“You’ll never have a product or price advantage again. They can be easily duplicated, but a strong customer service culture can’t be copied.”
– Jerry Fritz
Ah, customers! Can’t survive without ‘em, but at this time of year, when making your way through malls and parking lots is reminiscent of a bumper car rally it often dampens the mood of holiday shoppers even before they make that first purchase. It takes stamina. It takes guts and energy. But most of all, it takes patience and understanding. After all, it puts a strain on the most even-tempered souls. Including yours.
So next time a customer makes an unreasonable request or you feel a bit victimized by the craziness of the season, take a deep breath and look at the bigger picture. Tis the season. The biggest shopping days of the year provide the greatest opportunities for small business to shine.
Take customer service. I read recently while 87% of companies believed they delivered top notch service, only 12% of their customers agreed. That’s a huge discrepancy. While I imagine the numbers are a bit closer for smaller businesses, it’s still disheartening. But turn it around to your advantage, and it provides endless possibilities to be different, and be better.
So let’s start with a simple, hard truth and you’ll see what I mean.
I know for a fact that whatever product or service you provide, I can get it cheaper, better, closer to home or on line. So can your customers.
That means for someone to buy from you, they need to believe that what you offer provides more value than the same product they can get elsewhere. In other words, you need to make them believe yours is better.
How are you going to do that?
Seth Godin said ‘The only purpose of ‘customer service’… is to change feelings.”
That being the case, our business is based on the customer’s perception of us; and it’s that perception that becomes our reality. We may sell a product, but our unique value lies in our ability to provide unsurpassed service to our customers.
Businesses these days need to be customer-centric. People want to do business with people; and most importantly successful businesses understand that they need to treat their customers the way they would like to be treated. From a business standpoint, it’s no longer about making a sale. It’s about building an authentic relationship and earning trust. The sale is secondary. First, you must be known, liked and trusted. Not just you. Everyone you employ must convey the value you represent.
Your objective is to not only fill a need but to exceed expectations.
- Your objective is to become a trusted resource.
- Your objective is not merely to provide good customer service. It’s to provide a total customer experience worth telling their friends about.
- Your objective is to make people so happy to do business with you that they wouldn’t dream of going anywhere else.
In his book “Blink:The Power of Thinking Without Thinking”, Malcolm Gladwell talks about how people instinctively make up their minds about whether or not they like someone in virtually a blink of an eye. It’s a gut reaction. A feeling. Every aspect of your business and every person in your business contributes to the whole picture.
Here are 8 ways to help employees convey your brand:
- Lead by example. Be the gold standard for excellence and they will follow your lead.
- Set expectations for your employees based on integrity, honesty and company values. Provide opportunities to instill words and actions that enable employees convey that to the customer.
- Consistency helps reinforce your value and makes you believable. To your customer, speaking with your employees should ‘feel’ the same as speaking with you.
- In the words of Dr. Seuss, everyone on board must ‘mean what they say and say what they mean.’
- Provide them with all the tools they need to be successful. If you need to train, train. If you need to script, script.
- Encourage them to shine. Your employees have a stake in your business. They know that without customers, there is no business. There are no paychecks.
- Help them believe the success of the company is not only in your hands – it’s in theirs.
- Empower them to take the initiative to insure customer satisfaction and loyalty.
A customer’s experience begins the moment they enter your door but should never end at the close of the sale. You want more than their money. You want their loyalty. That needs to be cultivated, day in and day out.
It doesn’t come from getting a free watch when you buy ginsu knives on late night television. It does come when you open up that first box of Cracker Jacks and find a prize at the bottom of the box. Enable your employees to be the best they can possibly be. After all, the prize is their responsibility.
“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.“
– Mahatma Gandhi