By Larry Galler
October 13, 2010
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The most important part of your business is… what?
Your accounting? Equipment? Certifications? Inventory? Staff?
All wrong. It''s none of these.
The most important part of your business is… your customers.
Without customers, there is absolutely no reason for any of the other parts of your business to exist. Period.
Without customers, you don''t need accounting or equipment or certifications or inventory or staff.
And it is important that everyone in your company understand that satisfying customers is the most important part of their job.
That seems obvious, but it also seems that many business owners don''t realize it or at least it appears that way to an impartial observer.
It also seems that way to a customer.
A few examples:
The company makes promises or makes implied promises but doesn''t keep them. "We''ll be there at 2 p.m." but they don''t show up until 4:30 p.m. or, even worse, they don''t show up until the next day and they don''t have the courtesy to call to inform the customer. No wonder the customer is angry.
Your cell phone rings while you are talking to your customer. The customer starts feeling that they are not important. If you value your customer, let the call go into voice mail. Make sure that your staff understands this also.
The customer calls with a complaint (no matter whether they are right or wrong) and the person from your company argues with the customer instead of dealing with the issue with courtesy and respect.
You quoted a price and then present a bill with some unexpected charges. The customer either pays it without fighting the charges or argues. Either way, there is a good possibility they will go elsewhere the next time they are in the market for your services.
Serving or supplying customers is the reason businesses exist.
Companies that are centered on the needs and desires of customers are "customercentric". They serve customers well and work hard at impressing and pleasing them.
If they do it well, they flourish; however, businesses that "just go through the customer-service motions" or take advantage of customers eventually whither away as customers defect and go where they are served with quality, value and respect.
Companies that adapt a "customercentric" philosophy put forth the effort to show and communicate that philosophy at every opportunity.
They hire staff members who exhibit good "people" skills, integrity and responsibility.
They train new hires on customercentric methods of service fulfillment and communications.
They continuously improve product delivery with an eye towards pleasing and impressing the customer.
They develop programs to give extra value and extra service to the customer.
They have a policy of continuous customer service training for the experienced staff so that nobody will ever forget the value of satisfying the customer.
That''s being "customercentric".
Road to faster growth
As a personal observation that comes from coaching hundreds of small companies over the past 15 years, I know that businesses that have adapted a "customercentric" philosophy grow faster and have greater profits because they build greater loyalty and have a higher percentage of returning customers who then become a base of "word of mouth" advertising and referral business.
Additionally, these companies generally have lower employee turnover because the staff, once trained in the philosophy, is appreciated more by the people they serve and tend to enjoy their work more.
Lower turnover translates into less time, effort and money spent in attracting applicants, lower hiring and training costs, which then translates into higher profits.
Becoming "customercentric" is a win-win situation. It is better for the customers, better for the company, and better for the staff.
If you have read this far, you probably agree with me about the advantages of being customercentric.
The problem will be how do you transform your company from "what it is today" to become "customercentric" tomorrow?
The next logical question is… how do you do this?
Sorry to tell you that it won''t happen overnight. It is not like turning on a lamp and suddenly a room is bathed in light.
It is more like watching a sunrise in the east, a gradual, but constant, process. I know that most owners of small businesses are very busy and can''t afford the time to lock themselves to their desk to hammer it all out, so the starting point is develop- ing a series of action steps where, over a number of months, you will do the following:
Develop a statement of purpose that describes how you want your company and everyone in your company to serve your customers.
Review your policies to see if there are any that detract from the customer experience and replace them with policies that add to customer satisfaction.
Review your sales presentations, guar- antees, pricing, promotions and marketing material. View them from the customer''s perspective to present more value and a higher degree of reliability, quality and integrity.
Create "customercentric" training material so new hires and "old hands" become very aware that their focus is to be on the satisfaction of your customers.
Initiate a series of regular staff meetings that train and then constantly reinforce how you want your customer to feel about doing business with your firm. Each meeting should be focused on one aspect of customer satisfaction. Never think that you are ever done training and reinforcing your training so plan on holding these "customercentric" meetings constantly and regularly.
Larry Galler specializes in coaching owners of small businesses to grow their businesses through effective marketing, customer retention programs, and systemizing their business practices. Explore how he can help you during a free coaching session by calling (800) 326-7087 or email email@example.com. Visit his website at www.oneyeartogreatness.com.