Monday Mornings with Madison



As technology continues to evolve, populations increase, and the world becomes a busier, more hectic place (which is to say it already is), it will also become more challenging to deliver excellent customer service. Why? Simply, today’s fast pace encourages businesses to lose their personal contact with customers. Mobile devices have made it possible to ‘shop around’ without interacting with a single person. E-commerce allows customers to consume without connection. The bigger the business, the less personal contact there is likely to be.

Ask yourself: How many times last year did you purchase a service or product without having any personal contact with a single person at that business? No greeting. No smile. No conversation except perhaps ‘how will you be paying for this?” No thanks. Probably too many to count. On the other hand, when was the last time you walked into a store, restaurant or business that you frequent often (weekly or even daily) and had an employee know you by name? Probably few or perhaps not at all. The worst part is that this has come to represent the norm, not the exception. However, companies truly serious about servicing customers seem to understand that when it comes to business, you need to get personal.

Take for instance Publix, the grocery store chain based in Lakeland, Florida. In 2010, Publix ranked #86 on Forbes’ list of the top 100 companies to work for in America. With 1023 stores in five Southern states, Publix hangs its hat on providing great customer service. They insist that their Bag Boys ask every customer if they need help taking their groceries to their car. However, most recently, Publix launched an ad campaign that drove home their focus on ‘getting personal.’ Their commercial shows a Bakery employee decorating a cake for Becky for her sixteenth birthday while remembering how she decorated Becky’s cake for her sixth birthday. Then it shows another employee filling up a box of doughnuts for Bill, who brings a box to work every Wednesday for years. You get the picture. The Publix employee’s not only knew how to do their jobs, but also knew personally the names of the people they were serving and knew about their lives.

Another case in point. Revco Drug Stores, a chain of over 2500 drug stores which eventually was acquired by CVS Pharmacy in 2007, had boiled customer service to three behaviors that encouraged employees to connect with their customers. First, employees were to greet customers every time they enter the store. Second, every time a salesperson saw a customer searching for a product, the employee had to ask the customer if they needed assistance. Last but not least, every employee had to make eye contact with a customer every time they spoke to them. Although these three steps don’t seem very complicated or difficult, that was the point. Revco wanted to keep it simple… steps every employee could deliver.  Managers trained and coached employees on implementing the program. Mystery shoppers reported that employees were demonstrating the three-step program about 90% of the time. The result? The number of customer service complaints dropped while the number of comments from satisfied customers went up.

Forming deep connections between employees and customers can help your company reach new levels of success. Rather than resist, fear, or doubt the power of getting personal, find ways to connect with customers. One easy way to get personal with customers is through social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or a Blog. Here are some tips to get started (if you haven’t already).

1. Be selective.
For businesses, there is no need for every employee to join every media outlet there is, and then ask the same people to connect, friend, or follow the company on each. Join the ones that make sense for your business.

2. Be active.
If you set up a Blog, update is two to four times a month, at least. On Twitter, tweet something daily. News. Changes. Questions for discussion. Keep the communication going.

3. Be useful.
Offer advice. Answer discussion questions. Share your expertise. Give of yourself.

4. Be outwardly-focused.
Company blogs, email and tweets should be outwardly focused, to connect with customers and their needs. It is not a place to vent, rant or brag.

Find ways to connect with customers on a personal level and let those personal relationships take your business to the next level. After all, “it’s not personal, it’s business.”

All this technology for connection and what we really only know more about is how anonymous we are in the grand scheme of things. Heather Donahue

© 2011 – 2012, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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