Don’t Be Walmart: Creating Loyal Customers Through Amazing Service

In business, one thing is certain: simply meeting expectations just doesn’t cut it. When it comes to customer service, you must be exceeding every expectation at every corner. Why? Because when you meet expectations, you’re not wow’ing anyone. No one is going to go blabbing all over town about that new burger joint that said hi when they walked in, had friendly-ish staff, and gave you a burger and fries served the way you asked for. That isn’t exciting! Want to know how to cultivate a band of loyal fans? You’ve got it, dude!

Let’s start off with a little visualization exercise. Grab a paper and pen, and we’ll reconvene when you’re ready to jot down some ideas.

No, seriously. I’ll wait.

Cue annoying Jeopardy music.

I want you to think of a store that makes you feel like a goddess. A place you can count on to always brighten your day and leave you thinking “I freakin’ LOVE this place!”.

What about this store do you love? What kind of vibe do you get from the decor? How do the sales people make you feel like a million bucks? In what ways is this experience different from the experience you might have at one of their competitors?

Take Whole Foods, for example.

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I absolutely love shopping there, and here is why:

First of all, they have an underground parking garage, which is perfect for brutal Chicago winters, and rainy spring days. If I shop at Target, I have to be pelted in the face with wind, hail, rain, and snow, depending on the season. No thanks!

When I walk in, everyone is smiling, and every single associate I pass cheerfully asks if they can help me. But not in an annoying, stalker way like they do at some stores. They always answer my questions in a way that I can understand, like when I asked “what the heck is the difference between an organic pineapple and a conventional one, is organic really necessary there?”. They all know their stuff, and explain it in terms I can understand. They give suggestions, and even give me products to take home for free so I can try them.

Seriously, last time I was there teetering between two teas the associate marked them both as free so that I could try them both. They were like, $15 a piece!

Much appreciated.

A few weeks ago, the bakery associate asked my 9 year old daughter why she looked so glum. She responded that she did not want to go shopping after school because she wanted to have a play date with her neighbor. The sweet woman said she’d be right back, and returned with an entire box of cookies for my daughter to bring to her next play date, on the house.

Are you kidding me?!

Whole Foods is my customer service hero.

Now, think of a place you avoid at all costs. Somewhere that leaves you feeling less on top of the world and more “I need to go home and take a nap¬†because now I’m cranky”.

What about this store (and the shopping experience) bugs you? What vibe does the store and it’s employees give you when you walk in? What types of problems have you had there that turned you off from going back?

I’m going to go with Walmart, just to keep my examples similar.

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Frankly, I only shop at Walmart when I’m too tired to shower and put on presentable clothes that I wouldn’t want to be seen in at Target, much less Whole Foods.

Not because I’m one of those that thinks Walmart is beneath me, I love a deal as much as the next girl. I choose not to shop at Walmart because every single time I do, my experience sucks.

I will start with the employees. They rarely acknowledge me when I’m in the same aisle as them. If I ask where something is (and I’m lucky enough to be talking with an associate that actually knows where the item is), they surely won’t walk me over, and engage in cheery conversation on the way there. I’m lucky if I get more than a finger point in the general direction.

Walmart offers its shoppers a “here’s the crap you need, for cheap, now go back to the hole you crawled out of” vibe.

Only perk is that ours has a Subway inside. And they sell Icees.

The checkout lines move slower than my 93 year old Grandma when her arthritis is flaring up. They open two registers when they should open at least seven. More often than not, the person in front of me is arguing with the cashier about the prices of whatever they have in their cart.

Excuse me while I take a 13 minute nap while you argue that kitty litter should not cost $9.

I often get hit on by someone that is not quite my type. When I’m at Walmart, I’m not in the mood for that nonsense. I just want to buy my wax cubes for my knockoff Scentsy warmer and go.

I leave feeling exhausted, and cursing myself for not putting on the yoga pants that don’t have grey paint on them so that I could shop elsewhere.

Now that you’ve compared two stores on opposite sides of the customer service spectrum, do some serious thinking about your business. What are you doing to ensure your clients are blown away at every turn?

You want raving fans that can’t get enough of you. Ones that run all over town telling everyone they know how amazing you are. Referrals are kind of the best thing ever, and you’re not going to get many by meeting expectations.

My favorite tool to ensure I provide a killer experiance for my clients? A new client survey.

If your selling something service based, head over to JotForm (or whatever form building site you love) and create a simple, but specific survey you can send every new client when they sign up with you. Ask them how they heard of you, what they want to work on, why now is the time, and what they expect. Find out their fears, and get a little info about how they like to be courted. Yes, pretend you two are dating and you want to woo them. Ask their favorite drink at Starbucks. Find out where they would go on a date night. This will make giving them little surprises a breeze.

Here are some other easy ways to wow your clients:

  • Send hand written notes. Yes, get old school. Sending an email takes about three seconds, and no effort. Buy some cute thank you cards (bonus points if they match your branding) and take a few minutes to write them a sweet note when they book with you. Think about how excited you get when you open the mailbox and discover something other than a bill. Yeah, you want your clients to feel like that!
  • Under-promise and over-deliver. If you have a product to give and normally send it within one week, tell them they will have it in two. If you schedule a series of one hour calls, allow one really good one to run an hour and a half. When you tell a client you will get them a few articles in the next few days, send it within an hour. You get the drift. People won’t bat an eyelash when you do what you say you’re going to do. But when you surprise them with your efficiency and thoughtfulness, they’ll probably post about it on Facebook.
  • Follow up with them, just ‘cuz. It’s Monday morning, you noticed on Facebook that your client’s son had his first soccer game on Saturday. Send a quick email and ask how it went. Be friendly.
  • Send random tokens of your love. Everyone enjoys getting a little pick me up once in a while. Aim to give a thoughtful gift to each client sometime during your time working together. It can be something sweet, funny, practical, whatever. Doesn’t have to be expensive. Sometimes the best gifts are ones that have a small price tag, but a big dose of thought behind them.
  • Don’t stop loving on them just because your time together has ended. Maybe you worked with them for 12 weeks, or they ordered one of your hand-crafted ceramic cat treat bowls, and now there’s nothing left to do. Consider providing them with continuing value, either in a newsletter, random “hey, how’s life” emails, or periodic Facebook comments.

 

And then, the obvious: be on time, answer questions quickly, do what you say you’re going to do, don’t be an asshole.

Remember, anything you send clients is a tax write off, so save your receipts!

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Do you have any creative ways you love showing your clients love? I want to hear all about it!

 

Kimberly Hadyn

Kim is a business coach determined to help female entrepreneurs run successful, profitable businesses that are not only stress-free, but fun. She is passionate about finding ways to work smarter, not harder, so that she can spend time with her stud muffin and spunky, kind hearted daughter. Kim is a self-proclaimed organizational queen that is couldn't live without Lip Smackers chap stick, fresh flowers or dark chocolate. Real Simple Magazine is her guide to navigating life. Her true obsession lies in branding; she is every business owners biggest cheerleader!