It is curious, when talking to business leaders, how infrequently the customer is mentioned. Many are the other issues – finance, production, operations, suppliers, people (ah yes, people!) but not often the most important influence in the business, the customer.
A wonderful friend of mine was the marketing consultant and renowned Vistage speaker, the late Ray Wiltshire and his favourite target audience was Mrs Wiltshire. If he got it right for Mrs Wiltshire then it was right.
In the end the only real and sustainable advantage that the business can derive is the way in which we service the market.
For example, the only valid reason for restructuring the business is to improve the service to the customer.
So often restructuring is justified on internal and frequently specious grounds which have little or no relevance to the customer or the market. People are shuffled around in the often vain hope that by making all these changes success will miraculously occur.
What is often forgotten are the unintended consequences of such a move; the fear that organisational change engenders, the loss of authority for some and an increase in responsibility for others and the general upheaval that takes time to bed in. At the same time all these changes can impact negatively on the way that the market is serviced.
Remember: we can’t expect dissatisfied people to generate satisfied customers.
We need to ensure that in every decision the level of service given to the customers is at the forefront of the decision making process and on the basis of continuous improvement as well.
It needs to be checked out by deciding on the level of service which is currently given, defining the level of service that would be preferable and attainable and then for the team to determine what is needed to be done to achieve it - what resources are needed, what changes in people and/or systems are needed, and, most importantly, what changes in attitudes are needed.
Don’t make a judgement based on your opinion. More often than not we assume that one or two instances that stand out for some reason are indicative of a general opinion.
The media is particularly prone to this failing. We hear two opinions in any matter, always two opinions because that apparently shows balance irrespective of the possible numbers of pro- or anti- opinions there may be.
The only way to check whether the customers are satisfied is to ask them, by formal survey, by email, by telephone or by personal contact, whichever is the most appropriate.
Use the team to decide on how best to ensure that the level of service to the customer is the best that you and the business can possibly imagine and achieve. It starts with the way the telephone is answered (never more than three rings) and it never ends.
Then again, we need to decide on whether customer satisfaction is really the final objective. Would it not be better to build a business that is known for fantastic service that binds the customer absolutely to the business?
A satisfied customer is desirable but that is the objective a every business. Service needs to be exceptional these days to make any business stand out from the crowd.
Would you prefer delivery of an online order in two hours or two days? Two days is the expected norm and is “satisfactory” but two hours; that is exceptional.
A small caveat. Never forget that whatever service level is achieved it will always be copied, bettered and will become the norm. Change is inevitable and we must always be looking for that bright shining star that takes us to the next level, even for only a short time.
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