Winning customers (and winning them back)
Billions of dollars and untold hours are spent luring new customers into an organization so that they can spend their hard-earned dollars for goods and services. That transaction is at the heart of capitalism and without it, economies begin to sink precipitously, and eventually fail altogether.
Entire creative organizations exist to come up with a catchy jingle or compelling spokesperson (or emu, duck, etc.) to get our attention in an ever more distracted world. Companies sink or swim based on the ability of these campaigns to attract dollars and eyeballs. The money is spent, the creative geniuses go to work and the campaign plays out, hopefully with great success. People hear about us. They come to our establishment or find us on the internet or give us a call. So far, so good, right?
But then, something happens that causes the whole thing to go south. The customer we worked so hard to get walks away dissatisfied. We spent all of that money and effort to get them and instead of having them fall in love with us, we lost them entirely.
So, how does this happen? Most often, the rub is with our customer facing employees and the process itself. Those few minutes of interaction with a customer are critical, and yet many organizations do not do their due diligence to make it work as seamlessly as it could and win over their hard-won customer.
I believe that there are many reasons why this happens but let me suggest just a few:
1. The false belief that people can do anything- Your mother may have told you that you can be anything you want to be, but, that’s not true. We are all born with a unique set of gifts and talents that make us truly great at something. Our quest should be to find the role where our talents can shine. As business leaders we shouldn’t just plug somebody into a role and then hope to train them up to be great at it. Why not study the best in each role and then build a selection tool that gives us a good chance to find those people like the best that we already have working for us? Training those people will result in world class performance. But training somebody who has no innate talent for the role will only result in mediocrity. Trust me, your customers will know the difference. As author Larry Stuart says, “You can’t train a smile.” So true.
2. Putting non-empowered people in customer facing roles- Trust is central to building a customer pleasing organization. If something breaks in the process, why should the customer facing employee have to call corporate to fix it? Just give them the keys and trust them to do the right thing. If you don’t believe that they will, then they shouldn’t have been hired in the first place. I have found that most people want to do the right thing and they will, given the opportunity.
3. Poor managers- It’s clear that that building a great customer engaging organization starts at the top. What the leaders believe about the process and about how to select people and how much to trust them is the template that will either yield engaged customers who always come back or one that causes them to never come back. The trickle down from the top shows up all the way through, from the C-Level to the people who sweep the floors at the end of the night. Put the right people in the right roles (managerial and otherwise) and see what happens. If everybody is doing something that they have the potential to be great at, then the sky is the limit.
4. Not admitting mistakes- If you didn’t get something right, don’t fake it. Fall on your sword and admit it. Customers understand that you’re human. They might walk away when a faux pas happens, but admitting you blew it will give you the best chance of fixing it and winning them back.
I absolutely love the customer experience. I even written books about it. There’s something magical about that interaction that I want to fully understand. I’ve spent a good deal of time researching it and working with organizations on how to improve it. I keep learning new things but this one truth hasn’t changed: Having customers who love us is at the core of our economy and it’s central to any company’s success.
And the good news is, it’s completely doable. Focus on it, because what you focus on grows and improves. Find the right people. Build trust throughout your organization. Give everyone the authority to elate your customers.
If you do, great things will happen.