The Importance of Customers

May 02, 2013
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There has never been a more important time than now to concentrate on your customer service!  Not only do customers have greater choice than ever before - many of your competitors are fighting dirty and winning business on price alone!  So what can you do to stay ahead of the pack?

We've all got our own "favourite" customer service horror stories that we will tell people whenever we get the chance.  You may have read Joe Girard's book "How to sell anything to anyone" - in which he propounds his "Law of 250" - that is that everyone knows, on average, 250 people - and they will potentially tell every one of them about their experiences of customer service - especially if they are bad! In other words… "Bad news spreads fast"…

 

My experience is quite recent and relates to my mobile phone - my contract renewal was due and I had the opportunity for a free upgrade of my phone if I renewed with my provider (who I was quite happy with at the time).  I'd spotted a phone that gave me all the features I wanted - good screen size, great web browsing capability, great camera, MP3 player… and it made calls and sent texts too!

 

It was on the list of phones available to me, so I called my provider and asked about getting one - "no problem, Sir… but we're out of stock… in fact there are none in the UK at the moment and you won't be able to get one for another 6 weeks… but can we suggest the XYZ… that way you can take advantage of the free upgrade".  I didn't want the phone and if I simply left it I'd be committed to my provider even though they could not meet my requirements…

 

Not to be defeated I called around some others to get some quotes - "sorry Sir - no stock anywhere in the country"… "We can do that model, but it will cost you to upgrade"… and then, from one of the better known high street retailers "…so if you're not placing an order, what did you bother calling on a Sunday for?"  I was not impressed!

 

Undeterred I tried another major provider who I didn't expect to be any better than the rest of the industry… but I was wrong!  They had the phone in stock… they improved on the tariff that I'd asked about… and they called me back when they said they would!  I was pleasantly surprised and gladly placed my order - which was fulfilled exactly as promised.  Needless to say my previous provider is unlikely to hear from me - ever again!

 

It put me in mind of a quotation by Sam Walton of WalMart…"There is only one boss… The Customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else."

 

So what can YOU do in your business to make sure you look after your valuable customers?  Here are some tips that you really can't afford to ignore:

 

Remember who is the boss.  Give the customer what they actually want, not what you want or what you "think" they want.  Listen to them and act on what you hear.

Be a good listener.  Ask questions; take time identifying their needs - DO NOT make assumptions.  What three things are most important to each of your customers?

Identify and anticipate needs.  Customers buy solutions to problems… or positive emotional feelings in many cases - be familiar with their needs, their businesses and think ahead to what they might need.  Be prepared!

Make them feel important and appreciated.  It may be as simple as learning their name, remembering it and using it.  Thank them often - gratitude is always remembered and appreciated.  They don't have to use your services or buy your product, after all.

Help your customers understand how your business serves them. Make sure they understand how your sales and service systems work.  How do they return goods, how do they make payment, who should they speak to with particular problems… and so on.

Recognise the power of saying "Yes".  Look for ways to help your customers.  Make "Yes" your first response - not "NO!"  If you are serious about helping them, you will find a way of meeting their reasonable requests.

Be good and sincere at apologising.  You don't want to be doing it all the time, but whenever it is warranted - be good at it.  Complaints are invaluable - how else will we learn what is not working?  Be good at handling the "grief" …a mistake well resolved can create a powerful customer service experience which will more than overcome the initial negative feelings.

Give more than expected.  Under promise and over deliver.  Manage the customer's expectations so that they don't expect you to do something that you just can't deliver.

Ask for and act on feedback.  Take regular feedback - and do something with it.  Listen, understand and act.  If you are seen to be interested in the customer's opinions and experiences… and act on them, they will have a very positive impression of how important they are to you - and people like to feel that.

Look after your employees. They deliver your service - their attitude is the perceived attitude of your company (remember the Sunday phone guy!).  Train them well - they need to know how you want to serve your customer.  Engage them in making the customer's experience better - give them ownership and trust them - it's their livelihood too.

 

I like the thought put forward by Aristotle…"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."

 

How many of these top tips do you already take into account?  When will you do something about the rest?  Customer service is not a random or accidental thing - it must be planned, be a part of the business owner's agenda and become an integral part of your business's culture.  If you aren't sure where to start… contact Ology Coaching to find out how our business coaching can help your business.

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