Put The Customer On Top

If you think your customer isn’t important, try doing business without him for 90 days.

A stockbroker was showing off his successes to a potential investor. He took the investor out for dinner, and he chose the route carefully to impress the investor with the wealth generated by the brokerage business.

“Look at that yacht,” the broker said as they drove slowly past a marina. “That belongs to the senior partner at Goldman-Sachs. That one over there is owned by the head of Charles Schwab. And look at that huge yacht out there. That’s the pride and joy of the top salesperson at Prudential.”

The investor was silent. The stockbroker turned to look at him and saw a pained look on his face. “What’s the matter?” he asked. “Aren’t you impressed?” “I was just thinking,” the investor said, “where are the customers’ yachts?”

Good point. Too many organizations forget to put the customer on top. Or at the very least they take him for granted. Their attitude is all wrong.

In today’s competitive environment, in today’s global economy, customer service is no longer a luxury. It is critical for survival, and it is critical for success. Every employee and every manager has got to think and feel like a customer.

Take a look at the figures. In any given business, there are five reasons why customers leave. Sixty-eight percent “feel you don’t care,” 19% are “dissatisfied with the service,” 9% leave for a “better price or feature,” 3% “move away,” and 1% “die.” No matter what your job is, you have complete control over the first two factors or 87% of the reasons.

That’s where the “magic” of customer service comes in. Show that you care, provide great service, and you’ll retain most of your customers as well as gain additional ones. To tap into the magic, you need to…

=> 1. Distinguish Yourself From Your Direct Competitors.

And there are three ways you can try to distinguish yourself: product leadership, operational excellence, and customer intimacy. The first two are somewhat tricky and perhaps out of your control. But there is always something you can do about the third one.

Chances are, you will “not” distinguish yourself with product leadership. There are lots of equally good products on the market today. And you’re not the only game in town.

Operational excellence is “somewhat” effective in distinguishing one shop from another. The customer can sense whether or not you’ve got your act together. He can tell if your processes are smooth and efficient or tedious and time consuming. And he can tell if he’s getting a straight and helpful answer to his questions or if he’s getting five different answers from five different reps. To distinguish yourself…

=> 2. Focus On Customer Intimacy.

It’s actually the best way to distinguish yourself — because no one can replicate the exact relationship you create with your customers. Whatever you create is unique, and if you want to be wildly successful, that relationship has got to be special. That’s why my program on “Creating Moments of Magic: Moving From Customer Service to Customer Enthusiasm” is so popular. It teaches people how to create those special relationships that are totally win-win for everyone.

I look at it this way. There are only two paths you can take at work. You can be “job-focused” or “customer-focused.” Those who are “job focused” think about “getting their work done,” which often means the customer is an interruption to their daily routine. Those that are “customer-focused” think about how they can give better and better service — because they know the customer is the only reason they have a business.

Which one are you? There are some signs. A “job-focused” individual may sigh whenever he speaks to a customer, or his shoulders might hug his neck every time the phone rings. A “job-focused” person switches on the voice mail even when she’s in, enjoys saying “no” more and more often, and sees customers and coworkers as out to get her.

A few months ago I ordered a ham and cheese sandwich at a restaurant. When the waitress brought it to me, I noticed a long black hair was sticking out of the bun and swirling onto my plate. I immediately showed it to the waitress, but I couldn’t believe her response. She said, “What do you expect me to do about it? It’s not my hair. I’m a redhead.”

Incredible? Yes! True? Absolutely! She didn’t have the foggiest notion as to what was meant by customer service. She was focused on her job, delivering the goods, instead of being focused on the customer.

To stay “customer-focused,” try these ideas. Remind yourself that if you don’t take care of your customer, somebody else will. And remind yourself that you’re not doing the customer a favor by serving him; he is doing you a favor by doing business with you.

Be proactive. Put a sticker on your phone that says, “The boss is calling.” That will remind you how important your customers are.

And take time to create a relationship with each customer. Don’t think that it takes too much time. Ninety-eight percent of customer interactions are ultimately faster and more efficient if you take the time to establish rapport first. And it takes a lot less time to prevent a problem with a customer-partner than it does to solve a problem with a customer-adversary. To maintain the magic…

=> 3. Keep Your Eye On Customer Service Wherever You Go.

Your customers compare the service they get from you with the service they get everywhere they go. So don’t make the mistake of thinking your competition is the bank next door — if you’re a bank, or the hospital across town — if you’re a hospital. Your competition is everywhere. Your competition is Nordstroms, Wal-mart, and Disney, as well as your local grocery store and pharmacy. To the customer, service is service. And the magic comes when your service is as good or better than the service your customers get anywhere they go.

When all is said and done, it’s the customer who signs your paycheck — not your boss or your company. All they do is handle the money.

Action:  You can only have one focus at a time. You can be “job focused” or “customer focused.” As a team, list all the characteristics and behaviors that would be associated with a person who is “job focused” and a person who is “customer focused.” Then decide which focus is most characteristic of you.