Leadership Thought #422 – Are Your Customers Happy?

February 13, 2013

You Don't Want Happy Customers | TaskRay

There is no better business strategy than creating delighted customers.

I am just back from a conference in Mexico held at the Fiesta Americana in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  It was a very enjoyable experience.  It has been a while since I felt this valued as a customer.  Every employee of the resort I interacted with seemed to genuinely care about my comfort and happiness.  As a result, I felt very relaxed and was fully able to appreciate the beautiful surroundings and my time there.  It amazed me how they got all the minute details right.  This is in direct contrast to another resort in the Caribbean I stayed at last year who will remain nameless but is daily showing up on TV claiming what they don’t deliver (and discounting their prices and offering other incentives).

There are countless books out there on customer service and maximizing customer experience, but sadly few companies heed the advice.  Often, you end up having to lower the bar of your own customer expectations to reconcile vendor claims with reality. The good news for businesses out there is that when you consistently get it right, you clearly differentiate yourself from your competition.  Here are a few tips to help your company move in this direction:

  • Hire people who interact with your customers who like people and have a penchant for providing quality service. There are many tools out there to help you with the screening process.
  • Don’t leave your customer service philosophy/approach open to individual interpretation. Make sure it is clearly articulated, repeated often and omnipresent in your physical surroundings.
  • Offer extensive and regular customer service training and use in-house talent as best practice examples.
  • Include customer service as a critical part of the performance evaluation process.
  • Fire people quickly who won’t “drink the Kool-Aid.” You are only as good as your weakest performer.
  • Embrace rather than resist customer feedback.  Ask early and often.
  • Reward individual employees and work teams for going beyond normal guidelines to service your customers.
  • Whenever you receive client testimonials or positive customer reviews of individual employee efforts make this information visible for all employees to see and absorb.
  • Make customer service a regular part of executive/management meeting agendas.  Never “take your eye off the ball” or take past performance for granted.
  • Only promote employees into supervisory positions who genuinely reflect your core customer service values.  If you can’t clearly make this connection, then keep searching until you find someone who does.
  • Solicit formal recognition from outside organizations including applying for customer service awards.  Opening your business up to external scrutiny will shine a light on things you may be too close to see and will also provide valuable comparative examples.

It is rare that a company is successful despite its customers.  You may be able to cite examples of businesses that have a unique product or were first to market with something and their initial customers truly had little choice but to deal with them.  However, your long-term inability to properly service your customers only creates an opening for new competitors who will prey on your product/service vulnerabilities.  It may sound trite, but if you put the customer top of mind in all you do, good things tend to happen.  Someone may even write an unsolicited blog trumpeting your business.