Given that we are just entering a new year I thought I would give a little reprise to something I wrote just over 12 months ago as I feel that it deserves repeating (The RARE Manifesto: What if….?). Are these the keys to building a business that has customer focus, that is profitable, growing and is a great place to work?
What if we lived in a world where all companies took care of their existing customers as well as new customers, where companies were trusted and liked, where doing business with a company was a good experience, where companies and their employees cared about their customers and each other?
What if we lived in a world where companies with customer focus like that were the rule, instead of the exception? What kind of world would that be?
I believe that it is a world we can achieve, a world worth striving for.
That’s all very well and good, I hear you say. But, where do we start?
Well, let me tell you about a conversation I was having the other day where I was asked the same question.
I was talking to a roomful of business owners about growing their businesses through their customers and better service, and during the presentation we talked about the changing nature of doing business and the number of reasons why customers leave. According to my research, one of the main reasons that customers leave is not due to price and quality issues, but due to poor service or a perceived indifference on the part of the companies to them, i.e., their customers didn’t think they cared enough about doing business with them.
In order to manage this I suggested that businesses should pay more attention to their customers and build better relationships with them if they wanted them to stick around for longer. Simple stuff, right?
Then, someone spoke up and said that while they understood the need for customer focus and the reasons they should be building better relationships with their customers, they didn’t quite get how they could do it. Now, the how would have to depend on a number of factors, including their type of business, their customers, and the sort of relationship that they want to build. But I can say that I believe that if every business was to go back to basics, the ABC’s of building relationships both internally and externally, and operate under some simple basic principles, then I would wager they’d see a marked improvement in service levels and customer retention and loyalty.
Here are some very basic principles that we get taught growing up as children, ones that we often lose sight of when we grow up and enter the world of business.
Those principles are
- Be more courteous/polite towards each other. I think there is truth in the saying “manners maketh the man” and that we all like to treated with courtesy and politeness. Even in the age of the “Me generation,” this type of treatment still stands out. Also, it’d make your Mum proud.
- Give everyone your respect. Whether someone is your customer, a potential customer, a teammate, superior or subordinate, giving someone your respect is one of the highest honors that you can give someone and it can bring out the best in them.
- Do the things that you say you will do when you say you will do them. I think we all like reliability and trustworthiness. Even if that means saying you will call back and you can only do so with bad news, at least the person on the other end of the line knows where they stand. In the absence of information the mind can do funny things and can tend to make stuff up that’s worse than the bad news.
- Be more punctual. This is quite a personal one, but one that I think deserves a mention, as time is one of our most precious resources and seems to be becoming more and more precious. So respecting someone’s time and making sure something happens when it is supposed to can speak volumes about how much you care about and respect the other person’s time.
- Be honest. I believe that most people just want others to be straight with them. Trust us and tell us the truth. Most of the time we can handle it. Even if we can’t handle it or it upsets us, we’ll respect you for being honest with us.
- Be open. Great ideas can come from anywhere and we do our customers, our people, and our- selves a great disservice by not building our businesses on this principle. This is probably one of the hardest principles to put into practice as it can go against many business and corporate control structures, but if you have the courage to pursue a set of relationships that are receptive to new ideas and arguments, it is a great way to build trust and drive creativity, innovation and productivity.
I would argue that each of these on their own cannot be argued against. Put together and implemented I think they become a powerful foundation for better relationships with our people and our customers.
This all sounds too simple, I hear you say.
But as in life and nature, we know that sometimes the simplest solutions are often the best (Bit like Occam’s Razor).
Is it easy to build this type of culture?
No, not always. It will depend on you as a leader, the business you are in, the relationships that you have with your team and with your customers.
Is it worth it? Definitely!
Just imagine if every business, or maybe just even the ones that care enough to make a difference, made a 1%, 5% or even a 10% improvement in the areas that I mentioned above. Then I believe that would put them head and shoulders above most of their competitors and, at the same time, create great places to work. Just think of the benefits for customer retention, customer loyalty, word of mouth marketing, referrals, employee engagement, retention and your ability to attract the right sort of talent for your business.
And, it may even change the world into a better place.