More About Brains Than Bucks

By Eleanor Haas

Customer service may well be the secret sauce to a sustainable competitive edge, and Andy Sernovitz gives great examples in his 12.26.13 newsletter “I Wish I’d Thought of That.” My three favorites are about e-commerce but the strategy and mindset behind them can be applied to any business.

1. Help them make room

IKEA knows that one of the biggest reasons people don’t buy new furniture is the hassle of getting rid of their old furniture. So the company offered to sell it for them. For their Second Hand campaign, IKEA featured their customers’ actual names, numbers, and old furniture in their ads. Then, they opened their Facebook page for other customers to sell their stuff online in a “virtual flea market” on Sundays.

The lesson: That’s doing much more than just making room for a new couch — it’s creating an amazing customer service story for everyone who sells something through IKEA.

2. Help them make a decision

It’s a pain to exchange a treadmill. So when you buy one, you want to make sure it’s exactly what you want. At Fitness in Motion in Austin, they don’t think the couple minutes you typically spend testing out a machine at other stores is enough to help you make a decision. So they tell potential customers to use their store like a gym: Come by whenever, do their normal workout, and find the machine that works for them before they buy it.

The lesson: This helps customers feel better about their purchase. But more importantly, it gives Fitness in Motion a chance to build relationships and trust with the customers coming in day after day.

3. Help give them peace of mind

If you’ve ever bought a prom dress (disclosure: I’ve bought zero), you know that showing up to prom with the same dress as someone else is a big fear. At some formal wear shops, they help girls avoid this high school nightmare by asking each customer which event they’re wearing the dress to and checking their database for repeats. That way, their customers can be much more confident about pulling the trigger and buying the dress.

The lesson: You already keep a lot of data about your customers for market research, product development, and ordering — why not use it to help them too?

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