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When you’re fortunate enough to stay at a true Five Star hotel or resort, why do you feel so well taken care of from the moment you arrive until the moment you check out?
There are multiple reasons. But one of them, which I’ve branded The Gold-Touch Customer Service Technique, is absolutely central. While the Gold-Touch Customer Service Technique is my proprietary name for this approach, the principle is a longstanding exclusive (and secret) approach used in the greatest hotels in the world. It’s a way to give every one of their guests a particular feeling of well-being in nearly every interaction they have with the hotel’s employees.
Gold-Touch customer service applies to nearly every industry and customer service context. Once you start “gold-touching” your customers, get ready for your reviews to go through the roofs, your customer loyalty to respond likewise, and your cash registers to start ringing like they’ve never done before.
Related: Understanding the 3 Tiers of Customer Service (and How to Get to the Top)
The two varieties of gold-touch customer service: The do-extra and the tell-extra
The gold-touch approach comes in two varieties. The first is the do-extra: giving customers more effort than they’ve asked for or could reasonably expect. The second is the tell-extra: providing a customer with unexpected, additional value by answering a question with particular thoroughness or connecting with a customer on a human, shared passion level.
If you want to transform your company’s relationship with customers, I encourage you to practice gold-touch customer service whenever you can create a do-extra or tell-extra opportunity. It’s a simple practice that can enrich customer interactions and elevate customers’ thinking of your business.
Related: 7 Essentials of Great Customer Service
Gold-Touch customer service examples in various industries and contexts
In the examples of gold-touch customer service that follow, you’ll notice they generally aren’t massive, splashy, scene-stealing gestures. Yet each one is more than enough to distinguish a company from its competition, brighten a customer’s day and put that customer one step closer to true brand loyalty.
- An auto dealership employee might pair a customer’s cellphone to their new car’s system before they drive off the lot, rather than allowing them to drive away only to get frustrated (and perhaps even into a fender bender) while trying to handle it themselves on the road.
- A hair salon employee could run out and feed the parking meter for an arriving client so they don’t have to fumble around trying to find change.
- A clothing salesperson at a department store could send Girl Scout cookies in the mail to a customer who has mentioned a weakness for them. My salesperson at Nordstrom, in fact, does this.
- A paralegal might respond to a first-time legal services client who asks about hours of operation with, “The building opens at seven.” (Here, they’ve answered the client’s question.) “And you’ll want to head to the last bank of elevators to access the higher floors, including ours.” (Here, they’ve added a valuable tell-extra.)
- Someone scheduling or confirming an appointment for a job applicant could volunteer, “Your interview is at 9 a.m.” (This answers the applicant’s question.) “And be sure to bring your driver’s license to get into the building — they can be sticklers for that downstairs.” (This provides a useful tell-extra that may head off later frustration.)
- A cashier at the checkout line could admire — sincerely — one of the articles a customer is purchasing.
- A company that sells a potentially confusing product could include helpful, very specific links or even a brief and highly personalized introductory tutorial video.
Related: 3 Strategies to Improve Your Customer Service Experience
Be gentle with your employees if their early gold-touch efforts go a little sideways
Be careful to avoid squashing the tender efforts of employees just learning the art of providing gold touches. Searching for opportunities and then delivering gold touches is a mindset, a behavior and eventually a habit. But as with anything creative and personal, it can be tricky to get exactly right.
Most commonly, when an employee starts, they’ll be too overbearing or too personal; alternatively, and not as commonly, they may be a little one-size-fits-all in their approach.
If employees start feeling defeated and begin tying themselves into knots with the fear that their gold-touch attempts won’t meet your high standards, then the habit is unlikely to take root and flourish. Everyone in leadership positions should take pains to applaud rather than criticize employees who go about their do-extras or tell-extras differently from how they imagine they would have handled it themselves.
Remember: whenever an employee is diverted from their regularly scheduled activities to provide gold-touch customer service that couldn’t be planned for in advance, it isn’t fair to give them grief about the regularly scheduled work they couldn’t accomplish during that time.
With a Gold Touch, it’s the thought that counts (at least to some extent)
Here’s another reason you shouldn’t fret if a gold touch isn’t perfectly designed and executed: There’s a significant element of “it’s the thought that counts, and that sure was thoughtful!” credit that customers would give a business for making a gold touch effort regardless of the grace or awkwardness with which it was executed.
In addition, providing a gold touch will telegraph to the customer that you’re up for handling other assistance they may need. In other words, the more you provide gold touch service, the more you become their provider, and the more closely the customer feels engaged and aligned with you.
Related: The Best Customer Service Companies Spend These 8 Minutes A Day Becoming Better Than the Rest of Us
Prompts to get you started in delivering gold-touch customer service
- Are there preferences your customer has exhibited in the past that you can fulﬁll now? (Bring them a Diet Coke while waiting if they asked for one last time.)
- Is there something you can add to what you’re selling that the customer would appreciate without breaking the bank for you (throwing in an extra blueberry mufﬁn when ordering a dozen)?
- Is there additional effort you can provide that the customer would appreciate (for example, walking them to their car while holding an umbrella for them on a rainy day)?
- Interests: hobbies, pets, kids, sports teams, etc.
- Something the customer might benefit from knowing (for example, “You’ll want to have a screwdriver bigger than X on hand before you start assembling your new purchase”) beyond the generic instructions the manufacturer includes with your product.
- Any time a customer neglects to ask for some information that you, in your professional judgment, think they would benefit from.
I can’t pretend — and neither should you — that gold touches take zero time. But I would argue that gold touches ultimately take less time than the hours of prospecting you’d otherwise need to replace customers who have drifted away from your company because you didn’t touch them in this loyalty-building way. The marketing value of gold-touched customers spreading the word to others about their delightful experience with your company is beyond measure.
This article was inspired by and adapted from the author’s upcoming book, Can Your Customer Service Do This?