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What if the not-so-crowded “extra mile” of customer care was actually a state of mind?

Marketers CLAIM they are “exceeding expectations”… but customers are clearly expecting something entirely different and are more often than not surprised, but in a negative way. If so many companies are going “the extra mile”, how come over there there’s no traffic at all? What exactly IS this mythical “extra mile” of customer care?

All companies are working hard to give their customers exactly what they ask for: they answer them quickly, do it on a multi-channel basis as well as take extra care to add a nice and informal touch (“Hi, I’m Mildred! How is the weather in *location you are calling from*?”). They are flabbergasted when the customer who just got all this “awesome service” is only mildly satisfied.

“I’m giving them refunds, promotions, answers, information, content, discounts… I’m giving them everything they ask! What ELSE do they want?!”

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Problem is: there is a dramatic difference between what a customer is asking for (because he thinks he actually deserves it and therefore he takes it for granted) and what might actually surprise and delight him. 

If I buy a flawed product, I deserve and expect a refund: to get it is just to get basic customer care. But to get a refund, plus a gift card, plus a cute and personal “We are sorry, thank you for sticking with us!” card… wow, you totally got me and I’ll be yours forever and a day!

Customer care is all about adding value. But while we always focus on giving customers what they WANT, we pay little attention to what they really NEED and we care even less about what might actually make them HAPPY.

To give customers what they say they want is plain ol’ customer service.

To give customers what they really need is excellent customer service.

But going “the extra mile” means giving customers what makes them surprisingly happy.  

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The fabled extra mile lies there, in the invisible yet gigantic gap between what customers ask for and what they are surprised to receive. 

“So what is it? Is it a loyalty program? Is it a discount? is it a gift card? Is it a present? Is it the packaging?! What do I have to DO?” – Probably nothing: you just need a different attitude.

The most brilliant examples of excellent service are not about giving extra discounts or gifts or “your money back, guaranteed!”: they are about being an empathic human being that engages a fellow human being in a personal way. The extra mile every marketer rambles about is not the Yellow Bricks Road or the Holy Grail: it’s nothing physical and has got nothing to do with gifts or “internal policies”.

In customer care, “going the extra mile” is a mindset: it simply means to take the time and effort to IMAGINE a special way, tailor-made for a very special client.  The extra mile is a different place for every customer you get in touch with. 

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What can actually make the day of that angry person who just called to complain? What can win his heart over, again? It might be a refund. Or a gift. Or both. But it might even be a simple and sincere apology.

Nobody will ask you to go the extra mile, nobody will define it for you: it’s a place you’ll have to discover with every new contact, every single day.

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