zappos for some pizza. No, Zappos doesn’t sell pizza, but the customer service representative on the line found a local pizzeria that was still open and could deliver to them. Search Twitter for @zappos and you’ll see hundreds (maybe thousands) of customers telling similar stories.
Rackspace is another company known for their support. They call it “Fanatical Support.” In an industry where companies are doing less and less, Rackspace goes the extra mile by managing every aspect of your web server. They’ll often even try to help out with tasks that are technically outside their level of service, such as installing third-party software. Ask who is THE leader in managed dedicated hosting, and you’ll find a lot of Rackspace customers speaking up.
Lands End is another great example — their guarantee is legendary. “Guaranteed. Period.” They will take back any product, at any time, for an exchange or full refund of the purchase price. No questions asked. One customer once bought an original London taxi that was featured on the cover of the 1984 holiday catalog for $19,000. In 2005, the customer contacted Lands End asking if they could return the car for a full refund. Of course!
Putting Service to Work for You
You may not be able to take back any product, at any time. You may not be able to order pizzas for your customers. But chances are you can find ways to make your customers’ lives easier, provide value, and provide excellent service.
A bank may not be able to do away with service fees, but imagine getting a text message when your available balance drops below a certain threshold … “Your balance is below $20, deposit or transfer funds so you don’t get hit with fees!”
Think of ways you can make the experience better for your customers. It may be as simple as visiting them once or twice a month to ask how things are going. You might be surprised to find out they start needing work done almost every time you stop by!
You might also ask how they like to receive invoices. One of our larger clients was getting invoiced as projects were finished, which produced several invoices per month. They mentioned the accounting issues that it caused, so we consolidated their invoices and now send them one invoice per month for all work done.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
As with the SMS message example above, find ways to use technology to make customers’ lives easier. We often find ways to improve our processes, but how often do we think of ways to make the process better for our customers?
You could place QR codes on invoices to allow customers to easily pay on the go, or send SMS notifications to confirm an appointment time. You could create screencasts on YouTube or Vimeo answering common tech support questions. Or, you could simply begin using a tool like Basecamp to foster better communication. Have clients that aren’t local? Consider videoconferencing with them, saving you both time and money.
There are countless ways to use technology to make the customer experience better. Take a moment to think about what you can do to make your customers’ experiecne better, and you’ll be one step closer to building brand ambassadors out of them.