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Sell the Customer Service Experience, Not the Mechanics Behind It

The connection between customer service and marketing is undeniable. If you deliver good customer service, let people know as part of your marketing efforts. And you can expect an effortless marketing boost as well, as happy customers talk to their friends about their experience. Smart companies know the value of promising – and delivering – great customer service.

I recently read that Walmart will keep all of its cash registers open during the holiday shopping season. Obviously, this is so customers won’t have to wait in long lines, which apparently has been an issue in the past. I appreciate that they are doing so, and I’m sure many other people will as well.

I am a fan of Walmart, and I think it is on the right track with this plan, and I believe that customers will understand the reason behind keeping all the registers open. However, there is a valuable lesson here as it applies to customer service and marketing. Ultimately, the customers don’t care how many cash registers are open – they care about not having to stand in long lines. So why not focus on that fact? Sell me on the experience, not what goes into making the experience happen.

Not long ago, a major retailer opened a store in St. Louis, where I live. Many people were excited to visit this new “big box” store that promised a huge selection and low prices. Reviews after the opening, however, focused mainly on a problem: long checkout lines. The store responded and immediately started advertising a promise to keep the wait time to five minutes or less. When I visited the store, they were true to their word.

Customers care about the experience. An advertisement for a tropical vacation would not focus on how many seats are on the plane that takes you there. It’s about the experience – palm trees, sandy beaches and ocean waves.

Walmart may want to keep these things in mind in its plans to accommodate holiday shoppers and promise a short wait time – five minutes or whatever it thinks is reasonable – rather than advertising the number of registers that will be open. The method is still there behind the promise, and every checkout lane can be open. But what is important to customers is getting out quickly.

You may have heard the old adage “sell the sizzle, not the steak.” Marketing should promote benefits – the benefits of a product, or the benefits of doing business with your company. And customer service can be a major benefit. Just don’t put the focus on the details of how you make the benefit happen.

In other words, sell me on the experience, not the method behind the experience.
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