Content provided by a guest contributor.
Things to do: (The Good)
In downtown Johannesburg, a fast food takeaway used to bake large pizzas, and sell them by the slice. Each time I bought a slice I noticed that the attendant chose the biggest available slice for me. As you can imagine, that made me feel really good. When a new pie was delivered for the oven, the same rule applied – first sell the biggest slice.
So the takeaway gained great goodwill and encouraged customers to come back. Maybe they sold 50 or 60 slices of pizza a day, that meant 50 or 60 customers feeling special, feeling valued. What was the cost of this? Nothing. That’s right, not a cent.
What can you do to make your customer feel special and valued?
When Avis became the car hire company that ‘was number two, but tried harder’ the then CEO Townsend insisted that everyone in the organisation from board member to cleaner spent time in the car hire booths or despatch points at airports serving customers.
The whole organisation interacted with customers at their point of delivery of the service, and soon learned what the front line people went through. Avis became highly successful. Total cost of all this customer awareness instilled in every person in the company? Nil
What can you do to make all your people aware of the humanness and needs of your customers?
Things to stop doing: (The bad)
How annoying is it when your supplier arranges to deliver on a certain date and time and then does not deliver then – and has not warned you. It is very similar to being promised payment by a customer, who neither pays nor warns you that he will not pay on time. Why do people do this?
Every day hundreds of customers and creditors are irritated, inconvenienced and have to make excuses for non-performance to their customers and suppliers, sometimes being forced to continue the chain of broken promises by giving late notice.
Who cares what your special prices are, or whether your products have pretty features, or how knowledgeable your salespeople are, when your organisation cannot be trusted? Where you care so little for your customer or supplier that you cannot be bothered to make a phone call in advance?
Stop breaking promises. It destroys customer confidence and wipes out all your good marketing.
A customer orders an item, and discovers when it is delivered to him that the price has changed, inevitably it is now more expensive than he expects. A price special offer has expired, a price increase has taken effect or an out of date catalogue was used.
It is exactly the same when the shelf label in a store reflects a lower price than the till, because someone forgot to update the shelf talker. The customer will be somewhere between mildly irritated and so enraged he vows never to do business with the company again. Why do organisations do this to their customers? All your goodwill goes down the drain and you appear to be cheating.
Make sure your prices lists and everything associated with them are up to date and that everyone knows when a price changes.
Destructive things you probably don’t even know you are doing : (The ugly)
A delivery or service vehicle bearing your company name and logo is in a hurry. It bypasses a queue of frustrated motorists stuck in a traffic jam by driving up a turn only lane, following the taxis. At the intersection the driver cuts in ruthlessly on me, ignoring my protests or maybe even swearing at me.
Your latest multimillion advertising campaign portraying you as caring for customers, the environment, orphans and little puppy dogs suddenly becomes wasted expenditure. You have lost me and many others as a customer, maybe forever. It is tempting to blame the driver for this loss of custom, but does the company set too-tight deadlines for him? Is he (like the taxis) normally under pressure to get through multiple trips?
Be aware of where you logo is seen, and what effect it may have. You never know who is seeing a vehicle, your web site, a sign or a label, and what effect that has on the viewer. Instil pride in the logo in everyone.
A customer arrives at your business premises to find the customer car park full. Not only is it full, but it has open bays, whereas the covered parking, sheltered from the sun and rain is all reserved for management and some staff. The customer parks in the street and enters your showroom to find no other customers there.
The company has not provided enough parking for staff so they use the customer bays. How do you think this customer feels now? Do the words ‘undervalued’ ‘insignificant’ or ‘unimportant to you’ spring to mind? And this is immediately before you are about to make your pitch to gain a sale!
Even before this experience the customer-to-be phones your company and tried to speak to a salesperson. The switchboard operator did not know if any were available. After hanging on for a while (recently the queue to speak to a Telkom Internet salesperson was quoted as 35 minutes long – seriously) he left a message, the call was not returned. So he sent an e-mail, and there was no response to that either…
Staff convenience being allowed to creep above customer care is an insidious killer if sales. Test your systems frequently by behaving as if you were a customer. It is better to cringe in embarrassment now, than let a real customer experience the bad habits that have developed.
Article written by Ed Hatton. Ed is a small business mentor, a speaker and writer, and the columnist of the advice column The Start Up Coach in Entrepreneur magazine. More details are available here or contact Ed by e-mail.