How to Outsmart Your Competitors and Make Them Barf
Holding Hands (Gasp!) In Public
You see those couples. They walk the malls. Sit in restaurants and theaters. Even hang out at your favorite coffee shop. And the parking lot.
Not in the parking lot!!!
Yes, you know these couples. They are the avid hand holders. The finger claspers. The palm pressers. I’ll pause a moment so you can finish cringing.
Okay. I have a confession to make. I’m a member of one of those couples. Yes, I hold my girlfriend’s hand just about everywhere we go. It just fits so perfectly in my hand… okay, I’ll stop. I hear a couple of you starting to get nauseated, and Wayne has probably said, “Disgusting!” at least five times already.
The fact is, my girlfriend and I have no trouble showing that kind of affection in public. The sad thing is, other than the many amorous teenagers out there, we are one of a handful (ha! get it) of people above the age of 20 that actually hold hands. As a result, we get looked at strangely quite often. Looks that say, “You two are too old to be doing that.”
Now, there are a few people who say “Aww” and “That’s so cute.” For the most part, though, it’s what I have started calling the “Barf” faces that we get.
Mind you, there is no grotesquery added into our hand holding. We respect each other too much to do that. A little peck on the lips or a hand on the shoulder is sweet and cute (to us anyway), but I’m not going to present her in a way that makes her look trashy and she won’t do that to me either.
So What Does This Have To Do With Customer Service?
I bet you’re thinking: “There’s no way in this life that I’m going to start holding my customer’s hand.” While that would be very cute, I agree that you don’t have to literally hold your customer’s hand. Save the actual hand holding for your significant other.
No, holding hands in the business world is simply being there and letting your customer know that you are there. Here are some things that “hand holding” is:
It’s being there to let them know how your product/service works.
-Don’t make them have to figure out how that widget or service is going to work. If they are learning about it after they have bought it, it’s too late. They want to know why you are the best. Showing them how your product/service works before and after they buy it will do this. You could call this “walking” your clients by the hand.
My girlfriend can walk down streets and through stores all by herself. She appreciates it if I walk with her and sometimes guide her through a door or two, though. If you do this with your clients, they’ll appreciate you and be more apt to become a regular client of yours.
It’s answering their questions and doing so in a timely fashion.
-Don’t make them wait on you. 24 hours is probably too long, but responding within that period shows commitment. You might find that they have overly simple questions. Because you see the question as simple, you perceive the problem as small. To your customer, though, it is a huge dilemma.
My girlfriend loves it when I solve those “big” problems for her (i.e. loosening the pickle jar lid, killing that not-so-gigantic spider, etc.). It took nothing for me to do it, but she loved it. Because it was for her.
Make ’em Barf Tip 1: I don’t do those things with a “huff,” either. I do them with a smile because I’m doing them for my girlfriend and I love her (you can barf now). Do these “small” requests for your client with a happy face and mean it. They’ll know the difference. Trust me. I’m a marketing professional.
It’s sticking around after you’ve made the sale to make them feel comfortable and safe.
-Send your clients information about what your company is up to. Let them know when you’ve updated your service/product with a “special” deal. Every once in a while, send them a thank-you note, an unexpected customer satisfaction call, or a personalized email (nothing automated). Take them out to lunch.
-I’ve been dating my girlfriend for a while, but I still let her know that I care. And I still hold her hand. If you do the same, even when you’ve got them “locked” down, you’ll be at the top of their list for how they want to spend their capital.
It’s helping every customer feel comfortable and safe while they are in your space.
-Don’t let them feel like they are being pressured or sold to. Make them feel like a friend rather than a commodity. The atmosphere of your business, website, marketing tools, and customer service calls should be relaxing and welcoming.
-The last thing I want to do is make my girlfriend feel like she has to hold my hand. We do that naturally, and your conversations and interactions with your clients and potential customers should be equally natural.
Make ’em Barf Tip 2: Be yourself (as long as yourself is friendly and welcoming; if not, you may want to find somebody to do that for you.)
After reading those few descriptions you may be thinking a few things:
Some of that sounds difficult.
Do I really need to do that?
Why should I?
Random Whining Question.
If you think that some of the previous information was too much, chances are your competition agrees with you. Like I said about adults holding hands with each other, most people don’t hold their clients’ hands. Why not?
-Because it takes extra work and your desk is already too stacked with that.
-You probably have an automated marketing campaign, so why not let that do the work for you?
-You probably have a lot of clients past/present/future, so you don’t have time.
-Taking time with each customer (especially when you know they’ll buy) to go the extra mile seems crazy.
Lots of people say those things, and a lot of people aren’t advancing themselves in their market.
If you will take the few examples I gave earlier and apply them to your business, you will create a unique experience that most of your competition will not want to follow… at first. And by the time they do follow, they will be clear followers of what you already established (take a look at Microsoft’s latest products following Apple: pretty similar).
Why else should you do it?
Your Competition Will Hate You For It
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate my competition. There are some nice people who do what I do. I just want to out-do them, and I certainly couldn’t care less if they dislike me for that. Especially when it comes to customer service. If you’re worried about hurting anybody’s feelings in the business world, you’ve already put yourself out of business.
To go back to Microsoft vs. Apple, you may remember the Windows commercials where the “customers” claimed that the operating system on Windows was better than Mac and then came up with the slogan “I’m a PC.”
-The message was cool and sounded forward thinking. But it was mostly a jab at Mac and how it ran (smoothly). The idea was to say that Mac wasn’t as good as they portrayed themselves and the new Windows (which was riddled with errors and problems) was going to overcome it. More than that, people saying “I’m a PC” was Microsoft’s push to get people to commit to their brand. To stave off the bleeding that Apple’s great customer service and easy-to-use product was causing them. Those who stuck with Microsoft got one of the most confusing operating systems.
Your competition will poke fun at you and ridicule you at times for what you are doing (Mac even did it to Microsoft at one time). It won’t necessarily be a blatant or upfront attack, but they will try to point out your flaws and even use your “hand holding” techniques against you.
“They only do that because their product isn’t as good.”
Unless you are a major company who has major competition that will attack you, you probably won’t ever hear their accusations and cut downs; but rest assured that if you are taking their business (and you will by holding clients’ hands), they will come after you.
Interestingly, most people won’t be swayed by their attacks because most people don’t respond well to negative actions/statements. The ones who do will be clients who are staunchly devoted to your competition and won’t come to you anyway. But the ones in the middle – those people who have no “brand” they are sold to – they will be sold on you if your product is good and your service is solid.
Others Will “See” It
I’ve heard the old adage that you do something right and one person hears about it; but if you do something wrong, everybody hears about it. However, if you are doing things for your client openly and freely, people will actually see it, especially if you get outside of the office with your client.
Once other prospects see how you treat your clients, they’ll think to themselves, “Why am I not with those guys?” They’ll even spread the word. Remember, part of the reason your clients won’t spread your good name is subconscious: If your name gets out there too much, they’re afraid you won’t show them as much attention. And you don’t want to fall into that category, either.
Make ‘Em Barf Tip 3: Making sure that you have the right amount of clients so that you can still hold their hands is key. If you can’t do it for all of them, you are probably spreading yourself too thin.
Ok, I get it. So how do I do this “Hand Holding” thing?
I remember I worked at a shoe store for a short while. We sold Birkenstocks, which are a great shoe for people who need quality support for their feet and they are great for kicking around in or going to the office (sorry, I just channeled my inner shoe salesman).
My boss would tell us that the shoes we sold were what kept the business alive. They paid the bills and the salaries and the commissions and made it possible for us to keep ordering more shoes. However, the profit the business made off of those shoes was marginal.
It was the accessories – shoe cleaner, cork renewer, insoles, etc. – that put us in the black. It might sound silly, but if we could sell those products on top of the shoe, we would double the sale. The difference was the cost of those products for us was much less than the cost of the shoes. The sale of those products was almost all profit. Our boss offered us extra commission if we could sell those products regularly.
Between myself and another salesperson, we were head and shoulders above the rest. We often were neck-and-neck with each other in total sales. But I made more in commissions than she did because I got the customer to buy those extra products. She actually sold more shoes than I did, but she didn’t go the extra mile.
How I got most of my clients to buy those products was simply bringing up those products as they tried on the shoes. How the price of the shoes was unfortunately high (that’s right, I called out our own prices), and it was a shame that most people came back in with a messed-up sole because they didn’t get the cork renewal. Or they wanted those light-colored suede shoes, but they knew they’d get scuffed (hence the shoe cleaner). Or they heard that the cork was tough to get used to (hence the insoles that are tailored to fit into the contours of the cork and still give you the support of the sole while it adjusts to your feet). All of these were stated sympathetically to the customers’ concerns over paying so much for a shoe and their worry about taking care of it. I didn’t give them stats or have predesigned sales pitches. I just gently guided them, based on what they were looking for, to the extra products we offered (if they were a kitchen worker, the insole was a must until the shoe was broken in; if they were a hospital worker, our special polish would keep the shoes looking clean and new; if they just wanted something to bum around in, cork renewer and shoe cleaner were necessities). I even matched how I told them based on their personalities (but that comes later).
The main thing is, whether it’s shoes, refrigerators, groceries, a cleaning service, business management, or whatever – you have to make the person feel safe and secure if you want them to take the action you want. I assured my Birkenstock buyers that not only was that shoe going to help them with their arch support, but that also the extra products (our true desired action) were going to benefit them in the long run. And you need to gently and securely guide your customers to the initial and then desired action as well.
DONT MAKE-OUT WITH YOUR CLIENTS!
Finally, don’t make a spectacle of yourself. I have seen and heard plenty of commercials (mostly for cars and furniture stores) that make businesses look ridiculous and make me not want to set foot on those lots. Weird themes and over-the-top actions turn me off. Worse, when you go into one of those stores and feel that way, it’s just awful.
I had to get my phone replaced one evening, so I went to my local phone provider. They had loud music playing and a couple workers were playing go-go dancing at the door. It was kind of cute at first, but after about ten minutes in the store the loud music was a tad annoying. Worse, the employees were trying to get me to dance along with the music. “It’s a party; loosen up!” they yelled in my direction. I don’t consider going to the cell phone store a party. It’s a chore and often laboriously long. This time it was that, along with a lot of noise and extra annoying workers.
They just went too far and didn’t balance it with better service. The service was actually worse! I would have danced right along with them if they would have gotten my phone transferred in less than 30 minutes, but they didn’t. It was a spectacle masquerading as quality service. Far from “hand holding,” that was groping.
Get out there and start holding hands, even if it makes you barf.
You hold a customer’s hand by gently suggesting and guiding them to the preferred action you want them to take. This takes finesse and a certain personality type. You have to have a friendly personality and be relaxed and come across as relaxing with others. Make them feel secure and happy with the decision they make. It is going to be their decision; you just guide them there and make them feel safe with that decision. You do that with reassuring language and a calm demeanor. You don’t go over the top or try to use overtly high energy tactics to get them to do what you want. Remember, holding someone’s hand is a comforting and comfortable action. It should be the same way in the marketing world….particularly if you want to outsmart your competitors and make them barf.
Please deposit your barf bags in the nearest waste basket.
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