Building Customer Relationships: 8 Lessons from Mom

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“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” ~Mark Twain

Whether it was a parent, an older sibling, a boss, a mentor, or some combination of people, I’ve found these words from Mark Twain to ring true so often in my life. Some life lessons take time before we can fully appreciate the wisdom behind them.

In her book, Would You Do That To Your Mother, Jeanne Bliss has compiled an incredible collection of such lessons learned from her mother and has paired them with examples of companies consistently putting them into practice. And we learn that this isn’t just wisdom for a better life, but it’s also essential for better customer relationships. Too numerous for a single blog post (hence the book), I’ll share my eight favorite lessons.

Lesson #1- Focus on the life, not the survey score

Bliss calls out those companies that put customer service agents in positions to ask, or even beg for positive survey responses from customers. She instead challenges companies, and individuals, to earn their scores from customers. In the case of Satelite AutoGlass, one technician was so focused on earning the score that, upon learning a customer’s husband had passed away, showed up on his own time and offered to mow her lawn.

Lesson #2- Nurture and enable memory makers

While we can’t always wow customers, that doesn’t mean employees shouldn’t be empowered and ready to do so. When two Shake Shack customers tweeted their disappointment about being in the terminal at New York’s JFK airport that doesn’t have a Shake Shack, employees sprung into action, delivering burgers and fries directly to their gate. Bliss notes that by taking advantage of opportunities to make memories, those memories and customers “stay long after the meal is over.”

Lesson #3- Honor the customer’s time and schedule

I’m sure many of us have received a four-hour window from the cable installer, forcing us to take a half-day off work. Wanting to honor the time of their customers, fast-casual restaurant Sweetgreen developed an app-based ordering system that allows customers to order a healthy meal, skipping lines altogether.

Lesson #4- Remove the burden of doing business

The Spine Clinic at Seattle’s Virginia Mason Medical Center created a special hotline for patients experiencing lower back pain. In doing so, they’ve eliminated much of the runaround required for patients to receive care. The results are impressive with a reduced need for MRIs, physical therapy, and surgery -- and they’ve cut the number of days patients miss work in half.

Lesson #5- Keep customers informed and out of the dark

Mistakes happen. But it stinks to be left in the dark by a company while they correct them. CenterPoint Energy in Houston has created empathy maps for its customer service agents to respond appropriately when customers are without power. Furthermore, customers can automatically enroll in a program to receive regular, proactive updates during power outages until service is restored.

Lesson #6- Make it easy for customers to get help

Online pet supplier Chewy.com is committed to responding quickly to customers regardless of channel. They answer the phone in 5 seconds or less, live chat within 6 seconds, emails in 20 minutes, and are responsive on social media. And the Chewtopians (Chewy’s word for customer service representative) are equipped with personalized information and ready to talk with each pet parent about their pets. This commitment to service has translated into incredible growth for the company.

Lesson #7- Take genuine actions to improve lives

Seeking to make a difference, the Girl Scouts of Greater New York created Troop 6000 with the specific focus on giving homeless girls the opportunity to be girl scouts. They provide the girls with a uniform and patches and have created a shelter for approximately 100 girls and their families to stay while they have troop meetings. Improving the lives of others could look different depending on your organization. One company I worked at formed a community action team to constantly identify ways the company could make a difference in the community.

Lesson #8- Honor customers as assets

In a short-sighted world where new customers often get better pricing and deals than existing, loyal customers, e-commerce apparel company, Bonobos also focuses on the lifetime value of its customers. Valuable, longtime customers receive personalized service from “service ninjas.” While it’s great to attract new business, it’s important to take care of existing customers.

As I conclude, this is just a sampling of the important lessons from Jeanne Bliss. You’ll have to read the book to learn the rest. What’s the most important and valuable advice you’ve received in your career when it comes to taking care of customers? Take a few moments to share with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Jeremy Watkin

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Jeremy Watkin is a Product Marketing Manager at 8x8. He has more than 19 years of experience as a customer service professional leading high performing teams in the contact center. Jeremy has been recognized numerous times as a thought leader for his writing and speaking on a variety of topics including quality management, outsourcing, customer experience, contact center technology, and more. When not working you can typically find him spending quality time with his wife Alicia and their three boys, running with his dog, or dreaming of native trout rising for a size 16 elk [...] Read More >

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