Six Ways to Be Radically Personal
September 16, 2014
We’ve talked enough about abstractions like “radical personalization.” Let’s put the idea to work in the context of your daily business. How do you make every interaction personal, from the proposal to the account maintenance phase? Here are 6 tips on taking personal service to the next level:
1. Don’t network; change lives. Many of us have joined local business organizations, only to find a bunch of boring speakers and dead-end leads. Civic clubs have their merits, but they can also create impersonal cultures where everyone’s out to sell. For a truly personal experience that will lead to your best, most loyal clients, try reaching out through community involvement. You’ll meet other businesses, and maybe their property managers, who really want to make a difference. Those relationships, if a need exists, will yield meaningful business partnerships.
2. Don’t distance yourself. It’s important to sell your clients on the strength of the U.S. Lawns network, but ultimately they’re working with you. Property managers want a local relationship—so let them see you as a neighbor, a local professional just like them. Talk to them about the schools your kids attend; your church; your recreational baseball league. It’s never unprofessional to be friendly and polite, even as the owner of a business. That’s especially true when you’re backed by a company with impressive national resources, like U.S. Lawns.
3. Always ask, “How can I help?” A lot of sales programs talk about finding people’s “pain.” We think this is unnecessary if you follow our principle of being responsive. From the very beginning, ask a prospective the simple question, “Where do you need help?” Open up a two-way dialogue. Then, try your best to meet his/her needs with your proposal (if a new client) or service (for existing accounts). This is not about creating opportunities to sell or upsell. It’s just doing business the U.S. Lawns way: asking, listening, and responding in a timely manner. The relationships will grow more personal, and the sales will take care of themselves.
4. Practice empathy. Some of the best customer service experiences stem from bad situations. You can’t prevent every problem, but how you respond says a lot about your business, its quality and ethics. If a customer is unhappy, take time to listen. Put yourself in their shoes—even if their complaints have nothing to do with you! Empathy is the most important piece of radically personal service. Taking time to understand people’s frustration, offering an out-of-the-box solution, or just giving them a perk to improve their day, will let them know you care. We guarantee customers will remember how you helped, long after they’ve forgotten the problem.
5. Don’t leave an issue unsolved. This is one of the hardest things for service providers to grasp. No matter how difficult a customer’s predicament, keep working until it’s resolved. You may not have an answer, and it’s all too easy to shrug and tell your client, “I don’t know.” But that’s not radically personal service. If you truly care, you’ll track down an answer, or delegate the problem to someone who can help. Afterwards, follow up with the customer to make sure they’re satisfied and all issues are resolved. Remember: “I don’t know” is never the end of a transaction; it’s only the beginning.
6. Be open about money. Financial negotiation can sour any relationship, but remember to treat your customers like people, even though they’re paying you. That means alerting them up front to any extra costs that might not be included in the scope of work. It means never raising prices without sitting down with a customer and telling them why. And it also means being willing to flex if a special situation comes along. Obviously, you can’t play fast and loose with your contracts, payments, or anything that helps you earn a living. But just remember to keep the human factor involved, and treat others in the manner you’d like to be treated. Marketing experts have long known that consumers will actually spend more if they know the service is superior. So, don’t be surprised if a radically personal service model really pays off.