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The hottest trend in customer service? Old fashioned values

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You’ve got to love the world of customer research – the only thing you can guarantee is that things are always changing. Just when consumers thought it was safe to start spending their hard-earned readies, another financial storm reaches our shores. Black Monday and the state of the Chinese economy had us all suddenly interested in overseas stock markets – or any stock market at all, if most of us are being honest. But in the midst of the Shanghai storm came a good news story, at least from where I’m sitting.

My hero for the week is Howard Schultz, chief exec of our old friends at Starbucks. On Monday he told his staff to recognise how stressed their customers could be thanks to the stock market’s turbulence and to ‘be a little nicer’ to them. I love that man! Great customer service doesn’t have to cost a penny – and what great publicity for his organisation!

Now admittedly, few of us have acquired the global reach of Starbucks – even my TMP memos have yet to make it to our national press – but in our technology-driven world, it just goes to show that old fashioned values are still a fantastic company asset. It had me looking around for other examples of manners making their mark on today’s businesses.

Sew helpful.

Charles Tyrwhitt is a shirt makers founded by Nick Wheeler over 25 years ago. Surviving in business for over a quarter of a century is reason enough to celebrate, but for Nick and his team, success was about more than survival – and he’s seen his business grow 25% year-on-year for all of those 25 years. Really. If it didn’t make for bad copy I’d want to type that again just in case you think your eyes are deceiving you, but it’s true. Incredible.

Thanks to the work of Wheeler and company, Charles Tyrwhitt is now an international business with a £160m-turnover. The secret to his success? According to Nick, it’s none other than old-fashioned values, with customer service at the heart of the business. What’s that? Treating customers as your most important asset? Now where have I heard that before?

Wheeler explains: “You think of internet businesses as remote and online but the phone is still so important. Customers don’t want to go through long, tortuous email processes, they still want to pick up the phone and talk to someone immediately.” Human connection – it’s the difference between making people feel like they’re a free man instead of a number. One thing all customers want is to feel that for the time they’re interacting with your business’s touchpoints, they’re the most important person in your world. Give them your undivided attention.

Now don’t go thinking that old fashioned values can’t fit in with our modern world. Think live chat. Forrester Research surveyed online customers and found that 44% said that having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a web site can offer – and Vladimír Šandera, cofounder at Smartsupp.com goes further. He estimates that live chat can increase conversions by 150%. How does live chat work best? It should be timely, informative and consistent – just like all the best conversations.

Cashing in on customer service.

It’s not just specialist firms like Charles Tyrwhitt that are reaping the rewards of old fashioned values. In 2013, nearly twenty years after their sale to Lloyds, the Trustees Savings Bank (TSB to you and me) once again started to operate as a separate business. Their unique selling point? TSB positioned itself as a simple bank with old fashioned values that included a philanthropic aim to help local communities.

Is it working? Well over the course of just a few months, the number of customers rating the service they received from TSB as ‘great’ rose from a measly 37% to a much more respectable 52% – while the number rating them as ‘poor’ fell from twenty to 12% And in last year’s Which? Survey, TSB beat most big banks with a consumer satisfaction rating of 65%.

TSB’s redemption has been so complete that the Telegraph Money team named it as one of three banks to watch in 2015. Why? Because last summer this old-new kid on the block opened one in every 10 new current accounts – well ahead of the bank’s long-term target.

With a refocus on customers, TSB’s classic plus account pays one of the highest interest rates on the market – an obvious draw to consumers. It’s also scrapped all of its 0845 numbers so customers aren’t charged a high rate when calling the bank, extended opening hours in branches and introduced an automated service so people can let the bank know when they are planning on using their card abroad. Simple enough steps, but they make the world of difference to stressed out customers – Chinese financial meltdown or not.

Here at The Monachie Project, we see businesses through the eyes of their customers – every touchpoint, every interaction. It means that we can quickly identify the small changes that will make a big difference to your organisation. We take the guess work out of finding your unique market position so that you can get on with giving your customers exactly what they want. Interested in our consumer research consultancy? Get in touch and let’s find out how customers really see your business. Don’t be afraid – our manners are impeccable

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