Companies know through research and personal experience that good customer service is the secret to retaining and attracting new customers. Yet many companies don’t do it well, as Richard Shapiro, a client retention expert, says in his new book The Welcomer Edge: Unlocking the Secrets to Repeat Business.
They haven’t identified those employees — whom he calls “welcomers” — who are especially adept at engaging with customers so they buy over and over again.
Welcomers are essential to bricks-and-mortar retailers and to providing online customer service where it can be more difficult to provide that personal touch.
Secrets to Repeat Business
Shapiro shares his own experience as a teenager in his father’s haberdashery store. His father had the gift of being interested in customers as people. As Shapiro says in his book, “What I learned then is…customers are people first and customers second.” The Welcomer Edge describes how to make first time customers into repeat customers.
Shapiro describes four different types of employees:
• Welcomers are associates who draw new customers to a business and keep them. Welcomers can create a relationship that lasts a lifetime.
• Robots are staff who just go through the motions in their customer interactions and do not understand the need to make a personal connection.
• Indifferent employees overtly communicate that they really do not care whether you are a customer or not. They almost never say “hello” and certainly do not say “thank you” and may even walk away just when you need assistance.
• Hostiles are people who do not want to be at their jobs and make it abundantly obvious.
He points out that a welcomer is not the official company greeter that many retailers station near the door. Rather, a welcomer is the person who handles your actual transaction whether you visit, call, or email an inquiry to an organization.
Shapiro writes, “Welcomers are a special class of service and sales associates that innately make customers feel important, appreciated and valued. Welcomers establish an emotional connection with your customers. They make customers want to do business with your business again.”
Valuing Good Customer Service
In his book, Shapiro gives many examples of both good and bad customer service, such as the pottery shop owner who didn’t even look up when Shapiro entered his store.
Or Fay, the front desk employee at a Dallas hotel who always smiled and recognized him even with long gaps between visits. He even began to refer to the hotel as “Fay’s Hotel” because she was so friendly. He had no inclination to stay at another hotel.
Call centers are particularly notorious for their slipshod service (who hasn’t been enraged by those long menu options). Shapiro gives examples of how call center operators can be a company’s most important welcomers by simply asking how they can help and saying they’re happy you called.
Online customer service
Shapiro reminds you that a computer is a robot but a customer is not. When customers purchase products online for the first time from a new company, they don’t know who is behind that electronic curtain. Making a customer feel welcomed, important and appreciated is equally important, if not more so, when the transaction is electronic.
He skewers companies who send emails commanding that you DON’T REPLY TO THIS EMAIL without offering a way to contact the company, like the time he tried to cancel a subscription service.
I’ve written about my own experiences as a customer with Bloomingdale’s, Home Depot and Samsung — the good, the bad and the ugly. I didn’t know it at the time, but the employee who was so caring in the gift department at Bloomingdale’s was a welcomer.
Now I’ll know when I walk into a store or shopping online whether I should stay or leave. And it won’t take me much time to decide now that I know to look for the welcomers.
Do you have any horror stories — or stories about good customer service — that you’d like to share? And if customer service is your business, you might want to pick up a copy of Richard Shapiro’s book.