THIS is Great Customer Service

On our work-vacation this week we checked into one of our favorite hotels – the Longboat Key Hilton. Sure, it’s not a 5 Star joint, and it’s not an ultra cool boutique place either. But for years I traveled at least 3 nights a week and the reason I frequented the Hilton chain is because it is consistently clean & stylish and it ALWAYS has a business center. Most importantly, it is friendly.

We’ve stayed at this hotel at least 10 times, and every time we are met with a smile and accommodations are almost always made for my constant requests. One year we actually switched from a rare below grade Hilton down the coast and the manager of this hotel sent a champagne and cheese tray to our room to make up for the OTHER hotel’s failings. I would have been thrilled if I wasn’t 6 months’ pregnant at the time… but seriously, the gesture was greatly appreciated.

This year we show up with my 3 1/2 year old in tow at 2pm when check-in is 4:30. They didn’t have the room ready and didn’t until 4:30 on the dot. It was ok – I knew I was asking for a favor yet again, so we went for a walk on the beach, picked up some groceries and killed time. We checked in at 4:30 and started unpacking and getting settled. Within 10 minutes there was a knock on the door with a very nice fruit/cheese tray that my 3 year old ate right up. A card was enclosed thanking us for our return visit.

Now, this may seem like standard fair to a lot of you, but as a well seasoned traveler I can guarantee you it isn’t. There are hotels I’ve stayed in 100 times and they don’t know my name or acknowledge my return. It means something to me (and my family) that this hotel does, and how much extra effort did it really take?

No, I didn’t write this post to extol Hilton hotels, but this particular one is doing a lot right and I notice. It reinforces my desire to let every customer of mine know how much I appreciate the fact that they spend their money with me.

I have a very wise friend Laurie Cadden who runs a PR agency and her mantra is that EVERY interaction you have with ANYONE is PR. It’s about being considerate in your emails, picking up the phone every now and then and spending your time on people, and doing the little things consistently.

Just a little bit of profoundity to think about as we move into the next year.

Who Is The Easiest Customer to Get?

The one you already have. So the next question is, what is your retention rate? More importantly, how are you maintaining your relationships with both your customers and the key members of your network? And I don’t want to hear that you’re too busy… I don’t know anyone who isn’t crazy busy. But you can never be too busy to maintain your important relationships. It would be nice if you could just pick up the phone (does anyone do that anymore?) and make personal contact or even have a face to face meeting, but most of us are too busy to make that happen consistently. Reaching out to customers and important people in your network needs to be part of your marketing strategy. Here are some helpful ways to do it:

How loyal are your customers?

1. Social Media. It may seem obvious, but many companies still don’t use it effectively to engage their customers and friends; speaking at them won’t work to build the relationship. Getting them to interact with your company will.
2. Blog: See description for Social Media, but make sure that you are providing remarkable content and not selling to them. Nothing will get your customers tuned out quicker than a steady stream of sales pitches.
3. Email Newsletters: Again, this isn’t to sell, but to teach or share.
4. Special Notices: Joe Girard, perhaps the greatest sales person ever, always sent birthday cards and happy anniversaries to all of his customers – even when they numbered in the hundreds, and when he didn’t have a computer to make it easier. It matters. I still get a card from my alma mater (Milton Hershey School) every year, and every year it makes me feel special. By using systems like Send Out Cards (www.sendoutcards.com/arielmg) you can quickly send a personalized card with little effort on your part. For really important customers, include a gift.
5. Free, member only information. By having a sign in for members only on your website you can create special coupons for members only or Ebooks for free that non-member pay for, making them feel like a part of your special group.
6. Invitation Only events: depending upon your business, invitation only cocktail parties, openings or private shopping go along way to convincing the customer that they are special and you appreciate them.

The list can go on – and the more creative you are, the more impact it will have. Doing nothing but running your business means that your customer or network partner can easily be snatched away by a competitor who actually gets that people want to feel special and have a relationship with a company that they give their hard earned cash for.