8 Ways to Build Planned Spontaneity Into Your Business

Last Updated Apr 26, 2010 2:10 PM EDT

I once turned up at a client's office for the first time in about six months after I'd done some customer care training there.

Amanda, the office junior greeted me with a smile and said: "Hi Andy, good trip from Sheffield?"

I was impressed she was expecting me and remembered where I was from.

"John will be with you in a minute," she said. "Would you like a drink?"

"Yes please," I replied.

"It's coffee, black, no sugar, isn't it?" She said.

"Yes!" I said. "How did you know?"

'It's my job to know,' she replied with a smile and went off to get my coffee.

Turns out, she had a little card index system with the details of all her visitors. That is someone who cares about her customers, and demonstrates it every day.

I call it planned spontaneity, and it's something that every business can build into its day-to-day activities. Here are eight simple examples:

  1. I saw this and thought of you...-- let them know you're thinking about them by sending an email with some useful information, advice or an idea and simply say 'I saw this and thought of you'. Do not send any marketing material or try to sell them something.
  2. We were expecting you -- let your reception team know who's coming today so they can greet people and let them know they were expected.
  3. Get personal -- include PS's in correspondence that relates to something specific about them.
  4. Cards -- I don't just mean birthday cards (they can work if there's a longstanding relationship there) and certainly not Christmas cards with photocopied signatures of people they don't know), but why not 'Thank you - you've now been a customer of ours for 12 months/two years/three years.'
  5. Ask for feedback and acknowledge it specifically -- I once completed a questionnaire after staying at a hotel and mentioned a particular staff member who had been 'outstanding'. I got a lovely letter from the manager thanking me for the feedback and telling me that this member of staff was one of his 'star players' and that he'd be letting her know I'd mentioned her. Specific acknowledgement demonstrated to me that he was listening and that my opinions counted for something.
  6. Give them space -- Reserve car parking spaces for visitors and put their names on them. Preferably as near the reception door as possible. Nothing more annoying than a sign that says 'Parking reserved for directors and senior staff only' (Translation: 'Customer -- you're not important, please clear off down the road').
  7. Ring me back -- When you said you would. Give me a specific time for the call back and then do it -- it's amazing how impactful that can be!
  8. Ask, 'how are things'? -- Call me, email me and don't try and sell me something -- take an interest in my thoughts and views. This works particularly well after the first piece of work done with a client.
(Pic: timlewisnm cc2.0)