Old-Fashioned Customer Service

Updated: May 24, 2010

Using these seven steps, you will connect with your customers, creating extreme customer service and loyal ambassadors for your brand.

Email. Email is the most crowded and overused, but the most expected-so if you're going to send an email - make it personal and never send spam or junk mail. You've all heard my pitch about requesting permission to place someone on your newsletter. I rarely send Eric out with a sledgehammer when someone automatically puts me on their list, but if you don't know the person - it was a drive-by collection of business cards - they don't belong on your list. If it's someone you know, who knows you, has an inkling of interest, then you're probably okay. Use email to send a personal note and share information. E-newsletters are a great way to keep your brand in front of your clients, but they won't build relationships. Follow up an e-newsletter with a phone call for increased effectiveness and conversation. Tips for effective emails: always include your contact information and logo in your signature. If you send something worthwhile, the hope is that your message will be forwarded. Make sure people can contact you. Add a link to your website that offers something of interest or value to the recipient. Once there, have a call-to-action that gets them further into your brand. Do not use email to make a decision or conduct a conversation; too much is left up to interpretation.

Telephone. The telephone, which can sometimes be viewed as weighing 100 pounds, is your link to building rapport. In the age of quick emails, the phone can be a welcome channel for making connections. If you need a quick response, the telephone can often be quicker than email. There are times when you need to make sales calls, but think of your telephone as an additional way to connect with your customers; you're not always calling to make a sales pitch. Make a phone call to say thank you for the meeting, the sale, the introduction or to confirm a meeting or answer questions. Sometimes, your customers need to hear your voice. These conversations can sometimes take on a life of their own and when you let your guard down, you might just learn something that helps you help them, help you help them. Tips for effective phone messages: leave a clear, enunciated message with your phone number. Tell the recipient who you are, why you are calling, and how to respond. An effective voicemail is more likely to be returned. Also, keep your answering message brief, but professionally interesting. We know you can't take our call right now - so bring a smile to my face, if you can. Finally, return phone messages. Call your customers back every time they call you.

Snail mail. Sending a handwritten letter, card or note can go a long way in creating long-term customers and offering extreme customer service. You can almost guarantee that your handwritten card will be opened, especially if it's personal. If your cards are automated or computer-generated, the effect will lose it's luster over time - but a personalized note can make a powerful and positive impact on your customer. I keep a memo board of the cards we receive, and it's about time for a second board. What better pick me up than to read a friendly note from someone who took some time out of his or her busy day to say, "You matter". We all struggle everyday, and a genuine note can really mean a lot. It only takes you a few minutes, but the impact is far greater. If you need some tips on what to say, visit a greeting card website for starters. If you write something genuine, it will be right. A phone call is a great way to follow up this gesture, even an invitation for a cup of coffee. Tips for writing cards: make it personal and hand-written. Include your logo on the envelope or stamp. Remember: birthday cards, anniversary cards, get well cards, thank you's and notes of appreciation. When the postmaster raised stamp prices, my financial adviser sent me a book of 2-cent stamps. I loved the gesture. Send cards everyday to people you meet and always send a thank you after the sale.

Face to Face - When your customer is involved in the buying process, you are focused on offering great customer service. But, what are you doing for them "after" the sale or "before" they've decided to buy? A client doesn't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Drop in and visit, set up a coffee date, give them leads, ask them how you can serve them better. Offering to meet with them face to face to catch up, learn more about their needs, just to chat or to offer solutions shows you care enough to spend some time with them. To create extreme customer service, you must care about them as people. Create a conversation and ask them "What do you want me to KEEP doing, to STOP doing or to START doing?"

Memories are built face to face. If you're going to offer extreme customer service, you have to create a memory for your customer to talk about. You need to convert the buying process and every customer interaction into a memorable experience. Do something for your customers that they can't expect anywhere else. The goal is to get your customers bragging about you. Your customers will rarely be more excited about your brand than you are - so you need to be contagious and enthusiastic. Spend time talking with your customers about how you can serve them better - ask them why they chose you over someone else - and then use that information to create an element of customer surprise.

Invitation. Inviting your customers to an event is a great way to re-connect. If it's been a while since they've seen you, heard from you, or purchased from you, invite them to an event. Plan an event of your own or invite them to one that is already happening. Take advantage of the events your community puts together and never go with your passenger seat empty. Take along a customer or two. An invitation is a non-threatening approach to building extreme customer service. It's also a great way to say thank you or create a dialogue with someone you'd like to do business with. Be creative. Make it something you enjoy; sporting events, cultural events, civic events. An even better way to get them into your door, in front of your brand is to create your own gala. Celebrate a milestone, host a fundraiser, make up an excuse to pull people together. Make the presentation as special as you can. Tips for invitations: spend time doing what you enjoy with people you enjoy. You will create very loyal customers when you spend time together. If you are hosting an event, let other's do the work so you can spend time mingling with your guests. You will discover many stories that will strengthen your customer relationships.

Follow Up. Every customer interaction is an opportunity to re-engage them in conversation or bring them further into your sales process. Develop a strategic follow-up plan that is automatic - not automated - that you consistently use. Follow up every conversation, email, or newsletter. When you keep in touch with your customers, they remember to do business with you and they tell others. Satisfied customers will shop around. Unless you keep your brand fresh in your customer's memory, someone else will reap the next purchase. Secure events with a memento of the occasion. Just like souvenirs or vacation photos, a promotional item that complements the occasion will trigger your customer's memory of you long after the event is over. Don't let neglect be the reason your customers shop around. Tips for better follow up: be consistent. Let your customers hear from you all year long, not just when it's time to purchase. Be creative and mix it up. If you always send a survey - add something new to the questions. Give your customers something they weren't expecting.

Rewards. Reward your customers for sharing your name. Be excited when someone sends you a lead. Encourage them to do it again with bribery. If they talked about you once, you can get them to do it again, if you treat them right.

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