All I Know About Customer Service, I Learned as a Paper Boy
As a kid growing up in the less-than-opulent lumber towns of central Oregon, I understood early that I possessed a “customer service” mentality.
My first venture? Door-to-door sales; a publication called Grit – “Celebrating Rural America Since 1882”. I made a nickel for each sale. In my mind, though, I knew each customer had to be worth more to my pre-adolescent enterprise than five cents a week. I was a 52-pound business-man in my Toughskins and Keds – and I wanted more, for me and my customers.
Here, at a very young age, is where I learned that exceeding expectations through high-quality customer service – perhaps even with a less-than-extraordinary product – moves your company toward achieving even the loftiest goals. A culture of excellent service becomes your brand… and customers become your champions.
A culture of excellent service becomes your brand
From that experience, here are my customer service lessons learned:
Relationships are Royalty
Central to customer service is the art of building relationships. Customers, vendors and strategic partners all have a choice of who they work with – and they generally choose to do business with people they like (or at least who they respect). Offer a smile or anecdote. Ask how they’re doing. Engage in meaningful (read “non-work”) conversation. This interaction means a lot – in 1970, and now when we relate through Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook.
Central to customer service is the art of building relationships
Do What You Say You’re Going to Do
My first week, an elderly man paid me one month in advance. One condition: “I want the paper placed right… here,” he said, pointing to a specific spot on his porch. “With the last guy, I had to open the door all the way just to get my paper… I won’t tolerate that.” Happy for the dollar, I said, “Yes, Sir!” Two weeks later, however, I forgot my end of deal. The man, whose walking aid didn’t go down three inches to the porch without tremendous effort, fired me. Broken promise. Lost customer.
Never Throw Away an Opportunity to Hand Deliver
I learned quickly that a message or product delivered personally was good for business. In our digital world, of course, we know that hand delivery isn’t always possible. What a difference is made, however, when we hand-write a personal thank you note or go out of our way to smile. Or maybe offer to buy a customer or social media friend a cup of coffee when you’re in town. All good, personal ways to exceed expectations – and “hand deliver” your brand.
What a difference is made when we hand-write a personal thank you note
You Can Never Get Up Too Early (Metaphorically)
When I was selling Grit, my customers were always up early. So was I, partly because they respected me for getting up early to get my work done – and also because I wanted them to see me working hard. When do your customers do their best work? Or use your product the most? Do your customers see you?
Surprise Your Customers
It is amazing what happens when your customers are genuinely, pleasantly surprised by your brand. When I heard grandkids were visiting my customers, for example, I would tape pennies or Bazooka gum to the inside of the newspaper – creating a page-by-page treasure hunt for the children, and a pleasant distraction for my customers. In the scheme of things, not a huge deal – but a terrific way to extend the relationship, gain referrals, and create customers for life… for, literally, pennies.
Please take a moment to reflect on one 10-year-old’s advice – told some 40 years later. How would these “best practices” help your business? What impact would a “Paper Boy” culture have on your customers, employees and partners?
Want more? Read the next post in this series: 5 Changes Needed for Best-In-Class Customer Service
Art by augipa