Looking to grow your business? The more traditional route is to hire new salespeople so they can get new customers. A more innovative, less costly answer is to improve the service you provide to customers. If you can do something better than your competition, customers will want what you have to offer. You won’t have to sell them on your product or service at all.
Here’s why. Customers today are very particular. If they get what they want, when they want it, at a fair price, they’ll do business with you. If you don’t deliver, they will simply go elsewhere.
One way to meet this new customer focus is to use better technology. Dell Computers, for example, does a whopping seven million dollars a day in sales over the Internet, by delivering exactly the product a customer needs, at a competitive price, in 48 hours.
Most of us, however, don’t use the Internet in such a way. We still rely on good old face-to-face contact. For us, customer interaction skills make all the difference in the world. Just repeating the mantra “The customer is king” doesn’t work anymore. Today, everyone in your business has to deliver on that promise.
Take a look at Travel One, the eighth-largest business travel management company in America. With $1 billion in revenues, 1,300 employees, and offices in 50 states and 44 countries, Travel One has an enormous service challenge. To meet it, they have developed their own set of 10 Commandments all employees are expected to live by. Here are three I find particularly helpful:
1. Do things right every time.
Each time a mistake is made with a customer, the customer’s business is affected. Most customers are tolerant of a mistake, especially if you’ve built up a bank account of goodwill with them and the mistake was unforeseeable. All you need to do is apologize, make it right, and move forward. If this mistake is part of a pattern of carelessness, be careful. Today’s customers will leave you in a heartbeat, and rightly so.
If you’re not dedicated to doing things right every time, you really aren’t caring for your customer’s business. Service is providing what your customers want and doing it right every time.
2. Be a service legend.
At Travel One, customer “problems” are opportunities to provide legendary service and build lifetime partners. It never ceases to amaze me that so many businesses blame customers when they present a problem to them. The message is clear: We’ll serve you as long as you give us no problems.
Smart companies see customer problems as opportunities to demonstrate how much they care. A customer’s perception is your reality. Travel One’s President Jeff Harrow makes it clear to employees that if a customer thinks you blew it, you blew it. Travel One offers an unconditional service guarantee: “If it’s not right, we’ll apologize, fix it, pay for it, and prevent it from happening again. To date, no one has ever asked for their fees refunded.” With service like this, their customers enthusiastically become patrons (giving them all or most of their business), and then advocates (telling colleagues about the great service they get).
3. Be proud, but strive to do better.
This is the mechanism that makes good service providers great. They are proud of what they do but are driven, even obsessed, to do better.
They realize that whatever extraordinary service they introduce into the marketplace, if it catches on, will soon become ordinary – everyone will be doing it. The competitive advantage will be lost.
Companies like Travel One ask their customers and ask them often: How can we improve to help you improve? They realize that no one ever complains about being treated too nicely, so they constantly come up with new and innovative ways to make customers feel special.
There you have it: three ways to help your business climb into the service stratosphere, where companies like Travel One operate. Their last commandment puts all this service talk where it counts – on the level of each individual employee. Travel One’s 10th Commandment is: “To the customer, you are the company.” Small wonder customers love doing business with companies like this.