The Pursuit of Exceptional Client Experiences - Randall Linton | May 2008

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The pursuit of

exceptional client

experiences Do you have an unwavering persistence to achieve your goals?

By Randall Linton

I Randall Linton is co-owner of Interior Care, a commercial specialty cleaning company, and The Excelerator Mentoring Group, a company that helps small service business owners reap optimum results from their efforts. He is the creator of The Commercial Carpet Care Solution, a “business-in-a-box” program for those who want to expand their services into the corporate marketplace. He lives with his wife Elisabeth and their three children in Toronto. If you would like to comment on this article, you may contact Randall at randall@ exceleratormentoring. com.


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recently had the good fortune of meeting Chris Gardner, whose life story became famous following the release of the movie, “The Pursuit of Happyness”. He was presenting a very a passionate talk on the early years of his life and the many obstacles he had to overcome before finally getting the job he dreamed of and the money no one could ever imagine he could earn. While I listened to him share his story, I was absolutely drawn, like a powerful magnet, to one aspect of this man’s character. Although many factors contributed to his ultimate success, the one that stood out most for me was his undeniable commitment to a personal goal. He talked about his unwavering persistence toward achieving his goal, motivated by desperation and a need to have a life for his young son. If you saw the movie, you know how incredible creative he became in succeeding to get a job in a financial services firm. By the way, what makes Chris Gardner’s story even more compelling is that in real life, his son was only 11 months old, not the seven-year-old boy that was portrayed in the movie by Will Smith’s son, Jayden.

Personal application Then I thought of my company and how I might be able to take something from Chris’ inspiring story and apply it to what we do everyday to make it more effective and successful. While driving home from the meeting, two things came to me: 1. Make it a goal to pursue exceptional experiences for our clients.

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2. Insist that everyone in our company, from receptionist to technician, follow a set of non-negotiable standards to achieve these exceptional experiences for our clients.

It’s ‘non-negotiable’ We asked our staff and technicians to buy into some very important non-negotiable service standards that would touch our clients in a unique way. Some standards we already had in place. They just needed a different, fresher way of communicating them. For example, at our company, we offer a warranty with our carpet care services, as I’m sure many of you do. However, after some consideration, it became apparent that it was a rather bland statement: “If our service doesn’t meet your expectations, we will gladly re-service the area of concern at no additional charge.” We’ve been honoring this guarantee for years, and it is one of the reasons our clients stay with us, even when our prices are generally higher than others. Many of you reading this may offer a similar guarantee, although I’ve heard examples of those who try to squirm out of it by pointing fingers or make excuses, just to avoid the cost of sending their crew back to re-treat an area.

BUSINESS MANAGEMENT About six months ago we changed our guarantee to: “If for whatever reason you have an issue, any issue with our service, you will rave about how we take care of it.” It basically says the same thing, but in a much more creative and interesting way. Since last fall when we started to use the above wording, we’ve had some encouraging feedback from our prospects. One marketing company executive and prospective client commented: “Wow, what a neat way of telling me you will look after us. I feel like the care of our carpet will not be a source of stress for me when you put it like that.”

have identified three in our company. For the purposes of this article, I will focus on just one type of client experience cycle, a common cycle to most service industries: The “sales experience cycle.” There are six stages to the sales experience cycle. If you were to draw it, it would look like this:

Client experience cycle Another way we pursue exceptional client experiences is through the use of “client experience cycles”. Each company gives its clients “client experience cycles”, including yours. We

Analyzing each stage of the cycle Once we have defined each stage of the cycle, we begin an analysis of each stage. Since many of the telephone calls to our office are from residential prospects and clients, I will discuss the sales experience cycle for a residential customer. We first analyze the “defects” in each stage, then determine what our client experiential standards are. The last step is to consider how we can go “above and beyond” the standards we have in place. For example, the first stage of the cycle is: “Answering the phone”. We identified a number of real and possible service defects in this stage, such as: • The receptionist not giving her name to the prospect when answering the phone. • Not consistently answering with a pleasant voice. (Concluded on next page)

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BUSINESS MANAGEMENT (Continued from prior page)

• Not consistently asking needs of the prospect. • Not saying “Please” and “Thank you”. • Over promising (unreasonable expectations). We then looked at the experiential standards that are real or possible whenever we answer the phone. These included: • Giving our name when we answer phone. • Answering the phone on three rings. • Come back on phone within 30 seconds of putting client on hold. • Use clients’ names when we are speaking with them. The final step is to create a list called “Above and Beyond”. Our list included the following: • If it’s raining, provide umbrellas for our clients or guests who come to our office. • Give them a free spotting bottle. • If some stains don’t come out on an area rug we cleaned, provide a “We tried”

Make the pursuit of excellence an ongoing objective in your company. card with an explanation of what the stain is and why it may not have responded. • Provide a guaranteed wait time for cleaning their area rugs. • If a client is bringing an area rug to our office, e-mail them a map to our office. Once we have exhausted this stage, we move to the next one until all stages have been analyzed. This process can take some time so make it fun by providing refreshments and engaging all relative staff in the process. Once it’s done, you will have the infrastructure for a dynamic customer driven company.

The next step From this process, we created non-negotiable customer service policies that we insist

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Fill a need Residential and commercial consumers are busy. When they find a company that provides exceptional service, they will remain loyal to them. You can be that service provider in your area, and be known for providing exceptional service. Provide the type of service experience that will have your clients raving about your company to their friends and business colleagues. By making it your goal, to pursue exceptional customer experiences for your clients, I guarantee you will find that your bottom line will explode from the growth of loyal clients beating a path to your door. — R. L.

are followed by each member of our staff. Non-negotiable means “no-negotiation.” Period. With this policy, we know as management that we will come as close as we can to ensuring that clients or prospects that come to our office will expect the same standard of service each and every time they call or visit us. Make the pursuit of service excellence an ongoing objective in your company. Periodically test your policies to see if they are meeting the standards of your clients. Once annually, we seek feedback on how we are doing from our clients through an online service called SurveyMonkey. com. They send out a survey to our clients via e-mail. To encourage responses, we commit a $5 donation to a local children’s charity for each response we receive, making it a winwin situation. It works. We note a 30 percent response from our clients, which is much higher than average responses for industry surveys. CM

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