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Your Customer as Yourself

While my professional past includes many cool startup clients from long, long ago (remember MP3.com?) much of my early career was heavily focused on automotive clients. I had the distinct pleasure of working with Lexus on what became their “Customer as Your Guest” approach to customer service — during the sales process and beyond. The concept was simple: treat your customer as you would a guest in your home. Take care of them. Listen to them. Anticipate what they might need. Make them feel comfortable. Make them feel at home.

Aside from car quality, safety and performance features, this “Customer as Your Guest” philosophy truly set a standard in excellence in the auto industry. The experience of buying a car was elevated. The way you were treated was just as legendary as the car you were buying. JD Power surveys raved about this approach. Consumer Reports consumers were thrilled. Every other car manufacturer quickly jumped on the “we care about our customers” bandwagon and I spent the next several years working on similar programs for top luxury car brands. The level of customer care during the sales process and during service appointments was elevated in a way it never had been before. It led to more car sales, more repeat customers (the holy grail!) and customers so happy they told everyone they knew about it and referred even more business to the dealership that “really took care of us.”

This idea is not revolutionary. But companies who make it their business to be that gracious to customers are revolutionary, even in today’s all-transparent, a-customer-can-complain-publicly-about-you-at-any-time world. Why is truly great customer service still so awe-inspiring when I was working on those programs nearly 20 years ago? Because so many companies don’t care. And it appalls me.

I’ve recently had several brilliant and shockingly awful customer service experiences in a very compressed time frame. I’ve been turning these experiences over in my mind and I’d like to share each of them with you over the next few weeks. The net result of these experiences — in such stark contrast to each other — has made me revisit the Lexus ‘Customer as Your Guest” program and wonder if even that is not enough. I’m convinced we’d be treated better as customers — and that companies would have a much greater chance of thriving — if they treated every customer the way they would expect to be treated themselves.

Do you treat your clients the way you want to be treated as a client? Do you deliver the exact same kind of service you expect of others? We’re all human (and I have many deliverables owed to many gracious clients…off  I go…) and make mistakes, but I think there’s something here that’s worth exploring. Hence, the Customer as Yourself moniker and nascent series.

Too lofty an ideal for today’s customer service woes? I don’t think so. When I think of the brands, organizations (and frankly, people) I’m most loyal to, it’s in large part not because of their products but because of their service. It’s because they care about me. It’s because they care about Excellence.

I hope you’ll join me as I explore this in a series of posts over the next few weeks.

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