The Recruiting News
How To Value The Customer
(September 21, 2012) Customers are what makes it happen, as far as business is concerned. With that said, it is surprisingly easy to take your eyes off the customer as you pursue your business success. It is even easier for employees to make wrong decisions where customers are concerned. In fact, the more disconnected an employee is from the customer experience, the easier it is to be rude, to be careless, or just to take too long to help the customer out.
It is important to keep a watchful guard here, and to make sure you and every employee is really valuing the customer. Dale Little, a business strategist at dalelittle.com, says you should "encourage employees to focus on customer contact." The contact part is essential. The more involved an employee, or you for that matter, is with the customer, the easier it is to empathize and deal with the customer in a caring way.
Dale goes on to say, "customers require undivided attention and focus. The red carpet treatment for a client may mean the difference between your company making the sale or maintaining the existing business relationship, or someone else taking the business from you."
Can you truly say that you give all of your customers the red carpet treatment? Or do you take some customers for granted? I realize that there are a few customers you would rather just get rid of, but that is no excuse to be ambivalent toward the rest of your customers. In fact, my challenge is this; proactively get rid of bad apple customers so that you have an easier time giving the royal treatment to everyone else.
Lets talk for a few moments on how to value your customer.
Build a Culture of Caring
If you want every employee to show care for customers, you need to focus on building the right culture. Always stress the importance of the customer and take time to train on proper etiquette and procedures for dealing with customers.
I don't think a blanket statement such as "the customer is always right" works. The customer is not always right. Employees need to know how to deal with customers when they are wrong, when they are rude, or when they are clueless. Everyone should treat customers politely, no matter what. Complaints and questions should be dealt with promptly. When a customer takes the time to contact your business, it should become a priority to get back to them.
Perhaps the cardinal rule of building a culture of caring is to not talk badly about customers behind their backs. Employees pick up on this and it sometimes overflows into actual relations with the customer. Instead, truly value customers, even difficult ones. If they are bad for business, get rid of them so you are not tempted to disparage them within your business.
Arrange Interactions for Employees
A great way to build empathy between employees and customers is to arrange for them to meet face to face. Salespeople who take time to build relationships with customers often go out of their way in protecting those customers and taking extra special care of them. Think of ways other key staff, such as customer service reps and technicians, can meet customers.
One idea I like is having a company picnic where you invite customers and their families. This could be an opportunity for everyone to let their hair down and to interact as people. You could also encourage employees who talk to customers on the phone to take some time for personal conversation with them. Employees involved in making your product or delivering your service could take field trips to see how customers are benefiting from what they do.
If an employee has a personal connection with a customer, they are far more likely to give that customer the best treatment.
Institute a Thank You Campaign
Instill an attitude of thankfulness at your business. Give each employee a stack of thank you cards and have them hand write thank you notes to customers throughout the year. Many employees can get involved with this. Your customer service reps might send a thank you note to someone who was exceptionally pleasant to work with. Accounts receivable could send a thank you for an early payment. Salespeople should send thank you notes for every sale. You should send thank you notes as well from time to time.
By giving thanks, you help everyone to value customers more. And every customer appreciates a thoughtful, hand written thank you note. It is far better to do this for retention than to send a pre-printed Christmas card.
Why not have a most caring employee of the month award? It can go to someone who went out of their way to make sure things went well for a customer. It could be a packager who stayed a little late to make sure an order got out, or a salesperson who suggested sending flowers to a customer who was sick.
Recognize your employees efforts to value the customer. Doing so will show that you appreciate those efforts. It will reinforce the good behavior and show that you care about valuing the customer. Tie some kind of reward, perhaps a gift card, in with this program.
Create Customer Friendships
Finally, encourage friendships with customers. Don't glare at employees if they are having a friendly chat with a customer on the phone. Allow salespeople to use social networks to stay up to date with customers. Encourage deeper relationships by hosting events such as a picnic or even a customer thank you dinner.
The closer customers feel to key people in your business, the more loyal they will be. Its okay to be personal with customers. Sure, there is a danger that lines will be crossed. Monitor employees for anything inappropriate. But allow your people to go beyond the standard rapport building tricks.
When there is a bit of history between customer and company, with a personal touch, there is a better chance that the customer will get great treatment and feel a greater loyalty to your company. So encourage friendliness.
The customer is valuable to your business, in a monetary sense. The question is, can you learn to value your customers in a human sense. If so, the money will surely follow.
Article by Brad Shimp
– Bradford Shimp helps small businesses create useful web sites and online marketing campaigns to go with them at BroadRiverCreative.com.
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