Don’t forget the customer in your drive to do business smarter and more efficiently.
Companies struggling to remain profitable in tough times tend to retreat from “the customer is always right” to focus on new business and the 20% of customers who produce 80% of the profit. This is especially notable in large organisations that keep customers on the phone for up to 45 minutes and have their contact details buried three and four pages deep in the most obscure parts of their web-sites.
You can get away with that if your market share is protected (by monopoly, regulation or a unique product) but this arrogance is fatal if your customer can simply go elsewhere.
Yes, it is true that new customers are difficult to acquire and therefor deserve special attention.
Yes, it is also true that a small number of customers produce most of the profit and also deserve special treatment.
But, the other three quarters of your customers are also a major asset.
- They are stake holders in your business.
- They talk and bad news travels faster than good news.
- You should be moving them up the chain by cross selling and up selling to them.
- You should be converting them to ambassadors for your organisation by giving them marketing material they can use to promote your business to their friends.
This little homily customer service was inspired by a stunning example of customer service provided to Westender. I ordered a thousand business cards from our local Kwik Copy in Geet Street West End. Part of the reason I went back there was because of a special deal and good marketing. It was essentially a loss leader to get business in the door.
Because of a technical stuff up at my end, the final artwork had a fault that rendered the phone number and email microscopic. I let the company know that the cards were useless, the fault was mine and that I wanted another set made up. When I went to pick them up, there was no charge.
No fuss, no bother, no whining that I had stuffed up an already unprofitable job and made them lose money by doing it twice, simply a recognition that I needed support and they were providing a service.
Of course, every time anyone has asked me about printing since, I have sent them to Kwik Copy. I have become an advocate for their business, actively promoting them everywhere, including this article. I’ve gone out of my way to remember the owner Daniel’s name and refer people directly to him.
This is not an epiphany. I have always been an advocate of good customer service. As a sales manager I separate the account management from the sales function and give simple instructions to the two teams. If someone contacts us, stay with them until they buy something or their problem is solved. I do all of the pipeline management and work out who the most profitable customers are and set up special deals for them, but the key to turning any business around is landing the largest share of the business possible ad the start to that is to look after the customers who walk in the door.
As a salaried manager I have driven out to Brisbane Airport in the wee hours of the morning to nurse packages through customs and down to the Gold Coast late at night to deliver goods needed for the next morning: If the courier can’t get it there for you, then take it there yourself.
Customers remember when you go the extra mile for them and they talk.
Don’t let slick marketing gurus and ruthless analysts cause you to lose sight of that.
If you ask any long term successful business the secret to their success, the customer is always prominent in the answer.