The customer’s name was Gloria.

She wanted to get her son a new skateboard, so she went into one of two local sporting goods stores and looked around for someone to help her. The only person she found just pointed her toward the skateboard section and went back to stocking sneakers. Eventually, Gloria left for the sporting goods store down the street. There, an associate asked if she needed help. The associate walked Gloria to the skateboards and explained the pros and cons of various boards. She asked about Gloria’s son and chatted about the local skate parks.

As Gloria left, the associate called out, “See you next time, Gloria!”

The details of Gloria’s story are invented, but every minute customers like her make decisions about where to spend their money based on brand loyalty. And that loyalty is largely won based on customer service (crucially, from a human, not a bot).

A deeper look at stories like Gloria’s illustrates the secret to above and beyond customer service: infusing customer service with your values while putting people first.

Infuse Customer Service With Your Values

In order to prioritize values in your own customer service, you first need to pinpoint your business’ principles. If you haven’t completed this exercise, pause. Grab a piece of paper right now, and write down the values that you associate with your business. These could include honesty, quality, transparency, growth, efficiency, boldness, and loyalty. Choose your top four. These are the legs of your brand’s stool. Without one of these, your brand will start to tip.

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Once you have your values or principles mapped out, consider how your team is equipped to implement those values.

In Gloria’s example, the associate at the second store knew that one of their brand values was individualized service. Her company cross-trained its floor reps so that any one of them could answer any customer’s question. It took extra training time, but it allowed each rep to give each customer the necessary attention.

The associate in Gloria’s example also followed the store policy of saying, “See you next time!” when Gloria left. So, every time a customer left the store, they were personally invited back. This psychology-based policy reflected the business’ values and impacted its bottom line.

Put People First

To put people first, consider what your business prioritizes. In Gloria’s example, the first store’s associate focused on stocking sneakers. At the second store, the associate focused on Gloria’s needs. Putting people first is a value that affects every aspect of your business, from your PTO policy to the hold music on your customer service phone lines.

Business growth expert Shari Levitin talks about a care package company that sends soup instead of flowers and cookies instead of cards. Levitin tried to send a care package to a friend using the company, but the package went to an old address. The company, Spoonful of Comfort, reached back out to Levitin and sent a new package to her friend at no cost. This experience was consistent with the company’s people-centric values—for example, its blogs describe how to develop and appreciate your people, not how to ship soup. The company’s model won Levitin’s loyalty and dollars.

People can tell when you’re prioritizing them, and when you’re authentically living out your values. They award their loyalty accordingly. Implement these two things, and you just might gain customers for life.

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