Monday, February 16, 2009

Upgrade Your Best Customers To "First Class"

When it comes to how most Airlines treat customer service, there isn't very much there worth emulating. They are big, most of their customer service reps seem disenfranchised, and quite honestly, they are stuck in a rut where they don't feel they can meet customer expectations anyway. But there is one aspect of customer service they do very well - the way they take care of their "best customers".

Most people don't realize the lengths that Airlines go to take care of their best customers - because "most people" don't fly often enough to really capitalize on the perks. Sure they get "miles" on their trip to visit family or when they vacation to Cancun - but few fly often enough to gain access to the top rewards programs. Good or bad, those of us business travelers who spend hours and hours in airports flying from meeting to meeting, week in and week out, the perks that are offered by the big Airlines are very nice - and enough to drive customer loyalty, in a business that otherwise has none.

What is it that they do for their best customers? More than anything, they make them feel important - like they really care that they are flying on their airline. Something that doesn't come out so well in the rest of the flying experience.

Have you ever been upgraded to First Class - randomly pulled out of the crowd to see with the "elite"? For their best customers, First Class upgrades are common place - sometimes as often as 60-75% of the time (if they schedule their routes smartly). And "First Class" treatment goes well beyond the big seat. It is an entire attitude and way they treat their "elite" customers.

I know what you are thinking. This is great stuff, but your business isn't like the airline industry. You don't have the ability to offer anything like "First Class" to your customers. It would cost too much and disenfranchise your other customers. This could be true, but the same could be said for the Airline Industry as well.

Surveys show that most customers don't leave a business because they are dissatisfied with their experience. Instead, most (nearly 70%) leave because they don't feel the business cares about them and whether or not they ever come back. And it has been shown that one of the best ways to show how much you care is to offer more "perks" to your best customers - give them value above and beyond what they expected.

Frankly, in an industry where most "tickets" are purchased based on price alone, most Airlines have built-in a system where the travelers who fly the most, actually go out of their way to choose the same Airline again and again - often without even shopping around for other fares. I know I do.

One way to do this in your business is to start offering higher end service in your business model - something like first class. That could be faster delivery, same day service, special seating, or even "head of the line" privileges. Will some people pay for it? Absolutely - they always will. If you build a product and market it to the right target audience (those that have the need for the service), someone will always want the "best" service you offer. Once you have this high end service in place (and quite honestly making more money from it), you can start to offer that service as a perk for your best customers - let them get a taste of the "good life". And watch them find ways to patronize you. . . again and again. The key to the success of a process like this isn't just doing it covertly - silently upgrading customers. Shout it out! Make it part of your marketing programs! Make it something that customers can work towards earning as a loyal customer of yours.

So, stop and think about it. What could you do to make your best customers feel like they are your best customers? What could you do to make your average customers want to become "your best customer"? What "upgrades" could you put into place in your business, and then offer them as perks to your best customers? It doesn't take much, but if you can make your best customers know how much they mean to you, I promise, they will pay you back in so many ways - referrals, testimonials, and increased sales by themselves.

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