Lucky's Blog

Monday, August 27, 2012

Who’s Your Customer?

The Customer is always right, right? No doubt that throughout your life you have heard this phrase, but is it accurate? Is the customer always right? In my opinion the answer is yes! The customer is the one who spends their money. Money is what a business needs to survive. So therefore, ipso facto, if you don’t take care of the customer, you will inevitably fail at your business. This makes the customer right every time, even if they are mistaken. While I believe that it is more important to build a relationship with the customer, the bottom line is called ‘the bottom line’ for a reason.
Throughout my career I have had some extremely difficult customers that were mistaken in their views. However, it was not their fault they were mistaken, it was mine. As the Service Provider it is my job to explain the conditions to the customer, make sure that the customer understands the scope, and has clear expectations of what to expect when we perform our service.
So if the customer is always right, and you have a disgruntled customer, then you must be wrong. This is going to be hard for some to handle, but please hear me through. There are many ways you can be wrong, while technically you may be correct. Don’t focus on the facts. In many cases, when it comes to the facts or the specifics, the customer may be wrong and you may be right. However, in the overall experience, the customer ultimately is always right. If you lose the customer, then somewhere along the way, you must have made a mistake.
As a business you must understand who you are and what your brand is, also, you must understand your customer. No one company can be everything to everybody. But, in this ever shrinking economy many companies are trying to be just that. This will not end well for the company or the customer. Think about this for a minute. You will never see a Rolex watch in a display case at a Wal-Mart. Why? Because in general the customer who visits a large box bargain store is not interested in quality, only price. In short, they are not the right customer for their brand, so Rolex focuses on high-end jewelry shops where the customers are more interested in quality than price. They are targeting the right customer for their product.
Excluding a complete lack of attention to the customer experience, most cases of disgruntled customers come down to three things:
1.       Poor communication.
2.       Wrong customer for the company.
3.       Wrong company for the customer.
So you need to ask yourself, where do I fall in this structure? (Be careful! I have had a number of companies say, “those just aren’t our customers”, when in fact the problem is internal.)  All too often the easy out is to blame the customer. In one example I had a company that tried to convince me that they could not compete in a certain market because their internal costs are too high to compete with the smaller companies. The disconnect with that thought process is that if you are a bigger company you have advantages that a smaller company doesn’t have, so this argument is not valid. The size of your company shouldn’t determine your brand, or customer. If your internal costs are too high then you have to understand that you have waste that needs to be trimmed. I suggest looking into programs like Lean, Six Sigma, and TOC, to help find internal efficiencies and not exclude an entire market segment. Your marketing strategy needs to identify your brand and customer segment, and advertise to them. Your managers need to be able to identify the wrong customers and help them find the right product or provider. And most of all you have to be clear in your communications so that every customer has a clear expectation of what the experience is going to be when they purchase your product or service. This requires well motivated and highly trained managers and/or sales staff.
In today’s virtual world of online ordering, scheduling, and learning, we have cut out the sales person or customer liaison that would have taken the time to explain all the details of a product or service, and managed the customer’s buying experience. Or we have outsourced the customer service to a call center in another country, using services that handle multiple companies and whose staff has little knowledge or care of your customer’s actual experience, let alone the authority or capacity to resolve a customer’s distress. Many think that this is the reason why the costs are less since the “middle man” was cut out of the equation. The truth though, is that the reason the pricing is lowered is because the company doesn’t have the overhead they would require to operate a store front any longer. These companies are counting on the customer to read and understand the “Terms & Conditions” and click on an ‘accept’ button. Then these companies label someone a difficult customer because they didn’t read or understand the Terms and Conditions they accepted. This is a dangerous slope we are traveling down. In the virtual world how can we make sure a customer will have that special feeling once the sale is completed? Even more, what about service after the sale? This could be a whole separate article and I don’t want to get off track, but you see where I’m going.
In today’s market it is not enough to be great at your job, or to have superior quality. You can no longer count on good customer service. The economy is in transition and there is no recovery. What we are seeing is a correction factor that has been long overdue. If you want to be successful in the new world market you need to set yourself apart from your competition. You need to completely blow away your customers and give them the unexpected. When it comes down to it, if the customer doesn’t choose your service or product over the tens of thousands of other choices, then you will not make it through the next decade, and that is why it’s up to you to make sure the customer is always right!

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