Delight the customer when you pick up the phone

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Your customers will call you when they want to talk, so you should publish your phone number. It may sound counter-intuitive, but customers actually want to talk to you. Catching the customer at the moment when they really want to talk to you gives you the opportunity to delight them.

Delighting the customer doesn’t always mean giving the customer everything they want. Delighting the customer means listening to their needs, acknowledging a problem if there is a problem, suggesting a solution (or solutions) and gaining agreement, and doing all of that ideally without being asked to do so.

In the best-case scenario, you’ll delight the customer because you deliver more than they expected. You exceed customer expectations when you put yourself in their shoes and imagine what it would be like to have their problem, and then think about how you yourself would like to have that problem solved for you. And then actually take action to make it better for them.

The first step to delight customers is to be available when they call. The literal “call” may not actually happen through the phone – it may instead happen when they email you, or Tweet at you, or post a message on your Facebook page. If you’re not available on those channels, make sure the customer knows how to contact you.

When the customer does contact you, listen and act in a way that feels like how you want to be treated. And if you don’t know what will make it right for the customer and fail to delight them, ask them. (I know, it sounds simple, but just the act of asking, “what could we have done differently to make this better” is a step toward fixing the problem).

Finally, keep all of those customer contacts in one place. If the customer calls you back, there’s nothing more annoying for them than to have to repeat their story to someone new in the hopes of getting a different response. If you have lots of ways to be contacted (the ones the customer prefers) and track all of those contacts in one place, your team will be happier and your customers will be happier. Start by delighting the customer when they call.

You don’t need a business plan yet: 7 ideas for Customer Development

You’re thinking of starting a business? Hooray! Cool idea, and good luck. There are a few things that you can do to get started, and the first ought to be something counter-intuitive: don’t build your business plan. Yet.

The first thing you’ll need to do before you decide to really go for it is to figure out who your customers are and to learn more about what they need.

Then, try out your ideas on them.

Prepare a Pitch

What would someone like to know about your business in a very short piece of information? When someone says “What is ….” if you can respond with [my widget or service] is … and make it short, compelling, and interesting then you’ve gained their interest in having a larger conversation. Here are a few tips.

Go Practice

If you think your pitch is good right now and you’ve never delivered it before, you’re probably wrong. A great way to find the holes in your customer pitch is to tell about 40 people about your idea. You can use friends, family, or a coffee shop to get going. A particularly good place to do this is at an industry event or “speed networking” night.

Make a Survey Based on What You Learn

Now that you’ve tested your idea, make a survey (a short one will work better – people hate long surveys) and try to get answers to the 5-10 questions that will help you to move forward. There are great tools to help you to do this, including Google Docs, Wufoo and Survey Monkey. Get at least 30 people to answer your survey and you’ll be on your way to getting some actionable data.

Build an “Up and Stumbling” Prototype

When you think you have a better idea of what to build, go ahead and build a prototype – it doesn’t need to work but it does need to share the essence of your idea quickly (if you’re a business person, code in index cards or code in Powerpoint. If you’re a dev, build in whatever language you like that’s fast.) Balsamiq is a cool tool for this purpose, giving you enough information to show what you want to do, but not limiting you by creating an enormous prototyping framework.

Talk to Customers and Get Their Best 1 Piece of Feedback

People love to talk about your idea when you get a chance to ask them what they think. Because that feedback doesn’t always cost them anything, they might not focus on the one thing that matters to them about your product or service. So ask customers for their best 1 piece of feedback, not every piece of feedback they have – this will challenge them to refine their advice and you’ll have a better shot and finding out what really engages or bothers them about your idea.

Now, think about your Business Plan

Once you define your customer, pitch your idea, learn and build a prototype, and get some feedback, you’ll be a lot further along in the information you’ll need to build your business plan. Steve Blank lists some great tools for startups that will help you in this effort.

3 Things You Can Do To Support Your Customers

What’s your brand on Twitter, or more broadly, what’s your brand online?

I delight customers (or at least, work to delight them) in my work life online, and I try to do the same thing whenever I encounter someone new or find an idea worth supporting.  It doesn’t take very long to offer your support, means a great deal to the other person, and provides a new networking contact (and most importantly, new ideas or possibilities).  With that in mind, here are 3 things you can do to support your customers online (even if you’re not selling a product):

Listen and Be Available

When people ask questions, they want to be heard and they want to know that someone’s listening.  So be the person who listens, whether it’s listening on a hash tag/subject that you care about, or simply acknowledging to your contacts and customers that you heard their question.  You can start by thanking them whenever they offer feedback, and you can always offer a friendly ear and a willingness to help.

Offer Help

Help is a bit of an amorphous term — it might mean something kind of monumental or it might be a throwaway gesture to you, and it might mean the world to your customer or contact.  Offer what you can, and be genuine.  You can follow the simple rule of “tell ’em what you’re gonna tell em; tell ’em; tell’em what you told ’em” and improve the perception of your company (or of the way that you respond personally) simply by following through.  Adding value on top of simply following through and you become the embodiment of great customer service.

If you don’t know, say so.

But if you don’t know, telling the customer that you don’t know isn’t going to kill you.  (Or even make them feel bad, usually.)  You can take great strides toward improving your relationship with the customer by telling them you don’t know how to solve their question or problem, and by telling them (and demonstrating with your actions) what you’re going to do next to find out.

What are some of your 3 things to help customers?

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