How to Win Customers Over -- When They've Already Been Won

Last Updated Jul 29, 2010 3:40 PM EDT

So, you won over the customer and got the sale. Good enough, right? I guess so... Or, you could win the customer twice in the same sale.

Winning a customer twice means doing or providing something she doesn't expect, even after she thought the transaction was complete. It doesn't have to be anything big, complicated, crazy, or expensive. In fact it's often in the little things:
  • Make the packaging count -- You can throw in some styrofoam peanuts and toss the packing list on top, like most companies do. The order will get there and the customer will be fine with it. But package it nicely, in a clean box -- with something other than the peanuts (that everyone hates) -- with the paperwork neatly printed and folded (bonus points for having someone write "thank you" on the packing list), the box neatly taped and labeled, and your TLC will not go unnoticed.
  • "Mega-personalize" every interaction -- If your computer (or just good memory) tells you the customer has purchased from you before, say "Great to hear from you again, Mr. Smith!" If you know what they ordered before, say "Did you want this one in blue, like last time?" If you know the customer is wasting money on express shipping, say "You know, it will get there in two days by regular ground anyway, and you'll save $20." Bonus points for recognizing birthdays. Powerful, affordable software puts great customer relationship management within reach of almost any company.
  • Go above and beyond in solving a problem -- If a customer is really unhappy with something and wants to return it for a refund, you give them their money back without a hassle. That is fine baseline performance. Bonus point if you don't let your published return policy get in the way. Two bonus points if you refund original shipping, five points if you take care of shipping both ways, and up to a jillion points if you do something to show you care, or to make up for the customer's time and trouble. Maybe an unusually nice discount on a future order, a note from the boss, or even a gift. Of course you have to judge what, if anything, is appropriate relative to the problem and the money involved, but there is always something you can do. And often enough, that unhappy person will turn back into a loyal, word-spreading customer.
  • A little "smile-maker" surprise -- I buy all of the filters for my house (fridge, air, water, etc.) from www.filtersolution.com. Every time I get a shipment, there's a little pad of sticky notes in there, and on the first page is a handwritten note from the president, thanking me by name for my repeat business. Filters are a commodity -- I can get them anywhere, maybe even cheaper -- but I will never buy them anywhere else, because that tiny but personal extra touch has locked me in. And there's a marketing bonus for Filter Solution: Those sticky notes with their logo on them are all over my office.
In my business career I've heard people say things like "Stop when the customer says yes," and -- I love this one -- "Once the customer is satisfied, if you exceed expectations, you're wasting resources." Perhaps there is some empirical, B-school argument to be made for that; many good companies achieve great success and fortune without doing anything more than what the customer expects. And one hundred percent satisfaction is nothing to sneeze at. But I don't get excited until the needle hits 110 or 120 percent. I want customers to be thrilled, not just happy -- whether they are buying, returning, inquiring, or in any other way interacting with us. And there is (almost) nothing we won't do to make it happen.

I often use the term "purchase affirmation" to describe that feeling you get when a product, service, or company is even better than you expected. It makes you so happy to have done business with that company, and it makes you want to tell others. In some ways it's like the difference between being liked and being loved. Both are good, one is extra-good.

Where do you and your business stand on going the extra mile? Do you think a satisfactory transaction and happy customer are enough (it's OK if you do, really), or do you do things to encourage extraordinary transactions and ecstatic customers? Do tell!

(photo courtesy of Flickr/milena mihaylova)
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    Michael Hess is founder and CEO of Skooba Design. He is also a public speaker and advisor, obsessed with customer service, communication, and culture. Read the philosophies that make Michael tick here, and visit his website and new Facebook page for information on speaking engagements and more.

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