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Go ahead - MARK that BENCH

It was during a trip to Orlando some years ago. I was living overseas at the time. Finished another day of meetings and presentations and was invited to dinner at my friends’ house. We became friends not too long prior during a yearlong sales cycle. That’s right, a customer who turned into a friend. He has three kids, pretty young at that point and I am contemplating whether I should spend my evening at someone’s house with 3 young children running around or just go back to the hotel room and relax. Those who know me know that kids don’t really scare me, so I selected the homier dinner.

After we eat, the kids go to watch a movie, and the parents and I are having coffee/tea while catching up. At one point my friend goes and brings from the other room a small package for the kids telling them it arrived today via Prime. I thought he referred to a local delivery service I never heard of, so I ignored it. A few minutes later, William, one of the boys (they have twin boys) asks his mom whether he could order a movie via Prime.

This is where I started suspecting something was going on.

“What’s Prime?” I asked while thickening my accent just in case this was a stupid question I could blame on being from another country.

They looked at each other, their eyes lit with a spark and both their tones of voice raised as they started telling me in an emotional way, reliving their experience all over again, what Prime is.

About a year later, my family and I moved back to the U.S and one of the first thing I did is sign us up to Amazon Prime and my life was never the same.

Do you remember the first time you used the one click purchase feature and your package arrived two days later? Do you remember how you felt?

I remember as if it was yesterday. I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited when that first package arrived. “It works” I kept saying to myself. “How do they do it?” I repeated quietly. It’s like magic.

Now, do you recall trying to order anything else on any other online site after you’ve had the prime experience? Not quite the same right?

You see, Amazon set a standard. A new standard. A benchmark. Our minds, whether we like it or not, automatically compares our online experience to the benchmark and reflects accordingly. Amazon in this case, makes sure our experience is an emotional one every time we purchase. They keep surprising us with great service, on time delivery and other elements to this emotional experience. They stand out, they make an impact and the are getting personal. Just like the three pillars of emotional relevance.

Here is the amazing thing - psychologically, even if you go online for anything else, and not just online delivery, your brain will compare it to whatever benchmark that was set as the most positive emotional experience. That’s right, if you go online to research for some information, book a hotel, social media, your mind will compare it to the benchmark.

Once online shopping companies realized they must match up to this new benchmark they started heading that direction but Amazon will always remain the benchmark. Other companies in different verticals now do the same and try to set a benchmark. Think about your Uber experience, your Starbucks experience, your Target experience. Each in their own category sets a standard and become a benchmark. And not just companies set new benchmarks. Singers, athletes, engineers, business leaders - we compare everything else to those who set the standard and become that mark on the bench. People like Tony Robbins, Albert Einstein, Larry Bird, Beyoncé to name a few.

My own foot next to Larry Bird's shoes

And this is where you dear sales person, account manager, customer success manager come in.

The other day I called my insurance agent. Every time I call (and I have been their customer for about 8 years now) Shanell picks up the phone and take care of me. Whatever it is, small or large, she takes care of it. For years, without knowing nor realizing she set a standard in my head. A benchmark my mind is now used to. As a matter of fact, I never, not even once, spoke to the actual agent. Shanell has been it. Never had any worries when I called as I knew Shanell is there. She recognized my voice, knew about my life, we had a relationship. Never met in person but still. She has been my emotional anchor there.

The phone rings twice and a man’s voice picks up. Polite, courteous but not Shanell.

Me: ”Hi, is Shanell there?”

Man: ”Well, Shanell is no longer here, my name is Joe and I can help you”

You know that feeling when you feel as if you are helpless? Similar to when you call your mobile provider after you found a $500 charge on your bill, you spent 15 minutes trying to tell your side of the story to the rep who picked up after 20 minutes wait and who after all this transfers you to the finance department so you can tell the entire story all over again kind of a feeling. Stunt. Someone just ripped the carpet from underneath your feet kind of a feeling and you just stand there, frozen uncertain of what to do next kind of a feeling.

Me: “Hmmmmmm…..I will call back”

For the following couple of weeks, I have been playing phone tag with Joe trying to get an answer to my question. I even got to speak to the owner of the agency a couple of times when I called, and he happened to pick up. That benchmark is hard to maintain, I get it, and this is why so few actually do it. That mark on the bench Shanell marked was gone and so was I as a customer. I am now looking for a new Shanell.

Go ahead and set the standard with your relationship with your customers. Go ahead and Stand Out, Make an Impact and Get Personal. Be Emotionally Relevant. Go ahead and be Shanell. Go ahead and create a benchmark so you create your own level of service others will want to be like, a benchmark your customers will compare to other vendors or providers they work with. A benchmark where your customers will not need to worry when they call you as they know you got their back, a benchmark that will make them feel trusted.

Go ahead and MARK that BENCH.

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