Customers - Pay ATTENTION to them!
Customers are one of the most important asset you have in business - any business segment! This is a lesson I learned very early in my life...
(Your employees, associates, ambassadors, teammates, business partners, also play a key role in customer satisfaction and that will be the subject of my next blog.)
My father was an entrepreneur, both my paternal and maternal grandfathers were entrepreneurs, even my maternal grandmother had her own business in the 70s. Growing up in a small town, our customers were our neighbors, our friends, our family!
I will always remember when my dad opened his store on a holiday for a customer coming in from out of town, instead of coming to my recital. At 9 years old, I was upset that he was missing my event. He said: « I know you are disappointed but that customer is paying for your lessons... Customers are hard to come by and every sales help put food on our table, pay for our house and so much more. You need to understand that customers are not an interruption but the reason why I continue to be in business. ». At that time I did not necessarily grasp the concept but I certainly did as I grew older, worked in business and lead teams.
Many years went by, I experienced many lessons over the years and yet my dad’s theory was always spot on. I called it the entrepreneurial survival theory, others called it customer service, sales logic, the « basics », others ignore it and started focusing on other business priorities and metrics.
One of the biggest lessons came was when I was with a large public retailer and we were experiencing negative comps, losing customer traffic and transactions. We had walked away from the value promise the company had been known by for 20 years, we got more promotional, we focused on various metrics, a lot on margin and we practically abandoned taking care of customers. We were cutting costs to hit margins at the expense of customer experience. A recipe for disaster and bad results... Investors were looking at our results; margins were better, customers were leaving us.
When customer count is down, market share is down, traffic is down, margin may eventually fad away as well the rest of your business. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule but not that many.... So we rolled up our sleeves, wrote a playbook that was a mix of old tactics and new ones. We listened to our customer feedback and took better care of our customers. It wasn’t easy because customers had left us. We needed to gain their trust again and it was harder to get them back than it had been to lose them. It took time and patience!
Customers are hard to come by so we need to keep their loyalty, maintain a good relationship with them and pay attention to feedback. There are so many tools available now to help with the customer experience, so much data available and yet some businesses still ignore the signs. Take a moment to outline your customer strategy, define your customer segments and get know your customers. You can calculate the customer asset value (CAV), you can explore the customer lifetime value (CLV or LVT), you can look at customer profitability, you can evaluate how to maximize the value of a customer (CVM), you can use customer management relationship (CRM) tools to drive loyalty and engagement.
Most importantly, be maniacal about your customers, pay attention to them, lead by example, customers are not an interruption to your work, they are the purpose. Go through the customer experience yourself in your own environment, you may be surprised with what you go through. It can be as simple as just connecting with your own customers. I have taken many customer calls, addressed many issues and always learned a lot in the process. Try different things. always focus on the customer, your end user and you will reap benefits.
Customers- pay attention to them.... they are not an interruption....
Next blog we will explore the role your employees, associates, ambassadors, teammates, and business partners, play in customer satisfaction.