Beyond Customer Satisfaction

By Lain Chroust Ehmann

Just meeting your customer’s expectations isn’t enough to ensure their loyalty. According to one study by Xerox Corporation, “satisfied” customers had a repurchase rate eight times lower than customers who defined themselves as “loyal.” So how do you create a loyal customer? You amaze them, says Chip Bell, co-author of “Service Magic: The Art of Amazing Your Customers.” “As you amaze your customers, you elevate their devotion,” says Bell. “You get an advocate that is second to none and someone who is committed to your organization. And when your customer is devoted, they’ll actually pay more.”

Bell leads sales forces through a process of brainstorming their own ways to “wow” their customers. The first step is defining what “service magic” is – and what it is not. Service magic is memorable, positive, and repeatable – not something that has occurred by accident. “It is something that in your doing it, the customer knows you could do it again – or something like it,” explains Bell. True magic is also unexpected, creative, and unpredictable. “It’s not just value-add, it’s value-unique,” he says.

Sound impossible, or impossibly expensive? Not so. “They’re simple,” Bell says. He gives the example of setting your reception area music or magazines according to your customers’ listening tastes, or knowing beforehand what beverages clients prefer. Even communicating with customers via their preferred channel, on the time schedule that fits them best, qualifies. “It doesn’t have to be red carpet, champagne and helicopters,” says Bell. In fact, if you invest too much in your attempts to amaze customers, they can feel as if they’re being bribed – or begin to wonder if they’re paying for your extravagance through inflated prices.

Bell and his co-author, Ron Zemke, have defined three categories where magic can occur for customers – place, performance, and process. They ask their clients a series of questions to help them create their own magic for these three areas:

What are some examples of “service magic” that have we experienced in our own lives? Is there something similar that we could do for our customers?

How do we currently interact with our customers? How can we make that experience novel, “sparkling,” different or distinctive?

What would our business smell/taste/sound/feel like? How could we involve other senses when appealing to our customers?

If we’re different from our competitors, how are we different? How can we demonstrate that to our customers?

One final suggestion Bell offers is to avoid letting the “magic” go stale. “It needs to stay fresh,” he says. “You’ve got to continually redo them. Never forget it’s magic only if the customer thinks it’s magic.”

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