Alternative Styles of Customer Care
We have reached great heights in our customer care practices. Award nights and star ratings tell the story of a sector experiencing success. For most businesses, striving to excel with an outstanding customer experience is still very much a way of increasing business.
Other businesses, however, seem to have decided that providing attentive, thoughtful service for their customers has become so expected that it no longer makes them stand out above the competition.
Enter alternative customer care.
Alternative customer care can be anything that goes against the grain of what we understand and expect from customer care professionals.
Here we’d like to explore some examples of companies doing the customer care side of business a tad differently, and with success.
The Singled Out Special Treatment
One way to make your company stand out and make an impact is to do something extraordinary for a customer.
In an article titled ‘Customer Appreciation Ideas’, Centricity say, ‘When one of your customers is celebrated, all of them feel it too, which means you could also do something extra special for one random customer. It could be completely over the top like paying off their medical bills or something fun like tickets to a sold-out sporting event.’
This one-off moment of customer care extravagance can have a long trajectory in terms of the positive image it will impose on your brand.
Here are a few examples of this style of customer service in three very different industries.
Sainsbury’s Customer-led Branding
Have you ever considered re-branding a product, home or development based on the remarks from one of your customers? What about a three-and-a-half-year-old customer?
When Lily Robinson wrote to Sainsbury’s to ask them why they called their bread Tiger Bread, when its colouring and pattern mean it actually looks more like a giraffe, she was surely not expecting a response.
And yet she got one. As the BBC reported:
‘Chris King from the Sainsbury's customer services team wrote back: "I think renaming tiger bread giraffe bread is a brilliant idea - it looks much more like the blotches on a giraffe than the stripes on a tiger, doesn't it?"
But he went on to explain how it had got its name: "It is called tiger bread because the first baker who made it a looong time ago thought it looked stripey like a tiger. Maybe they were a bit silly.".’
This news report was released in 2011, during the supermarket’s rebranding of their once named Tiger Bread, now to be called ‘Giraffe Bread’.
This thoughtful response, followed by a store-wide rebranding of a product based on a consumer’s comments is guaranteed not only to touch the hearts of those who read about it, but also to make a customer feel extremely special and valued. Lily Robinson is sure to be a Sainsbury’s customer for life, and will be telling her rebranding story long into her adult years.
‘Oh yes, I always shop at Sainsbury’s. When I was three…’
Also, even before the rebranding of the once-named Tiger Bread, the response to Lily Robinson’s letter was already trending on Twitter, which in itself works as a fantastic free marketing campaign for the supermarket.
A customer care team who responds to a letter written by a pre-schooler are going to be filling social media channels with heart and smiley face emojis, reinforcing the positive image in their brand.
For a homebuilder, the story of Lily Robinson and Chris King is food for thought. Children are often the silent customer in a house-purchase. They have the least amount of sway in the decisions being made and yet are often the most vulnerable to the disruption, especially if this means changing school or nursery and having to make new friends.
Making children feel special and part of the homebuying process would go a long way to demonstrate your level of care for your homebuyers, and will mean a lot to the child and their parents alike.
One idea might be to try engaging children in the moving process. This could mean supplying them with a cartoon flow chart of the buying stages, ready for them to colour in. This could then be something their parents refer to when explaining the changes that are happening.
Finding a thoughtful way to educate children on what is about to happen, will also make them feel more secure and excited about moving into one of your homes!
Bungie’s Bespoke Brilliance
Making or doing something special for someone who is unable to get out and do things for themselves goes a long way to demonstrating what a caring and thoughtful organisation yours is.
Back in 2013, as reported by the Daily Mail, when a nine-year-old boy was in hospital, awaiting liver transplant surgery in Seattle, USA, his father reached out to game maker Bungie’s non-profit division, The Bungie Foundation. His son was going to be in hospital for the release of their next Halo game and was upset not to be able to test it out.
In response to this communication, Bungie sent a ‘Get Well Soon’ card, signed by hand by the whole team at Bungie. Not only that, but they also created for the boy his very own bespoke Spartan helmet from his favourite game, Halo. And delivered it by hand a few days later.
This overwhelmingly kind response made all the difference to the hospital-bound child, his family and all those who knew him. The family were very public about this act of kindness and shared pictures of the card and the boy receiving and wearing his new helmet on their social media channels, where it was picked up by the international media.
Again, going the extra mile for one of your customers in this way does wonderful things for your reputation and news of this kind act travels far and wide.
Property developers meet a great number of people from various walks of life, each with their own goals and worries. Tailoring your customer care to go the extra mile for your homebuyers is a great way to build long-standing relationships and help them along their way.
Bewley Homes Home Giveaway
UK residents have been touched by the plight of Ukrainian nationals fleeing their country and many have tried to offer help with either money, food or clothing.
But one company’s act of kindness was different from those we hear of often.
Housebuilder Bewley Homes offered more than financial aid when they housed the Ukrainian Riabchuk family at their Watership Place development in Whitchurch last April.
Providing the family of three with a three-bedroom home meant that they could become a part of the community, find work and save money to send back to Ukraine for food and medical supplies.
By providing this home to the Riabchuk family rent free, Bewley Homes have helped them to support their country and with another 12-month tenancy agreement recently signed, this generosity looks set to continue helping them and their family in Ukraine for at least another year.
This single act has spoken volumes about who Bewley Homes is as a housebuilder, what they stand for and how far they will go to help those in need.
If your company is looking to make a big impact on someone’s life, maybe take a look at your local community. Do you think there is someone that could really benefit from your help? An individual you could do something for personally or a cause you could support?
These one-off acts of extraordinary kindness go a long way for your company, even aside from the brand benefits. Employees of a business that does good deeds will be proud to work there and sell your merits to others.
Service with a Snarl
In some cases, alternative customer care consists of avoiding the practices that we consider to be effective, such as polite, agreeable service that refrains from insulting its client. This intentionally ‘bad’ service has arguably been around for an extremely long time.
Comedians make a good example. They want an audience. Need them, in fact. Without a fan base their career would die a sudden death. And yet many comedians will intentionally treat their audience badly.
There is a certain silent agreement between a comedian and his audience, especially those buying seats for the front row. They are putting themselves in a vulnerable position, open to ridicule and torment. They might well become the ‘butt’ of many of the evening’s jokes.
But these tickets sell. Those front row seats are lined with viewers happy to become the running joke of the evening.
And this agreeable mistreatment is not confined to the likes of comedy. In fact, it has made its claim in the food industry, and has been flourishing there for some years.
The BBC explains that, ‘The demand for explicitly obnoxious service can be found in the United States, where the custom of tipping has made have-a-nice-day culture otherwise ubiquitous.
The bar chain Dick's Last Resort, whose USP is its "outrageous, surly" bartenders, boasts branches in 15 cities.’
Built on the success of chains like Dick's Last Resort, Karen’s Diner was founded in 2021, and uses the strapline: ‘Great Burgers and Very Rude Service’.
Karen’s Diner makes no pretence of providing traditional customer care. Instead, Karen’s Diner describes itself as, ‘an interactive diner and an absurdly fun experience. At Karen’s you will be greeted and waited upon by rude waiters and forced to play a variety of games.’
Again, the intentionally ‘bad’ service is counteracted by the promise of good food. To book a table at Karen’s Diner you are acknowledging your willingness to enter an environment where you will not be treated kindly by staff, will be ‘forced’ to play games and yet, you are promised a great evening:
‘You can expect good food, good fun and a dining experience like you've never had before. Let us know if it's your birthday, if your name is Karen and for the love of Karen don't ask to speak to the manager....’
It is important that this style of customer care be outlined to guests prior to visiting the restaurant. Open communication about what to expect from the waiting staff in these establishments is the key to their success in entertaining rather than insulting their clients, much like the audience of the comedian. And it is important that the ‘bad’ service be understood as intentional and meant to entertain, after all, Forbes revealed from a study on customer service, that the number one reason for clients leaving a business was rudeness.
That being said, we're not sure we'd endorse this approach for housebuilders if you want to keep those HbF ratings high!
So, whether purposely ‘bad’ or overly kind, there are alternative styles of customer care out there which are doing wonders for the companies using them.
For any enhancement on traditional customer care in the housebuilding industry, we can help. With over 25 years creating market-leading handover solutions with customer care at the forefront of everything we do, we offer something for everyone, suiting all tastes and budgets. To find out more, get in touch here – don’t worry, our customer care always comes with a smile!