In business, we spend hours, days and years strategising, debating and planning our product, pricing, packaging, marketing, operations and sales.
We spend millions on the execution – hiring and training our staff, setting up infrastructure, getting the right software, hiring award-winning creative agencies, getting the product just right and driving sales all within this very fast-paced, technological environment.
And then, if you get it all right, the customers start flooding in. Simple, right?
Then why do so many businesses, after they’ve ticked all the boxes and got it all right, start bleeding customers? The sales are just not sustained from when you first went to market and for some reason, your customers are just not coming back as you hoped they would. The reaction from most businesses is to review product, price, strategy, human capital, technology and to trawl through that MBA check list we have in our arsenal.
The answer is obvious – if you know what to look for.
I recently walked into a well-known barber shop in a shopping centre to book a hair appointment. Yes, it was a busy Saturday and the receptionist looked a bit flustered, but when I asked if my usual guy, Peter, could cut my hair, her answer was one word: no. We made eye contact for two seconds, whereafter I turned around and walked out feeling like I had done something horribly wrong. That was it – a sale lost, a brand reduced to a mediocre identity and a customer that is now looking for the next best thing.
This could’ve gone very differently. The fact that I asked for Peter showed her that I had been there before. I kind of think it also showed her that I would wait to get my appointment with Peter. She could have answered any number of ways: “Not now, but let me see when he can see you,” or “Perhaps someone else can cut your hair?” or “Let me take your number and call you if I get a cancellation and you can pop in if you are still in the centre.” Any of these engagements would’ve clenched an appointment either with someone else, a later date or at best, left me as a remaining, content customer of the business.
I have another example, where I subscribed to a shopping card. The sales process was awesome. My card arrived via registered mail and I immediately started shopping. I got regular emails to remind me to use my new card, but after two months of starting to use my regular card again, I decided to cancel my subscription. I made one call and the client service lady on the other side responded with “No problem, let me cancel it for you immediately.”
She explained what would happen and all the processes that would smoothly exit me as a customer. Not once did she ask why I was cancelling or if I’d like to just keep it for one more month because there’s a great special coming up. In a very friendly and accommodating manner, she just cancelled it there and then. What baffled me even more is that a month later, via registered mail, I received a R100 gift card that I could use with my card. What a terrible waste!
Now don’t get me wrong, both these businesses are established and have been around for a long time. Both have professional brands, great business people behind them and great marketing. But they get one thing wrong – somewhere in the chain of people dealing with the customer, they don’t care.
The receptionist didn’t care whether I had my hair cut at her shop or not. The client service lady didn’t care whether I wanted my card or not. They both let me go without as much as a blink.
My advice is to get out of the boardroom and test your product yourself.
- Experience your customer journey from a customer’s perspective.
- Talk to your customers personally, not through some NPS or comment card/customer feedback survey.
- Employ the best people you can in the customer-facing areas of your business.
- Train and manage your staff properly, entrench the behaviours of “customer first” and no, slapping up a grandiose, values formulae in your reception area that some overpriced consultant dreamt up for you is not going to transform your staff.
- You need to win the hearts and minds of your people and manage, reward and grow those that behave in a “customer first” way in all they do.
- Ensure that the systems are a support to your staff.
- Let them know what the prompts should be.
- And above all, you cannot and will not teach a person to care. This is a trait that is inherent to one’s character and values, therefore, hire for attitude and train for skill. Good people attract good people and everyone loves to deal with good people.
About the author: Adrian Zanetti is the managing director at NEXT Engage. Look out for Zanetti’s NEXT article The IFG cancer and why team decision making = mediocre results.