Treat Your B2B Customers Like Vanderbilts

Yesterday I spoke about social media to a group of B2B companies who are licensees of the Biltmore brand (thoughts on that are forthcoming). The Biltmore Estate, located in Asheville NC, was built by George Vanderbilt as “country retreat where he could pursue his passion for art, literature, and horticulture.” Between my stay at the Inn at Biltmore and my tour of the Biltmore House, I was reminded of a level of customer service that most companies do not reach, or even consider.

Treat Each Customer as the Most Important
In a self-service world where we have gotten used to a lack of attention, frequently from people who are in the service business, it was refreshing to be repeatedly greeted by a smiling staff member that really did want to help. These were people happy in their jobs, who understood the importance of keeping guests happy. Next time you are on a call with a customer, don’t just ask them how everything is, but really mean it. Say it in a way that shows you really do want an answer. Don’t just ask if they need anything, but offer to help. Treat each and every customer as if they are your most important customer. One easy way to do this is to think about every customer as if they are the most important. And on some level, they really are.

Create Experiences that Prevent Customers from Seeing Other Companies
Customers are always have their eyes open for other vendors. The Biltmore Estate owns so much land that from any point on the property, everything you see it part of the estate. While it is not possible to isolate your customers from seeing other companies, one of the ways to truly distinguish your company and reduce the likelihood of them exploring your competitors is to provide a level of service that is unmatched. This means creating a high-level experience that removes any thoughts of competitors from their minds.

Service from Another Era
At the turn of the 20th Century, family members and guests at the Biltmore House were treated like royalty, and in fact, the wealthiest members of society were like royalty in America. Everyone’s every need was catered to by a large staff who was trained to serve. Yes, this was another era, and also a part of society most of us never see, but if you treat customers with a high level of respect and concern for their needs, their loyalty follows. Don’t think about bottom line, how many hoops you have to jump through to honor a customer’s request, or even how your will find time to get it all done. Focus on meeting your customers’ needs. Each and every time. Each and every customer.

How This Relates to Social Media
Increasingly, B2B companies are using social media tools and connections to seek out new vendors and partners. If your current customers rave about your company’s level of service, new prospects will find it. When people ask their networks for recommendations for new partners, which do you think carries more weight? “I get the best price from XYZ company, but I can never get anyone on the phone” or “I pay a little bit more for ABC company, but the number of times they have helped me get out of jam is amazing. They really care about keeping my business and treat me like a business partner, not just an entry on a spreadsheet.”?

What are your experiences with high levels of service as either a provider/supplier or as a customer and have you shared it online? Do you think customer service can be a differentiator?

Disclosure: My stay at the Inn at Biltmore was provided as part of speaking at the licensee partner conference.