Speaking of the Ultimate Customer Benefit

By Barry Maher

Even the best of companies with the best of intentions occasionally fail to deliver for a customer. Here’s how one of my clients dealt with a corporate screw up. It’s a strategy that can work with your internal customers as well as external ones.

The scenario began with a customer complaint:

“After what happened last time, Linda. I’m amazed you can even show your face around here, much less ask for more business. Nothing personal, you understand. But your company just didn’t deliver.”

“Tim, we both that know that last time our execution just wasn’t what it should be. Not that it was intentional . . .”

“I’m not saying it was intentional.”

“Actually, intentional or not, it really doesn’t matter, does it? We messed up. Only the results matter. And let’s face it, our people dropped the ball.”

“So how can I know they won’t do it again?”

“Actually, you can’t.”

“Excuse me?”

“To be honest, Tim, with the merger and the kind of growth we’re going through, until we can get all our new people properly trained, I can’t promise somebody won’t screw something up again.”

“That’s encouraging.”

“But here’s what I can promise you. I’m going to oversee the entire project personally—every single step of the way. I mean every single step, hands-on, down to the smallest detail. And I don’t think I have to remind you of how successful my track record is. And why I can guarantee we’re going to bring in a top quality job, on time and below budget.”

Sometimes the solution to a customer problem is simply to ask yourself what you can bring to the table so you yourself become the difference between a negative and a positive situation: between a deal the customer can’t buy into and one that he or she can.

Obviously, one of the best ways to do this is through massive customer service: devoting time and effort to making certain that the experience of doing business with you and your company is everything the company claims it is in its advertising and marketing—and more.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve purchased any number of products and services because I was convinced that the person that I was dealing with actually cared about my satisfaction and would be there for me if I had a problem.

Or maybe you can become a resource for your customers, a font of knowledge they can rely on: product knowledge, industry knowledge, even just business knowledge in general.

If a meeting planner calls to ask about hiring me as a speaker and we don’t think I’m right for her particular function, we’ll recommend a speaker who will be right. If we don’t know of one, we’ll do our best to find one. We’ll spend whatever time is necessary to answer the meeting planner’s questions about hiring and working with speakers. We’ll let her know that she can call us at any time if she has additional questions and concerns. Down the road, when she needs a session on something I do: on leadership for example or management or communications or sales—or when someone asks her to recommend that type of speaker—who do you think often gets the call?

Part of what your customers are buying—often a big part—is you. Make yourself the ultimate value-added feature and you can be the final benefit that lifts your products and services above the competition: and makes the situation one you can brag about—negatives and all.

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