5 Lessons from My UPS Guy: How to Create Loyal Customers

One of the most common questions I’m asked as a marketing consultant is how to differentiate a service business from its competitors. After all, most accounting firms deliver the same services as other accounting firms. Ditto for law firms, IT firms, banks, and even marketing agencies.

UPS-Truck-Logo-200x300One strategy is to focus on the knowledge and experience of the firm’s employees. I recently wrote about the importance of selling what you know (your smarts), not what you do (your services) to effectively market a professional services business.

There’s another factor that can help differentiate your company in a competitive market: How your employees make your customers feel. Case in point: My UPS delivery guy, Tom.

What can smart marketers learn about marketplace differentiation and customer retention from a UPS driver in Cleveland, Ohio? Here are some tips for your smart marketing strategy.

Delivering Packages and Much More

I opened a UPS account almost 20 years ago when I started a marketing consulting business from my home near Cleveland. A driver named Tom was assigned to my area. Later, when I moved the business to a nearby office building, Tom’s route covered my home and business.

Tom’s been serving us in both locations for many years. Like most UPS drivers, he’s smart, courteous, and efficient.

But Tom delivers much more than packages. He provides an exceptional level of personal service that you won’t find in a job description for a delivery truck driver. As the competent, caring face of the company, Tom helps ensure our loyalty to UPS.

Here are five principles of customer loyalty and retention that Tom practices every day:

  1. Know the customer. Tom figured out quickly that my home was also my business. From the very beginning, he treated me like an executive, even when my office was 10 feet from the kitchen. As we grew, he came to know our whole team and what our business is about.
  2. Value the customer. Though ours is a small business, Tom gives us the same respect as a large client. Our packages seem to be just as important as the ones he’s delivering to the biggest tenants in the building.
  3. Anticipate the customer’s needs. If there’s no one available to sign for a package, Tom will deliver home-bound shipments to our office and vice versa. That may not be in the UPS rule book, but it gets important packages to us without delay and we love it.
  4. Know your own business. Tom can answer almost any question about shipping via UPS. We can consult the UPS website (and we do), but it’s nice to get the right answer from a real person.
  5. Delight the customer. When my business was home-based, my children helped answer the door. Tom brought them Dum-Dum lollipops and Tootsie Rolls. All these years later, he still leaves treats for my dog. Is this a corporate strategy to protect UPS drivers from dog bites? I doubt it. I think he’s just a genuinely nice guy who cares about the people he serves.

Lessons for Your Smart Marketing Strategy

If you’re marketing professional services, you’re selling what your people deliver. Promoting their expertise is essential, but so is promoting how they exemplify your commitment to great customer service.

Here’s how to make customer service excellence a core part of your brand and your marketing:

  • Hire and train employees who make your customers feel so good about your company that they wouldn’t consider switching vendors because they place so much value on your team.
  • Ask customers to help you tell your story in marketing campaigns through testimonials and case studies. Feature employees alongside customers in your advertising.
  • Never forget that business is about relationships. Building great relationships with customers – who have the power to refer you to new prospects – is the smartest marketing strategy of all.
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Comments

  1. Hi Jean:

    Wow! Thank you for featuring Tom in your testimonial about the essence of customer service. At UPS, we recognize that our drivers (along with all UPSers) play an important role with delivering a great service experience each and every day. We are flattered to be recognized as an example of how to build customer loyalty.

    Debbie Curtis-Magley
    UPS

  2. Thanks, Debbie, for commenting on the blog. Customer service is a key factor in marketplace differentiation for service firms and it’s a core element of the UPS brand identity. Your employee’s embodiment of this is a good lesson for all service providers who sell to businesses.

  3. Excellent Post – Lessons we all experience, all should know, but yet, we seem to forget to do everyday. Your Key is Correct: “Delivering More Than Packages”. I think doing these things consistently is whats really important.

  4. Thanks, Bill, for your comments. Great point about consistency: It’s having a consistently excellent interaction with a company or brand at every touchpoint that creates loyalty.

  5. Hi, Jean. I’m wondering if you can share Tom’s last name with me. I’d like to recognize him.
    Thank you, Rhonda
    UPS Social Media Team

  6. Thanks, Rhonda. I’m glad Tom will be recognized for his excellent service. He deserves it.

  7. And what makes this article even better, is that UPS is happily acknowledging it, and rewarding Tom for his awesome work. A company that stands behind their employees and rewards them for their work, makes enjoying your job that much easier.

    Go UPS

    Leila

  8. Thanks for the comment, Leila. I agree – it says a lot about the company.

  9. From one UPS Driver to another (Tom), He has not only help me under stand my job as a driver, but has helped me incorporate similar attributes in how I treat my own UPS customers. Thanks Tom
    P.S Thanks for the nickname.

  10. Thanks for your comments and I’m glad you found Tom’s work inspiring to you as you do your job at UPS. FYI, he gave me a nickname, too: “Boss Lady.” Love it.

  11. Larry Venable says:

    Jean, you are so right. I was an outside salesman for a large wholesale distributor for 24 years, and prior to that was an inside salesman for 8 years in the same business. It’s sad that way too many companies do not realize the importance of every employee who interacts with the customer. Our truck drivers were okay, but ;had no training whatsoever in customer relationships. Sometimes they ever argued with a customer’s guys at a jobsite delivery. My main competitor, Ferguson Enterprises, was completely different. I’d be on a sales call and one of their trucks would pull up. The driver would get out and greet everyone with a big smile and handshake. He thought I might work for the customer and he did the same with me. I told him who I worked for and said, “can you come to work for us?” He smiled and thanked me, then proceeded to help the customer unload the material. Our CEO always complimented me on my relationship skills. He asked me to conduct some sales training classes for our salespeople. Instead, I suggested training classes for our truck drivers, counter sales and inside sales people. I set up some “lunch and learn” sessions with these folks. Some just came for the lunch and paid no attention, but others were really interested. They wanted to learn how to establish relationships with customers, as they understood this made them more valuable to the company. More valuable translated to more money and advancement opportunities. Upper management’s commitment is crucial to the process. I can provide the training, but they need to provide the motivation. Sometimes, something as simple as personally thanking an employee and recognizing their commitment to the company can go a long way towards motivating them. Thanks for a great article. And yes, UPS is a perfect example.

  12. jeangianfagna says:

    Thanks, Larry, for sharing your comments and experience. You clearly understand the crucial role every customer-facing employee plays and it sounds like you did a terrific job of helping your company learn and practice this. It’s great that your management team listened to you. Business and marketing are all about relationships and even the briefest negative interaction with a customer will stick in their minds for a long, long time, maybe even forever. Appreciate your reading the blog!

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