Al’s column: Learning to better serve your customers

January 25, 2018

January 22/29, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 16

By Brian Gracon

 

There’s likely a huge gap between how you see your business and how your customers see it. Eighty percent of businesses think they provide great customer experiences, but only 8% of customers agree. Maybe we just don’t know what our customers really want, which can be a big problem.

When your customers are not happy—even if they are being unreasonable—they now have the power to share their views with millions of people in an instant. Many won’t tell you they are unhappy, but nearly half of all adults share their experiences on social media, and 77% have shared a bad one.

Over 82% of customers check online reviews, and 54% say they pay more attention to negative reviews than positive ones. Whether or not you think a complaining customer is crazy, you must step up your customer experience game.

As humans, we all have a “fight or flight” instinct, so our natural reaction to criticism will be either: No. 1, fight and get defensive. However, customers also have a fight response, so they’ll probably fight back; in the end no one will be happy. Or No. 2, flight, which involves burying your head in the sand and pretending it didn’t happen. In today’s social media era, ignoring problems just makes them bigger.

Remember, the point is not to try to prove who’s right. It is to calm things down and find a solution both sides can live with. It is also to find out what went wrong so you can prevent it from happening again. Even if you did nothing “wrong” per se, the communication with the customer wasn’t good enough and is something you can improve.

To minimize the risk of complaints and negative reviews, focus on the 3Ps of profit: promise, people and process.

Promise. Your promise is a short, actionable and inspirational statement of what you do, why and who you do it for. Your promise gets communicated through your marketing messages. It also creates expectations for the customer experience. If you market quality but your store is a mess, the customer will run away and tell everyone else. If you market expertise but don’t train your staff or hire properly, customers will be reluctant to buy from you.

People. All business boils down to human relationships, both in and outside your company. Grumpy employees won’t create happy customers. Make sure you hire people with the right attitude and train them so they understand what your customers want based on customer buying habits and the expectations you created through your marketing. Be sure you have good relationships with suppliers and distributors to ensure consistent service.

Process. Most customer complaints come from process problems. To improve processes start by asking current and past customers what they like but also what they find frustrating in dealing with you. Then line up their pain points with your processes and work to improve them. Wouldn’t it be great to understand what customers want and how to leverage that understanding across your promise, people and process strategies? Research indicates customers want to enhance their self-images, be entertained and pampered. These strategies can help you better serve your customers and increase profits.

Learn more about these ideas and how to use them by attending “How to Turn People into Your Secret Weapon” at TISE 2018, session MN25, Monday, Jan. 29, 3:30 p.m.

 

Brian Gracon is author of “Meconomics 101: 16 Ways to Improve Your Marketing, Selling and Business Management for Today’s Customers.” Tema Frank, author of “People Shock: The Path to Profits When Customers Rule,” contributed to this article.

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