The dying art of customer service

Play along with me for a second. Close your eyes and think about the last 3 great customer service companies you interacted with? Companies that delivered a stellar experience that clearly stood out.

Can’t think of three? That’s ok, it’s nearly impossible to accomplish.

It’s a sad state of affairs.

I have a love for great companies that deliver stellar customer service but they’re nearly impossible to find.

I can think of a few here and there or instances of great customer service but for the most part these days — it’s simply a cliché thing that people and companies say rather that do. It’s fluff. Just a marketing gimmick.

But real service companies. Ones that really built a culture around it, are gems in my opinion.

I’ve always loved a company that services it’s customers and takes great pride in doing so. Ones that do it consistently and as a culture and not a one-time event.

It’s sticky and causes me to be fiercely loyal to that brand.

Instead, many spend their time working on their “brand” while neglecting the very thing that creates a cult-like following; customer service and experience + product.

I can’t quite wrap my head around why so few companies strive to accomplish this.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” Peter Drucker

When I was in college I read this book, Customers for Life by Carl Sewell and I recall being in utter agreement with what Carl (the author) said. I also felt the desire to go work for him so I could see it for myself.  Serendipitously, the exact dealership that was the customer service model showcase in the book, reached out to my University looking for someone and my professor recommended me, so I ended up working there for the next 4 years.

That experience taught me a lot about customer service. We absolutely bent over backward for our customers in any way we could.

As a sales assistant at the time, I once drove a new car downtown Dallas to a customer, went to reception to get the keys to the customer's old car so I could replace his old car with his brand new car in his parking spot so when he left for work that day, the receptionist would give him his new keys and he’d drive home in his new car and not have to go out of his way to come to the dealership.

We did things like this all the time. We helped pioneer the 24 hour test-drive. We delivered cars Christmas day. We gave full-sized golden retriever stuffed animals to families with kids. We baked fresh cookies every single day and had someone walk around to serve our guests.

It paid off. Customers were deeply loyal to the Sewell brand. They could go down the street and get the same car for cheaper. They didn’t. They bought the car and the Sewell brand of service. They knew that they would be taken care of for life and that’s part of what they bought and became loyal to.

There’s always someone cheaper. Always. It’s grossly overvalued.

You have to truly care about your customers and find ways to service them from end to end. How can you make an incredible experience that you’d personally love?

At my agency, we recently got rid of all edit fees because I kept thinking about how I hate paying fees for things and realized that we need to just get rid of them. The customer feedback has been very positive and we had customers voice that they hated them as well and were thrilled they were gone.

I continue to imagine the customer experience trying to reverse engineer every interaction to see how we can do things better.

Put yourself in the customer's shoes, what would you want? What would make an incredible customer experience? One that made you feel completely serviced.

A recent customer remarked that she was impressed with our customer service and referred to it as “a dying art”

That’s how I view it as well. An art.

It’s what I consider brilliant companies are made of and those are the kind of company I want to do business with.

— Robert

About Robert Cornish: Robert Cornish founded Richter in early 2008 to build an agency focused on communication strategies that support sales growth for business to business technology-related companies. Bootstrapped with zero capital in the middle of the financial meltdown, Richter went on to make the Inc 5000 list comprised of the fastest-growing companies in America five times. Richter made the Silicon Valley Fast 50 four times and the Entrepreneur360 award two times. Robert has been featured in Bloomberg Businessweek, Selling Power Magazine, Inc Magazine and IDEA magazine. He's been a guest speaker for ACG Los Angeles, IASA Summit, West Point and been interviewed for 33Voices, EnTRUEpreneurship Podcast and IDEA Magazine by Northwood University. In 2012 Wiley & Sons published his book, What Works, about the lessons he's learned while growing his agency from start-up navigating his way to a multi-million dollar agency. Robert currently owns four companies.

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