By Patrick McClure
Thank Your Customers
What impact can one person have on the revenue performance of a large supermarket? Is it possible that one person can create a company-wide impact, sending shock waves of good cheer and driving ever-increasing repeat business? How can one person make such a difference?
In one Midwestern supermarket chain, this is exactly what happened.
The following story was relayed to me by Barbara Glanz, a world-renowned professional speaker who delivers programs about how to create Legendary Customer service.
It was two days after she delivered one of her programs to a large supermarket chain when she received a telephone call from a 19-year old youngster – Johnny – who had Down syndrome. He bagged groceries at the supermarket. He told Barbara that he really enjoyed her program and had some ideas to make a difference in his company and wanted to know if she would approve. He wanted to create personal messages, handwritten, with inspirational ideas and thoughts and then wanted to drop these ideas into the grocery bags of his customers. Each of his customers would receive a message from Johnny. Barbara told him she thought this was a great idea, and with his manager’s approval that is what he did.
Two weeks later, Barbara received a call from the store manager. He reported that he now had a problem….there were long lines of people waiting at the cash register that Johnny was working. When he tried to move the customers into another less crowded line, they insisted on staying where they were. They wanted Johnny to bag their groceries, and to get his message.
Johnny’s actions inspired others in the store. The flower merchant began handing out spare flowers to young children and older ladies. The butcher wrapped his meat in special packages; the produce manager went out of his way to treat customers with special care. The entire store caught fire with a storm of amazing care and attention to their customers. Bottom line, the store traffic and revenues saw a huge boost, going on to become the most profitable store in the entire chain.
Delivering excellent customer service is not only personally gratifying, but it is immensely profitable. Thanking your customers, showing your appreciation in many small ways, is just good business. How many of you are working in firms, or for your own company, that need to adopt a similar strategy? How many Johnnys work at YOUR firm?
Statistics show that it is far more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing customer. One of my clients, a medical device company, has estimated that their fully burdened cost of acquiring a qualified LEAD for their product is over $1000. When you add to this the sales and market costs as well as all other expenses involved, the total costs can be quite large. It’s time consuming, expensive, and very costly to acquire new customers. Once they have become customers, your company should be doing everything possible to retain them, by delivering excellent customer service.
Conversely, an upset customer is 5-10 times more likely to broadcast their dissatisfaction to the world. All of the good work you do can be negated by one thoughtless comment, one angry word, and one negative comment. In today’s social media world – everything connected to the internet – a negative customer service experience is easily shared with thousands of people and can actually go “viral” when it is broadcast to thousands.
The most successful companies have developed programs to deliver excellent customer service, and are doing everything possible to protect their market share. After all, there are dozens of competitors that would love to take your customers away, and all they need is the opportunity. Don’t give them the chance! Keep your customers happy!
In Focused or Customer Focused
Another key to successful customer relations is infusing your company to the core with the principals of quality customer service. Every member of your team—executive, manager, employee – has the responsibility to deliver first-rate service to your customers.
There is a huge difference between a company that is inwardly-focused and a company that is customer focused. Here are some distinctions:
See if you can spot where YOUR company fits. If you’re spending all your time thinking about internal issues, you’re headed for disaster. Remember, your customers are paying your salary and if you’re not working sincerely to earn their trust and support, they can always take their business elsewhere.
One more point: when we use the word “customer” we are talking about your outside customers as well as your inside customers. If you are a manager, you are working daily with employees and all of the customer service skills you have developed apply equally to your employees. In many ways, if you are a manager your most important “customer” is a direct report.
We’ve all heard one of the core maxims in providing excellent customer service: “The customer is always right. “ This is used during training and by management to convey the important concept that when a customer is upset or concerned, it never works to argue with them or discount what they are saying. What it REALLY means is that the customer’s perception of what occurred is correct for them, regardless of what you think. Their experience, and how they feel about it, is the most important factor to be dealt with, and it must be listened to and understood.
If the customer is angry, their impression of what just occurred has lead them to respond with anger, regardless of your impression. This is not the time to react, but it is a time to put yourself into their place and actively listen to what their viewpoint is. You will never be able to deliver excellent service if you REACT to the customer or immediately conclude they are stupid, ignorant or unrealistic.
Whenever you react and make a snap decision about someone else, this decision will color how you view that person. It’s like your mind is a huge magnifying glass and it will automatically seek out the character traits that you’ve decided must be there! If you perceive that the customer in front of you is messy and disorganized, then you will automatically assume their entire life must be the same way. If you feel insulted by what the other person has said, then you will project this feeling on them and the situation will worsen.
The alternative is Active Listening, a much needed skill in the business world. This requires the following steps:
- Shut up, stop talking.
- Focus your attention on the other person, calmly and professionally.
- Listen to their verbal communication, as well as their emotions and attitudes. Train yourself to become very perceptive with the non-verbal messages that we all project.
- Ask questions to clarify as needed. Listen to their answers.
- Paraphrase, clarify or summarize what they said to make absolutely certain you received what they said and what they meant. You will be amazed at discovering how often you didn’t fully grasp what was said.
Remember, active listening is not about you. It’s all about the other person, so get out of yourself and put your focus and attention on them. Good communication and active listening skills are the core component of delivering excellent customer service.
The founder of one of the most successful (and largest) companies in the world had this to say:
“Our Goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best, but legendary.” – Sam Walton, Wal-Mart
According to Dana Borowka, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC (www.lighthouseconsulting.com) and author of Cracking the Personality Code hiring the right people is key to future growth. If you would like additional information on raising the hiring bar, please click here to see an article on this subject.
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Patrick McClure, Sr. Sales & Customer Service Training Consultant of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC, is a speaker, trainer, consultant, and author who enjoys working with individuals and corporations to help them achieve maximum performance. He has dedicated his practice to helping others become more successful. To learn more, email email@example.com.
If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, firstname.lastname@example.org & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.
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