World-class customer service is the best business development strategy of all-time.
When you exceed customers’ expectations, they will continue to buy from you, and they will tell their friends to buy from you as well. Renewals and referrals create a solid foundation for a profitable business.
When I worked for the NBA’s Washington Wizards, our sales department had no control over the quality of our product on the court (i.e. how good the team was). Therefore, we paid extra attention to the quality of our product off the court. In other words, we were obsessive about the customer experience. Our goal was to exceed our clients’ expectations so dramatically that they would keep working with us, regardless of how well the team played.
Perennial playoff teams like the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Lakers might be able to get away with mediocre customer service (not to say that they do). However, most pro sports teams and most businesses are not that lucky. If you don’t “wow” your customers, be prepared to be replaced by an organization that will.
One way we exceeded customer expectations in the NBA was through a strategy the league referred to as “slam-dunk moments.” In brief, a slam-dunk moment is a random action designed to show clients how much you care. Our goal was to slam-dunk our customers at least one time each season (in addition to providing world-class customer service throughout the year).
Here are 3 keys for creating a powerful slam-dunk moment for your customers:
1. Unexpected. While you will definitely deepen relationships with your clients by sending gifts or cards for birthdays and holidays, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle during these obvious gift-giving periods. If you really want to create raving fans, deliver slam-dunk moments when your customers least expect them. Your effort will be much more memorable.
2. Customized. While working in the NBA, we always surveyed our customers on how to improve the fan experience. When customers chose not to remain anonymous, their feedback was then passed on to their account manager. Then, the account manager’s goal was to address this feedback while servicing the account. One of our customers indicated in a survey that he was disappointed that our arena only served Coke and Sprite and that his favorite soda (root beer) was not available. So, the rep for this account bought a 6-pack of root beer and personally delivered it to his client at the next home game. How’s that for some customized customer service? Slam-dunk moments don’t have to cost you thousands of dollars. In fact, a lavish gift could actually backfire and make your client uncomfortable. The best slam dunk moments just serve as proof that you are listening to your clients and that you are committed to exceeding their wildest expectations.
3. Unconditional. While incentives for buying (or renewing) will definitely boost sales, customers typically recognize your motive behind these bonuses. On the other hand, true slam-dunk moments are delivered without any request for future business. They are merely a sign of appreciation for past business and for your personal relationship with the customer. While working in the NBA, one of my clients mentioned to me that he would be bringing his 7 year-old daughter to a home game the following week. At the game, I stopped by their seats to give her a stuffed animal of our team mascot. Through similar, unconditional actions over the next 2 years, his company ended up increasing their investment with our team by over 500%. It’s unlikely that was a coincidence.
The fundamental principle behind world-class customer service is to show your customers how much you care. This sounds basic and obvious, but it’s easy to take existing customers for granted, especially in a difficult economy when you need to be on the hunt for new business at all times. Create at least one slam-dunk moment each year for your current customers. World-class customer service is the best business development strategy there is.
Pete Leibman is the Author of “I Got My Dream Job and So Can You” (AMACOM, 2012) and the Creator of Dream Job TV. His career advice has been featured on Fox, CBS, and CNN, and he’s been invited to speak at some of the world’s best colleges, including Stanford University and Johns Hopkins University.