Gone are the days when customer service is a boring chore, a necessary evil, an unglamorous afterthought. Today’s customer service has the potential to be nothing short of thrilling. By forging smart partnerships, companies of all sizes can create unexpected benefits and transform customer service from an afterthought into a highlight.
1. Offer a Tantalizing “Extra”
Who knows how many people chose to stay at the Ritz Carlton rather than at another luxury hotel because of an added thrill: complimentary use of a new, late-model Mercedes during their stay? Mercedes and Ritz Carlton forged a smart partnership and became the top-of-mind choice with their brand of (upscale) customers, and so can you—regardless of the kind or size of your business.
Such an approach enables prospective customers to actually use your product when the competition isn’t in sight or on their mind. For example, Holiday Inn Express partnered with Kohler to introduce Kohler’s SimplySmart, their new multi-function shower head and spa bath. Holiday Inn was able to give guests an “upgrade”—the opportunity to experience it as an indulgence.
Here’s another example of offering customer-attracting experiences via complementary partnerships. Holiday Inn collaborated with the children’s TV show Nickelodeon to co-create Nickelodeon Family Suites, offering a water park, arcade and other family-friendly attractions.
2. Serve a Certain Segment Better Than the Competition
Applebee’s attracted more customers—including many first-time visitors—to their family restaurants one summer, without advertising more. When Weight Watchers designed and branded several low-cal menu items for Applebee’s, followers of their Weight Watchers’ diet program (and those who were thinking of losing weight) had a new reason to eat at Applebee’s. The restaurant’s customers got introduced to a new program—Weight Watchers—by a restaurant they already knew and liked.
3. Offer an Unexpected Service That Shows You Understand Your Customers
Instead of “just” offering a loaner car like the one you are getting serviced a British Volvo dealership also offered bikes, from its partnering business, as loaners. The dealership and the bike shop enjoyed three benefits—deepening the loyalty of their eco-minded customers, getting introduced to each other’s customers, and attracting worldwide media coverage. How well do you know your customers? Well enough so you can reach more of them with an unlikely ally that also serves them?
Hint: Ask your customers to name three other businesses they also use and trust. What company names crop up most frequently? How can you partner to attract more customers, repeat business, fervent referrals and media coverage with a “first-ever” partnership?