Daniel C. Felsted
On April 22nd, 2003, the Cache Valley Radio Group sponsored a great 2-hour seminar. If you missed it, ask someone who went for some pearls learned during the morning seminar. I would like to talk about what I found to be the most important point made at the seminar.
The question was asked: What business are you in? The cleaning business? The plumbing, hardware, auto parts business? The speaker emphatically said that this is wrong. “We are in the Customer Service business! This must be the main focus of all of our business endeavors.”
If you don’t believe this to be true, please call me and explain why not. I’d argue that this is in fact true.
I say this in one form or another to everyone I consult with. Customer service is the key to business success. If you are not doing everything you can to foster a relationship with your clients or customers, you are missing out on a large business opportunity. You are probably hurting your business profits by about half. Yes, it has been proven that a customer service-oriented business outperforms a nonservice-oriented business two to one. So what should you do to start being more customer service-oriented?
1. Make a customer service-oriented marketing plan.
2. Treat employees and customers as valuable assets.
3. Train your employees.
4. Empower your employees to act.
5. Learn the lifetime value of each customer.
6. Recognize your customers.
7. Reward your loyal customers.
8. Move moderate customers up the value chain.
9. Target new customer.
10. Review the process and improve the plan.
Create a Service-oriented Cultural Marketing Plan
This is the key to accomplishing all of the above, so this is what I will address today. When developing this cultural marketing plan, you must instill in every employee that they work for the customer, including those who supply you. This is the first and only rule, all other tasks are of secondary importance.
How many of you have gone to a local store and saw employees talking to each other and not notice you standing there waiting for assistance? It happens all too often and is a major factor why you lose customers.
Start With a Service Vision
Develop a plan that explains the role of the plan and the role the employee plays in it. Remember that this plan must be carried out by your employees, so they first need to understand it, believe in it and live it.
There are many great policies and vital plans that have been handed down the ranks that were never understood and implemented because of disbelief, no will to implement, or no one to managed the policy. It’s your policy and business—you need to take ownership and be the leader. Show your employees that this plan is important to you by living it.
Write a Service Policy That Explains Your Policies
After you have developed a cultural plan that will show your commitment to the customers’ satisfaction, put it in writing and put it in your employees’ hands. Keep in mind that this is a living document. You will find that it needs to be re-written and revised as situations occur that you did not plan for. To this end, you also need to give your employees the authority to bend the rules when needed to meet customers’ needs.
We have all seen where policy is above all else, and practical application is impossible. The recent local parking issue is a prime example of this.
Train Your Employees to Implement Your Policy
Training is vital to the success of your program. First, it reinforces the written plan. Second, it brings to life, in real-world situations, how it applies to employee-customer relationship and how to recognize and correct problems before they happen. You should implement a continuing education program. Train your employees on-the-job, send them to off-the-job training, and provide books, manuals, and how to guides to help them do their job better. Your customers will notice the difference, and your business will thrive from your efforts.
Train, train and retrain. This culture must become second nature to you and your employees.
Standards for Performance
Set clear standards and expectations for performance. Everyone must know exactly what is expected of them and what they must do to provide superior customer service. You must measure, review, and reward great customer service. Show your successes to your customers by acknowledging employees who perform at or above-set standards.
We all have stories of times when our expectations were not meet by a business or its employees. And these experiences have left us bitter towards that business, and we tell our friends of this injustice. On the other hand, we also have positive experiences which we respond positively to and support their efforts with our patronage. It is up to you. How you treat your customers and employees will reflect on you and your business.
If you are not sure how to begin, send me an e-mail and request my free e-booklet How To Get Your Customers To Pay More and Do It Happily for ideas that will jump-start your cultural marketing plan.