Want Tips On Providing Great Customer Service? Watch High Maintenance
If you've seen the show, you might have an idea as to where we're going with this. If not, well let's just get it out of the way: yes - the main character is a weed dealer (simply known as "The Guy") - who spends his days biking around the city and delivering his product. And while you may or may not agree with his life choices or his business model, one thing is undeniable: he's in demand. And there's a saying in the startup world, something to the effect of 'there are no good or bad businesses, only what the market dictates'. High Maintenance is a case in point.
But the beauty of the show is that it's not really about weed at all; it's about people. The dealing is simply used as a means to an end by the creators - married couple Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld. Through a myriad of stories and interweaving characters, they've managed to create one of the most unapologetically human shows on television. And in our opinion, they've also managed to provide an unconventional lesson on customer service. After all, The Guy's customers are wildly different, yet he's always able to navigate their eccentric personalities and connect on some human level. This leads to seamless transactions, repeat customers and word of mouth marketing. We figured, those are things that all of us want in business, so what can we steal from The Guy?
Be empathetic and perceptive.
The first thing you'll notice about our easy going protagonist is that he's incredibly sensitive to his customers' needs. He understands what they're going through, or at least makes an effort to. For example, The Guy gently nudges his agoraphobic client to make full use of the product, encouraging him to put on his headphones, get out of the house, explore the streets of New York and have his "movie moment." The Guy also delivers to a nudist (something most other dealers in his position certainly wouldn't do), and allows the man to even vent a little about his struggles. By simply listening and offering a few unassuming suggestions, his customer feels completely at ease when they normally might not. The nudity isn't even an issue, and as a result, The Guy gets a nice tip in the process (no, not that kind of tip).
The point is, The Guy doesn't treat his customers like a commodity, because no two people are the same. Every single one is an individual, and they're all probably going through some shit. So instead of being an order taker or jumping right into business, take a second to recognize your customer's humanity: they'll probably reciprocate.
Have policies and stick to them.
As helpful and empathetic as The Guy can be, he's no pushover. He has a strict set of policies that are non-negotiable. And his policies aren't complicated. For example, during one delivery, a neighbor smells what's happening and asks The Guy to help her out. But The Guy doesn't know this woman, and so he politely informs her that, unfortunately, he can't offer his service. Why? Because in order to buy, you have to be referred by someone who is already a client. That client has to give The Guy your name, number and address, which in essence means that they're vouching for you. As a result, he suggests that she talk to her neighbors first.
The lesson is, as long as you have sound reasoning behind your policies, they'll be easy to enforce. The Guy has his policy in place to avoid the law so that he can provide his service. It benefits his business and his clients, and therefore, is incredibly easy to explain. Even if new customers don't like the policy, they cannot object to the logic. So don't be afraid to tell customers why you charge a certain way, or why you conduct business the way you do. If it truly benefits both you and the customer, it will always work out.
Realize when a client isn't a good fit.
During one particular delivery, The Guy visits a Vin Diesel-looking monster of a man and his intimidating associate. As soon as The Guy arrives, he catches the man and his girlfriend at the tail end of a screaming match and decides to wait it out instead of just bailing on the exchange. He regrets this, of course, because the client turns out to be completely unhinged - waving around razor sharp samurai swords, doing pull ups, adoring his own muscles, and trying to bully his way into a discount or a cut of The Guy's profits. When The Guy finally convinces him to fork over the cash, he brings a cup of loose change and disappears downstairs to fight with his girlfriend over the phone. In the end, The Guy decides the $200 isn't worth it, grabs the small cup of change, and decides to get the hell outta there.
It was a tough decision for him, and it'll probably be a tough one for you too, especially if you're just starting out. Turning down money when you're a new business sounds almost absurd. And beggars can't be choosers, right? Well, sometimes it's better just to cut your losses and move on. Listen to your gut, because if you have to spend time catering to difficult clients you don't align with, you're taking precious time and resources away from finding clients who will love you. And if you do happen to get burned, only let it happen once.
Be clear about cost up front.
The Guy never, ever haggles over money. He always states the price in a calm, matter-of-fact way, and it's never an issue. There are no discounts or deals, but plenty of quality options are offered at different price points. As a business owner or freelancer, can you imagine how much easier that makes it to do business? We were rookie freelancers once ourselves, and we would often get crazy nervous when asking for money. But part of providing great customer service is making your clients feel comfortable, and nothing scares people off faster than a business owner stumbling over their own price. So if you exude confidence when it's time to make the sale, the customer will pick up on that confidence. It's a win/win.
Finally, don't be pushy.
OK, yes, The Guy is usually high, which might have something to do with his casual, laid back style of customer service and sales. But you don't have to be high to be chill with your customers. They either want what you're offering, or they don't. If you get super pushy, they may decide that they're no longer interested, or that you're not someone they want to be doing business with. And if a client is unsure, simply ask them what they're looking for and make a recommendation. No one wants to feel "handled." The Guy maneuvers this brilliantly by never pushing an up-sell on his clients or forcing them into decisions they're not comfortable with. He's available, assertive, and aware, which in the end builds a mutual respect with a happy, steady clientele. And that's something we can all toke on.