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Celebrity service

Geoff Ramm

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You know the only way you can attract more clients is to create jaw-dropping marketing. But ask yourself this: How will you be remembered in 30 days’ time? How will you be remembered in 30 months’ time? Is it possible to be remembered in your clients’ minds in more than 30 years’ time? Discover the ideas that will have your clients remembering you before anyone else.


Click here to find more from the 2018 Annual Meeting

On a scale of one to 10, where one is abysmal but 10 is incredible, what number would you give yourself right now for the levels of service you’re providing to every one of your clients? Give yourself a number, but don’t shout it out. Has everybody got a number? There are no ones, twos, or threes in the room today. Is that correct? Because that’s instant dismissal.

So we’ll start the bidding at fours and fives. Fours and fives, where are we? Give me a wave. Sometimes I’m good; sometimes I’m not so good. I’m fairly average, Geoff. Thank you for your honesty. Now, I know where one of the sixes is, so we’ll go sixes and sevens. Look at that. Have a look around. A lot of people. I’m guessing more of you are seven than six. Eight. Where are we? Eight. Now we’re starting to lose some people. We’ve got a few people at eight. Nine. OK. Here’s the big one. Ten. Where are we? Where are the tens? Nobody here is delivering incredible service to your clients? I’m glad you’ve turned up this morning. Not one person. Thank you so much for your honesty. By the way, you’ve just fallen into my global research trap of the last five years, which says that every single member of the audiences I come across, on average, says to me, “Geoff, we’re sevens and eights. We’re pretty good, but we could be a lot better.”

Please remember this: It’s just numbers. I said to you, one to ten. It’s just numbers. But numbers are infinite. So, therefore, the levels of service that you could provide should also be infinite.

But if everybody here said to me sevens, eights, nines, why is it that I’m constantly disappointed in the levels of service that I come across around the world? Seriously. A few years ago, I was at a conference on Kish Island, a tiny little island off the coast of Iran. The night before the conference, a couple of speakers and I walked around the shopping mall. We went in to buy some gifts for our families and friends, and I came across this business. This business was stunning. It looked stunning, and I took my phone out and took the following photograph. [visual]

Look at the lights. Look at the glass. Look at the products of this wonderful florist. But let me just zoom in to show you who’s going to serve you tonight. [visual] For those of you wondering, this person’s number is about a minus four on the scale of one to ten. How is it that our businesses look so amazing from the outside—our website, our brochure, our materials, our social media, our YouTube channels, our brand? But you know and I know that it’s the people inside that will make or break your business. It’s the service that’s provided within those four walls that will take your business to where you want it to go.

Now, I don’t know how many customer service speakers you’ve seen in your time, and I don’t know how many manuals you’ve read, and I don’t know how many books you have on customer service and customer experience, but I’ll tell you two things, the two things that these people and these books will tell you in order for you to be a success in your business in 2018 and beyond. And I wonder if you’ve seen the same speakers and you’ve read the same books as me. Let’s have a check.

The first thing they say is that you must always go the extra mile. You’ve read the same books as me, that’s good. And the second thing is that you must always exceed expectations.

You can’t go back to your office with your team, gather them in, and say, “What was the conference like in Los Angeles?” “It was amazing.” “What did you get from that speaker from the United Kingdom?” “We need to go the extra mile.” And your team is like, “OK, how?” “Exceed expectations.” You can’t inspire anybody. These words have been going around the world of business for four decades. What are we doing? There’s nothing new in the world of customer service. I think I found something. I didn’t go into a darkened room to write this thing. I didn’t come across it. It happened live on stage. I walked out onto a stage of 300 entrepreneurs one day, and I turned to everybody in the room and said, “Do you treat all your customers the same? Do you treat all your customers with the highest level of service no matter what day of the week, no matter how you’re feeling, no matter who they are?” And around half of the room nodded, apart from one woman who sat right to the front, just off to my right. She didn’t nod. She shouted out. I’ll be honest with you, if I asked for any interaction of any audience around the world, nothing ever happens. Do you know what I mean?

She shouted out. I said, “Do you treat everybody with the same high level of service no matter what?” “Absolutely, Geoff.” I asked her. “What sort of business have you got?” She said, “I’ve got a boutique store.” I said, “What is it you do?” She said, “We design and hand make children’s toys, homeware, and kitchenware out of wood, metal, or stone.” She said the products are very exclusive and rather expensive. I said, “Come on then, tell everybody in the room what you do. Tell me some things you do that make the great experience.”

She said, “It’s not all about sales; it’s about the experience. The sales will come afterward.” She said, “As people walk into the store, we have two big red leather sofas. People can come down, relax, sit down, look at the products, and read the brochure.” I said, “Anything else?” She said, “Yes, we serve tea and coffee.” I said, “How much?” She said, “It’s free.” I kid you not. That day, everybody wrote that idea down as if it was the greatest thing they’d ever heard. They’re like, “Really?”

Out of nowhere, and I made this up on the spot that day, I turned to this lady and said, “But what happens if a celebrity would come into your business tomorrow?” She said, “Like who?” I said, “Do you like men or women?” She said, “I like men.” I said, “That’s fine. In that case, think of an A-list celebrity, a Hollywood movie hunk.” And she thought for a few seconds and shouted out two names, “George and Brad.” I went, “OK, George and Brad.

OK, picture the scene. George Clooney’s been making a movie here for the last six months. He flies home tomorrow. But before he goes home, he’s heard all about your wonderful business and the service that you provide. So he phones you up this afternoon. He says, “Hi, I’m George Clooney. I’m a sexy, Hollywood god. When photographs of me go up on the screen, audiences go ‘Ahh.’ I found out about your wonderful products. I would like to come into your business tomorrow, but I’ve got two problems. The first is the paparazzi. They’ve been following me around all this year. I am tired. The second problem is a nice problem, but it’s still a problem. Fans. I am selfied to death. People know where I am before I know where I am. So if I come to your business tomorrow, would you close it just for me?” I asked her, “Would you close it for George?”

Then I said, “Well, I’m speaking here today, and I’ve got another event tomorrow. If I come to your store tomorrow, would you close it just for me?” And that slight twist of her head that day caused a ripple, a ripple of 299 people to turn on this one woman that day in that conference and a sound I have yet to hear since, a sound that sounded something like a wheeze. She said, “I would treat people differently.” Of course you would.

Think about your business right now. If your next client tweeted you, and it was Brad, Angelina, or Cameron Diaz, if they were to tweet you, email you, or phone you up and say, “I’m looking for some financial advice. Can I come to your office at 2:00 p.m.,” the answer is yes. Even though you’re on holiday, the answer is yes. Even though you already have me as a client, at 2 p.m., you’re like, “Geoff, we’ve got to move time.”

Picture the scene: Angelina Jolie phones you up and says, “I’ve left my husband; I need some financial advice.” I fly into your city, and I want to come and see you at 3:00 a.m. You’ll still be there. Your partner will say to you, “You’re at the office too late tonight.” “I’m just meeting a client”—Remember that day the boutique store owner went, “Ah.” I said, “What’s the matter?” She said, “I would treat people differently—so, if your next client were an A-list celebrity god or goddess, everything you say, do, react, every piece of communication, every ounce of service from you and your team would change. You think you’re delivering a high level of service. But if somebody like this were to walk in, your service levels go to there.”

Now, there’s a gap. The gap you don’t realize exists within yourself, within your team, within your business. It’s called the “Celebrity Service” gap. It’s the gap that if you can fill it, the competition can never touch you. But how do you fill it? There’s a nine-stage plan for Celebrity Service. CELEBRITY stands for: Consistency, Excitement, Love, Engagement, Bravado, Response, Independence, Thank you, and You-and-your-team. These are nine components that you can look at from this conference and completely redesign and redefine your levels of service forever. What would you say? What would you do? How would you react? The difference is the gap, the reason your competition can never touch you.

But I want to show you the people from around the world who are currently delivering Celebrity Service in the hope that it will inspire you to think differently from this conference in Los Angeles. Are you ready?

Excitement. The first E in CELEBRITY is Excitement. Can you build a level of excitement into every single client touchpoint? That was a directive question. I’ll do it again for you. Can you build a level of excitement into every single client touchpoint? Yes. But it’s a choice. You know you could, but do you? It’s a choice. Look at every single touchpoint from the moment that person contacts you, from the moment that you sign the deal, from the moment that money hits the bank. From every ounce of your service, look at the touchpoints. Ask yourself and your team this: Can we give this area Celebrity Service?

Let me show you the greatest person on Earth who delivered excitement into every single touchpoint. I was speaking at an event in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. I got to the airport, and I got my boarding pass. I didn’t really pay much attention to my boarding pass, but I did notice the little detail of 1F, and I thought, I’ve been upgraded. Fantastic. An hour later, they call the flight. Now, has anybody here been to the airport in Harare? It’s a little bit different from Los Angeles. Just a little bit different.

You see, when they call the flight, the doors open. You have to go and find your plane. You walk out, and you’re like, Where’s the plane? Where’s the plane? And you’re literally, Where’s the plane? There was a member of the ground crew, and I said, “Excuse me. They just called the flight.” He said, “Yes.” I said, “There’s nothing here.” He said, “What do you mean?” I said, “There’s nothing here. It’s just desert. The only thing I can see is this tiny, little rusted airplane in the corner with chickens hanging out the back window.” “That’s your plane.” Oh no. The plane was so small, you couldn’t have your hand luggage to the side. And I literally walked up.

Two members of the crew were at the top. “Welcome aboard, thanks very much, can we see your boarding pass?” I said, “Yes, absolutely.” She said, “I’m so sorry, but I have to ask. It’s important. You’ve won a prize.” “What have I won?” She said, “I can’t tell you. I’ll tell you later.” “Is it the upgraded seat?” She said, “No, it’s just a small plane. You sit at the front.”

OK. There were three seats on this side, an aisle down the middle. Mine was 1F, which was the window. There was a gentleman here, and I always remember, he was about 60 years old. He had this wonderful suit on. I always remember his suit. The aisle is here; he sat there; and I said, “You OK?” “Yep, great.” “Did you win a prize?” “Yes.” “What did you win?” “She won’t tell me. Did you three win a prize?”

I sat at the front of the aircraft that day, given an extraordinary vantage point of what was happening to every single passenger that got on that day. Every single passenger that day received a compliment. Whether it was your jacket, whether it was your hair, whether it was your handbag, anything. Every single person received a compliment, which meant one thing and one thing only: Everybody who walked past us had a smile from there to there. This is obvious stuff, but please never underestimate the power of a compliment.

When you go to see clients, or when clients come to see you, look for the opportunities. That one word of encouragement, that one nicety, could be the greatest thing they hear that day, that week, that month, or even in 2018. Make sure it’s from your company.

Everybody has these compliments, everybody gets on, everybody walks past. This member of the cabin crew picks up the telephone. She says, “Welcome aboard Aer Lingus flight to Johannesburg. We are delighted you’ve chosen to join us because you have the greatest looking cabin crew in the skies tonight.” She wasn’t being serious; it was all a bit of fun. We all started to laugh. She said, “Will you do me a favor? It will mean the world to me if you could reach out, pick up this piece of paper, and read both sides.” And to this day, I got to see an entire aircraft read the evacuation notice as we did that night.

We started to taxi, and as we started to taxi, she went to the front row. She pulled in the front row, the prizewinners. She’d told all of us we had won a prize 20 minutes ago, and she said, “Come here, come here. Here’s your prize. You’ve just won the opportunity to help me open that door if we crash.” Well, we felt like laughing, The second row was laughing; the third row was laughing. It was contagious. Twenty minutes into the flight, she brought out the drinks trolley. She served these people, and then she got to the guy, the guy in the nice business suit. Word for word, this is what happened:

“Can I get you a drink, sir?”

“Yes, please.”

“What would you like?”

“I’ll have water.”

“Would you like ice?”

“No, thank you.”

“You look cool enough.”

She wants your body. He almost had a heart attack. This went on and on and on, and one hour into the flight, I just went, “I’ve had enough. I need to go and speak to this person.” “What are you going to say?” And I literally took two steps forward, and she had her back to me. I said, “Excuse me,” and she turned around. I said, “Can I just say that of all the flights, of all the carriers, of all the countries I’ve ever been to, this has been the greatest flight, bar none.”

She said, “Sorry?” I said, “You’ve brought an element of excitement into every single touchpoint from the moment we got on this plane. Nobody’s on their iPads; nobody is reading their Kindles; nobody is listening to music. We’re all talking about you back there.” She said, “Nobody’s ever said that before.” Just want to tell you. I said, “Can I have your photograph?” “What for?” I said, “I want to talk about you for the next 30 years.” “What do you do?” I told her, “This is what I do for a living. I would also like to put the photograph in my new book. The book is going to be called Celebrity Service. There will be a section called “Excitement,” and you will be the lead story in that book.” She said, “Can I put some more lipstick on?” I said, “Knock yourself out.”

So she turned around and started to put some more lipstick on. I got on my phone, clicking the camera, and I’m about to take the shot when the second member of the cabin crew brushed past me, whom I’d seen like an hour ago. She said, “Oh, can I have my photograph taken as well?” I said, “Get yourself in.” [visual] The lady on the left is Christina. I have no idea who the person on the right is.

Bring it back to your business. Who’s the Christina in your business? Who is it? Who’s the person in your organization delivering excitement into every single touchpoint? For those of you who are currently thinking who that is, wrong answer. For those of you thinking it could be Mark, or it could be Jean, or it could be. . .no, wrong answer. Because if they’re in your organization, your service is dead. The answer is you. You know this deep down; you know this. The answer is always you. If I ever ask you a question like this in the future, you know the answer.

I did a huge event in the United Kingdom not so long ago, and there were thousands of people in that audience. I can’t tell you who it was for. And I asked, “Who’s the Christina in your organization?” Everybody put their hand up and pointed to this woman in the front. Three thousand hands just went. I said, “Is your name Christina?” She said, “Yes.” I said, “That’s not what I’m talking about.”

This story has many, many twists and turns. And I want to tell you this. The very next day, I was invited into Radio 702, one of the biggest radio stations in South Africa. I did a half hour drive time show. If you go to YouTube and type in “Geoff Ramm 702,” you’ll come across the video. It was actually shot on video as well. So it goes live across the airwaves, but also it was on YouTube. I spoke about this lady called Christina. She did this, she did this, she did this. I said she was amazing. I never knew her surname.

A strange guy going up to a lady on a flight saying, “Can I have your photograph and your full name” is a bit weird. Her surname is Conradi. The reason I know that is because later that year I had a Facebook friend request from the lady on the left. [visual] And it said this: “Hi Geoff, you won’t remember me.” I talk about her three times a week; I talk about my wife twice. I remember. “You won’t remember me, but I’ll always remember what you said on that flight.” She said, “The pilot on a rival airline had come across this video, and he sent me the link. He said, ‘Christina, I think this guy has talked about you.’” She said, “I’ve never laughed and never cried so much in all my life. Thank you.”

Are you giving the feedback to your team for the service levels they’re providing?

I hadn’t been back to South Africa for four years. I go there a lot, but I hadn’t been back for four years. Last year, I spoke at the Customer Experience World conference to the top customer experience executives in that entire country. I told that story word for word. I said, “Here’s the final twist. She’s here today.” And that was one of my biggest postings in social media of last year. She was my celebrity. When she walked into the room, it was a pretty cool moment. And for those of you who want to know, yes, she did get into the book. Pretty cool.

Who’s the Christina in your business? But more importantly, what levels of excitement could you bring into every mundane touchpoint of your life, your business, your job, your role? Put the smile on the clients’ faces, and they will talk about you for decades. See the opportunity. Thank you very much, Christina.

OK, response, the R in CELEBRITY is called Response. It’s how we respond to clients, how we respond to their inquiries. An inquiry comes in an email. What do we do? We email somebody back. Somebody phones you and leaves a message. You phone him or her back. Somebody texts; we always tend to mirror the response. Not in Celebrity Service.

In Celebrity Service, look for the opportunities to deliver a greater personalized response. Technology has given us license to be creative. And we’re not taking advantage of it. What I’m going to show you now is something that will cost you zero. It will take you two minutes. And it will stay in your client’s memory for years. Anybody like that to happen? I think so. Zero. Two minutes. Years.

My wife is driving down a motorway. I’m at a conference in London. In the back of the car are our two children, Grace and Elliot. The car suddenly breaks. The car just stops. We have the tow truck come to collect the car. We go back to the house. I get a text later that night saying, “Geoff, car broke.” And I rang up and said, “What’s happened?” She said, “Car just broke.” The tow truck towed it to the garage the next morning. The mechanic got it up on the level, and he said, “We’ve done all of the tests, Mrs. Ramm. We can fix the car, but for what it’s going to cost, you may as well go and buy a new car.” So I get a text the next morning saying, “Need new car.” And I replied, “Great.”

I rang Hayley up half an hour later and said, “What happened?” She said, “Oh, it’s the computer, it’s the engine, it’s the thing.” I said, “Right. What are you going to do?” She said, “I’m going to have a look at a couple of models. One is the MINI.” And at that precise moment, I heard our daughter in the far end of the room. Grace said, “Ah, can we buy the pink MINI? Can we buy the pink MINI? Can we buy the pink MINI?” And Hayley said, “No we’re not going to buy the pink MINI. We’re going to have a look at the MINIs, but we’re not going to buy the pink one.”

You see, two miles from our home is the BMW-MINI dealership. Outside of that dealership, on a stage similar to this height, is a bright pink MINI. They don’t put the black one on there; they don’t put the blue on there. There’s no green; there’s no red. It’s pink. Why is it pink? Because when you drive past every day, you go, “What’s that?” It’s marketing. It gets your attention.

There’s only one person in the world who wants to own that car. Our daughter. My wife said, “We’ll go and have a look at the MINI, but we’re not going to buy the pink one.” So off they went. She said, “Geoff, I’ll call you later.”

I’m still in London. My wife goes to the dealership, sees the car that she quite likes. Meanwhile, Grace goes outside and has a look at the car of her dreams. My wife says to the saleswoman, “I need some information on this car. I need information on prices, on the specifications, pricing plans. I need all of this information.” The saleswoman turns to my wife and says, “No problem at all. I’ll get you all of this information tomorrow.”

I need you to look at this as a great, huge opportunity and potential for your business. It costs zero. Takes a couple of minutes. And will last in that client’s mind for years.

Twenty-four hours later, I’m back at home. And Hayley received the information that she wanted. But it wasn’t a brochure. It wasn’t an email with a PDF. It wasn’t an email with a link to a website with all the information. It was something a little bit different. What I’m about to show you is horrific. It is so bad you need to turn your head 45 degrees to the left to really see how poor this is. But this is what we received 24 hours later. Let me show you.

[video]

Now, it’s the most unenthusiastic; there’s no passion in that voice. It’s been uploaded incorrectly, but it is stunning. It is stunning for the first two words that come out of that lady’s mouth: “Hi, Hayley.” You now have my undivided attention. I will now watch every second of that. Why? Because it’s about me. It’s the car I was looking at yesterday. Instant. Personalized. Video. Email. Every single person right now has that technology in his or her pocket.

You want to win that client’s business? That client is looking for another two planners. He’s looking for another two organizations that he might want to do business with. When you go back to him with your proposal, with your PDF, with your prices, with your packages, is it an email, is it a brochure, is it a covering letter? That’s what the competition does. I didn’t come into this world to be the same as another speaker. You didn’t start up this business to become fairly similar to somebody down the road. You want to stand out.

Set up your camera somewhere in your office with a member of your team, or whoever it may be, and within 30 seconds, show that passion, show that enthusiasm. Because the words that will come out of your mouth will always supersede whatever you type. “Hi, Geoff, it was brilliant to see you yesterday. Honestly, we look forward to working with you. I’m going to put some information in the post for you, but I just wanted to say, from yesterday, that I’ve actually had another idea about what we could do with that pension. So I want to give you some extra ideas as well. But honestly, anything you need from me, give me a call anytime. You have my mobile. And I really want to work with you. I think we could do some fantastic stuff. I want to wish you every success, but thank you for taking the time to come to see us yesterday. Bye.”

I’m making this up. What could you do? Instant video email messaging. Choose it maybe once or twice in those clients’ lifetime. Have they just won an award? Have they just expanded that business? Have they just succeeded with something? Create a video. Send them a video from all of your team. One minute is what it will take. You now cement that relationship forever. It’s a great marketing tool. It’s a great sales tool. It’s a good service tool. But it never belonged in Celebrity Service until two minutes later.

The email came through again. Ping. My wife said, “They’ve sent it again. MINI-BMW has sent the same. Typical. They’ve already put us in the database. We’ll be in there twice.” Not quite. This is what we received two minutes later.

[video]

She didn’t have to do that. Grace will not be a customer for another 10 years, or 40 years, if I’ve got anything to do with it. We are not buying a bright pink MINI. It’s going to depreciate quicker than anything else. She didn’t have to do that, but she did because she knew it would put a smile on Grace’s face. What did you not have to do this last week but you did it in any case to put a smile on your client’s face? It’s called “the gap.” The Celebrity Service gap. Take the time. Technology has given us license to be creative. Use it.

Right now, during these incredible days in Los Angeles at the 2018 MDRT Annual Meeting, you’ve come up with ideas. You’ve got pads in your packs, and you’ve been writing ideas. You’ve been writing notes and inspirations and ideas and techniques and contacts of people you’ve been meeting. And this is what’s going to happen.

You’re going to get back on the plane, you’re going to get back to the office, and you’re going to go, “Whoa, here we go.” And life is going to get in the way. The computer will go down on the day you come back. Somebody will call in sick. Something will happen. A client emergency will happen. And that list you were going to do: “I’ll do some of that next week. We’ll do some of that next year.”

And I say to people at these conferences: Don’t do it all. Take two touchpoints in your business and give those the Celebrity Service treatment. You nail it. It then becomes a part of your culture. Any new starters who arrive in your business are already aware this is what you do. It’s part of the culture. You do two, and you nail it. You then do another two, and you nail that. You do another two, and you nail that. You start to build the gap. You can’t go from there to there in days. You build the Celebrity Service gap.

So what are you going to do? Because it’s going to come down to you and your team after this conference to say, “You know what? Geoff says our service experience could be better. So let’s look at it all and see what can we do.”

Celebrity Service is the philosophy. The Christina story on board that flight is the story that brings the philosophy to life. But let me show you the results. The results of what a company looks like before and then after Celebrity Service.

I got an email from a lady called Caroline O’Neal, an American lady. And the email said this: “Dear Geoff. A couple of my colleagues recently saw you at an event in London talking about something called Celebrity Service. They said it would be brilliant for our next staff conference. Our next staff conference is. . .” And she put the date and then she put the venue. It’s going to be held at our headquarters in Malta, right in the center of Europe. And I thought, I’ve never been to Malta. This is exciting. I waited 10 minutes, and I didn’t email her back. Why would I email her back? I just talked about trying to personalize what you do.

I waited 10 minutes, and I picked up the phone. I rang her office. I don’t know if I’m in competition. She may be asking another two or three speakers for the same slot. Right now, the speakers are typing away, and they’re putting together some content. I want to get there first.

So 10 minutes later, I pick up the phone and call her, and she said, “Caroline O’Neal.” I said, “Caroline, Geoff Ramm.” She said, “Oh, I wasn’t expecting a call.” And I said, “I know. Imagine how crazy it would be if I just called you on spec, and I hadn’t seen the email.” She said, “I wasn’t expecting.” I said, “No, no, have you got five minutes?” She said, “Yes.” I said, “Sounds wonderful, and I’ve never been to Malta before.” And she says, “Can you do the date?” “Yes, I can do the date.” She says, “What’s your fee?” I said, “Forget about the fee. For now. Tell me about you.”

She said, “The business is called EC. We’re an English language school. People from 16 to 23 from all over Europe will come to learn the second language of English.” I said, “Wonderful.” She said, “We have 18 schools around the world: Toronto, Cape Town, London. But our headquarters is here in Malta.” I said, “Brilliant.” She said, “Our service levels are high, but they could always be better.” I said, “I hear that the world over, but thank you.”

I said, “So the people, 16- to 23-year-olds, obviously you’re speaking to the pupils and their parents.” She said, “No. Sorry. The deal is all done in that home country, in their country. An agent gives the parents options of three brochures, three schools they can send their children to.” I said, “So you don’t speak to the children?” She said, “No. The only thing we know about the pupils is the flight number, the country that they’ve come from, and their name.” “And what happens when you pick them up at the airport?” She said, “We take them to their hostel, their bed and breakfast, their hotel, or the family that they’re going to live with for the next term, the next year.” “Oh my word!” She said, “What’s the matter?” I said, “I do this for a living. I get on planes; I get on boats and on trains to events. Are you telling me a 16-year-old gets on a plane for the first time by himself, for the first time to go to a foreign country by himself, for the first time to learn a foreign language, for the first time by himself? She said, “Yes.”

“I’d be quite nervous.” She said, “That’s why our service has got to be so high.” I said, “I get it.” We did the deal. The contract was signed, and I went to Malta. As I got off the plane, as I got my case off the carousel, I walked outside. I was met by this guy called Nuncio. He’s the taxi driver who picked us up that night. He was passionate and enthusiastic, a wonderful guy. He was waiting for me; I was waiting for him. I recognized the brand. Could this be improved upon?

Everything can be improved upon. Never think that you’ve just cracked it. Because there’s a competitor down the road who is always wanting to do something a little bit better than you. Everything can be improved upon. You’ve got to keep yourself on your toes, and Celebrity Service will help you do that.

The very first time I spoke in South Africa, I was treated like a celebrity, and I’m not. I got off the plane, and I walked outside. “I need your photograph,” the guy said. Really? And for the very first time, I had my name up on a plaque. This guy was delighted to see me. [visual] The guy behind him wasn’t. And he was possibly the worst photo bomb in photo bomb history. I think that’s his mother on the right-hand side there. How miserable are these people? I lie awake in bed at night thinking, I wonder if he was meeting his brother, a florist in Iran. In my head, that happened. Anyhow. Everything can be improved upon.

So I did the conference the next day. I got to just about the end; we did a three-hour session for everybody in the room. I said, “Here’s my fear for these events: You’ve got all these ideas. Tomorrow, work is going to take over; life is going to take over. You don’t do the whole list. Just do two. Here’s the two I would look at.” I showed them the picture of Nuncio, the taxi driver. I said, “He’s fabulous. But if I were the son or daughter of an A-list celebrity, Hollywood god or goddess, would you have sent a taxi driver or would you send your CEO?” The CEO was in the room, and I knew that. I pointed it right out, and I said, “Would you have picked me up?” Yes. So that’s fine. You know, there’s an element there in which you can close the gap. It’s a choice. You didn’t want to get out of bed. It’s a choice. But if I were a celebrity, there’s a difference.

I said, “What does that welcome look like? When pupils get off the plane who are now nervous, really nervous, is that a Celebrity Service welcome as soon as they come out of the plane?” I said, “The second touchpoint I would look at is that you have a wonderful thing on your website. Your website says this: ‘We create that home-from-home experience.’ I love that. Parents wanting to send their children to learn English to another country for months on end, that gives us confidence. That’s good.”

I said, “But when they walk into their hostel, B&B, or hotel room, is it a home-from-home experience? Those are the two things I’d look at to change. I wish you every success.” And off I went.

A few weeks later, Caroline emails me back. “Hi, Geoff, will you come back?” I waited 10 minutes. I picked up the phone. I said, “I’d love to.” I said, “I’ve got tons more stories.” She said, “No, no, no. We’re all talking about Christina. We’re all talking about this. Only half of the company was there that day. Will you come back and do the sales, the marketing, the admin team so they all have that Celebrity Service?” I said, “I would love to.”

I got back on the plane a few weeks later. The plane was delayed about six times. I was lucky to get there. But I arrived about 2:30 in the morning. And when I got there, things had changed. This was the brand-new welcome sign. [visual] You see, the brand isn’t important; the logo isn’t important. What’s important is the people. The people. The people are going to deliver the experience. These are photographs of all of the tutors who are going to teach you English. This is a fun place to be. Do you want to be a part of this? And the little line at the bottom. Now what they do is this: They laminate the welcome sign for 16-, 17-, and 18-year-olds who are never going to get this for another 20 years.

What do people do when they get off the plane at the airport and they see this? They take a photograph. And it’s shared on Instagram within seconds. They’re promoting you. They’re promoting the service that you’re providing. You shouldn’t have to spread the word marketing-wise. Your clients should be talking about you from the rooftops. But I just don’t think we choose enough options to excite, to respond, or to do something different. That’s going to change starting today.

When I got to the hotel room, things had changed. As I walked into my room, for some reason they thought I would like some balloons. Now, their brand is all the color orange, so they got some balloons. I thought, Well, that’s interesting. They also bought me some flip-flops as a little gift. And on the bed, now this was interesting, they bought me a mug and an orange towel, but also a book. I mentioned our son and daughter a couple of times already, Grace and Elliot. And in the bigger events, I talk about them quite a lot. They’re a big part of my talk. And I thought, How wonderful is that? They remembered Grace and Elliot, and it’s a gift for Grace and Elliot. How wonderful is it that they’ve thought of that? But it’s not a Grace and Elliot gift. This is a gift for me.

What they had done is that they took every negative comment that they had ever received from a pupil, from an agent, or from a parent. They printed them all out, and they stuck them in every page. There’s a note at the beginning of this book that said, “Geoff, we think we’re delivering a great level of service. This book will reveal otherwise. Please inspire us like you did the other week. We have still so much to learn.”

That is a business with service in its soul. That is not a phrase to share, but it’s certainly not afraid to want to improve.

That last photograph I took that day, or that morning because it was almost three in the morning now. [visual] This was the welcome pack. And the one thing I loved about this was the products. There were products in here like Yorkshire tea, Warburtons bread, Pringles, and KitKats. These are products that I recognized from home. They take a 20-year-old note. They go to the local supermarket, and they will buy as many of your home-country products as possible to put in your welcome pack. And remember what the website said? “We create that home-from-home experience.”

They nailed it, and they started to build the gap. And the last email I received from them, the subject was this: “Dear Geoff, thought you might like to see this.” They had just won an Experience Design and Improvement award of the Customer Experience Excellence Awards last year.

And that’s what it looks like when a client books you twice.

Let me leave you with this, the most overused word in business today: Engagement. How many times have we heard this this week? Client engagement. Customer engagement. Employee engagement. Engagement, engagement, engagement. When it comes to Celebrity Service, it’s this. It’s the question that you ask that client. The client is going to give you some information back. Look for the gem. Look for that little nugget within that person’s answer.

Once you have that gem, once you have the nugget, you keep hold of it until the right moment in which you give it back in a greater, personalized, and engaging form. That is pure engagement. Listen. Receive but give back in a greater personalized way.

You know Grace likes the pink MINI. She also has another love; she has a passion. She has since she was a baby. Grace loves to cut, stick, glue, paint, and color. This is her passion. This is her love. So wherever we go, this is what she loves to do.

We were two weeks from Grace’s fourth birthday. Two weeks. We’d already bought her the children’s bike and the doll. She didn’t need anything else. And I was at a conference in London, two weeks from her birthday. The conference finished at noon. My train, which was on a fixed ticket, was 4:00 that afternoon. I had four hours to kill in the center of London. What did I do? I had my suit on; I had my case, and I’m thinking, What shall I do? What shall I do?

So I wondered if I could buy Grace a little gift, a little knickknack. A little something. A little painting, art, craft product that I couldn’t buy back home. So I went into a little store called Hamleys, also known as the world’s most famous toy store. I do about 60 conferences a year, and I’ve lost count in the last two years of how many speakers I’ve had to follow who have shared the same things I think you might have heard yourself. I’ve heard “B&Bs are killing hotels.” “No they’re not. I work with many hotel chains; they’re thriving. Don’t worry about it.” “Uber. Who is Uber killing?” “No, it’s not. It’s not. It’s just another competitor. Don’t worry about it.”

And the biggest one: Amazon. Amazon is killing High Street. I’ve walked on stage many times, and I went, “Amazon is killing High Street. If you’re letting a computer out-serve you, you don’t deserve to be in business.” You hear the organizers going, “Shut up. Shut up. No. Amazon isn’t killing High Street. No. The weak always die first.” They say, “Geoff, you can’t say that.” “I just have.” “But you can’t say that.” I said, “OK. Hamleys.” And they say, “Oh, yes. Hamleys toy store in London, its flagship store. Parents have stood in the rain with their children for 50 minutes before it opens at 11:00 a.m. They’re killing up the road to get in a toy shop.” And I say to the audience, “Oh, I know why. It’s cheap toys.” “No. It’s the most expensive toy shop in the world.” “I can get it much cheaper online, but why are we queuing in the rain?” It’s because of the experience. It’s because of the team. It’s because of the people inside those four walls. We can deliver that; people will flock.

Let me go back to Hamleys. Amazon can’t compete with Hamleys. No toy store can compete with Hamleys. The store is seven stories tall. There is an escalator shaft all the way up to the top, and all the way to the bottom in the middle of the store. The third floor is the girls’ department. I’ve got my suit on; I get to the third floor. Now, on the edge of the escalator well is a table. There is a table on every one of the four corners. On top of the table is a demonstration of a toy, of a product. They get it out of the box, and they demonstrate.

I get to the third floor, turn around, and there’s the first table. On the table is an easel. On top of the easel, there’s a great big piece of white paper. This must be some art thing.

In front of the table is a row of children in a semicircle so high. Behind the children is a row of parents all gathered around. Behind the parents is now me, and I’m waiting for the demonstration to start. And this is the product: It’s a gray plastic tray with six slabs of colored paint and a brush. She dips it into the water, but she rolls it over three colors at the same time. She said, “This, boys and girls, is how you do the butterfly.” And the children were in awe. And the parents were in awe. And I’m standing in the back. I go, “Look at this! It’s a butterfly in three colors! It’s like a magic brush! How has it done it? Three colors!”

And then she said, “This is how you do the caterpillar.” She says that if you buy today, you get free stencils worth £10. The product itself is six slabs of paint and a brush worth £20. That’s a premium-price product. A few people bought, and then everybody disbursed. But I still stood there. I’m still at the back, and I’m thinking to myself, Grace doesn’t need this. She would like it, but what shall I do? What shall I do?

This member of the staff noticed that I stood in the background, so she walks over and inserts the greatest customer service engaging question of all time, bar none. She said, “Is this for anybody special?” “Yes. My daughter. My daughter loves to cut, stick, glue, paint, and color. She has a birthday in a couple of weeks’ time, and I’m just having a look for some ideas.” “Oh, if you buy today, you get free stencils with it.” I said, “I’ve seen the deal. I’ve seen the whole show. I’ve seen the whole thing, but I’ve just walked in.”

I said, “What I’m going to do is, I’m going to have a little walk around the shop. And if I don’t see anything else, I’ll pop back.” Insert the second greatest engaging question of all time, bar none. She said, “What’s your daughter’s name?” “Grace.” She then painted “G R A C E” on a sheet of paper with the butterfly and said, “If you don’t come back, would you give this to Grace on her birthday from me?” And I handed over a £20 note.

I said, “On one condition.” She said, “What’s that?” I said, “I want your photograph.” (Don’t “ahh” that. Do you know how many times Grace has used this? Twice.)

This is Julia. [visual] Julia personalizes everything, every piece of communication going out to every customer. Who is the Julia in your business? There are three of us, and that’s good. Because if nobody said anything, I was going to do that last hour again to get to that point where you said, “Actually it’s me, Geoff. I’m the one who can deliver, and will choose to deliver a greater personalized communication to stand out from the client, to stand out from the competition, to be remembered in our clients’ minds for years.”

I was just about to stop there, but I want to give you as much as I can. How many of you right now are sending out proposals? Emails? Packs? Stuff? Your clients want stuff. And you’re putting it together. You’re spending hours on this stuff. Now, you could put a personalized video with it because that would be fantastic. How many of you actually really are personalizing it to that client?

I left that toy store that day. When I do these slides once in advance, I ask MDRT, “Do we have any toy shops at the conference?” No. “Do we have anybody who sells paint?” I don’t think so. Some of you right now might be thinking, Great story. I enjoyed it. Some of you might be thinking, No, that has nothing to do with my business.

It has everything to do with your business. When somebody stands out, when somebody puts a smile on your face, when somebody actually makes you hand over some cash, learn from it.

I got on that train, and I looked at my proposal document that I was sending to clients. There are two things I learned from Julia that day: One was full color, and the other was personalization. I changed my proposal document, and by the time I got off the train, it had changed forever. It’s had three or four reincarnations over the years.

I’m all about results. At the proposal stage, when a client is interested in booking me to speak, my sales have gone up over 30 percent. So here’s my final offer to you: I’m going to be around for the next hour or so if anybody wants to see the before, and after, proposal, because I still have the original one, to what I send out now. Look at what I do; look at what I send. It had a 30 percent increase rate in sales. And it might be just one of the biggest sessions you have come to at MDRT this year. Give me your business card, and when I’m back in the United Kingdom, as soon as I can, I will send you the before and after. I want to give you as much help as I can.

You think you’re delivering a high level of service, but if an A-list celebrity, a Hollywood god or goddess were to tweet, email, phone, or walk into your office, your service levels would go from there to there. [visual] And that is the gap. With consistency, excitement, love, engagement, bravado, response, independence, thank you and your team. The competition should never outperform you. I wish you every success.

Ramm

Geoff Ramm is a customer service and marketing speaker. He is the creator and author of “Celebrity Service” and “OMG Marketing,” both of which are composed of his marketing and customer service ideas that lead to lucrative and repeat business. Ramm’s clients including Honda, British Airways, Tiger Brands and Goldwell. He is the youngest ever president of the Professional Speaking Association U.K. and was recently awarded the PSAE award, as well as being a U.K. Enterprise Ambassador.

 

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