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Brand evangelism

Let me share with you three quotes I’ve read in the last week about customer service:

‘Making customer service key to your organisation will keep your employees motivated and your customers happy.’

‘A successful business must never lose its focus on its customers and its standards.’

‘Rather than viewing customer service as a cost centre, it is more helpful to see it as a means of keeping your customers coming back for more, and also of bringing in new business.’

These are all wise pieces of advice for any business, and they all come from one source: Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, a company which enjoys a good reputation for customer service. Sadly, my own recent experience of one of the Virgin Group companies fell a long way short of this (several thousand air miles), but that’s another story. However, that experience and these quotes have made me more aware than ever that how you treat your customers will leave a lasting impression.

So while it’s true that a bad customer service experience will tend to linger in the memory longer than a good one, it’s also true that an outstanding customer service experience will also leave a lasting impression a customer will want to tell all their friends about. For example, in November I was lucky enough to be on the receiving end of some first-class customer service from none other than Majestic Wine.

My husband and I have shopped at our local Majestic Wines a few times, but generally buy our wines from supermarkets and small retailers. Our interest in wine has grown recently, after a visit to vineyards in Sonoma County, California in October and, wanting to prolong the holiday mood, we decided to book a free wine tasting at Majestic Wine one Friday evening when we got back to the UK. Because we’d seen the ‘free’ in the title, we assumed this would be a 15-minute affair involving 3 sips of wine, a strong sales pitch and an overt expectation to buy. How wrong we were. The event lasted about 2 hours, was led by friendly, enthusiastic staff who genuinely knew their stuff and went out of their way to make the evening fun and educational. We received no less than 10 or 12 generous tastings, a selection of good quality food for a food-and-wine pairing exercise, and were at no point rushed or made to feel that the hosts were tired and wanted to get home (which they surely did – it was a particularly cold, wet Friday evening). When the event came to an end, the hosts appeared more than happy to keep the store open for a little longer to continue chatting to attendees, and to allow them another taste of wines they particularly enjoyed. As I say, there was no expectation to buy, but we were so impressed that we asked if we could buy a couple of bottles, forgetting the 6 wine minimum purchase policy. Despite this, they happily waived the policy on this occasion.

The lessons I have drawn from this, albeit as a provider of a service rather than a commodity (an important distinction), is that if you make it an easy and pleasant experience for your buyers to buy from you, they will probably be back. We certainly will. Moreover, if you convey enthusiasm for what you do, customers respond better. The wine tasting event will have been a considerable outlay for Majestic in cost terms, but the marketing investment will undoubtedly pay off. In the space of 2 hours we went from occasional customers of Majestic to brand evangelists, an accomplishment which I believe is more powerful than any other marketing tactic.

Oh, and if an ‘ouch’ customer service experience does happen, a measly £20 voucher when the customer has spent upwards of £600 (on, say, a long haul flight) does not say ‘I’m truly sorry, we’d like you to remain a customer’. There are ways to recover from an ‘ouch’ experience, and that’s not one of them. Just so you know. 😉

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  1. Judy Jenner

    December 06, 2010

    I could not agree more, Phillipa! Great post and that’s an excellent example with Majestic Wine (I am also quite passionate about good wine.) And of course Richard Branson is an ideal source for good customer service advice — and for putting it into practice. We recently had a friend fly from NYC to Vegas with her 2 dogs only for the original airline (can’t remember which) to tell her they would not be flying both her and her two dogs back to NYC on the same flight (something about too many dogs per person). So she wandered over to Virgin America, where the lady behind the counter volunteered to give up her day off (the following day) and fly to NYC with our friend and her two dogs — and turn around and fly right back. Virgin has the same one-dog-per-person rule, so the Virgin employee found a way to help, even if that includes flying 6,000 miles on her day off. WOW! And she wouldn’t even accept lunch in NYC!

    And you are, of course, spot-on: the best way to turn customers into repeat business is to provide world-class service. You need to truly exceed expectations every time.

  2. Oliver Lawrence

    December 06, 2010

    Great customer service is certainly worth its weight in gold, and can indeed be the determining factor in a purchasing decision. In a B2B arena (in our case, where the customer is an agency and – hopefully! – doesn’t need to be educated about the process), great service can also mean less rather than more, i.e. a pleasant interaction that gets the job done and doesn’t take up any more of the customer’s valuable time than is necessary.

  3. Kara Turner

    December 06, 2010

    Good customer service is essential in the translation business. Most customers will decide where to spend their money relying on advice from friends, colleagues etc. For technical translation for example you wouldn’t just want to do a bit of research on the internet to chose a translator but would rather look for translators who can provide references that come from –satisfied customers. Keeping up a good relationship with customers thus is not only important in the short run (saving time, nerves and money) but especially in the long run.

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December 06, 2010

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