Who was it that said – “The customer is always right”?
Well for those of you who can’t get through the day without knowing, it was H Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridges’s department store in London.
The question I want answered is; did he ever work with customers on day-to-day basis and if so, was he some kind of saint? Let’s face it; customers can be a real pain in the neck.
You move heaven and earth for them, you respond to their every whim, you give them time to pay and they still try to screw your prices down.
Just when you’ve done all that, they leave you and start buying from one of your competitors.
Wouldn’t running a business be a whole lot better if we didn’t have customers? Well, as we know only too well, we do need customers and lots of them.
We want them to stay with us and we want them to say nice things about us to other people. We also want them to pay us on time and accept the fact that we might be a bit more expensive than others.
So how do we perform this miracle? It’s dead easy really; you only have to consider two factors: be reliable and be likeable. First off, let’s consider what we mean by being reliable.
Reliability is about your product or service doing what you say it will do. It comes in two parts, the first part being: doing it right first time and doing it on time.
If you can’t get this bit right then you’re going to have big problems. Customers will accept the occasional mistake, but too many and you’ve had it, so let’s look a bit closer at reliability.
We’ve come a long way in recent years in terms of product and core service reliability. Nowadays when people buy a product or service they expect it to work.
You don’t buy a computer, a washing machine or an automobile and worry that it might not work. You know that it will. You also know that if it didn’t, it would be replaced without quibble.
The only thing is, that if you deliver this type of reliability in your business then don’t expect any brownie points from your customers, they merely take it for granted. Where you are more likely to slip up in the reliability stakes (and this is the second part) is in what some people still regard as minor issues:
Failing to phone back when we said we would; Failing to deliver when we said we would; Failing to send information when we said we would; Failing to include something extra when we said we would.
The ironic thing is that some customers often regard these failures as quite normal. However, these people won’t stay with you, they don’t say nice things about you to other people and they’ll complain about your prices.
If you say you’ll phone a customer back by 5pm then phone before 4pm not the following day. If you say someone will call between 9am and 12noon, then do everything you can to ensure that someone calls closer to nine than 12.
Don’t think for a minute that calling at 11.55 impresses the customer because it doesn’t. So let’s just repeat it so there’s no misunderstanding later on: firstly your product or service has got to be reliable, secondly, everything you say to the customer has to be reliable.
However, I believe that more than anything you, your product or service and your people have to be likeable. Too many organisations forget that their customers are humans and the thing about humans is that they don’t always make decisions logically.
You may have a reliable product or service, reliable delivery time and competitive prices. But it’s not enough. Customers are driven by their emotions and it helps a heck of a lot if they like you and feel good about your business and your people.
“Our customers do like us,” I hear you say, “except maybe the difficult ones, the awkward people, the ones who are never happy, the miserable devils – need I go on? Have you ever heard the saying “you only get the customers you deserve”?
Run your eye down the following list and see how many you can tick off.
- We always have a genuine smile for every customer.
- We are warm and friendly to all customers.
- We listen carefully and make it obvious that we are listening.
- We use the customers name and our name appropriately.
- We give the impression that we care.
- We empathise with problems or complaints and respond quickly.
- We occasionally do something to pleasantly surprise the customer.
- We always keep our promises.
- We give the impression that we are fun to deal with.
- We treat the customer the way they want to be treated, not the way we want to be treated.
How well did you do? If you’ve got a lot of ticks then you probably have lots of customers who like you. Just a word to the managers and employers amongst you. Run your eyes down that list again and replace the word “customer” with the words “employee” or “staff colleague.”
How many ticks did you get this time? Lots of ticks mean your staff like you and it probably follows that your customers do as well.
Have you noticed how being likeable costs so little? A lot less than advertising or other promotional activity required to replace lost customers.
Maybe the customer isn’t always right, but if you want to keep them, make sure they like you.
About the Author
Alan Fairweather is the author of “How to get More Sales without Selling”, a book that is packed with practical things that you can do to – get customers to come to you.