If you’ve ever had anything custom-made, you can relate to how satisfying the experience can be. Whether it’s a new house, a tailor-made shirt, or even a special sandwich, getting exactly what you ordered is gratifying.
That’s why I think we should rename customer service to “custom service.” Every customer contact should involve custom care and accommodations. Each interaction needs to be “custom built” to meet the customer’s specs.
I have long preached the concept of humanizing your selling strategy. In addition to building a strictly business relationship, you need to get to know your customer as a person. Find out what their interests are, learn about the family, discover what you might have in common. I have shared my formula for learning about customers in the Mackay 66, a customer profile that we use at MackayMitchell Envelope Company religiously. It’s available free on my website, harveymackay.com.
But as I so often say, knowledge is not power until it is used. This information is a starting point to help you customize every meeting, phone call or email. You need to be creative to make your encounters memorable. Let me give you some examples, shared by readers of this column.
One woman wrote about a practice she used in her years as a customer service rep. Whenever a customer, particularly a new customer, left her a voicemail, she would save the message and listen to it until she could recognize the voice. That would let the customers know that their business mattered to the company.
Establishing that kind of relationship is critical to customizing the sale: It eliminates the formalities and lets the players get down to business. The customer feels more comfortable with the salesperson so the conversation can begin on a high note.
Another reader told about two different encounters she had with people she had hired to work in her home. She was extremely impressed with the person who came to service her air conditioning system, a 30-something who was trying to build his business. He told her about his commitment to providing exemplary service, educating his employees and developing a business structure that utilizes technology to improve efficiency and quality control. He made sure she was completely satisfied with the job and guaranteed his work, which of course, he did correctly the first time. His attention to detail and consideration for her home was not lost on her. She has recommended his company repeatedly.
But the carpenter she hired to customize her closet was a major disappointment. He let her know in no uncertain terms that this job was too small to be worth his time and that he only accepted it because he had an opening in his schedule.
He ignored her ideas and proceeded to install shelving that was uneven. When she asked him to fix the problem, he instead said he would just give her payment back and quit. She was left with a mess but was relieved that he was out of her house. Her custom closet was a custom disaster. I wonder how long he will stay in business.
A friend whose company manufactures industrial parts has worked with one supplier for decades, even though other suppliers call on him regularly, often with more competitive pricing. But he stays with that company because of two experiences that proved their loyalty to him.
Years ago, the third shift had an equipment breakdown in the middle of the night, the kind of problem that could idle the factory for days and delay deliveries. His supplier’s rep showed up at the factory within hours to offer help tracking down replacement parts or even finding alternate locations for production. Talk about custom service!
Then, when their long-time rep was preparing to retire, the supplier sent the rep and her replacement to spend time at the factory until the new rep was thoroughly familiar with their needs. Instead of relying on files and old orders, they took a very personal interest. That sealed the deal.
Too often, customer service is anything but. One size does not fit all. Your customers deserve your very best. Great customer service is only a starting point. Custom service takes your business to a whole new level.
Mackay’s Moral: If you want to keep your customers, offer custom service.