Eager business-evangelist customers are always telling others how wonderful your business is and encouraging potential customers to try your offerings.
Most network marketing businesses are based on word-of-mouth promotion. You learn about a great product or service from a relative, friend, or neighbor who then helps you to experience the offering's benefits. Soon, you can't wait to share your happiness with others to improve their lives, too!
I was reminded of this approach to gaining customers while rereading Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service (William Morrow, 1993) by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. Blanchard and Bowles use a parable to introduce the idea of superior, "shout-about-it" service through examples of a department store where greeters pin a flower on you when you walk in the door and employees eagerly head off to competitors' stores to obtain out-of-stock items for you, a gas station that delivers impressive full service at self-service prices, and a grocery store where you enjoy free valet parking and are aided by a no-cost personal shopper to organize your visit and to help you save money.
The key principles outlined in the book are:
-- Develop a vision of what you think would be perfect service for your customers.
-- Test that vision by asking customers what service benefits they want increased.
-- Start consistently delivering the service you can provide effectively that fits with what customers want, and then improve service performance by 1 percent a week. To accomplish such results, you should install a process to measure and to manage the effectiveness of your improvements.
When asked about their experience, the authors argue that customers who respond that service is "fine" or are silent are often, in fact, quite unhappy with the service they are receiving. I've certainly hidden my dissatisfactions in such ways. I suspect that you have, too. Blanchard and Bowles argue that until you are inundated with unsolicited customer testimonials, your service isn't good enough to establish a highly effective corps of business evangelist customers.
They also recommend quality of service measurements that are solely based on customer experiences, rather than employing so-called mystery shoppers, so you more accurately know how consistent your service is and how effective and appreciated your service improvements are.
While those kinds of observations are valuable perspectives to act on, I believe that the principle of providing such great service that customers cannot resist becoming business evangelists goes well beyond Blanchard's and Bowles' concepts. Here's what I mean: Business-evangelist-creating organizations convince customers that all service providers are sincerely and deeply interested in being helpful... rather than just trying to keep a job or make a sale. Here are some examples of this principle that are drawn from my personal experiences:
1. After lunching at a modest, family-style restaurant in Maine, I discovered that I had stupidly locked my only set of keys in the car. I went back inside the restaurant to see if someone knew of a local garage that could help. Instead, the whole restaurant staff immediately filed out, unasked, to help me break in with a wire coat hanger. They had me into the car within five minutes and pleasantly refused my offer of payment while wishing me a good trip.
2. While on vacation with my parents, we visited a Nordstrom department store at Mall of America in Minneapolis. As I considered some shirts that were on sale, one of the sales associates introduced himself to my parents and, unasked, spent the next hour helping them plan the remainder of their visit to Minneapolis. None of us bought anything, but the sales associate couldn't have been any more helpful if he had been a professional guide being paid by us.
3. My wife and I went to an island for a vacation. The people who worked at the resort learned that my wife's birthday was coming up when I asked where I could find a florist to buy her some flowers. They thought that was a funny way to obtain flowers. Orchids grow wild there so they don't have any need for florists. People just grow their own or pick wildflowers. A woman on the front desk staff spent several hours of her personal time in the jungle picking and later arranging the most amazing bouquet we had ever seen. When I offered to pay her, she wouldn't take any money for the bouquet. The memory of the staff person's happy smile still warms my heart.
Customers count on businesses to do things they cannot easily do... or don't want to do... for themselves. There is some core benefit from any offering that customers need to receive; otherwise, buying the offering is just a waste;
People we invite into our homes for meals or to stay with us often need extra attention. We may have picked them up at the airport (or driven them to the airport) in the middle of the night, located some special food or badly needed medicine at an odd hour, rearranged furniture, or found a local expert to help them with something. We happily provide assistance because we want our guests to have just what they need and to enjoy their visit with us. While such occasions may make a lot of extra work, it's just part of the pleasure of enjoying their company.
As you can tell from the earlier examples of great service, one reason that I am such a fan of vacation experiences is because my family and I have been treated so well on such occasions. Long after I cannot remember very much about a trip or location, I can remember everything about the most wonderful treatment we received. And I enjoy telling others those stories, just as I have enjoyed sharing them with you.
We all have feet of clay. Our intentions are often better than our accomplishments due to having too little time and too few resources. Even when engaged in something important, we may struggle to complete the task. Helping customers to avoid missing such opportunities can present excellent ways to turn customers into heroes and heroines.
Remember that what's hard for a customer is often easy for someone in your organization who has different talents, knowledge, and interests. Here's an example. People want their children to do well, but they may not be able to help the youngsters to gain access or to achieve in the ways the parent and child want. In such a case, you or a colleague might be able to make an introduction, to provide a summer job, or to be a persuasive reference for one of your customer's youngsters. The gratitude you create will last for a lifetime whenever your customer gains credit for success through obtaining your meaningful help. If you can do something similar for boosting someone's career, or to enhance a business, those are powerful ways to help and gain gratitude, as well.
Imagine that your customers are enthusiastic golfers who enjoy fine meals and good wines. You could invite them to join you as your guests for events where such great activities were enjoyed in connection with a helpful business program. During those occasions, your clients could have great fun describing to the prospective customers how well you treat them and what a great thing it is to be your customer. Many of your customers will first learn about you through such experiences and will later serve the same business evangelist role for other prospective customers.
Donald Mitchell is the author of Business Basics which provides 52 lessons in how to create a new enterprise that will have 400 times more profit and 8,000 times more cash flow and value. To learn more, you can read excerpts from the book at: http://www.amazon.com/Business-Basics-Customers-Investments-Stakeholders...