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Refer the Customer to the Competition - Low ResConfidence is Key

The other day a potential client inquired about having me speak about customer service at his company’s annual meeting. Typically, one of the first questions a client will ask when they call about me speaking at their meeting is, “Are you available on this date?” That’s an easy one to answer. I was. However, once we started discussing his goals for the meeting, I realized that I was not the right fit for that particular meeting. I was happy to recommend one of my colleagues. The client was quite surprised that I would be so willing to turn business over to a competitor. While I will admit that I refer to my competition as “friendly competition,” even “colleagues,” it is still turning business away and referring someone else.

Why would I do this? Three reasons:

  1. The first is that it is the right thing to do. I wasn’t a good fit and it would be a mistake for me to accept the offer to speak. The success of the client’s event was at stake, and I wasn’t about to be the reason he didn’t meet his goals, especially when I was not the guy for the job.
  2. The second reason is that I have confidence. I’m confident that if I care more about the client’s success than that one booking, the client will eventually care enough to bring me in when it is a good fit. I’m confident he will remember who helped him with this meeting when he starts to plan for the next one.
  3. The third reason is simple. It’s just good customer service. I put the customer’s needs ahead of mine. That’s what the best customer-focused companies are most interested in; taking care of their customer’s needs is more important than making the sale. They realize that long-term, the customer will come back.
One of the best examples of this was shared by Jay Baer, the author of Youtility. In a recent presentation, he mentioned that Hilton, the hotel chain, monitors social media channels for opportunities to engage with their customers and guests. This particular interaction came over Twitter when a person tweeted out that he was looking for a good restaurant in his area.

Twitter Conversation

@LTHughston: Good places to eat near the Magnolia Hotel in Dallas for Saturday? @Hilton Suggests: Wild Salsa on Main or Campisi’s on Elm are awesome. Both within walking distance from your hotel in #Dallas. Enjoy! What makes this a great example is that the customer isn’t a guest of a Hilton, yet Hilton is still willing to take the time to respond and engage. The restaurants they suggested aren’t their own hotel restaurants, and who knows if that person will ever be a guest of a Hilton hotel? It doesn’t matter. It’s about creating goodwill and having the confidence to recommend the competition. Are you confident enough to recommend your competition? In the right situation, it is simply good customer service.

Shep Hyken is a customer service/CX expert, award-winning keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling author. Learn more about Shep’s customer service and customer experience keynote speeches and his customer service training workshops at Connect with Shep on LinkedIn.

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