by Debra J. Schmidt

Most companies have a budget and a marketing plan but do not devote enough resources to ensuring the highest standards of customer service. Offering the best products in the world will not build customer loyalty. If your customers aren’t happy with the service they receive, they won’t purchase from you, they won’t come back and they’ll tell others to stop doing business with you. However, if you have a reasonable product and your customers are delighted with the service, they will keep returning to do business with you. Plus, they will tell others about your products and company. The majority of the sales process has already been completed when a prospective customer recommended by another customer calls your company.

Word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing tool. Customers who spread good news about your company, products and services are the best sales reps you can have. They are not employees and there is “nothing in it for them” to sell your products and services. So they’re perceived as having higher credibility than a paid sales representative. It is much easier to close the sale because trust has been established based solely on the recommendation of their friend or colleague.

It’s much easier to close the sale because trust has been established based solely on the recommendation of their friend or colleague. So, how do you turn your customers into sales reps for your company? It’s easy. Simply do the unexpected. Look for ways to surprise and delight each customer who does business with you. In other words, give your customers something to talk about.

Here are six ways to exceed customer expectations.

  1. Test your automated phone system to be sure it is easy for your customers to navigate and always offer them an option to talk to a live person.
  2. Don’t end any call until you have asked the customer, “Is there anything else I can do for you today?”
  3. Thank your customers every time they compliment you or your company.
  4. Ask new customers how they learned about your company and, if possible, send a hand-written “thank you” note to the person who referred them.
  5. Reward customers for their referrals that turn into business. Send a small gift to the customer who is singing your praises or referring new customers. Base the size of the gift upon the amount of revenue their business and referral generates. I’ve sent my clients fruit baskets, books, Starbucks® gift cards, flowers and chocolates.
  6. Follow up with your customers when they least expect it. Call five customers each week just to say “thank you” and tell them how much you appreciate their business. You can also use these conversations to ask for suggestions on how you or the company can do a better job of providing service. Be sure to listen carefully. They will give you great ideas.