Want to deliver unforgettable customer service? Hit the road

How far will you go to listen to your customers?

Whatever your answer, I know this much: It's not nearly as far as Sage has gone.

Officials with the software giant are spending the summer driving cross-country in a souped-up RV to visit customers and ask them what they need from their Sage products and services. Dubbed the "Sage Listens RV Relay," the tour covers 16 cities in 50 days, from as far east as Boston to the Aug. 28 conclusion at the company's headquarters in Irvine, Calif.

Along the way, Sage officials plan to be customers to their customers – to eat at customer restaurants, stay at customer hotels, and purchase gas and snacks from customers – and they’re asking others to shop locally, too.

The ultimate goal? To listen to – and learn from – their customers.

Imagine that.

“Every business is a little bit different and we think every business has its own unique stories,” said Sage Vice President of Customer Support Ron Taylor. “We want to hear those stories, but we also want to understand, given those unique stories, how we can better support them. This is a fun way to do it.”

Taylor was among the Sage folks on board when the RV rolled onto the lot at VIP ADI in St. Louis at the tour’s midway point. VIP, a distributor and installer of automotive products and accessories, has been a Sage customer since 2001 and just recently upgraded to the latest edition of Sage 300 ERP.

VIP officials took full advantage of the opportunity to offer feedback about the software.

“I was surprised when we first learned of the tour, and I thought it was a great idea,” said VIP Office Manager Judy McGrath. “I don't think a lot of people understand how much we use the product and the level of transactions that we do, so it was nice to give them feedback. (The software is) flexible enough that we have been able to make it our own, but there are a handful of things we wish it could do differently for us.”

“It's pretty unique that Sage is doing this – actually going out and seeing their customers, watching them use the products and asking for input,” VIP Operations Manager Arron Payne added. “We have some ideas of how we would like to use the software, and they seem receptive to looking into those.”

And therein lies the secret of outstanding customer service – doing not only what’s expected, but what’s unexpected. The company’s own Jennifer Warawa calls it “surprising and delighting” your clients, going above and beyond when it’s least expected.

It’s the first step in becoming what customer experience expert Jeanne Bliss would call a “beloved company.”

“When there’s a fork in the road,” Bliss once told me, “beloved companies always take the path that moves them closer to their customers.”

An extended summer road trip sounds like a great way to start.

The MACPA will be joining Sage and Jody Padar’s I C Opportunities tribe in Las Vegas on Aug. 17 for a “parking lot party.” We’ll be learning more about providing top-shelf customer experiences and having a bit of fun in the process. If you’re interested in joining us, you’ll find details here.

In the meantime, we want to hear your stories. How are you delivering memorable customer experiences and client service? 


Bill Sheridan