Tuesday, March 5, 2013

3 Simple Ways to Wow Your Customers

Working in the meetings and events industry, most of my job is spent dealing with people in a time crunch.

We’re often working with meeting planners or exhibitors on their most important and stressful project of the year. We hop into their workflow for a few weeks, or even just a few days, but our performance often determines the success or failure of their event.

So even though my company rents laptops, tablets and audiovisual equipment, my job is often in customer service. In my nine years doing this work I’ve learned a few crucial lessons in creating happy customers.

Here are 3 Tips For Memorable Customer Experiences

1. Turn Problems into Opportunities

There are no problems, there are only solutions. It’s a cliche, but it’s a great one to live by. Problems are your friend.

Here’s why. Offering a great product is one thing, doing your job is expected. But going above and beyond is memorable. That will will stick with someone when another company tries to pull them from you.

Whatever your industry, things will go wrong. Plan for it and frame those moments as your best opportunities.

Have you ever fallen in love with a restaurant that kept the kitchen open a little later for you? How about a garage where the mechanic hung around later so you could swing by after work?

That is great customer service.

There are few things that feel more satisfying than someone solving a problem for you. So, when a client needs something on short notice, don’t stick to your rigid schedule. See if you can make something work.

Event planners are dealing with crises and contractors who are dropping balls around them all day. I want to be the one coming through, making them walk away thinking about what I solved for them, not what the problem was.

2. Over-estimate What It Will Take

In many cases it’s not the crisis that sours relationships or stresses people as much as it is our lack of preparation for it.

People generally do a poor job of recognizing risks and potential setbacks. We plan for best-case scenarios, we anticipate smooth sailing, and we set aside the least possible time to complete a task.

When things go wrong, we stress and underperform because we now feel behind on the next job, the next task, or a personal commitment.

At Rentfusion, we do a huge event for doctors every year here in Las Vegas that requires 600 – 900 laptops. I apologize to my wife in advance of that show because I know I’ll be there from dusk till dawn, and I expect some late nights. She might not see me for a week, so it’s best to set that expectation for her and for me (not that either of us likes it).

By planning for extra time, we can focus on the customer, not our frustrations.

3. Do One More Thing Up Front

Formatting laptops for our clients with software before a
show makes for a much better user experience.
Formatting laptops for our clients with software before a
show makes for a much better user experience.

In so many cases, about 5 percent more work upfront will save you - or earn you - more revenue and time later on.

Take a Uhaul dealer. When you rent a truck, the dealer comes out to check how full the tank is, makes a guess at how full it is, and charges you for the difference if you haven’t filled it to the same level when you return.

This immediately opens the door for disagreement. You’re probably already stressed about moving, and now you have to haggle over just how full the tank is. Then when you come back, you try not to overfill the tank, or you forget and end up getting charged extra. You end up leaving  the parking lot with a bad taste in your mouth.

The dealer could head off this frustration by simply making it policy that all trucks have a full tank of gas when you pick them up.

In my case, I have to remember that many people are scared of technology. They want to turn on a tablet, laptop, or monitor and see it do exactly what they see in their own mind. When it doesn’t, frustration takes over.

If that happens I end up spending a lot more time fixing a problem I could have averted by taking a little extra time up front to make sure I completely understood the client’s needs.
Great customer service is all about solutions. Your client may scream bloody murder at you in the moment. But at the end of the show, after you’ve come through, they’ll be hugging you.

That’s memorable customer service.

John Dubielak Rentfusion
John Dubielak is the Vice President of Operations for Rentfusion, which offers AV rentals, computer rentals, and all manner of equipment for meeting planners, tradeshows, convention hosts, exhibitors and event planners nationwide. Follow Rentfusion on Twitter at @rentfusion and on Linkedin.