“No customer is going to tell me how to run my business”

customerserviceCan you imagine these words coming out of a CEO’s mouth?  Well, yes it’s true. A while back I tried working with a global enclosure manufacturer on a partnership, yes, they are today out of business, liquidated some time back and it’s no wonder with an attitude like this headline how they could of survived. Working with them I had asked for a certain employee, which most of our team felt very comfortable with and did a great job to step into a program management role.  It was not his choice to service the account and so the standoff ensued.  When I questioned why they weren’t moving forward, the CEO told me “that no customer was going to tell him how to run his business”.

In all my years of management I have learned a number of things…

The Customer is always right.  Even when he or she is wrong they are right.

It takes much longer and more energy to find a new customer than it does to keep an old one. Your current customers are customers for one reason, they like you or they like something that you do.  Maybe you provide excellent value for the dollars they spend.  Maybe you go out of your way to make them feel important.  Whatever the reason you are obviously doing something right.  That is half the battle, cultivate that relationship and watch it grow….

Loyalty means everything to your business.  I am going to think and take care of people that treat me right before I try something new. Every time, I check in at Delta Airlines, they tell me “thank you for your loyalty”. I used to think what a strange saying but you know, talking loyalty, is like talking close personal friendships.  I want to be a friend and a trusted advisor.  Loyalty is a lot like that, it means the two parties trust each other. I like when someone appreciates me and tells me.  That is human nature to want to be appreciated. Tell your customer, just how important they are and they will keep coming back.  In fact, they will tell other potential customers and make sure they enjoy the same valued experience that the original customer did and you will grow your business.  There is nothing like a good testimonial.

The customer wants to be heard and understood.  Yes, sometime they are obnoxious and bullying but you can usually get the customer to listen to some reason.  Unless you’ve ticked them off so badly they will never recover. Recently, I missed a reservation at a hotel.  It was my fault but I do spend 200 nights a year in a hotel so that is bound to happen 2 or 3 times in my life I suppose.  When I checked into the hotel again the clerk mildly reminded I had missed but she had taken care of it.  I appreciate that.  When I happened to see the hotel manager, he reminded me that I had missed and berated me for not calling to cancel.  He should be sent to charm school.  The clerk, while much less experienced did it in a non-threating way.  The manger on the other hand did it in such a way to cause a potential confrontation. Wonder why he is the manager?

Don’t push the customer into a decision they are uncomfortable in making.  Both parties may regret it later. Hard sells never pay off.  Create the value equation so that your customer wants to buy. When your customer understands the value equation, he or she will be happy with the product or service and tell their friends.

Actually care. Sincerity is always valued. Very seldom do you get the feeling when talking to a customer service agent that they actually care about your plight.  Again, Delta Airlines agents must go through some great training because when you call the Diamond status line they actually sympathize with your plight and do whatever they can to make you as complete as they possibly can. What you as the customer wants…is someone who cares.

Understand your product and understand the value add equation from your customers perspective. The older I get the more I realize the less I know.  I want an expert opinion.  Whether it’s the latest electronic equipment or why these pants or these suits costs so much more than the other I want to understand the value in what I am buying.

Respect them. Treat your customers well and they will treat you well.  Respect then becomes a mutual thing.  If the CEO in the initial discussion would have shown a little respect to me as the customer thing may not have worked out the way they did.  Remember, the customer controls the purse strings.

Deliver the goods. Make sure you deliver what you said you will deliver as it says a lot about your character. I have always preached to my kids that a promise made is a commitment of your character.  If you are going to make a commitment you live up to it regardless of the costs. I admire companies that do the right thing rather than worry about the short term costs.  Customers see that commitment and do give you credit for doing the right thing.

Follow up is so important in building the relationship. I like to believe that the sale lasts forever. I believe in staying in touch so that the next time your customer needs you, you are first in his or hers mind. Use social media to the fullest to remain in the forefront with your customer but let’s not forget about phone calls.  A phone call just saying you are thinking of them and you would like to catch up goes a long way to keeping a relationship alive. Relationships mean everything….Don’t be the CEO of the enclosure company who alienates his customer or you will follow the same fate.