Staying centered on your customers

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Dwayne J. Clark is the founder, CEO and chairman of Aegis Living, a bestselling author and longevity expert.

Swindling customers or disrespecting them all is an obvious no-fly zone for most companies. Yet these practices seem to be more everyday than ever as we continue to experience the effects of the pandemic and ensuing inflation. Consumers have faced inflated prices, poor quality items and poor customer service to get the basic goods and services they need.

But I’m all seeing signs of shifting tides, customers back in the driver’s seat, and bad companies on the heels. Only brands that have stayed focused on their customers will prevail.

Some changes should ease certain pains, including liberating the world of commerce that comes with a side of complacency. That used car dealership that charges you $20,000 more for the car than it did when it was new is likely to disappear — as is the agent who sells homes 20% more than market value so they can stay with “future prices.”

Also gone will be the hotelier who charges $400 for an unwanted room in a supposedly full hotel or the local appliance store who insists you don’t get your washer and dryer on time, but, by the way, the price of your washer and dryer. dryer is now 15% more than when you ordered it and you will have to pay the difference when it finally arrives.

As the economy begins to stabilize, the buyer-seller relationship will also stabilize. When both the seller and customer agree on the value of something — including the interaction that leads to a purchase — that agreed value creates a mutually positive experience. It also signals to our brains that we’ve had a positive interaction that we may want more of.

Nordstrom, for example, understands this relationship and I believe has one of the best customer experiences a department store has ever offered. Sure, a few customers have benefited from their generous returns policy over the years, and the end result is customers who feel valued and remain loyal for generations to come. It’s the nourishing experience they go for, along with their carefully curated clothing.

Starbucks also nailed this philosophy, forcing customers to drive longer distances and pay more than what was the norm for coffee when they first expanded in the ’90s. In a world of great insecurities, I can be pretty sure that when I go to a Starbucks, no matter how detailed and bizarre my requests are, they will continue to look at me kindly, repeat my order to me (which activates my brain that they listen and care) and quickly hand me my drink while using my name (or, as many of us have learned, some version of a name that is sure to bring a smile). This is excellent customer service and for many of us excellent enough to map Starbucks locations around the world.

Zappos is another company that wins at customer service; with no phone tree, no scripts, and no max call time, customers really feel like the company wants to help and make sure their experience is seamless. A Zappos customer service representative once made a record 10-plus hours customer service call that resulted in Zappos sending the item with a basket of flowers for free. In both the Starbucks and Zappos case, the value provided in the excellent customer service is worth every possible extra cost over other options.

Current research also suggests that the experiences we provide to others end up on our own doorstep. In other words, our brain does not recognize the difference between giving and receiving, and this compelling truth reminds us that mutual gain is of great value.

If companies drive sales with a smug attitude, they will lose both that one-time sale and any chance at a loyal, lifetime customer. The latter is what companies need more than ever in this uncertain economy. And leaders must remember that we are in community with our customers and are determined to make the most of mutual victories. A transaction driven by someone who wants shared successes will always provide courtesy and lasting value.

Be good to your customers and value them. Invite and force your staff to be good to your customers. If you stay focused on this, you should see a much greater return than the added profit of a few big sales and short-term surcharges. More so, the lingering rewards collectively lift us all.


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