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The Human Touch

What is key to a great service? A chance meeting with an interestingly familiar Irish business figure gave Neil Devlin some answers on how to keep your clients returning, time and time again.

I met the nicest couple in a waiting room a few years ago. I knew the man from somewhere but couldn’t place him. I assumed that he was a friend of my parents, or I had met him through work. We had a delightful conversation about family, retirement and life in general. He had a warm and generous smile. He put both my son and me at ease as he saw that we were both apprehensive about going in for a scan. A father who had probably been there before, with his own child. Some people that we meet make a connection with us, and I felt better for the encounter.

A few days later, trying to work out who he was, I discovered that the man wasn’t a family friend at all, but none other than the now late Feargal Quinn. I suppose well-known people get that a lot when people think that they know them from somewhere. It was a measure of the man the way that he made us feel, but I got the impression that this was his way with everybody he met.

Further research led me to dig out a textbook he had written that was part of our business studies curriculum in secondary school. ‘Crowning the Customer’ was a book that struck a chord with me as a schoolboy, in its very straight forward and pragmatic approach to business. His main contention is that if you keep the customer happy and have their concerns at the heart of your strategy, they will keep coming back. It is something that shone through with his staff, as they were the living and breathing epitome of what Superquinn were trying to achieve. I will always remember the staff who packed my parents’ bags and brought them out to their car in the rain, all with a smile on their face. That was the Superquinn way.

Learning Lessons

We can all learn from this. These are the easy wins for those who work in retail, hospitality and furthermore in field marketing, promotions and events. We depend on the staff that we hire to represent us, as they are the last interface between the brand and the consumer. Its probably stating the obvious, but we need to strive to achieve excellence in how a product or service is presented. This comes through the recruitment of the right staff, motivating them correctly and making sure that they are trained and briefed effectively so that they can give the customer the most positive experience possible. This gives you the opportunity to sample the perfect serve of London Essence in Tesco, or provide that memorable sales pitch at the Volvo pop-up store that converts into a sales lead for your client. Again, this isn’t rocket science but its important that the chemistry between the staff member and the brand is just right.

Monitoring is also a vital point to ensure that your field team feel supported but also that they know that you have skin in the game too. No-one wants a moany Michael or a scorpy Simon representing their brand or indeed their agency! I’d go a step further to say that it’s important for all the client service team to get out there to live and breathe the event itself. This goes for everyone from account executive to managing director.

A Positive Experience

One of the most positive customer experiences I’ve had in recent times, was at a restaurant in Blanchardstown. My brother and his wife had a toddler with them, and as the main course came, the manager came over and took my nephew off for a wander to explore the restaurant, giving a welcome break to Mum and Dad, and a chance to enjoy the food. This didn’t cost the restaurant anything, but probably gained them 15 new customers as the story went pinging around the various WhatsApp groups.

So, before the Promo Robots take over (you can hire a Boris, Norris, Doris and Morris for all your event needs across the UK!) we can take a leaf out of the Superquinn book of Crowning the Customer. In a world where there is an ever-increasing push towards automation and taking people out of customer service, there are huge opportunities for the human touch to win over new consumers and customers for our clients.

Neil Devlin is director and owner at Mixtape Marketing.

First published in Irish Marketing Journal (IMJ July 2019)© to order back issues please call 016611660

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