That title sounds like a cheesy infomercial pitch. How can businesses forced to cut costs grow sales at the same time? I was skeptical when I heard about a new book by veteran consultants Chip Bell and John Patterson called "Take Their Breath Away". Ok.
Bell and Patterson specialize in customer loyalty, and they've worked with firms like Ritz-Carlton and USAA. They write that customer loyalty is now easier than ever to lose as the internet has become a powerful forum for reviews--beware the wrath of TripAdvisor. Angry customers are more likely to comment online than happy customers are. "The customer is not always right," the authors say, "but the customer is always the customer." The authors say to satisfy customers, you need to create a memorable experience. So I asked them to come up with some specific examples of creating that special experience without spending a lot. They gave me a dozen real life cases which I found pretty interesting.1. Enchant people who are important to your customer.
Miller Brothers, an upscale men's clothing store in Atlanta put a large colorful gumball machine on a table at the store entrance. Beside it was placed a large bowl of pennies. Guess where junior goes when daddy is trying on trousers? Guess which men's store is the buzz at cocktail parties? Sales are up for the store "with the gumball machine".
2. Don't be afraid to do things silly or funky. Today's customers are bored.
Hotel Monaco is a medium priced hotel and part of the Kimpton Group. While most hotel chains are struggling, Hotel Monaco is on the rise. Why? They seek to enchant their business traveling guests with quirky additions to a same-old same-old boring hotel stay. The bathrobe is not plain white, it is leopard skin. Guest can have a goldfish in their room (taken care of by the housekeeper). And, instead of the proverbial mint on the pillow at turn-down, guests find an unexpected treat (a foreign coin, a flower, a lottery ticket, a small bag of popcorn, or who knows).
3. The way to a customer's pocketbook is by way of their heart.
Nicholson-Hardie is a nursery & garden center in Dallas known as the "garden center with the cats." Why? Lounging on top of the large check-out you will find one of two calico cats. Beside them is a business card holder with their business cards: Frankie Cat and Sammie Cat. Their job title? The Rat Pack.
4. Surprise customers with something they do not expect.
A large brokerage company added a twist to their toll-free telephone cue: "Punch 6 if you'd like to hear a duck quack!" Word of the playful feature spread and soon millions of people were weekly calling to hear the duck. The company ultimately removed the unique feature because it overloaded their phone system and ran up a huge tab! But, by the time it was removed, new sales had jumped significantly. The company looked for similar unique ways to create a marketplace buzz.