There’s no other way to build a business than one customer at a time. The truth is, even if you have 100,000 customers each week, they all found you one at a time. Your prices, or value or something appealed to each one of them on a different level. What I like about The Pit may make someone else hate it.
I have brought people to The Pit for lunch and dinner because I love the food AND the way I’m treated there. Some of those people will return because they had a good experience also. So maybe Eric the manager doesn’t come out and greet every customer, but if I’m selling a new guest on how much I like it there, then the job is already being done.
The truth is, there’s no such thing as a single customer. Anywhere I go, I’m going to tell my family if my experience was at either end of the customer service spectrum. Because we hang around a tribe that is mostly the same, we influence them. “It’s a small world” because we hang around people we have a lot in common with. If my wife loves a new thing for our son, she’s going to tell her friends who also have small kids. Gaining or losing a single customer is rare.
99% of the businesses in the US could do with better customer service. That starts at the top and spreads like a virus. If the boss cares, you tend to care. I experienced that first hand while working at a Marriott in Boston while I was in college. There was a feeling of “let’s do everything we can for the customer” that permeated everyone who worked there. It was almost impossible to not be helpful.
But what if I did upset a customer? What if in the modern social media world a customer gives me the Kevin Smith treatment? I realize that it’s an opportunity to learn from. I step in as quickly as possible. Admit my mistake and try to fix it. The days of deny, deny, deny, cover-up, deny are hopefully gone forever (except, of course, in Washington DC).
If you like being treated like a real human being when you’re the customer, why would you think anyone else wouldn’t. For example, when I’m at Home Depot and can’t find anyone to rip my plywood it drives me insane, but then just as often there’s someone there who goes totally above and beyond and gives me hope.
The ideat that big companies can’t do one-on-one relationship building is just plain wrong. They can, and they can do it well if they want to allocate the resources. When you compare the lifetime value of a customer, it makes the salary of the person keeping them happy seem well worth it.
Consider that the cell phone companies spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars to capture each new customer. Yet seemingly then do everything in their power to alienate you! If you could keep just 1,000 customers from switching carriers, you could save your company half a million dollars a year.
Building your customer base one satisfied customer at a time seems silly, until you realize that’s there’s no other option.
Photo by: loop oh
Karl Sakas says
@Phil: I like your point about considering Lifetime Customer Value. Much of that comes down to incentives — does the company hire people who enjoy helping customers, and does the company reward them for that behavior?
USAA is a great example of a company that uses the right incentives. The military-oriented insurance company evaluates its customer service reps based on member satisfaction surveys, not on who can get the customer off the phone in under five minutes. The company is typically near the top of Consumer Reports‘ rankings for both good service and low rates.
I haven’t had an auto or homeowners claim yet with USAA, but I’m always amazed at the high quality of their service. Even in the occasional 45-minute phone conversation (as I ask all sorts of detailed what-if questions about policy options), USAA reps are unfailingly patient and helpful. My dad has been a USAA member for 43 years and I can see why.
Phil Buckley says
I have also heard great things about USAA, my sister-in-law uses them. I think good service can actually lower a company’s rate structure because they don’t always have to be chasing new customers. What if the cell phone companies could cut their advertising budget in half and spend it on great customer service?