Our country is a fast-paced technology driven world, increasingly run by managers who rose from the ranks of information technology (IT). This “tech” slant is starting to backlash, leaving a trail of failing businesses in their wake.
Emphasizing technology as the solution to people problems is impacting the bottom line of many businesses without many managers even understanding why they are seeing slipping brand and customer loyalty, falling sales and eventually business failure. Too much technology can hurt your business.
What technology can never do is fix a perceived disingenuousness by customers of your company or its employees. Many companies have resorted to “feel good” advertising campaigns to retain and win customers back. But the disconnect between what advertising promises and what customers are actually experiencing causes many customers to feel like they are being lied to.
In the past, the phrase “customer service” has been used to address keeping customers happy. But “satisfaction” only goes so far; in the past, the objective of customer satisfaction has only been ‘satisfaction’ when it should have been customer joy!
How can you achieve joy among your customers? There are three simple ways to enhance customer joy:
First, give your employees the latitude to make the customer happy.
This doesn’t just apply to the people in your customer service department or to those with direct customer contact. It applies to every level of your company.
If someone in your accounting department notices that customers aren’t paying their invoices correctly, they should look into the reason why. Perhaps the invoice form needs to be made more “user-friendly” to reduce customer mistakes and ultimately customer dissatisfaction with your company. This type of pro-active approach solves a problem for the company, eases frustration for the customer and in the long run saves the company money.
With the unemployment rate the lowest it’s been in years (below 4.7%), employee retention is now a big concern for most businesses. Employees who can’t solve problems quickly become frustrated in their jobs. And, just like unhappy customers, your employees will leave too.
Unless your company is the only provider of a particular product or service, even a low price won’t keep your customers with you if you don’t keep them happy. It may sound cliché to exceed your customer’s expectations, but it works. Your employees often have great insight into how to improve things. If you still don’t know what your customers expect, do some marketing research – ask them what they want then do everything you can to give it to them.
Second, never minimize how important your customers are to the long-term success and continuation of your business.
There is not a business of any type that doesn’t have a customer; even businesses that cater to other businesses still have customers. Every employee in your organization from the CEO down to the cleaning crew should be focused on seeking ways to make the customer happy and to finding ways to solve customer problems. Your employees should think of the customer as the person who ultimately decides whether they keep their job or not, because without customers, your business won’t need employees.
Customers frequently make off-handed remarks to line employees that are a very significant measure of how well your company is meeting their needs. Every employee should have access to a decision-maker to pass along these concerns and comments.
Ideally, every employee should also have the leeway to solve customer problems on their own without going to a supervisor. Your employees should be able to identify the problem, find a solution and then make it happen.
Third, if the first department you run to when you have a business problem is the IT department, you may not really understand your customer.
Customers need human solutions not more confounding technology. Too much reliance on technology forces customers to become the “experts” in your business, instead of you becoming the expert for them.
Your customers come to you because you can do something they either can’t or won’t do for themselves. If they feel they have to learn YOUR business to get theirs done, they’ll either take their hard-earned dollars elsewhere, learn to do without your service or take the task on themselves. What benefit does the customer have if they have to know nearly as much about your product or service as you do in order to do business with you or to use your product?
Don’t assume your customers are “stupid” because they don’t understand your technology or business lingo. Or rude, because they’re frustrated from trying to keep up with product changes or from wasting time downloading upgrades that take time from their own businesses. Your customer may eventually decide paying you to do something for them just doesn’t make sense. The technology your business offers should be based on customer need, not on how slick your new programmers are.
Heather runs a bookkeeping service using a network of stay-at-home-moms. When she wanted to give them health insurance coverage, she had to work so hard learning how to deal with the health insurance provider that she finally decided to administer it herself and saved nearly 40% on their premiums by taking it on herself.
Remember you are the expert in your business; simplify the experience for your customer. And, your employees should be doing the competitive research for the customer so that they can offer the best solutions. Remember, don’t make the customer have to learn your business.