- Make "red-carpet service" a first and lasting impression
- Get your team "red-carpet ready”
- Inspire positive word-of-mouth by delivering wow
- Handle service recovery with style
- Employ creative marketing ideas and social media savvy
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
You have an awesome responsibility.
If you picked up this book, chances are you are in some way responsible for ensuring that your customers have an extraordinary experience. Perhaps you're a mid-level manager at a large company, trying to get your team members to deliver consistently excellent customer service. Perhaps you're the administrator of a healthcare facility or the general manager of a hotel, looking for ways to delight your patients or guests. Or maybe you're an entrepreneur trying to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Whatever your job, it should come as no surprise to you that providing an outstanding experience for your customers is critical to the survival of your organization. Not only do today's customers have more choices than ever, but thanks to social media, they also have a more influential voice than ever before. As my friend Charles McIntyre would say, "It's no longer word of mouth; it's world of mouth."
This may be one of the reasons you chose to buy a book about customer service.
Before we go any further, let me explain what red-carpet customer service means to me. When I was a young girl growing up in Westport, Massachusetts, we would often visit my French grandparents, who we called Memère and Pepère. They had 14 children, so as you can imagine, we had a very large family. (That was just on Dad's side of the family!)
One day, when Memère and Pepère were coming back from a trip, my mom found a long remnant of a red carpet and rolled it out to greet them upon their arrival. Subsequently, my memère used it to welcome family members who lived out of state and were coming home to visit. I excitedly watched from the window and felt it was similar to treating our loved ones as if they were stars of the silver screen!
This is the essence my red-carpet brand. To me, when you roll out the red carpet for your customers, you're treating them as if they're important and special, like treasured friends or members of your family. When you do this consistently, your customers can't help but give you rave reviews and repeat business.
The fact is, there has never been a better time to focus on rolling out the red carpet for your customers. A study by Harris Interactive in 2011 determined that 89 percent of consumers quit doing business with a company (and went to a competitor) because of a bad customer experience (source: Customer Experience Impact Report by Harris Interactive/ Right Now, 2011). Compare this to 59 percent in 2007 and you'll see that one of two things is happening: Either customer service has gotten worse; or consumers, armed with more choices, are becoming more empowered. Perhaps both are true.
Given this, it shouldn't shock you to know that news of a bad customer experience reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience (source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs report, from www.helpscout.net/75-customer-service-facts-quotes-statistics/.) However, when you blow your customer away with both excellent service and what I call "movie moments," the good news can also go viral. In fact, 55 percent of consumers are willing to recommend a company due to outstanding service over product or price (source: Customer Experience Impact Report by Harris Interactive/Right Now, 2010).
Consider all the time, money, and resources that go into marketing and sales for your business. What if you spent a fraction of that ensuring you don't blow the potential for repeat business and referrals by delivering a poor customer experience? Did you know it's six or seven times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one (source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs report)?
There's a direct link between service and sales. The real sale is made after you earn the customer. You may have crackerjack salespeople who bring in new customers right and left. If you do, bravo! Now's the time for you to decide: Is it uphill or downhill from there? As Don Draper in Mad Men put it, "The day you sign a client is the day you start losing one."
If you picked up this book, though, you probably already know these things. More than likely, you're like me. You're ready and raring to provide the highest level of service to your customers. You get jazzed about treating your clients as if they were stars. You're itching to make memorable moments that spread like wildfire.
The problem is, who has the time?
If you're like most people, you have 50 million things on your to-do list. Coming up with creative ways to roll out the red carpet for customers sometimes takes a back seat. Or perhaps you've heard that the best employee and customer experiences start at the top, and you're a mid-level manager. Or maybe you're a small business owner with champagne dreams and a beer budget.
If any of those scenarios sound familiar, this book has something for you!
How can you be expected to design an extraordinary customer experience when you have too much to do? Or too few resources? Or when you're on information and technology overload? Or when every time slot in your day is already scheduled for you by the very people at corporate who want you to be creative? The good news is that you don't have to reinvent the wheel. There are people in organizations of all sizes who have imagined and implemented fantastic ideas that have surprised and delighted their customers. They and I are generously sharing 501 of them here for your adoption and inspiration!
Does an extraordinary employee and customer experience start at the top? Is it more than one manager can do on his or her own? The answer to both questions is yes. Revolutionizing the entire customer experience takes planning and commitment. It takes a strong vision that excites and ignites your team. It takes hiring the right people, then engaging, empowering, and encouraging them. It takes 100-percent accountability and a definite decision that you are going to raise the bar. Sometimes it's fun and sometimes it's not.
However, regardless of who you are or what your title is, you can take small actions that make a big impact. Sometimes it takes someone like you to get the process started. 501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers offers you a long list of service improvements you can make in bite-sized chunks that are easy to swallow. Each check mark, number, and bullet in the text denotes an idea that has worked for me or others, and can work for you, too. Keep reading! You'll also find some great examples of hiring strategies, employee engagement techniques, and other ideas for laying the foundation for a total red-carpet experience, inside and outside your company.
Budget tight? You'll find it doesn't always take a million dollars to make a million-dollar impact. The ideas shared in 501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers fit a wide variety of budgets and come from organizations of all sizes and types. They come from large corporations, small and large senior living organizations, healthcare facilities, performing arts centers, realtors, solo entrepreneurs, small independent restaurants, regional theatres, colleges and universities, hotels, receptionist services, cinema chains, and solo tradespeople. If you work in a service industry of any kind, chances are you are represented here.
But remember: The way to innovate inside your industry is to look outside your industry for inspiration. Some of your best red- carpet successes will come from ideas you borrowed from outside your field and then adapted, to the surprise and delight of your customers.
You'll read about a cinema chain that found a unique way to use storytelling and community involvement to teach their staff members about customer service.
You'll learn from a service excellence manager at a hospital who found a way to bring hospitality to the emergency room.
You'll enjoy the story of a financial advisor who wows his clients by helping them beat the heat.
You'll be delighted by the consultants who literally roll out the red carpet for guests visiting their office.
You'll read about a restaurant where people go because they look forward to experiencing the wait!
You'll meet both a "mayor" and a "culture fairy"!
You'll learn about a city that rolls out the red carpet rather than the red tape.
You may even have a celebrity sighting or two.
I could go on and on about the cool people and innovative ideas within these pages, but I'll let you discover them for yourself.
Ideally, this is a book you'll mark up with a pencil, sticky notes, or a digital highlighter. Read through 501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers once. Make notes about the ideas that excite you and the stories that hit you emotionally. If you're working with a team, discuss these ideas with them (preferably after providing the members of your team with their own copies). Review and answer the questions for discussion at the end of each chapter. Choose one or two ideas that you'll implement immediately. Be sure to celebrate your results! Then, repeat with a new idea.
This brings me to the impetus for writing this book. In my first book, The Celebrity Experience: Insider Secrets to Delivering Red-Carpet Customer Service, I asked readers to imagine what it would be like if they treated their customers like stars. I interviewed people who serve celebrities. I talked to them about what it takes to deliver true red-carpet service to those who've come to expect it. Some of the most fascinating stories, however, came from people in organizations that are creating a daily, extraordinary experiences for ordinary folks like you and me. One of those featured organizations was High Point University.
The mission of High Point University (HPU) is that every student receives an extraordinary education in an inspiring environment surrounded by caring people. The HPU focus is on academic excellence. At the same time, they have managed to create one of the most unique, red-carpet student experiences ever. As a result, they have tripled their freshman class in less than 10 years. They've increased the size of their campus and offerings. They've won countless awards, including being named number one in the "America's Best Colleges" list published by U.S. News and World Report and number four in private university "return on investment."
One of the ideas shared by the leadership team of High Point University was their welcome sign. When a prospective student or special guest is expected, he or she is directed to park in a space marked with a welcome sign personalized with his or her name. It's a big wow. Many stop to pose for a photo with the sign before heading inside for an appointment.
After The Celebrity Experience was released, I began to notice a common theme in my travels. Wherever I went to deliver a speech, provide training, or meet with customers, there was a welcome sign with my name on it. Sometimes it was at a parking space; other times it was perched on a reception desk. The signs weren't just for me, though. Often, my customers would say, "We now welcome each guest or prospective client with a personalized sign. We learned it from your book." I can't tell you how fabulous it feels when you share ideas, and people implement them! Readers embraced and exemplified many other stories from The Celebrity Experience, but the personalized sign seems to be the one that everyone implemented.
I mentioned this to my friend Nido Qubein, the president of High Point University and the person who is largely responsible for leading the university's transformation. He looked at me thoughtfully and said, "You know, I think what we did well is string a whole lot of those little ideas together." It's true. Visit HPU and you'll spend a lot of time with your jaw on the floor. It's one wow moment after another.
After that conversation, the idea for the book you're holding in your hands began to form. What if I could share hundreds of actionable tactics that my readers could string together to create their own extraordinary customer experience? 501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers is my attempt to provide you with 501 of them!
This book is both practical and tactical. You'll discover new ways to:
Make red-carpet first and last impressions.
Build a solid foundation and excel at the basics.
Turn mundane moments into memorable ones.
Strive for flawless service but recover from gaffes with style.
Give standing ovations to your staff.
Use social media, customer events, and community contributions to connect with customers.
Deliver a "George Clooney–like" experience.
Turn prospects into customers and customers into raving fans.
One little note about that conversation I had with Dr. Qubein. After we discussed the tactics used at High Point University — some others of which you will read about in this book — he reminded me that the ideas themselves are not enough. You need to have a solid foundation on which to build your extraordinary customer experience. That's why you'll find a chapter in this book titled "Get Red-Carpet Ready." You'll learn about organizational strategies for hiring and onboarding service superstars, training them well, and keeping them inspired to roll out the red carpet for your customers. Finally, you'll be taken through a 30-day plan to get you started on your quest to treat customers like stars.
If there's one thing I've learned in my more than 15 years on the platform, it's that today's audiences need less "why" and more "how-to." 501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers gives you just that in the form of 501 easy-to-implement ideas for rolling out the red carpet.
Shall we get started? And ... action!CHAPTER 2
Have Them at Hello and Keep Them at Goodbye
When you purchase tickets to see a show at the Durham Performing Arts Center (UPAC), you have high hopes for the particular production you plan to see. What you may not be expecting, though, is the extraordinary experience you will have before and after the show.
A couple of years ago, I drove more than three hours from my home in Asheville, North Carolina, to Durham to see a touring production of the Broadway musical Hair, which was getting rave reviews. The production and performances were outstanding. Based on the rave reviews from my friends and others, I expected nothing less. However, it was the red- carpet welcome my husband and I (as well as the other guests) received from the staff and volunteers at Durham Performing Arts Center that completely blew me away. In fact, it started before we ever got there and continued well after we arrived home. If you were to see a show at DPAC, here are just a few things they would do to make such a great impression:
[check] Immediately upon purchasing tickets, you receive a confirmation e- mail with a link to details about the event.
[check] Prior to the event, depending on how far ahead you booked your seats, you'll receive several updates with much-needed information about the show. You'll learn everything you need to know, including where to park, where to eat, and even what time you should leave your house based on expected traffic for that day.
[check] You can even preorder your drink so it is ready for you at intermission. Yes, you can take that drink to your seat to sip on during the show!
[check] When you arrive, you'll notice a smiling man or woman (or both) wearing red coats and top hats. They are called DPAC's Showstoppers, and they're standing out front, ready to welcome you. Sometimes, they'll even dance for you. They aren't the only ones, either. As you enter the theater, and make your way across the lobby, and to your seats, uniformed ushers and staff members will greet you with smiles and helpful guidance, all along the way. Everyone honestly seems glad to see you and excited that you're there.
[check] When the show is over, and you make your way through the lobby and back to your car, you'll be greeted with the same enthusiasm. You'll be directed easily to the exit, and sent off with spirited and friendly good-byes and invitations to come back again.
[check] Once home, you'll receive a survey about your experience. If you send it back with comments, Bob Klaus, DPAC's general manager, may personally reply to thank you (as he did for me) or address your concerns.
As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Traditional wisdom holds that people form their first impression of you within seven seconds. A newer study done by the University of Glasgow in March 2014, states that it takes a half a second for people to make up their minds about you. In other words, you literally can have them — or not — at "Hello."
The last impression you make may be the one that sticks with your customer the most. The recency effect, a psychological term, describes the fact that when asked to recall specific items on a list, people are more likely to first remember those that came at the end of the list. In other words, you can make a smashing first impression and blow it all up with a poor last impression. That's why this chapter focuses on specific examples of how to create a stellar first impression and follow it up with a last impression that will ensure it won't be your customer's last visit.
Excerpted from "501 Ways to Roll Out The Red Carpet for your Customers"
Copyright © 2016 Donna Cutting.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Coming Attractions,
Chapter 2 Have Them at Hello and Keep Them at Goodbye,
Chapter 3 Get Red-Carpet Ready,
Chapter 4 Make "Movie Moments",
Chapter 5 Cut! Take Two!,
Chapter 6 Standing Ovations for Your Staff,
Chapter 7 Build Buzz With Social Media, Events, and Community Service,
Chapter 8 Step Over the Velvet Rope,
About the Author,