When Great Customer Service Becomes Even Better Marketing
The Three R’s: Referrals, Recommendations, and Reviews. Each is gold in the self-service market. In those areas, finding ways to be remarkable enough to earn a shoutout is an art form. And I am an art lover. The fine folks at Crutchfield just wrote an exquisitely rendered new chapter in my book of “Great Customer Service” and I want to share my experience with you. They are a decidedly B2C company but, as you will see, their chapter has wisdom for all — especially for SaaS companies, where ongoing customer support is a vital part of your offering.
First, you need to know something about me: I am a consummate DIYer. It is in my DNA. If I can do it (and I have amassed the tools and knowledge to do more than I should) I will do it. I like the challenge. I like knowing how things work. So, when I decided that I wanted an Apple CarPlay-compatible stereo in my car, not for a second did I consider pulling into Best Buy and asking them to do what they do all day and could almost do in one-fourth the time it took me to muddle my way through. It didn’t matter.
After I snagged a Carplay unit from a friend who was selling his, all I needed was the right wiring harness and faceplate adapter (for you non-DIY folk that is the custom connector and faceplate needed to make sure the unit will fit and work properly with your car). I already knew that the go-to provider was Crutchfield. It had been years since I purchased from them but they are the category king so they were top of mind. I jumped on their site, followed the well-structured decision tree provided, found what I needed, and ordered it. Perfect. I was two days away from beginning my DIY adventure.
I received a notification that my package arrived on schedule so after work I jumped into installing it. Crutchfield knows everything about auto-audio, so the harness came complete with model-specific install instructions. After lots of instruction reading and cable stringing, I discovered that the kit didn’t come with an antenna connector. I assumed it would be included but nope. Surprised and little annoyed, I called Crutchfield and talked to Charles. Here is where their chapter on GREAT starts.
Charles was very apologetic and told me how he could see how I would have made the assumptions I did. He then looked up the needed cable in his system and told me, “We have the part in stock. It’s normally $14.99 but I’m going to send it out to you now, no charge. You will have it in two days.” I heard my email chime at that moment and behold, I had received an order confirmation. So far this was everything I could have asked for. About an hour later I received an email asking about my experience. I gave it a five-star rating and the second I hit “Excellent,” this showed up with the question, “What would you like to tell us about your experience?”
Note the mini-profile of Charles. It reinforced the fact that he is a human, complete with personality and interests. The real master class was down at the bottom where they gave me the opportunity to choose how they will reward Charles for his good work. This is REMARKABLE on so many levels. Charles is now not just a real person; he is a fellow human that I can now have an impact on. With the click of a button, I can buy him coffee, a tasty lunch, or a scha-weet Crutchfield gizmo. Since I hate coffee and I figure any Crutchfield employee is likely gizmo-laden, so I picked the lunch option.
I am glad I had this opportunity to cross paths with my music-loving friend Chaz and, strangely, I feel like a better human. Crutchfield’s demonstration of their values could not be more clear: They are rewarding their people for giving me a good experience, but they are also giving me a good experience as they reward their people. They are delighting me so much in the process that I am now telling you about it which means you are way more likely to do business with them than you ever were—you may even visit their website.
Here are some key takeaways that really translate for B2B technology companies:
Human Interaction is Valuable. Leverage It.
Human interaction is increasingly uncommon in transactions so, in our self-service world, bad sales or customer service experiences are exasperating. We are starved for the interaction — so when it is bad, it is EXTRA disappointing which can equal infuriating. Conversely, help someone in to a good experience and it is instantly remarkable! It is like taking a bite of pizza when you are really hungry. It’s the best food in the world in that moment. It doesn’t need to be the best pizza in the world, in that moment it is extremely satisfying. Ask yourself: “What does it mean to feed our starving customers a slice of pizza?”
Go The Extra Mile to Delight
(Then provide an easy avenue to talk about it publicly.) Charles was kind, considerate, and competent. Which was great. If I had to pay for the part I neglected to order I would have and accepted my oversight. When he gave me the part, I was delighted. They had me. They over-delivered and, in hindsight, they knew it. They also knew that when they sent me the survey there was a very good chance I would give them 5 stars. When I did, they were ready. BAM! Up came the window to comment and share my experience through social channels.
Actively Develop Relationships
When they offered me the chance to treat Charles to lunch, not only was I delighted, I was connected. I now had a tie with a real person at Crutchfield. Everything about the interaction invited me back. Much of this process was automated but it was mixed in points of poignant pathos so I really didn’t notice. If I do happen to talk to Charles again, you better believe I will ask him how lunch was. The broader takeaway: humanizing your team is essential. Whether it happens through profiles like the ones Crutchfield compiles or through your website’s Team or Culture pages, giving people insight into the actual humans who make things happen builds trust, affinity, and brand loyalty.
Remember: in the self-service economy, where buyers are educating themselves rather than reaching out to your salespeople, Referrals, Recommendations, and Reviews are incredibly powerful. By taking care of your current customers, you build an army of brand advocates and extend your reach.
Of course, I tweeted about it and of course, they tweeted back. And that is how great customer service becomes even better marketing.