In almost all respects, I love the after-care program at my kids’ school. The folks running it are professional, and the young adults on staff are courteous and attentive to the children. They don’t freak out if you’re a few minutes late, and they don’t mind if you pick the kids up early. In all respects, they do a great job.
On days when the there is no school — due to teachers’ conventions or spring break — they even offer full-day programs, which are a tremendous boon for working parents. The only thing that irks me about them is I’m required to download the application slip every time, print it every time, fill it out with exactly the same information every time, put in in an envelope, and hand deliver to one of the counselors.
I had a similar experience when trying to sign one of my son’s up for swimming lessons at the camp he’ll be attending this summer — no online signup and payment. I had to come down to their office during the middle of the day and hand them a check or cash.
And then there’s Amazon. I love Amazon and use it extensively for everything from paper towels to replacement batteries for my Dremel. But I wasn’t a big fan of the return process. As easy as they tried to make it, I hated finding a suitable box (the kids usually trashed the one it came in), printing out the label (the printer is usually out of ink or paper, or both), taping the box closed, finding a scissor to cut out the label (my son Parker is always doing something with it), finding scotch tape to affix the label to the box (also usually missing, see Parker), and then bringing the box to a UPS store. Due to the onerous nature of this process, I usually just kept items if they were under a certain dollar amount.
So I dutifully began the project, first logging into the app and clicking the return button. But to my astonishment, I saw a new choice: “Package-Free Return.”
“What is THIS?” I said to myself getting excited.
Well, if you’re not familiar with this new and amazing innovation, Package Free return is just that. I was able to take the baseball glove (literally just the glove) to a UPS store and hand it to them. In addition, I didn’t have to print out anything – just show my phone to the agent there who scanned the bar code and said, “thank you.”
“That’s it? I’m done?” I asked in astonishment.
“Yes. Thank you,” he said.
As I walked out of the store in stunned and infinitely satisfied silence, I thought to myself, “I loved Amazon before. They didn’t have to do this for me. They weren’t about to lose me as a customer, but they upped their game anyway. THIS IS HOW YOU KEEP CUSTOMERS.”
It was an eye-opening moment. I had been under the mistaken impression that once you develop a product or service and find a price point that brings in a satisfactory level of business, that’s it. You go on and try to develop the next product or service and do it all again. But I was wrong. Amazon has showed me, and hopefully shown all of us, that the way to keep customers is by continually giving them more, by continually enhancing that which they already purchase.
As such, on our next team call, I said we have to go back and review everything we offer and kick things up a notch. We have to always look to give our customers more value for the things they’re already buying today (in addition to developing new things).
Though I wasn’t about to leave Amazon, I’m sure there is a certain percentage of users who were, and perhaps a good chunk of those folks were swayed to stay by the implementation of the new return policy that no longer resembled an arts and crafts project.
You serve many constituencies — the most important of which are your clinicians and patients. My suggestion would be to revisit all you deliver and look for new ways to surprise and delight your customers. Now I just have to convince the after-care folks to do the same.