Growing Your Business One
Customer at a Time
by Liz Tahir
The People aspect of business is really what it is all about. Rule #1: Think
of customers as individuals. Once we think that way, we realize our business
is our customer, not our product or services. Putting all the focus on the
merchandise in our store, or the services our corporation offers, leaves out
the most important component: each individual customer.
Keeping those individual customers in mind, here are some easy, down-home
steps-to-remember when you want to keep ’em coming back!
- Remember there is no way that the quality of customer service can exceed
the quality of the people who provide it. Think you can get by paying the
lowest wage, giving the fewest of benefits, doing the least training for
your employees? It will show. Companies don’t help customers….people do.
- Realize that your people will treat your customer the way they are treated.
Employees take their cue from management. Do you greet your employees enthusiastically
each day; are you polite in your dealings with them; do you try to accommodate
their requests; do you listen to them when they speak? Consistent rude service
is a reflection not as much on the employee as on management.
- Do you know who your customers are? If a regular customer came in to
your facility, would you recognize them? Could you call them by name? All
of us like to feel important; calling someone by name is a simple way to
do it and lets them know you value them as customers. Recently I signed
on with a new fitness center. I had been a member of another one for the
past ten years, renewing my membership every 6 months when the notice arrived.
I had been thinking about changing, joining the one nearer my home and with
more state-of-the-art equipment. So when the renewal notice came, I didn’t
renew. That was 8 months ago. Was I contacted by the fitness center and
asked why I did not renew? Did anyone telephone me to find out why an established
customer was no longer a member or to tell me they missed me? No and No.
My guess is they don’t even know they lost a long-time customer, and apparently
- Do your customers know who you are? If they see you, would they recognize
you? Could they call you by name? A visible management is an asset. At the
Piccadilly Cafeteria chain, the pictures of the manager and the assistant
manager are posted on a wall at the food selection line and it is a policy
that the manager’s office is placed only a few feet from the cashier’s stand
at the end of that line, in full view of the customers, and with the door
kept open. The manager is easily accessible and there is no doubt about
“who’s in charge here”. You have only to beckon to get a manager at your
table to talk with you.
- Go the extra mile. Include a thank-you note in a customer’s package;
send a birthday card; clip the article when you see their name or photo
in print; write a congratulatory note when they get a promotion. There are
all sorts of ways for you to keep in touch with your customers and bring
them closer to you.
- Are your customers greeted when they walk in the door or at least within
30-40 seconds upon entering? Is it possible they could come in, look around,
and go out without ever having their presence acknowledged? It is ironic
it took a discount merchant known for price, not service, to teach the retail
world the importance of greeting customers at the door. Could it be that’s
because Sam Walton knew this simple but important gesture is a matter of
respect, of saying “we appreciate your coming in,” having nothing to do
with the price of merchandise?
- Give customers the benefit of the doubt. Proving to him why he’s wrong
and you’re right isn’t worth losing a customer over. You will never win
an argument with a customer, and you should never, ever put a customer in
- If a customer makes a request for something special, do everything you
can to say Yes. The fact that a customer cared enough to ask is all you
need to know in trying to accommodate her. It may be an exception from your
policy, but (if it isn’t illegal) try to do it. Remember you are just making
one exception for one customer, not making new policy. Mr. Marshall Field
was right-on in his famous statement: “Give the lady what she wants.”
- Are your associates properly trained in how to handle a customer complaint
or an irate person? Give them guidelines for what to say and do in every
conceivable case. People on the frontline of a situation play the most critical
role in your customer’s experience. Make sure they know what to do and say
to make that customer’s experience a positive, pleasant one.
- Want to know what your customers think of your company? Ask them! Compose
a “How’re We Doing?” card and leave it at the exit or register stand, or
include it in their next statement. Keep it short and simple. Ask things
like: what it is they like; what they don’t like; what they would change;
what you could do better; about their latest experience there, etc. To ensure
the customer sends it in: have it pre-stamped. And if the customer has given
their name and address, be sure to acknowledge receipt of the card.
Remember that the big money isn’t as much in winning customers as in keeping
customers. Each individual customer’s perception of your company will determine
how well you do this.
Liz Tahir is an international marketing consultant, speaker, and seminar
leader, whose mission is to help companies be more effective and profitable.
Based in New Orleans, LA, USA, she can be contacted at (504)-569-1670; email@example.com;
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