Customers – Find and Satisfy Them and Prosper

The No. 1 need for business success is a customer. That’s pretty obvious, so why am I telling you this?

It may be obvious, but most companies seem to quickly forget this essential fact. Small and Start-up companies desperately need customers to begin their journey to profits and sustainability. Many large Fortune 1000 companies forget the customers that made them successful.

Just look at all your daily life experiences in dealing with a phone company, an airline, an utility, your cable provider, a government provider, etc. In their effort to develop systems to deal with their size, they become impersonal and forget about the one constituency that propelled their success: their customers – who become increasingly frustrated with their treatment and are open to change their buying behavior.

Customers are important because they give the companies the orders that initiate the service or product that gets delivered and creates the company cash income – the lifeblood of the enterprise.

You might posit that orders are most important, but orders do not create more orders. Only satisfied customers do that. Happy customers whose expectations are met or exceeded become your best salespeople and effectively promote your wares by word of mouth, at no cost to you. You can’t buy more effective advertising than that.

Satisfied customers are likely to become long-term customers who will look forward to buying your new offerings. It is much easier to increase revenues through existing customers than to find new ones and much less costly. The bonus is that these satisfied customers will get you new ones through singing the praises of your company, its products and/or services to their friends, family, and acquaintances.

Unlike all other forms of media advertising, there is no cash outlay for this. There is, however, an investment in maintaining the quality, service, need fulfillment, value, timelines, warranty, etc. of your offering whether a product or service. If you deliver on these actions, positive word of mouth will enable your continued growth and sustainability. Likewise, if you fall short, you’ll have to deal with negative word of mouth, which can spread more rapidly than the positive kind. Witness people leaving a bad movie and emphatically voicing their disappointment as they leave the theatre.

So, amid all the chaos problems, uncertainties, distractions and new opportunities,  which are typical of a small business, don’t forget for a minute how all your decisions and actions affect your customers. Neglect or short change them and be prepared to pay a high price. Satisfy them and Prosper.

 

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OPPORTUNITY FOR NEW BUSINESSES

Many Large Companies’ Horrendous Customer Service Invite the Creation of New Businesses

I am giving you a play-by-play of an experience I had with Sears to illustrate my point. They are not unique in their interaction with their customers that I classify as arrogance.

When I bought a treadmill from Sears a number of years ago, I bought a maintenance protection agreement as a treadmill is an important element of my regimen. The purchaser of this agreement is entitled to one free maintenance checkup every 12 months. The purchaser must call for this as Sears does not remind you.

So I called for an appointment and was given one for next Monday between 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. and rearranged my schedule to be home. At 3 p.m. that afternoon, a Sears representative called to say that they wouldn’t be able to make it that day and when would I like to reschedule. . .no big apologies.

I told the operator with respect (I never want to kill the messenger although it is sometimes tempting) that I would reschedule only if they gave me a specific time as I would not give up a half day again for their error. I also suggested that they give me the first appointment of the maintenance person’s schedule that day. I was told that is impossible to do. . .a word that is not in the vocabulary of most entrepreneurs. When I saw that my request was not going to be fulfilled, I asked to speak to a manager.

Reluctantly, she told me she would transfer me. Her transfer rang and rang for 7 minutes when I gave up and hung up.

Two days later, I calmed down and called again to speak to a manager. After an interminable delay and talking to recorded messages, an operator came on who proceeded to tell me she could not give me a supervisor until I explained why I needed to talk to one. So, I foolishly gave her the story of the broken appointment and my desire to set up a time-specific new one. She proceeded to tell me that I already had a new one, three weeks in the future with a 4-hour window. I told her that I did not make it, and it appeared that the first operator made it on her own to clear the matter out of her basket. The second operator suggested that my wife might have made the appointment for me. (You don’t want to hear the retort I had but held back on that crack.) She also told me of the impossibility of getting a time-specific appointment.

However, I had better luck this time as I did get to speak to a supervisor. After explaining the situation to him, he did not use the impossible word, but told me he could not honor my request as they must treat all customers the same. My retort was “Do they break appointments with all customers”. . .another argument ignored. No matter what I said, he repeated the mantra: “All customers must be treated the same” as if it was the Bill of Rights he was reciting. He, however, made what he considered a great counter offer. . .A new appointment in two weeks instead of three with, of course, no  time specificity. This ended our conversation and began my inspiration to write this blog to dramatize the opportunities that incidents like this one with Sears and thousands of similar ones with other companies every day, create for new fledgling ventures if they concentrate their efforts on maintaining customer satisfaction. Consumers, in my  opinion, will pay a premium for some courtesy and satisfaction.

I do not blame the individuals I talked to in my odyssey, but I do hold Sears totally responsible. I believe their training, monitoring, and policies are at fault. Guess where I will never shop again.

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