What are some of the things a business owner, regardless of the size of his business, can do to cross over that threshold from doing it well to doing it great--choreographed, so to speak?
One of the things you can do is you can model other successful business owners. Whenever you experience something that makes you say, "Oh, wow," think about how you can apply that to your own business. What would make the experience more pleasurable, more meaningful to your customer? Look at Nordstrom. Another thing you want to do--and Danny Meyer the restaurateur is very big on this--you want to give customers experiences and do things for them that they can talk about.
Danny Meyer told the story in his book about a couple who came in for dinner for their anniversary, and all of a sudden they remembered they put some champagne in the freezer before they left. They asked the sommelier if he thought it was going to explode. He said, "Well, yeah, it is going to explode." And they said, "We've got to go back." [The restaurant employees] said, "No. We'll tell you what. You give us the keys and we will go over there and we will take it out for you." Not only did they go over and take it out for them, but they brought the couple chocolates and a gift and a card and the whole thing. Now that is a story that those people are going to tell everyone they know, forever. So you definitely want to create stories.
What are the aspects of the customer experience that a business owner or a salesperson adheres to without fail in the early days of business that are neglected over time and maybe forgotten completely?
I think that most people, when they first open up a business, they're very much attuned to wanting to give good customer service. That's one of the things people genuinely want to do to be known for and they're very sincere when they first start the business. But then things start to pop up. For instance, I got a story very recently from someone who told me that he was at this restaurant and he wanted to have whatever his drink was, to have half mango juice and half strawberry--just the for the sake of argument. They told him that they couldn't do that. He asked them why. They said, "Because that would throw off our count." In other words, they measure how many drinks they can get from a bottle of mango juice or strawberry juice, and if they gave him half it would throw off their count. Now what's more important?
Someone else was telling me they went to this ice cream place and they wanted one scoop of this and one scoop of that. They were told they weren't allowed to make it like that because they weren't allowed to use the same scoop in a row for different flavors of ice cream. My first question is, what happens if person A comes in and orders mint chip and then person B comes in and orders chocolate? What the hell difference does it make? Apparently they had a rule that you couldn't. It was nonsense. It was keeping them from giving customers what they wanted. I guess the moral of the story is a lot of businesses set up systems that supposedly make it easier for them or help them keep track of whatever it is they want to keep track of, but a lot of times those systems are not customer friendly and keep people from doing business with you.
So it becomes about the system and not about the customer experience after a while.
One of the things that I really do want to point out--and I mention this in the book, too--is when it comes to the sales presentation, when it comes to how you talk to the customer about buying your thing, business owners really, really have to do it themselves for a while. Because it's one thing to sit down and write a script, "This is the way you should do it." But until you have actually tested it and seen how the customer responds [you have no idea if it works]. One of my perfect examples was, in the very beginning, when I booked a call and the man would choose the young lady and I would say, "OK. What's your name?" And we would lose the call. So I figured out to ask, "What name are you registered under? What name is your phone listed under?" It's the same question, but when you ask it that way, it makes all the difference in the world.
Seems like such a little change.
Words are triggers. So that's why I think it's very important for the [business owner to be involved]. No one can sell your thing better than you. Obviously that's not practical. You can't sell everybody, but what you really need to do is you need to do it yourself. You can't sit down and write out the sales pitch. You've got to see and feel the reaction, the response from the customer, and see what works best. It's so important.
What are some other examples?
You never want to call it a contract; you want to call it an agreement. You never want to say, "Give me your signature here." You want to say something like, "Why don't you endorse or OK this?" You know what I mean? You don't want to say, "Sign here." Ask, "Can we get your approval?" So there are all kinds of things like that. You've got to learn or figure out the trigger words that are going to make a customer involuntarily say, "Whoops, should I be doing this?"
Mike Werling, the managing editor of Sea Magazine, has written for Entrepreneur.com, Senior Market Advisor, Boomer Market Advisor and Broadmoor magazines.