The Choreography Of Customer Service

In 1999 Chris Lynam was obsessed with ballroom dancing. He was looking for a summer job and responded to an ad in a newspaper to be a dance instructor for Arthur Murray Dance Studios. That was more than 20 years ago, and that summer job led Lynam to become a successful franchise owner of seven Arthur Murray Dance Studios.

I had a chance to interview Lynam on an episode of Amazing Business Radio. We had a fun conversation about how his dance background and obsession with taking care of his clients/students led to the growth of his business. He is quick to say that as good as an instructor he might be, that’s just part of what made his business a success. For him, the secret ingredient, which really isn’t much of a secret, was (and still is) customer service. As obsessed as Lynam is with ballroom dancing, he is just as obsessed with taking care of his customers—so much so that he wrote a book about it, The Choreography of Customer Service: High Touch Service in a Touch Free World.

Lynam believes customer service is a lot like dancing, and he’s come up with the “moves,” which he refers to as his five core concepts, that create a better service experience and help his business stand out from the competition. Here is a brief explanation of these five concepts:

1. The Secret Mission: This is the extra step that differentiates you from others. It can be something unique or some extra effort that helps you outperform your competitors. It creates a higher expectation that sets you apart. For example, you let your customers in on something secret or special that others might not know about.

2. The Backstory: Discover what steps led the customer to you. In a retail store, salespeople might ask, “How can I help you today?” But what if you asked a similar “opening question” such as, “What brings you in today?” Knowing why a customer has chosen to do business with you (or is thinking of doing business with you) is the backstory. That knowledge will help you better understand your customer’s motivation and what brought them to you.

3. The Negative: When you genuinely care for your customers, you will give them the “cautionary tale” when necessary. The most appropriate advice or answers to questions may not always be what your customers want to hear, but it’s still the right words to share and may be what gives your customers the best outcome.

4. Muscle Memory: When you practice something long enough, it becomes natural. In a dance studio, learning to dance is step one. Practicing so you don’t have to think about it—it’s just natural—is step two, and that’s your ultimate goal. This transfers perfectly into business. As you serve more and more customers, attitudes and good habits will develop over time and come naturally to you.

5. Return On Investment: This is “where the rubber meets the road.” Any effort you make to improve your customer’s experience comes with a cost in the form of hard work and/or a financial investment. Most companies measure their ROI in dollars. Lynam emphasizes that the return can be more than dollars. It can also come in the form of your customers’ behavior. Do they come back? Do they compliment you? Do they refer business to you? Before you measure your ROI, define what a successful ROI looks like. While it doesn’t always have to be defined in dollars, it often leads to more dollars.

As a dance instructor, Lynam understands the steps and moves that go into a dance. The choreography pulls it all together, turning those individual steps and moves into a routine that looks fluid and natural. It’s the same in business. Lynam’s five core concepts are like five separate dance moves. By themselves, they look good. Put them together, and you have something special.

Shep Hyken is a customer service and customer experience expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times, bestselling business author. 

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