I have been putting a lot of thought into the meaning of “good customer service.” If a company says they give good customer service, I don’t think that means anything anymore. Everyone says that. By the way, you are supposed to give good customer service. It should be a baseline, minimum expectation.
Let’s stop saying that. That’s like a restaurant owner saying, “We have good food”. Or a car company saying, “We make good cars”. You better do more that give acceptable service. It’s time to make an impression. It’s time to be memorable.
For me as an insurance agent, service is the only thing that separates me from the other 100’s of agents out there. If I walked outside my office right now with a 4 iron, and a bag of golf balls, I could probably hit 5 other insurance offices (if I really caught the last one on the screws and I had a stiff breeze behind me I could hit that American Family agent around the corner). I used to tell clients, all insurance companies can offer the same products, that offer the same coverage (for the most part), and pricing is going to be what it’s going to be. The only thing that I, the agency owner, can control is the experience my customers get. I am trying to flex my customer service muscles and create something better.
Small business owners are engaged in a battle with convenience. Why would I go to Best Buy to buy a blue ray when I could order it from my couch with my ipad and have it in my home in 2 days from Amazon. Heck, why would I order it from Amazon when I can order it from ITunes and beam it to my TV in 43 seconds? A good friend of mine, Brett Labit, founder of Local Impact Zone, is refuting the old adage that we buy from who we know and trust. He says that’s a bunch of bull. You don’t know anyone at Amazon, or Geico, or Hautelook, or Wayfair, or any other online store.
What are we, as small business owners doing to give memorable service? Doing what is expected isn’t memorable. I used to think that was enough and think I have been falling a little short. Over the past few years, I have changed the way I hire my employees. I used to hire employees with little or no experienced that I could train on my own. I did this, because I couldn’t afford to bring in a ringer. I now hire professionals that come fully installed with industry knowledge and a proven track record of loyalty and sales experience.
When I learned early in my career, that one of the main reasons people left their insurance agent was because they wouldn’t call them back, I vowed to make sure I was never that agent. Is that really great service through? Calling a client back? No. That is expected. Is solving a problem for a client in a timely fashion exceptional service? Nope.
I have spent some time this year doing a full audit of my business to try and see what I can do to give memorable service. I know that there is no right or wrong answer and there will be some trial and error in this process. The products I offer are important to everyone and proper insurance is vital to the financial stability of every household. These products, while everyone has them, people may not understand how they work. They are complicated. I have spent the last year buidilng a library of resources to break down the complexity of them. I write about tips and FAQ’s in this blog. I podcast on them. I do short videos about them. I share this information with all of my clients so that they are smarter than other clients. I want them to know that they are with someone who is an expert in this field and they are with someone who can assist them through any hard times.
I think we have become numb to poor service. There seems to be a human element missing in this area. We wait on hold for 15 minutes at a time. The default answer to many of our requests is, “no”, instead of someone genuinely trying to help and do the right thing. I think I am a little more in tune with it now because I run my own business. I hate getting crappy service and I will say something to a manager about it when it happens now. I would want to know if I had an employee giving poor service.
Here are a few things we are implementing in my business. We started calling every client on their birthday to wish them a happy birthday. I was actually skeptical about this at first, but now that we have started, we won’t ever stop. I have had some people say that our birthday call, is the only call they got all day. We started calling everyone in our book to personally thank them for their business. That is the sole reason for that call.
I ordered 100’s of cards to send out for any occasion. I am going to go old school and send out hand written thank you’s and sympathy cards at every opportunity I have. What is that you say? You bought a new car? Awesome! Have your first car wash on me with a hand written note. We call on every claim that is filed, big or small.
I am having a newsletter written up so that my clients get something other than a bill, and a policy in the mail. It will be loaded with tips and good solid advice from someone who has been doing this for over 11 years. It will tell the story of my agency so my clients can know a little bit about me and the history of my business. Don’t scoff at old school newsletters. Did you know the average number of emails you get in a day is 147, and the number of pieces of actual mail you get every day is less than 4?!
I am toying around with the idea of having a full blown complementary snack/drink menu for you when you come in. So instead of, “Can I get you a cup of crappy coffee in a cheap foam cup with powdered creamer”, you will get to choose off a menu of soft drinks, candy, chips, ice cream bars in the summer, etc. I want people who came in to pay a bill or change a car to leave with a smile and maybe a slightly deeper connection with me and my business.
I don’t think most of these ideas are hard to do, or will be difficult to implement. It is just a matter of want. How bad do I want to do these things? I want to stand out. I want to be remembered as a good business owner who was available, knowledgable and who gave memorable service. I will never stop learning and working hard in my business to accomplish those things. It’s all I can control.