Service Quality Institute

The Power of Word of Mouth
By John Tschohl

Give ‘em Something to Talk About. Just having a satisfied customer and giving them service that is simply good enough will not get anyone talking.  You've got to go above and beyond the call of duty if you want your customers to talk about you.

Word of mouth is instrumental in driving your company's success.  Verbal buzz about your business or product passed from one reliable person to the next is still the most cost-effective way to build a loyal following, expand your business, and reach new customers.  How does it start?  Give them an amazing customer experience and encourage your customers to think of themselves as partners in your business.  Like I've said before, the organization chart at your business should show the customer at the top.

How your customers feel about you and what they are prepared to tell others about you can influence your revenues and profits.  According to a Nielsen Report, there's exciting growth in consumer attitudes toward word-of-mouth recommendations.  The study found that fully 92% of consumers around the world now say they trust word-of-mouth or recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.

The power is yours! When you have a service that people feel enthusiastic about, they spread the word about their customer experience.  This holds true especially for Metro Bank.  They are a retail bank operating in the United Kingdom founded by Vernon Hill, with the aim of creating a revolution in British banking through WOW customer service.  They started July 29, 2010 with 4 stores and 60 employees.  They now have over 359,000 accounts, $4.8 billion in assets, 1,500 employees and 27 stores.  They spend no money on advertising.  They depend 100 percent on Word of Mouth.

Metro Bank pioneered industry-changing conveniences. "Our Customers are empowered to bank however it is most convenient for them" states Mr. Hill.  Metro Bank differentiates themselves from other financial institutions by offering premiere conveniences, products and services:

  • Open 7 Days
  • Open Early, Open Late
  • Totally Free Checking
  • Instant-Issue Visa(R) Debit Card
  • FREE Customer Coin Counting
  • 24/7 Live Customer Service
  • FREE Online Banking and Bill Pay

In his book "Fans not Customers", Mr. Hill writes that your competitive edge comes down to "service".  The better it is the more likely your customers are to become fans and promoters of the enterprise—and to create yet more fans.

Hill notes that Fans are customers who embrace your model and culture, become part of your community, and convert their friends to new customers of your brand.  He says, "we want evangelists for our brand.  We want brand ambassadors who spread the word about us, people who are passionate about us as a company because we've exceeded their expectations at every contact and opportunity.  Every person who works for our company passionately believes in not just doing an okay job, but doing the best possible job they can and creating the best customer experience they can." 

Hill received the Institute of Economic Affairs' Free Enterprise Award in April 2013. They cited him as "a remarkable entrepreneur who has identified a clear opportunity". Previous winners include Margaret Thatcher and Sir Richard Branson.

Put customers first.  An organization that puts their customers first empowers everyone who comes in contact with them.  Empowerment is a crucial concept in business.  Empowerment means giving employees the authority to make fast decisions on the spot.  It means bending and breaking rules to take care of a client to their satisfaction, not just the organization's. 

In my book, Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service, I wrote, "An organization must know its customers' level of expectations for these reasons: Do less than customers expect and service is bad.  Do exactly what customers expect and service is good.  But do more than customers anticipate, and service is perceived as superior."

Being fearlessly committed, like Vernon Hill at Metro Bank, will get people talking about you and telling their friends and family about their amazing experience.  Every person in your company and every customer you greet will spread the word about your company.  The same as they have done for Disney, Starbucks, Amazon, GE, and… Metro Bank.

Word of mouth is a powerful tool!  Put your customers first and deliver above and beyond what was promised.  Surprise customers with your awesomeness and they will spread the word. 

 

John Tschohl, the internationally recognized service strategist, is founder and president of Service Quality Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Described by USA Today, Time, and Entrepreneur as a "customer service guru," has written several books   on customer service including his new program Handling Irate Customers and Difficult Situations. John's strategic newsletter is available online.

 

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