Ask yourself the following questions:
Are you a customer-focused business?
Do your customers know who to call with a problem?
How would your customers describe your business in one word?
Do you anticipate your customer’s needs?
At the CORE of your business is your Customers. The reality is that a small % of Management, Entrepreneurs, People in Sales and Marketing and Frontline staff grasp this fact. However, the sad truth is that many business employees do not grasp the importance of their Customers for Business Existence and Success. Management focus so much on strategy, Entrepreneurs focus so much on, well everything, People in Marketing and Sales focus so much on SELLING and MARKETING the Product, FRONTLINE staff focus so MUCH on PROTOCOL, that they FORGET and NEGLECT to focus on their CUSTOMERS!
“If you want to know what has to change inside your company, ask your customers.” These are the words of Carly Fiorina, 1st Female CEO of a Fortune 500 Company, from her book Tough Choices. Carly believes that all leading companies must focus on their customers because only a customer can buy your product or service. Without revenue there is no business and without customers there is no revenue growth and the business is lagging, not leading. Business transformation starts with how you serve your customers.
Serving our Customer is something that we tend to leave for LAST. We deal with it Re-actively instead of Pro-actively. Serving our customers is an add-on instead of a core value or part of our DNA and our culture. Many businesses have the Bottom Up approach – the customers exist to support the business instead of the Top Down approach – the business exists to serve our Customers.
Various research studies shows that the success of people in business, is rarely dependent on their Intellectual Intelligence (IQ). Looking at the success of business leaders in our country confirms this (Maria Ramos, Gill Marcus, Mamphela Ramphela). It is clear that their success is greatly influenced by their ability to build relationships with the people around them. And they will tell us that the first step in building relationships is Serving the people.
Think about your valued friends. How did you build your relationship with these friends? You probably did more than what was expected because you cared for the person. You helped with support during illness, you went the extra mile, you helped with food, transport or a place to stay. You served your friend and that is why your relationship with your friend has developed into something meaningful and deep.
This very same concept works in business. If you want to be successful with your business you need to first build relationships with your customers and people. And the first step in building a relationship with your Customer is serving him/her. Let’s look at this process on a diagram:
If you Serve your customers in the short term, the long term result of your short term actions will be a long term relationship. And if you build relationships with your customers over the short term the long term result will be sustainable and profitable success for your business.
Let’s take former President Nelson Mandela as an example – over the years he served his CUSTOMERS – the people of SA from all walks of life. By serving his customers over the years he built long term relationships with them. And it was his longstanding relationships with the people of SA that resulted in them voting for him and him becoming President and achieving his success in his career.
Now Serving customers is Intangible – it is a “feelings thing” and “emotion thing” an “experience thing”. I have recently learned more about an inspiring person, Irwin Federman who served his customers with Excellence. He is in his 70’s, a passionate Entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist and he has assisted hundreds of start up businesses to success. But what inspired me most is the way he view the businesses that he invest in – Irwin believes that when you invest in a company, you invest in people. Listen to his following quote:
I contend, however, that all things being equal, we will do business with people we like. And we like them in direct proportion to how they make us feel.
What Irwin has learned is that if your Service to your Customers make them feel good, they will do more business with you. Now when will your service make your customers feel good? Your customers will feel good when your service exceed your customer’s expectations.
And the important question is: “How can we Ensure that our service exceeds our customers’ expectations so that they remember us?”
The FIRST KEY is you need a UNIQUE BRAND
A BRAND is a PICTURE that your customers will form in their mind when they hear your Business’ name. Your first step should be to set a goal to develop and establish your own Brand and Identity that is UNIQUE and representative of your Business.
Your brand needs to be special and different, so that your customers will keep on remembering you. If are on your way to a meeting with a client in an elevator and an Elephant join you in the elevator, would you talk about the elephant when you get of the elevator? Of course you will! I can’t believe that – there was an elephant in the elevator. Now that is unique and different. And if you want to exceed customers expectations your service need to be unique and special. You must have something different that stands out from ordinary! That is what extra-ordinary means. Something Extra!
Now Joel Weldon has an excellent example of a Unique Brand that he uses. For over 30 years Joel has been one of the most sought-after motivational speakers, he is an Idea Consultant and Sales Trainer to many of the world’s leading organizations and businesses. He is also the only speaker who has earned all 4 of the highest honours in the International speaking profession.
Joel Weldon started his business back in 1974, he knew he needed business cards but did not want a standard business Card. He wanted something that people can keep on their desk. So one day one his clients said to him, you know Joel Success comes in Cans. And Joel had an AHA moment – he visually saw that message on a physical CAN. And within 24 hours he had his first Red CAN made with the words in white: Success comes in CANS not in Cannots. The can weighs about 250 grams and at the back of the Can is listed all the ingredients that is IN THE CAN: Commitment, Courage, Faith, Imagination, Creativity, Honesty, Persistence, Knowledge, Defined Values, Focused Thinking, a Sense of Humour, and a Positive “I Can” attitude.
They had the can trademarked because that WAS what made them unique and different. Up to today they use the CAN image on all their CD’s, DVD’s, handouts and material. And up to today 10’s of 1000’s of people have had that CAN on their Desks for many years, some of them for 20 years and more. Why? Because it is different and unique.
Your Brand needs to be consistent and the same in each department, each building and each region, each country. Let me illustrate this by sharing some brands with you that is well-known in SA.
Think about the picture that comes to your mind when you hear and see the following brands? IWISA, Kaizer Chiefs, Shoprite, Checkers, Metro FM, ADT, Telkom, Black Label, etc. Now if I ask the same question to someone outside of South Africa they will probably not be so familiar with all Brands because they are very Unique to SA. For them it will be a confused Brand, almost the same as the Chakalaka Brand! If you hear the word Chakalaka what picture do have in your mind?
Well, some people think of Home-made Chakalaka – hot with Beans, potatoes, butternut, onion, tomato, saucy. Other people think of All Gold’s or KOO TINNED Chakalaka. Some people recall the Royco Chakalaka soup. And wine lovers think of the Chakalaka Wine Estate.
Now the Chakalaka Brand causes confusion – because people do not have the same picture in their mind when they think of Chakalaka! It is therefore very important that you develop a brand that is Unique and consistent that will exceed expectations because that is when your customers will remember you.
The SECOND KEY you need is PEOPLE with the RIGHT SKILLS
Finding and developing your People with the right skills should be like building a HOUSE.
If you think of a HOUSE or a BUILDING, what is the most important part? The foundation of course! A Good house is built on a Good Foundation. No wind or rain or storm can blow the house down. Now the Foundation of Good Customer Service is developing the right ATITUDE because only if you feel good about yourself can you put your customers first.
You need people with an Attitude of Servant hood! Mahatma Ghandi says that An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind. If you serve and expect servant hood back, your business will not grow and it will probably be a bitter place for your customers. You need people with an attitude of humility. Mother Teresa says that if we were humble, nothing would change us – neither praise nor discouragement. If someone were to criticize us, we would not feel discouraged. If someone would praise us, we also would not feel proud. You need people with an attitude of Moving Forward. Nelson Mandela says that the greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
Now after the foundation a House also needs bricks on top of the foundation. And the Bricks of Good Customer Service are the right Professional Skills. To ensure that your people project the right Brand you need to ensure that WHO they project is who your business truly is. Many times you only have a few seconds maximum per customer to project your Unique Brand.
Now in the short term your people project your Business Brand via their Appearance, Body Language and Words. Be aware of how you stand, walk, sit, posture, eye contact, smile, personal space, speak, email, sms. Over the long term another skill to develop is your ability to analyze customers. Each customer has different needs and expectations. You need to be flexible and able to adjust to the type of customer with whom you interact. And it is therefore important to identify the specific needs that your customer has. Our needs are closely related to our working style or behavioural patterns. If you can analyse your customer’s working style, you will understand his needs, pro-actively address it and exceed expectations. Now there are many methods that you can use to analyze working styles. A simplistic method is the CBP working style method that analyses 3 working styles:
- The Result Oriented/Assertive Customer (Direct, Wants things promptly done, Not focused on relationships, Moves and speaks quickly, Appears Forceful, Maintains eye contact)
- The Detail Oriented/Analytical Customer (Organised, Wants Facts and Details, Not focused on people, May sometimes appear unfriendly, Asks many questions, Does not appear expressive in Body Language)
- The People Oriented (Agreeable) Customer (Friendly, Co-operate, Focused on people, Talkative, Very expressive in body language)
Lastly a house needs a roof for protection. A roof protects the house and ensures that you can stay in the house for a long period. The roof of Customer Service is Growing the attitude and practicing the Professional skills of your people and business. Aligning the attitude with the skills of your people is very important.
If you do not have the right attitude and you do not serve your Customers Professionally, your Customer Service BRAND will be Unique and different but in a BAD way. If you have the right attitude but not the professional Skills, you will be an Average Business. If you have the right professional Skills but not the attitude you will be Average Business. If you have the right attitude and you serve your Customers Professionally, you will exceed expectations, your customer will feel good and remember your UNIQUE SPECIAL BRAND!
The THIRD KEY to Customer Service Excellence is very SIMPLE
Dr Charles Jarvis, well known Humorist and leading speaker in the 1970’s taught Joel Weldon this valuable lesson at a convention in 1976. He said that if you want to get more customers and build your business you’ve got to get GOOD! To get good you’ve got to figure out what you do wrong and STOP doing it and figure out what you do well and keep on doing it! So he asked another question: “How do I figure out what I am good at and what I am bad at? And he realized that it is definitely not what he thinks he is good at that is important, it is what his customers think. So he came up with an evaluation card system that he had used ever since that day in 1976 with every client he served via speaking and training.
On the card he ask what the client liked best, what they liked least, what was the best idea they got and on a 1to 10 rating scale, how would they rate the content, the delivery and compared to any other speaker that they have heard. And Joel emphasizes that we should not be afraid of feedback. And it is also not about feel good – the things that you need to look at first are the things your customers did not like, because those are the things you need to eliminate.
He also started to tie his fee to his evaluation cards, which meant on a 1 to 10 scale, any rating that he gets from a client under 7 he decreases his fee pro-rata! So he puts his fee on the line every time he offers his service. The result is with every client, he ensures Excellent Customer Service and they remember him! This method has helped Joel to expand his business from local clients to Corporate clients and Internationally because it is unique and different!
Now this system can be used for any Business! Joel teaches us a valuable lesson: if all your customers tells you what you do great and what you should stop doing, how much intelligence does it take to figure out, ok if our business stop doing this and start doing that, we will get better! Not a lot of intelligence and probably a lot more clear cut success in your business.
A FOURTH KEY to Customer Service Excellence is DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Exceeding expectations means you need to understand your customer’s organization. You need comments on every person that you will serve. You’ve got to know as much about your client and their business as they do. It might take you hours of preparation and homework and maybe two minutes of a conversation, but the end result is the customer will feel, hey this person really cares and therefore I will listen!
Your customer must know that you are prepared for them and that your service is for THEM! It is not about YOU it is about them! And as Joel Waldon emphasizes if Dr Jarvis was right way back then on you’ve got to get GOOD – well how can you get GOOD if you do not know about the people you are serving?
Mohammed Ali, three times world heavy weight champion said the following:
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth”
Let us become successful, sustainable and profitable by building relationships with our customers and by serving them unconditionally because it is the RIGHT thing to do.
Author & Contributor: Adel Du Plessis CA(SA) – (LinkedIn Bio – https://www.linkedin.com/in/adel-du-plessis-87961b17/)