Serving through the Lens of a Mentor

Serving-Through-the-Lens-of-a-Mentor-imageKitchen floors in the 1950’s and ‘60’s were largely linoleum. I remembered getting chored with cleaning those floors with a harsh abrasive like Ajax or Comet and then waxing them. My scrubbing days ended, however, when Armstrong came out with the innovative Solarian no-wax floor. My mother had to have the new product. But, there was a back story to this product I learned many years after it was introduced.

The product was initially a dismal failure! People were accustomed to cleaning their kitchen floors with an abrasive…just like my mother made me do. But, if you used an abrasive on Solarian no-wax flooring, the “sunny floor that shines” was no longer shiny. Customers were complaining and sales for the new product were falling. Armstrong had to find a solution.

The story goes they looked for ways they could remotely teach the customer. Typically, the installer took with them all the paperwork. So, they began putting a giant toll-free number on the floor covering with the instruction: “to remove this number, please call it.” When customers called, obviously concerned about a conspicuous number in the middle of their kitchen floor, they were told: “The number is easily removed with soap water. But, now that I have you on the phone, let me suggest a couple of ways to care for your new floor covering.” Sales soared, complaints plummeted and the product became one of Armstrong’s biggest success stories.

The eyes of the mentor see opportunities to add value through customer learning. It can range from FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions) to accompany a product to an “Ask Ed” (smart person) chat feature on a website. It can be examining the complaint trends to learn ways a front-line person can head off customer complaints by providing additional instruction at the point of contact. It can include having the contact center person end the call with the open-ended “What else can I help you learn more about?” instead of the close, “Is there anything else I can help you with?”

What can you do to help your customers get smarter? We live in a fast-paced time when customers are impatient to keep up and not get left behind. They value those organizations that help them grow through a clear and present eagerness to be their mentor.

P.S. For more ideas on providing remarkable service to your customers, you might enjoy reading a sample chapter from my new book, The 9 1/2 Principles of Innovative Service. 

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