Today’s customer service has the potential to be nothing short of thrilling. By forging smart partnerships companies of all sizes can create unexpected benefits and transform customer service from an afterthought into a differentiating highlight.
1. Offer a Tantalizing “Extra”
Who knows how many people chose to stay at the Ritz Carlton rather than at another luxury hotel because of an added thrill: complimentary use of a new, late-model Mercedes during their stay? Mercedes-Benz and Ritz Carlton forged a smart partnership and became the top-of-mind choice with their brand of (upscale) customers, and so can you—regardless of the kind or size of your business. Such an approach enables prospective customers to actually use your product when the competition isn’t in sight or on their mind. For example, Holiday Inn Express partnered with Kohler to introduce Kohler’s SimplySmart, their new multi-function showerhead and spa bath. Holiday Inn was able to give guests an “upgrade”—the opportunity to experience it as an indulgence.

Here’s more examples of offering customer-attracting experiences via complementary partnerships: Holiday Inn collaborated with the children’s TV show Nickelodeon to co-create Nickelodeon Family Suites, offering a water park, arcade and other family-friendly attractions.

2. Serve a Certain Segment Better Than the Competition
Applebee’s attracted more customers—including many first-time visitors—to their family restaurants one summer without advertising more. When Weight Watchers designed and branded several low-cal menu items for Applebee’s, followers of their Weight Watchers’ diet program (and those who were thinking of losing weight) had a new reason to eat at Applebee’s. The restaurant’s customers got introduced to a new program—Weight Watchers—by a restaurant they already knew and liked.

3. Offer an Unexpected Service That Shows You Understand Your Customers
Instead of “just” offering a loaner car like the one you are getting serviced, a British Volvo dealership also offered bikes from its partnering business as loaners. The dealership and the bike shop enjoyed three benefits—deepening the loyalty of their eco-minded customers, getting introduced to each other’s customers, and attracting worldwide media coverage. How well do you know your customers? Well enough so you can reach more of them with an unlikely ally that also serves them?
Hint: Ask your customers to name three other businesses they also use and trust. What company names crop up most frequently? How can you partner to attract more customers, repeat business, fervent referrals and media coverage with a “first-ever” partnership?
Next Steps:
See a one Minute video for forging smart partnerships:
Find the Right partners to Grow Your Business

Author's Bio: 

Kare Anderson is an Emmy-winning former NBC and Wall Street Journal journalist, now a connective behavior and quotability speaker, author and columnist. Her TED talk on The Web of Humanity: Be an Opportunity Maker has attracted over 2.4 million views. Her TEDx talk on Redefine Your Life Around a Mutuality Mindset is now a standard session for employees and invited clients at 14 national and global corporations. Her ideas have been cited in 16 books. Her clients are as diverse as Salesforce, Novartis, and The Skoll Foundation. She was a founding board member of Annie’s Homegrown and co-founder of nine women’s political PACs. Kare’s the author of Opportunity Makers, Mutuality Matters, Moving From Me to We, Beauty Inside Out, Walk Your Talk, Getting What You Want, and Resolving Conflict Sooner. She serves on the boards of The Business Innovation Factory, TEDxMarin, and World Affairs Council Marin.