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Little Things Make or Break Service Success
By Bob Johnson


Next time you walk through a corporate building lobby, take a peek at the badges they give to outsiders. What does it say? Chances are VISITOR is pasted across the front of each badge in big, bold letters. Now ask yourself, what would you rather be, a visitor or a guest? What do you sense the difference is between them?

In the customer service business, it happens too often that we treat people like we would rather not have them around for very long. The terms we find ourselves using reflect the nature of the problem. We all can relate to taking care of a guest, assuring their comfort with personalized treatment. On the other hand the goal with a visitors is to have them get their job done, make sure they are tracked, escorted and managed. So why do we do this? We think about things from a delivery centric, here is what we do and what you get way rather than one than focuses on the need and benefit of what we offer.

Another example help see the problem. What term do you use to describe the people you do business with? If you're like many, the operative word is customer. Now think about it. What is the difference between being a customer and a client? Which would you rather be? The fact is we have transactions with customers while we seek to have relationships with clients. Something so simple as the terms we use may seem minor to some but in fact they are reflective of a pattern of viewing your target audience with indifference or an all-too-casual attitude.

How many times have you gone to visit a business acquaintance and seen the message board in the lobby. You know the one that has WELCOME at the top and often has people's names below. If you have ever had your name put up on such a board you probably remember the warm feeling it gave you and can recount where and when it occurred. Now think about the impression it leaves people when the board is blank as they arrive. "Guess I don't rate," may be the untold feeling. So why have the board if you are not going to make sure you leverage it? A little thing, yes, but the point is that the little things add up to significant impact on building loyalty.

How many times have you received an invitation to attend a tradeshow event or stop by a certain booth ... the week after the show is held? The damage that does to your reputation as the recipient chuckles tossing it into the wastebasket cannot be denied. Just because the service is provided free by tradeshow organizers does not mean marketing communications people should be oblivious to such folly.

Everyone in the service business is talking about wanting to build retention and long-term relationships. It may seem obvious but it is worth repeating. The big things, like quality, consistency, reliability and value, can build relationships. But the little thing can easily add up to kill them. Think about it for yourself. When you switched car dealers, was it one big problem at the service department that caused the switch, or was it a number of little things added to one final straw that broke the relationship?

So think about all the little things you do to the people you do business with? Not for them, but to them. Chances are you fall short of conveying the feelings you want others to sense. Ask yourself if everything you do follows-through on the promise you wish your service relationship to deliver? Chances are they miss opportunities in some ways to convey the image and perception that turns business opportunities into clients for life. Start to look at the little things. They can keep your relationships from evaporating before your eyes.

Bob Johnson is Vice President of Advisory Services at Information Technology Services Marketing Association,

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