Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Customers the center of your universe

In our free-enterprise system, we say the customer is king. Those who satisfy the customer best win. This is true with external and internal customers. Those who satisfy their customers most will win. Great teams are always customer-oriented and responsive.

Maintain a touch. First you need to know what your customers want and expect. The best way to do this is to ask them. Then deliver what they want in a timely way at a price/value that’s justified. Find ways to keep in touch with a broad spectrum of your customers to get a balanced view: face-to-face, phone surveys, questionnaires, response cards with the products and services. Pleasing the reasonable needs of customers is fairly straightforward now we know what they are after. When customers contact us get them to the right person in the minimum number of steps.

Customers complain; it's your opportunity to delight them. Customers will usually complain more than compliment; you need to not get overwhelmed by the negative comments; people who have positive opinions speak up less. Be ready for the good news and the bad news; don't be defensive; just listen and respond to legitimate criticisms and note the rest as this is you opportunity to please them and make your self standout from the crowd.

Put yourself in your customer's shoes. If you were a customer of yours, what would you expect; what kind of turnaround time would you tolerate; what price would you be willing to pay for the quality of product or service you provide; what would be the top three things you would complain about? Answer all calls from customers in a timely way; if you promise a response, do it; if the time frame stretches, inform them immediately; after you have responded, ask them if the problem is fixed.

Design your work and manage your time from the customer view. Your best will always be determined by your customers, not you; try not to design and arrange what you do only from your own view; try to always know and take the viewpoint of your customer first; you will always win following that rule. Can you sell an experience, not just a product or service? A small firm took on larger firms through its easy access to no-charge expert information. Customers could turn to internal sources for free consulting, taking from a few minutes up to an hour.

Anticipate customer needs. Make a habit of meeting with your customers on a regular basis. Customers need to feel free to contact you about problems and you need to be able to contact them for essential information. Use this understanding to get in front of your customers; try to anticipate their needs for your products and services before they even know about them; provide your customers with positive surprises; features they weren’t expecting; delivery in a shorter time; more than they ordered. Show your customer you’re in it for the long run.

Plan to Succeed. Consider your business from the customer viewpoint – what are the three best things about dealing with you, now consider what are the three worst things. Now develop a plan to be rid of these poor performance issues and see if you can turn them into advantages.

If you can centralize your business experience in line with your customer’s expectations you will improve your business no end.

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