I have some very strong beliefs about what it takes to run a highly successful business and right at the top of my list is: Whoever “owns” the voice of the customer and uses that information to build an organizational culture of Extreme Customer Focus will own the marketplace.
Here’s why: When you focus intensely on your customers and provide customer service that truly meets and exceeds their specific needs, you win their loyalty at a level that is nearly impossible to shake—even when that competitor down the street is offering giveaways and steep discounts, or your market is crowded with dozens of me-too products or services.
Simply put, Extreme Customer Focus produces unparalleled customer service, and unparalleled customer service creates an unfair advantage for you. And what business owner wouldn’t want an unfair advantage?
What’s constitutes great and thoughtful customer service? Here are several examples I’ve observed in my travels:
- A family restaurant that has bathrooms cleaner than mine at home, and outfitted with fresh flowers, free diapers, Handi Wipes, lotion and mints.
- A doctor’s office that offers juice, coffee and fresh fruit while you wait.
- A lawn care company that leaves a nicely arranged bouquet of fresh flowers cut from your yard every time it trims your plants.
- A woman’s clothing store that has large fitting rooms, with a comfortable chair, plenty of hooks for your garments, a shelf for glasses and purse and NO limit to the number of items you can bring in to try on. (And soft, cushy reclining chairs and a TV so husbands can rest and watch the game while their wives shop.)
- An upper-end restaurant that gives you a hand-written” thank you” card with your check.
- The drycleaner that simply sews on replacement buttons when it finds yours are missing.
- A downtown business that offers to “feed the meter” while you shop.
- The marketing firm that offers to do pro-bono work for its top client’s favorite charity.
- Stores that empower their frontline people to find a way to say “yes” no matter what customers require (think Nordstrom or the Ritz Carlton)
In each case, these businesses are delighting, surprising and entertaining customers in ways the competition would never consider because those competitors don’t put enough time (if any) into finding thoughtful and creative ways to meet and exceed customers’ needs.
So how can you improve your customer focus and uncover unique ways to satisfy your customers? I have two suggestions. The first is ASK your customers what they want. Ask them what bugs them, what excites them and what would make them come back again. Ask them often and in various ways—like the restaurant that offers a free desert to customers who take five minutes to fill out an in-depth survey, or the bank that hosts a dinner for its top 30 clients so bank officers can frankly discuss how they can serve customers better, or the insurance agent who sends a survey to all of his clients to ask a few key questions – then follows up with a personal call to thank every person who took the time to complete the survey. I could list 100 more ways… and you should be using all of them!
The second suggestion is to constantly search for customer service ideas you can steal. From now on, throughout your day, keep your eyes open for examples of both very good customer service and very bad service. In every interaction where YOU are the customer, use it as a chance to learn, observe how you are being treated – are you delighted or displeased? Are they meeting your needs or ignoring them? Do they even know what you truly want? And when you find especially superior or mediocre service simply ask yourself these three questions:
What can I do with this?
How can I make this idea work for my business?
What can I do to implement this idea right away?
Delivering consistently superior customer service is not rocket science, it is about clearly understanding the importance of delivering great service to the future of your business – owning the voice of the customer – implementing programs and processes to consistently meet or exceed your customer’s expectations and then constantly fostering a culture where your employees embrace a shared customer service credo and truly enjoy taking great care of the customer. If you can do these things well, you will absolutely own your marketplace.
John Spence has twice been named one of the top 100 Business Thought Leaders in America and has also been recognized (along with Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin and Apple) as one of our country’s most influential “Small Business Gurus.” For more information on John’s workshops click HERE.