Customer Service

Managing Customer Relations! It’s All Customer Relations!

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“The magic formula that successful businesses have discovered is to treat customers like guests and employees like people. ”

-Tom Peters,  Businessman & Author of In Search of Excellence

This week we are focusing on customer relations; that is, how you treat your clients, how you use their feedback and whether you are listening to them at all.

The best indication that you have a good relationship with your clients or customers is a growing bottom line, early clients referring you to their friends, and as a result, more people ‘coming in the door’.

Last week, the quote was from the creator of Walmart, who essentially said that the customer is boss. Getting clear about this is essential to the growth of your business.

Tom Peters’ comment about treating customers like guests and employees like people goes to the heart of customer relations.

If you are the only person in your company, how you interact with every single person you come into contact with determines how your business will grow.

As an example:

Think about suppliers you use:

  • What was your last conversation with them like? How did you deal with a missed deadline for delivery, or a drop in quality? Or an increase in quality or a deadline met early?
  • How did you react?
  • What did you say?

The choices for the downside

  • Did you hardline it?
  • Did you tell them what a rotten deal it was that they missed the deadline because it affected your reputation with your clients?

OR…

  • Did you problem-solve with the supplier to help him or her ensure that you worked out some kind of arrangement for future supply lines and deadlines?
  • Did you empathize or criticize?
  • How did you approach the issue of quality of the work or materials you received from them?
  • Did you tell them that this was unacceptable?
  • Did you tell that you wouldn’t use them again if it happened again? (In other words you threatened them with loss of business?)

OR…

  • Did you tell them that you had had great service and great quality up to now and wondered what had happened on this order?
  • Did you give them a chance to explain and tell you what they were doing to fix the problem?
  • Did you give the supplier some leeway for operational problems (as a small business person you know stuff happens!)
  • If this was not the first time failure with the supplier, did you yell or ask questions in a calm voice about what had happened?

The choices for the upside

Same questions:

  • How did you react? And…too…did you react? Did you thank them? Congratulate them?
  • What did you say? If you were in their shoes, what would you want to hear?
  • Now take this list of questions and redo it with your employees in mind, or your spouse or child who is doing your books or responsible for some part of the business.

How did you treat them?

The Impact of How you Act

Remember the expression that “Sh-t rolls downhill”?

Well, it surely does. Every interaction you have in your business – inside or out – has a potential impact on future business. How you treat your employees, your suppliers, your colleagues, is likely how they will at some point treat some or all of your clients and customers – or you.  No surprise there.

If you believe that, you have to ask yourself “How am I treating my employees, suppliers, or colleagues? And: Do I Actually Know what kind of an impact I have on them?! Is it the impact I want? How Do I know???”

You need to be aware every day, every interaction, of how the person across from you is reacting to what you are saying or doing.

If you are not, if you are operating in oblivion, focused only on your goal, your desire, and your need, the likelihood is that you are not in tune with yourself, your employees, your family and spouse, or those suppliers or professional colleagues with whom you are working or coming into contact.

POA (Plan Of Action)

  1. Work at being aware at all times of what you are saying AND, how the person or people in front of you are reacting
  2. Keep a daily diary of interactions for one week
  3. Evaluate and record every interaction with every person with whom you came into contact that you can remember –
  4. who was there,
  5. what happened,
  6. what the response was,
  7. what the body language said,
  8. what the actual results were,
  9. whether you think you got what you want, and, how you know!
  10. At the end of the week, review what you have written and look for patterns in your behavior/speech, and in the responses to your interactions.
  11. Seek to identify if you were telling, teaching, preaching or criticizing more than listening or attending to what the others were saying.
  12. Check in with those with whom you come into contact and ask for feedback. Risky? Perhaps. But if you want to grow, you have to know!
  13. Remember, there is always room for improvement!
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