When I was a park ranger, I had the opportunity to help a lady who was camping solo for the first time since her husband died. Her grand adventure took an unfortunate turn when she was not able to set the tent up by herself. It was only a 2 person tent, but I admit it was difficult to set up. She obviously hadn’t read any reviews of it before purchasing it. However, in 20 minutes I was able to set her tent up, and gave her plenty of advice on how to handle the other challenges she might face, as well as recommending sites like campingfunzone.com where she could find more help if she needed it. In the process, I learned some lessons on how you can be a park ranger to your customers.
Here are the points you need to remember from this story so you can be a park ranger to your customers.
- Identify the people you can help. As a park ranger, it was easy to identify this lady needed help, but what if my approach would have been just to show up at every campsite and ask if they needed help with something? What are the chances a burly guy in flannel would have needed the park ranger’s help to start a campfire? It would have been a waste of my time, and I would have probably missed the opportunity to get in front of the person who really needed help.
- Put yourself in front of the right people. How would the same story have played out if I had stayed in my ranger truck and told myself “if anyone needs help, they will find me”. I would not have had the opportunity to help the lady. Someone else would have helped her, or she would have gone home in frustration.
- Be identified as an authority. When the handsome man with the badge and flat hat, who had clearly invested plenty in a fantastic range of park ranger vests walked into her campsite, she knew right away I could help her. She knew she could trust me. So she opened up and told me about her husband passing away and how she could not set up the tent. If the burly guy in flannel had walked into her campsite would she have been so open about her problem? Probably not. My uniform built the authority and trust she needed to open up. What have you done to build authority, credibility, and trust where people can identify you as someone who can solve their problem?
- You are only a piece of the customer’s story. The park ranger who saved the day was only a small piece of her adventure. The real story is her first camping trip since her husband died. Perhaps without the park ranger, she would have given up and went home, but all I did as the ranger was provide her with a solution so she could have her adventure. You need to understand you are a piece of your customer’s story. Find a way to apply this, be it by personalized marketing measures or by taking the time to explain how what you do will help them live out their adventure and create their own story in some way. I spent only 20 minutes with the lady. You have to make your 20 minutes count.
- Exceed expectations. When this lady paid the fee for a night of camping, she expected to get a campsite to herself for one night, the use of clean bathroom facilities, and access to all of the natural beauty at the park. She did not expect to get a park ranger to give her personal time and attention to help set up her tent. That went way beyond her expectations, and it did not cost her any more than the camping fee. It took me only 20 minutes, and she is probably still telling people about it today. Consider what you can do to go beyond the expectations of your customer. Truthfully, most people have become accustomed to not having their expectations met. So if you can meet expectations you have already won. But if you can exceed those expectations, you have earned a loyal customer. Do you think the lady went camping again after that trip? I bet she did.
- Work within your message. To keep it simple, let’s say the message of a park ranger is to protect and serve parks and people. I marketed the message by being in uniform. For a park ranger, there is no better marketing than the uniform. I mobilized the message walking the campground and getting your message out in front of the people. I mastered the message by telling the lady I could help, and then delivering on the promise. When our interaction was over, I know she believed the message of a park ranger was to protect and serve parks and people. And perhaps more importantly, I believed the message too.
If you can apply those five lessons into your business, you will be strutting around like a park ranger. And you will serve your customers better.