If your customers feel they are not getting the kind of service or value they want, they can literally ruin your business. They will do this by not coming back and telling their family, friends and acquaintances, why they won’t darken your lobby area or visit your website ever again.
Customers can afford to be picky. Why? Because they hold the purchasing power for your company’s products or services. If they are disappointed with your customer service, they will vote with their feet, cross the street, and go straight to your competitors.
According to research, on average, an unhappy customer will tell 9-16 other people about the bad experience with the business where they used to go. Some will go as far as telling 20 or more other people about the bad service they received. Many experts believe this to be a form of reverse marketing.
As I often tell the clients I am working with, there are many roads to the mother lode of gold. In other words, there are many strategies you can use to build your business. The key is to discover which strategy best matches your business philosophy.
If you try to use an approach that is not a good fit or is not in harmony with your company’s mission statement, it could wreck your business.
It must be an approach that you can get buy in and support from your management team and your staff. Since there are so many different strategies you could choose from, let’s look at some places where you can begin to build the right one that will work for you and your company.
1. Communicate with employees on a regular basis. The first place to look for information on how to create the right kind of business strategy is your team. You must have strong two-way communication with them. Find out what you and your management team can do to make it a better place for your employees to work. Ask them what they want the company to be like. What level of service or product quality would they like to see it achieve.
What kind of training or tools should be available for them to develop and maximize their ability to provide the best service or products possible?
One business owner, I know of did a lousy job of encouraging two-way communication between her and her employees. She intimidated her managers and employees by doing a lot of yelling and using profanity. She would regularly ridicule team members in front of other employees. Needless to say, everyone in the organization was quite inhibited and just plain afraid to give any honest communication to the owner.
Another question to ask your employees is what kinds of things are they hearing from their customers. What are the customers saying to them that they need or want? What do customers not want?
2. Communicate directly with your customers and find out what they like and don’t like. Find out what they see your competitors doing right and wrong.
One of our clients, a car wash owner who owns a number of car wash operations, makes it a practice to regularly be present when customers come through their lobby areas. He learns first hand some of their likes and dislikes.
Over the years, he has learned that when he does not do this, he begins to lose touch with his customers. He realizes many of his customers like the feeling they get when they have the opportunity to talk face to face with him. As he has shared with me, there have been many customers he has been able to retain because he was accessible when a customer had a complaint that could not be resolved by his management team.
3. Use outside resources to conduct internal focus groups for unbiased communication. Most times your managers or employees will not directly tell you everything you need to know. The reason is they don’t want to hurt your feelings, experience any direct confrontation or repercussions with or from you. To avoid this quandary, use an outside consultant to gather anonymous feedback.
We were hired by a large manufacturing firm to conduct internal focus groups with managers and front-line employees. Being an outside consulting firm and keeping the interview findings anonymous and confidential, l allowed us to gather answers that would not have been given, if the interviews had been face to face or directly with upper management.
This along with a follow up meeting with the individuals as a group sent a message to the departments interviewed, that upper management was serious about creating service solutions to external customer concerns.
The same goes for your external customers. When you use an outside consultant, where management and employees are not present to facilitate your focus groups, you will get purer and more unbiased information.
With one client, where we facilitated an outside focus group, there were things that were brought up regarding the cleanliness of the coffee area and restroom facilities, that would have been embarrassing for the participants to say and for the management team to hear, first hand.
So in summary, if your customers feel they are not getting the kind of service or value they need and want, they can literally wreck your business. Be proactive and communicate directly with your employees and customers. When you do this consistently, you will be dismantling the wrecking ball that unhappy customers can swing. And best of all you will grow your business by delivering what your customers truly need and want.