At a time of prodigious digital transformation, old-fashioned customer service seems to be on the brink of taking a backseat to efficiency. Data mining, machine learning, and artificial intelligence continue to advance at exponential rates as business executives watch in awe. And, while data insights are certainly making a difference, could the ideal of providing satisfying, feel-good customer interactions be fading?
People remember how you make them feel—one reason this quote credited to Maya Angelou is cited so frequently. That’s why when businesses invest in more personalized experiences for their customers, that is money well spent. It’s easier to keep the customer you already have than to find new ones.
To keep the glow alive, businesses might need to ask some questions:
- What can my brand do to make ordinary consumers feel extraordinary?
- How can my business get better at rolling out the red carpet for everyday customer transactions?
After all, the business that makes its customer feel like a VIP will always win.
What Is a VIP Exactly?
According to Collins Dictionary, the acronym VIP stands for a Very Important Person. By definition, it means “preferential or special treatment given to famous or rich people.” In Hollywood, such treatment might include champagne receptions, complimentary meals, or hotel upgrades. It might also encompass moving the person to the head of the line or getting them inside the back door at a special event.
When taken in a wider context, the preferential attention of VIP treatment doesn’t need to be restricted to just the A-listers. One experience many of us can relate to is the experience of spending time with a beloved friend or family member. Someone who makes you feel special. They go out of their way to prepare a favorite dish or find you a thoughtful gift, even on days when you’re not celebrating a birthday.
VIPs and How They are Treated
How we determine VIPs and how we treat them says a lot about who we are and where we live. People must be recognized. Those who put their lives on the line deserve to get preferential treatment and upgraded experiences. A striking example is that of the military. Warriors should get VIP status, whether on reserve status, active duty, or retired. Honoring the military on just one day in a calendar year just isn’t enough, and many businesses, brands, governments and state agencies actively look for ways to give soldiers a five-star service. Before and after Veteran’s Day, it’s possible to see special deals and freebies extended in recognition of their role in defending our freedoms and preserving our rights.
Similarly, brands look for ways to show appreciation for their customers. They are the lifeblood of your brand. Their patronage keeps your doors open and lights on. Your customers deserve the best products and services you can provide. It’s one thing to talk about all this, but how does a business implement next-level care for customers in a practical way?
Be Our GUEST
GUEST is also an acronym that the hospitality industry uses to help employees honor their customers. Each of the letters helps associates deliver consistent customer care.
Greet – Greet guests as they walk in the door.
Understand – Train staff to understand what different customers are looking for. This might include demographic trends to help suggest video titles.
Educate – Educate associates on the value of information over the hard sell.
Satisfy – Ensure that associates have what they need to satisfy the needs of the customer.
Thank – At the end of any transaction, each consumer should be thanked for their patronage.
This simple memory device helps focus their efforts on developing a uniform and pleasant experience.
Customer Service, Satisfaction, and Experience
Customer experience is a powerful differentiator for all brands. It is built upon the foundation of service and satisfaction. How does the industry define these terms?
Service: The focus is on the way a consumer is treated as they interact with a business and its brand, products, and services. The support process is ongoing, whether at a brick-and-mortar store, on a website, or across an omnichannel landscape.
Satisfaction: The focus here is on measuring the outcome of service efforts. Businesses provide a method for the customer to respond to service efforts by giving feedback. Is the shopper truly satisfied? This applies whether it’s a face-to-face or online interaction.
- Were expectations met in every possible way?
- Was the customer happy after the transaction or exchange took place?
- Did the customer leave (the building or the experience) feeling satisfied or disappointed?
Experience: This concept is more about the end-to-end journey rather than one segment of the interaction. In other words, navigating through a store or a website, interacting with representatives, and the product or service itself. Was the outcome better than expected? Was it a pleasant experience or a pain in the backside?
People want to feel accepted, acknowledged, understood, and welcome as they walk through their product and service experiences with a brand. This is one reason why a customer might be willing to pay more for certain products by certain brands, a telling phenomenon that unveils the essence of how they interpret quality.
Quality isn’t simply about products, though they are certainly important. The biggest difference between brands is the generosity, knowledge, and warmth of their employees. People are the ones who serve, satisfy, and underpin the success of the brand experience.
Moving from Past to Present
Translating these techniques into practice isn’t that complicated when you think about it. The GUEST acronym guidelines can apply to recent technology, including apps, social media platforms, and other channels, such as SMS messaging. Connecting with your customers in ways that are natural to them are vital to building strong, healthy relationships.
Did you know that the second most visited place on a website (besides your product page) is the About Us page? People want to know the stories behind the businesses with which they transact. They’re seeking information about who you are as a brand and what makes up your history. These are the kinds of things that help make customers feel comfortable and connected.
Resonating with customers in a way that lets them know they are appreciated benefits everyone. When customers are acknowledged, helped, and treated with care, we treat them preferentially. Nowadays, a customer might perceive this care through something like a discount, a coupon, or early access to a sale price. Maybe it’s about acknowledging a birthday, anniversary, or another special event. It comes back to the basics of going above and beyond to let them know they are appreciated.
Concentrating on the Person and Not the Problem Might Reap Unusual Rewards
Customer expectations are high in restaurants and the hospitality industry in general. Dissatisfaction may be perceived on an emotional rather than rational scale. This is when customer service training and people skills shine. When staff members understand their limitations and the scope of their empowerment, they can manage acute situations and leave their customers with a good impression.
TABLE #1 – Ever made restaurant reservations only to wait at the bar for an open table? Stuff happens. However, there are times these diners are given VIP treatment in the way of free drinks and a complimentary appetizer for their patience. It’s a small price to pay for restaurateurs looking to keep their preferred clientele in the lap of luxury.
TABLE #2 – When picky eaters are voicing their negative opinions about the food during a dining rush, other customers will often overhear these complaints. While patrons may complain for a myriad of reasons, it is the unoffended, polite wait staff addressing problems and quickly smoothing over the situation that leaves onlookers at ease. These types of situations require patience, a polite and positive attitude, and instruction from management.
People Skills That Help Manage Acute Situations
In customer care solutions, how certain situations are handled is crucial in almost every industry. These are the specific skills underlying this concept:
- Listening and Hearing: In most cases, it’s better to listen to the entire experience or event before making any comments or suggestions. As always, it depends on the circumstances, but patience usually helps to de-escalate problematic situations.
- Focus on the Problem: Even with the most unruly or rude customers, efforts made to concentrate or focus on the problem and steer clear of any anger or confusion can make the situation feel like less of a threat. Get the person to state the exact problem.
- Solution: Sometimes it helps to ask the person what they believe is a fair solution to the matter at hand. There are always possible negotiations that can take place, hopefully leading to a happy ending for all parties involved.
- Resolution: Eventually, a resolution to the problem or issue will present itself, whether it seems fair or not to either party involved.
Keeping Eyes (and Ears) on the Prize
Some say any resolution is in the eye of the beholder, but there’s usually more than meets the eye here. Think about it this way: in the restaurant examples stated above, there is more going on beyond the table where there was a problem or issue. More than likely, other diners nearby watched and listened to the interaction.
This concept is easily transferable to a more modern context, given the frequent interactions between customers and businesses on social media platforms. It’s almost inevitable that friends, family members, and even strangers will encounter one of these problems or issues using social media. Often, these types of interactions occur publicly. A customer service professional will quickly move such conversations to a more private platform. Potentially embarrassing interactions are best handled privately. Smart businesses show preferential treatment to customers by resolving issues efficiently and positively, always seeking to leave the customer satisfied.
VIP Treatment Is Worth The Investment
Learn successful customer-care strategies we have developed on our blog. Millennial Services partners with healthcare, finance, insurance, retail, and travel industry operations by providing turnkey inbound customer care teams. Contact us today for more information on how we can help grow your business.