When a client has a concern, most situations are resolved by listening, acknowledging their concern, and providing a quick solution. Clients want to be heard more than anything. We recently had a client who was worried about her dog’s demeanor during his stay with us. As soon as we received her message we got on the phone with her to give her a thorough update and discuss her dog. She later told us that our prompt response put her at ease more than anything we said.
As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashley Perez. Ashley is a service-based entrepreneur located in the greater Austin area. Her business, ATX K9 Dog Training, has a reputation of fabulous customer service and quality! With her husband and sister, Ashley operates ATX K9 Dog Training as a family business that provides the true family experience of acceptance and support. In her spare time, Ashley is found chasing her two toddlers around the backyard.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Sure! I was always an overachiever in school and actually graduated both high school and undergrad early. I was dead set on pursuing academia and was attending graduate school full time when I fell into dog training as a way to pay my bills. I never anticipated loving it as much as I did! I finished my degree, but had already started my business by graduation — and the rest is history.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When I was just starting out and didn’t have all of the fancy CRM software that I currently use, I once spent multiple lessons referring to an owner as their dog’s name, and the dog as the owner’s name. They never once corrected me! It was SO embarrassing when I finally realized what I had done. That lack of organization on my end led me to set up a system where it was very easy to look up the client’s info by categories, and I haven’t made that mistake since.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My parents had the entrepreneurial bug but never pursued it due to having kids and being unwilling to take the financial risk. When I was struggling and trying to decide if I wanted to start my business, I was in a difficult place financially and emotionally. My mom was patient, compassionate, and generous to help me get through that time — but my dad told me to suck it up, work hard EVERY DAY, and if I failed while trying my hardest, he’d have my back. Without that ounce of security and push to get out of bed and get hustling, I would have never started my business. And again, recently, when Covid-19 hit us hard, both of my parents were there for me in the exact same ways. They raised me to take risks and show up for myself, and I couldn’t have asked for a better cheerleading squad.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?
People aren’t dumb — they know when a company has their best interests in mind. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had friends tell me, “I like their product, okay, but I keep buying from them because when something goes wrong, they are always super helpful!”. When a business isn’t genuine in the way that they treat their customers, it’s obvious. If you put people first, profits will follow.
We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
As companies grow the operations become much more based on statistics than emotions, and top management becomes disconnected from the actual customer experience. It’s easy to feel like you’re serving your people well when the bigger picture is showing overall satisfaction with your offering, but when you aren’t face-to-face with REAL buyers, it’s also easy to lose focus on the client as an individual.
Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?
I do! There’s so much amazing innovation in the world today, but at the end of the day, people crave a connection that goes beyond the product. It’s inspiring to me that younger generations are into supporting businesses that give back. People want to support a company with a “heart”. I’ve seen this social pressure lead to companies giving back in many ways, including by improving their customer experience.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
We had a client recently whose large dog was a menace! He would see another dog while on a walk and bolt toward them. She was a small woman, and he pulled her over and broke her wrist! She had tried other companies and was at her wits end with the dog after seeing little change. She loves her dog, but couldn’t risk another injury to herself or to others. We had the dog stay with us for training for a couple of weeks and then spent one on one time with her and her pup to teach her how to communicate with him. Then, we followed up multiple times over the phone, through text message, and face-to-face to answer questions. The progress she saw was amazing, and she was in tears the day she was able to pick up her dog and walk down the street with him calmly next to her. She sent us multiple photos and videos of him enjoying his outings now that she feels safe taking him places again!
Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
Absolutely. She personally referred an additional three clients to us that turned into sales and wrote some beautiful reviews on our public pages that have helped others decide to purchase our training.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.
- There’s value in loving your customers. When you spend time making sure a customer has the best possible experience, you’ll often see your investment turn into profits from repeat purchases or referrals!
- Follow-up is key. When a client is on the fence, following up in a personal email will often seal the deal. We use automated email sequencing to do most of this for us — if they haven’t responded to an email in xxx number of days, an email is sent by default — but these emails are very personal sounding and most of our clients don’t recognize that they aren’t written individually.
- When a client has a concern, most situations are resolved by listening, acknowledging their concern, and providing a quick solution. Clients want to be heard more than anything. We recently had a client who was worried about her dog’s demeanor during his stay with us. As soon as we received her message we got on the phone with her to give her a thorough update and discuss her dog. She later told us that our prompt response put her at ease more than anything we said.
- Stay personal — do your best to remember their name and situation, or have a system in place so you can easily look them up! Referring to a client by their name and mentioning something small about them (“hi Julie, how has sean been? I bet he is growing up fast!) really makes the impression that you care about them as an individual.
- When you mess up, own your mistake and rectify the situation as quickly and painlessly as possible. I once had an appointment scheduled that somehow didn’t make it onto my calendar. I didn’t show up at the scheduled time and the client was very upset. She had rearranged her day so that I could meet with her, and I’m sure it was frustrating. She wanted a refund! Instead of blaming my staff for this mistake or trying to make an excuse, I simply owned my mistake, apologized profusely, and asked if there was a time that we could reschedule based entirely on her schedule. She immediately calmed down, rescheduled with me, and became one of the best client relationships I’ve had!
Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?
Create lasting change in their lives, stay on the front of their mind through email marketing or personal follow-ups, and send small gifts for referrals. We may send a 5 dollars-10 dollars gift card to a coffee shop after a referral to thank the client for thinking of us. This builds the relationship more and makes them feel appreciated.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to start a movement involving people walking their dogs! When a dog walks well on a leash, walking your dog provides major benefits to your pet, but also to yourself. Getting the entire family involved starts a trend of health that makes you feel better both emotionally and physically. I feel like people would really benefit from getting out with their pups more!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
They can find us on Facebook at ATX K9 Dog Training or on Instagram at ATX_K9
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!