And your parting gifts are…

I travel enough to be a Marriott Platinum member. That means I spend a lot of nights per year in Marriott rooms around the country. Being a Platinum member gives me certain benefits like knowing there will be a room available if I have little notice to be in a particular area. And, when I arrive, there is always a bottle of water and a cookie accompanied by a “Welcome Platinum Member” note in my room. That’s a nice touch though I always travel with a few bottles of water in my bag.

What happens at check-out time? Some night elf slips a bill for $500 under my door while I’m sleeping. That saves me the time of standing in line at the desk waiting for a receipt. That’s nice too.

I want to make a point about customer service. Often I’m asked about how some businesses can improve their service. What if you are, for example, a materials coating business? A driver from your client, drops off some mechanical part that you will coat with Teflon or some other exotic material. The driver isn’t in a position of deciding which coating company is selected for the job. He doesn’t even care. He’s just a driver. You do a good job because you take pride in your work. The same driver comes back in a couple days to pick up the part, signs for it and leaves. You can’t do much for the driver to influence future business. If you do the job right, how can you improve your service? Customer service is all about getting it right the first time or fixing it if things go wrong, right? No. Great customer service goes beyond that. Great customer service has huge benefits to your business too.

Okay, let’s go back to my bottled water story about Marriott. What’s the last message I get from Marriott after a $500 stay? A bill is slipped under my door. What’s the last message the customer gets from our coating company example? An invoice in the mail. Is that the best possible last impression to make?

If I read you a list of objects to memorize, you’ll remember the first and the last. The middle will be muddy. The same is true of your customer’s experience with your business. Sure, everything came out okay. But if our customer is hounded by other coating providers with lower prices they may just give one a try. Why not, it’s just coating. They’ve never had a problem with coatings before so how hard can it be? By doing a good job, you could be teaching the customer to shop around! You make it look so easy.

No, don’t screw up so you can show how great your service is by correcting the problem. Instead, make a different end-point impression. The customer will remember how the transaction ended. After you send the bill, send a note.

“Thank you for your recent business, if you have questions about other coatings we provide or would like to visit our facility, feel free to drop by. You are always welcome.”
Send the note to the buyer. The last impression the buyer will have of this transaction is that you value the relationship.

I’ve left Marriott Hotels on 105 degree days with an 8 hour drive ahead of me. That would be a great time to say, “Thanks for choosing Marriott. Would you like a bottle of water for the road?” I’d have that bottle of water with me in the car as my last impression of my stay.

What’s the last thing you’d do for your customer? They’ll remember it.

Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog
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