Last month, I wrote about two of the 11 practices identified in a 1988 American Marketing Association (AMA) pamphlet titled, "Marketing is You." This month, I thought I’d touch on two more concepts on the AMA list, namely, "treat each customer as you would like to be treated" and "make it easy on the customer." Just as with last month’s concepts, these two are marketing fundamentals and yet are difficult to find consistently applied in practice.
When I am on the receiving end of poor customer service, I find it hard to imagine anyone would want to be treated that way themselves. Just a bit of self-awareness should be enough for staff to realize that the service they are providing is not reasonable and must be improved. And yet the low quality persists. Perhaps if management "walked the floor" or "secretly shopped" at their own business they would experience the level of service offered to paying customers and changes would be made to deliver a quality customer experience. This simple exercise, and the insights it can reveal, is what made the show Undercover Boss so popular
Where is the pride in doing a good job?
Two recent first-hand experiences reinforce how these fundamentals are still lacking. We searched and found a website with beautiful images and ordered a floral bouquet as a gift. The arrangement that was delivered was nothing like the picture of what we selected. When we followed up the response was simply, "We have been assured the order was filled to value." Whose definition of value did they use? Because it was not ours.
The second recent example was a Father’s Day order we placed for a craft beer sampler and a large pizza-shaped cookie. Again, we found a website with inviting images of exactly what we were looking for. The actual product delivered was a mix of bottles and cans and a few chocolate chip cookies. Again, what was delivered was absolutely nothing close to the picture of what we selected. When we questioned the disparity, a company service representative responded with "high demand resulted in some product not being available. You received the correct number of beers and chocolate chip cookies."
In both cases a small refund was offered but we did not receive what we had purchased or a good explanation on what went wrong. Simply giving refunds and not correcting, or at least accepting responsibility for, the errors made is not a strategy for success.
If you want to operate like a best-in-class company, you must address these fundamental issues in a much better way than the companies in these examples. Successful companies treat customers with respect and care and begin the relationship in a positive way. These top performers ensure that everyone in their company knows the fundamental expectations when dealing with customers at every moment of connection whether in person, on the phone, or via another virtual method.
You must also consider how easy you are making it for customers to do business with you. If your website images are out of date, there must be a process to check and ensure the accuracy of the images and your offerings. Please make the change, so that you represent your product and company accurately, unlike the examples I shared earlier. If the product is out of stock, be clear that it is not available. A physical store is always judged by its storefront and product displays and so should your virtual store front.
Leadership is essential to establishing these standards and ensuring they are being lived. The senior leaders of an organization have an obligation to demonstrate what is expected and how it is to be delivered. Empty words or motivational posters on the walls of the lunchroom are not the keys to long term success. Successful organizations understand that this level of customer focus is not a one time approach. This customer focus becomes a fundamental part of the culture and belief system that invigorates, self-polices, and encourages extra efforts to ensure customers are satisfied.
Be personable and reasonable when dealing with customers. We are all people and would like to be treated as such. Whenever you are at a loss for what to say, just ask yourself, "would my mother be happy if I talked like this to her?"
Tim’s bits: There are no silver bullet solutions, and yet hard work on the fundamentals can be a difference maker. If you consider these two fundamental concepts as the only ones you need to focus on right now, your success will be earned on how well you execute on a consistent basis.
Tim Kist is a Certified Management Consultant, authorized by law, and a Fellow of the Institute of Certified Management Consultants of Manitoba.
Tim is a certified management consultant with more than two decades of experience in various marketing and sales leadership positions.