On a scale of “cable service provider” to “concierge at a five-star hotel”, how good is your customer service?

More importantly, is it so good that new customers come to you by word of mouth… simply because they’ve heard how amazing you are?

If this is already happening to you – awesome! Today’s post isn’t for you.

But if your customer service doesn’t result in new business… don’t worry – it’s easy to fix!

Honestly, you’d be surprised how little it takes to get a customer from, “That was good, I guess”…

…to “That was amazing! I want to share this cool experience with everybody else.”

Let’s talk about three strategies – all from real-life visionary companies – that you can apply to your customer service to get even more customers, for free!

Stand out

1. Get free publicity by being remarkable

Who hasn’t heard of Zappos and their customer support? They are famous for helping with anything – from getting restaurant reservations, to singing you “Happy Birthday”, to ordering pizza.

On the surface, it seems like a terrible waste of labor hours. In reality, it’s a smart business strategy that has resulted in millions in revenue and thousands of additional customers for Zappos… with no marketing costs involved.

Now, you don’t have to put your customer service people at the beck-and-call of strangers. But just being polite and answering support requests on time isn’t enough anymore.

Good news is, if you find a way to overdeliver on customer service, and create a standout experience for your customer (even a tiny one, like this famous confirmation email), they will tell people about it. Which means free publicity for you!

2. The little things ARE the big things

When a customer buys something from you, you can’t really surprise them by shipping the order on time. That’s what they expect you to do anyway – you’re just doing your job!

But let’s say you throw in a chocolate bar with the order… now they will feel thankful, and they will remember you. Even if they don’t like chocolate, it’s the thought that counts.

Little things like that make a huge difference. Previously, your customers could switch to a competitor and barely notice, now they know that you’re different – because you care enough to do a little extra.

And that’s how you set yourself apart from a zillion other companies competing for their money.

Chocolates are just one example: it could just as easily be a thank-you note, or a little gift. For instance, CD Baby used to have a dedicated “Special requests” section in its order forms, where customers could ask for anything they wanted – like cinnamon gum, or even a live squid!

Again, it was a silly little thing that resulted in tons of word-of-mouth marketing! And whatever business you run, there’s always room for tiny customer service delights like these.

3. Sometimes it’s OK to bend the rules

Telling a customer that you can’t do something for them because it’s not in the terms of service may be correct… but it’s also unhelpful. The customer won’t care that you’re right – if you don’t help them, they will take their business elsewhere.

But hey, at least your competition will thank you!

Nordstrom is probably the poster child for going above and beyond terms of service. Their employees ironed shirts for people, refunded money for items that didn’t even come from their store, and did hundreds of other things that seem ridiculous on the surface…

…but actually generate more buzz, more customers, and more revenue.

Sometimes going an extra mile beyond your terms of service is exactly what you need to do. You could…

  • Send a custom shipment to somewhere you don’t normally deliver.
  • Make an exception on a refund.
  • Give the customer an extra value-added service, or an out-of-the-blue discount.

It’s tough to create standout customer service when “helping people” is literally in the job description. When expectations are high from the get-go, walking an extra mile is an excellent way to show to the customer that you care about them. Not the only way, but certainly one of the best.

Remember – customer service is a vital part of your marketing. It gives you a direct line to people who literally hold the fate of your business in their hands. They could decide they don’t like you and leave you for the competition. They could decide that you’re OK and stick with you. Or they could decide that they love you and help you grow with referrals and by word-of-mouth.

We hope that this post helps you get more customers who love you, and bring new business to your door in 2016. Enjoy!