Be Careful With Extras

We're taught to always go the extra mile. You can't go wrong with giving a customer a little extra, right?

Well, sometimes you can.

  • A free dessert at a restaurant can backfire if the guests are already stuffed or watching their diet. Do they eat something they don’t want or reject such a nice gift?
  • An upgrade to the deluxe package at the car wash can backfire if the customer is in a hurry and finds the smell of air freshener to be sickening.
  • Upgrading an airline passenger's seat to an exit row can backfire if it separates her from the rest of her family.

Try to see things through your customer's eyes before giving your customer a little extra. And, when in doubt, ask them first. 

It shows you care and it might help avoid an uncomfortable situation.

Find Your Lagniappe

Marketing expert Stan Phelps wrote about the concept of a lagniappe in his book, The Purple Goldfish

Technically, "lagniappe" means a small gift given to a customer at the time of purchase. Phelps broadens this to mean an "unexpected surprise that’s thrown in for good measure to achieve product differentiation, drive retention, and promote word of mouth."

Here are just a few examples:

  • Customers at Jason's Deli can always treat themselves to free ice cream.
  • Any part under $1 is given away for free at Zane's cycles.
  • When you buy a suit at Men's Warehouse, you can always get it pressed for free.

So, what low cost and simple lagniappes will delight your customers?

Email tip: what do they want?

Email can be very convenient, but it can also make it difficult to understand what a customer really wants without a lot of back and forth. 

Here are two very simple tips to avoid misunderstanding a customer's needs via email.

Tip #1: Before responding, take a deep breath, slow down, and ask, "What do they really want?"

Tip #2: If it takes more than two emails to figure out a customer's needs, pick up the phone and call.

Win the moments of truth

Providing outstanding service that exceeds customers' expectations requires us to win the moments of truth.

What is a moment of truth? It is a situation that represents a crossroad in the customer's experience. Go the wrong way, and the customer will have a very unpleasant memory. Go the right way, and you may earn a customer for life.

Here is an example of a moment of truth that earned American Airlines my loyalty for many years:

I was checking in for my flight home after a long business trip when I learned that my flight had been cancelled due to bad weather. There wasn't another flight out until the next morning.

The ticketing agent told me that the airline wasn't required to provide hotel accommodations for passengers if the cancellation was weather related. However, he also told me that weather wasn't yet officially listed in his computer system as the reason for cancellation. He decided to bend the rules and handed me a voucher for a nice hotel that night. 

I wasn't getting home, but at least I had a comfortable place to stay!

Add some extra shine!

I learned this tip from one of my clients, a plumbing company whose plumbers use a very effective customer service technique. They always take care to clean up the area surrounding their repair work so it has a little extra shine. This small step creates a positive impression for three reasons.

  1. Plumbing repairs are often necessary because of a leak or some other mess, so this extra service saves their customers some effort.
  2. Plumbing problems can be very stressful, so putting some extra shine on the repair helps the customer quickly feel better.
  3. Cleaning up the area spotlights the plumber's high level of workmanship, giving the customer the confidence that the repair was done correctly.

Not all of us regularly clean up messes as a part of our job, but there are ways we can put some extra shine on the work we do. Find that opportunity and you'll stand out too!