By Mary DellaValle
What do confections and car repair have in common? Not much, you say. But taking a cue from a Cleveland, OH, candy maker can bring some sweet success to your customer service strategies.
A headline in the local Sunday paper caught my eye. It read: “Step aside, Willy Wonka. The legendary chocolate factory owner can’t compete with our own Dan Malley.”
The reference was to the third-generation owner of Cleveland’s legendary Malley’s, who is taking the company’s success and customer loyalty to new heights via highest-quality products and customer service that’s delivered in unorthodox ways.
To illustrate Malley’s determination to win customers, the article stated that he’s obsessed with getting customers and prospects to also become obsessed with his chocolates. In fact, he’s known among his Malley peers as the “Chocolate Czar.”
Oversized plasma-screen TVs installed in Malley’s main store play videos that promote his overall chocolate candy line, and showcase chocolate specialty items with upcoming seasonal tie-ins, enticing customers to linger amid the aroma of homemade chocolates. The longer they stay in the store, the more candy they’ll buy.
Catering to customers’ last-minute gift-buying frenzies, three times a year before major candy-buying holidays (Valentine’s Day, Easter and Sweetest Day), he sets up drive-through lanes outside his main store and factory to sell chocolate-dipped strawberries.
In the battle to win the attention of chocolate-buying prospects, Dan en-larged the size of his holiday catalog so that mail carriers will insert all other catalogs being delivered to a certain address within the Malley’s catalog. While his catalog costs doubled, he feels this move will attract new customers.
Taking customer service a step farther, he randomly picks the names of 10 customers every work day and personally calls them to say thanks for shopping at Malley’s. He also contacts two vendors a month to thank them for shipping their products in time and for being a good vendor. Dan’s theory: “The more I can push the envelope to get people to not only buy Malley’s, but to love Malley’s, to be walking advertisements for me, that’s the way our company is going to grow.”
By not taking shortcuts with ingredients or the candy-making process itself, Dan is able to generate repeat sales among customers who can taste the difference, to the tune of $25 million in annual sales this year, generated from 17 stores across Northeast Ohio.
If customer service is not high on your list of priorities, move it to the top of the list. If you think your ideas are all tapped out, think again. Today, customers have lots of choices for everything they do or want to buy. They want to be catered to; they want to feel important; and they want to know that their money is well spent. This example clearly points out that looking outside our industry for customer service ideas can pay dividends in customer loyalty and repeat business two things you can’t afford to be without.