We live in a digital age where we expect--even demand--that everything should available to us anywhere at anytime on our device of choice. That's why we see so many businesses investing in new technology and processes to help automate tasks and reduce costs as a way to win new clients. But when we make these investments, it can be easy to overlook the power of building intimacy with your customers by delivering world-class customer service like they used to in the old days.

Perhaps you remember--or watched in a movie--about what it used to be like to, say, fly on an airline. Everything was first class all the way: every customer felt special. How many companies can say they deliver that kind of experience for their customers these days? Not many. One example of a business that does this exceptionally well is the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.

Yes, staying at the Four Seasons isn't cheap. But if you're willing to spend a little more, you get treated like a rock star. Case in point: they will remember what kind of pillow you prefer and make you feel like you just arrived home with their friendly service! That's all part of a very intentional strategy on the part of the company to provide the kind of premium customer service that people crave and that is so hard to find these days.

The key takeaway here is that when we think about what makes our businesses competitive, we tend to focus on more technology and lower costs. But there is this third overlooked component--offering superior customer service--that can also profitably transform your business.

Another example comes from a company I have worked with that provides corporate event management services. They help companies host and run large meetings, like annual sales meetings or conventions. This company's entire business model is focused on delivering exceptional customer service and building intimate customer relationships. In fact, their mantra is to deliver "clairvoyant customer service." In other words, their goal was to know the needs of their customers so well, they could identify them even before the customer knew they needed something! This company does everything they can to head off the needs of their customers--like printing up maps of the facility or providing customized schedules for attendees for the classes they had signed up for. They weren't asked to do this--they just figured it was something people would want and appreciate. Can you imagine the pleasure of working with someone like that?

In fact, companies like this and the Four Seasons have come to appreciate that they can actually charge more for their products and services because they have wrapped them in that appealing customer service wrapper. Of course, you have to target customers that value this kind of service and not every client does! Even better, because their customers enjoy their experience so much--they come back again and again, and then tell their friends to come. To frame that another way, when you offer top-notch customer service like we used to, you can actually drive your margins higher while also growing volume because you gain a greater share of your customers' wallets.

But there are opportunities to deliver great customer service even if your business doesn't target premium customers exclusively. What if you're a retailer and a single mom walks in with three kids in tow right before school starts? Maybe the assumption is that this mom simply wants to buy whatever is cheapest and then move on to the next task on their to-do lists. But what might happen if you made her life easier in some way? What if you could anticipate what she was looking for and make the experience easy or even pleasurable in some way? Perhaps by asking what she is looking for, directing her to the area and helping find sizes? I'd wager that the result would be that you would not only get a satisfied customer but you'd also get dozens of referrals to new customers as well.

Before you know it, you'll find that making this kind of investment in old-fashioned customer service will pay off big time in terms of landing new clients and boosting your bottom line.

Published on: Mar 1, 2016
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