Would YOU Want To Be A Customer In Your Business?
Maggie Titterington, IOM
The Chamber (Schertz-Cibolo-Selma Area)
As I enter into my 12th year as a Chamber Executive, I could tell you stories about the ever changing business climate; how in all my years, I feel I have seen it all – the elation of businesses opening, the deep sadness of a business closing and the end of a dream to the mediocrity of getting lost in the day to day routine that makes you forget why you wanted your own business in the first place.
I think all the ups and downs, openings, and closings and yes, the mediocrity, comes down to one question as a business owner: would you want to be a customer in your establishment?
The easy answer, the glib answer is, “of course I would,” but I challenge you to really think about this.
Who is the first person to greet your potential customers – either on the phone or face to face? Would you feel happy coming in? Welcomed? Or would you, as the potential customer, feel like another cog on the wheel of making a profit? How about the services your business offers? Food service, repair service, providing a quality-of-life service such as insurance, financial or medical? Is the person who “handles” you, the customer, have good people skills? Do you, as the client, feel listened to or taken seriously? What about the end result? Would you feel taken care of, that you received quality for your payment and most importantly, would you want to come back again? If you cannot, with all assurance in your heart, answer a resounding YES, then maybe it is time to take a look at how you do business, what the public perception is of your business and revamp it in the new year.
Here are three suggestions to get you on that path:
1. Secret Shopper
Have trusted colleagues who have not used your business, be a secret shopper for you. Three to five shoppers would give you a good foundation to base any possible changes on. Have them go on different days and, if you have different people working the front desk area, various times of the day as well. Also, have them call your business to see how they are treated and responded to. Is it timely, courteous, or abrupt and short? The first impression is the lasting one and so the person you hire as the” face” of your business is crucial.
Maggie’s pet peeve: Automated phone receptionists. I know that as we grow, we want to be good stewards of time but is it really being a good steward of your business to have your first impression be a recorded voice?
2. Do What You Say You Are Going To Do
Am I as the customer promised a timely repair or service, call back or more information? Follow up is key to the integrity of your business. As I respect and make plans for an appointment time that has been set, so should the business respect my time as a client and keep me informed if they will be late as well as if they are on the way. We all know life happens – traffic, appointments run over and sometimes being late cannot be avoided. Communication is the key to respect – you respect my time and I respect yours – and that happens when you show you care enough to update me and let me know what is going on.
Maggie’s pet peeve: Punctuality (or lack of it). Ever book an appointment in the middle of your day with appointments in front and behind it, show up early and then sit and wait way past your appointment time? Without a reason why? My value as a client is out the window.
Exceed the expectation of your customer. Every potential client has an innate expectation whenever they are about to do business with a company. If I am going to get my car repaired, I expect the mechanic to have the expertise to fix my car, use good products and price it within a range that is appropriate and explainable. In the case of a food establishment, I expect to be seated in a timely manner, the server to be prompt and attentive, and my check given to me towards the end of the meal If these are my base expectations, anything that surpasses that will not only surprise me but bring me back again.
Over delivering is simply going beyond the basic expectation of service. How would you feel, upon entering a restaurant, no greeting or recognition by the hostess was given, being seated at your table for a length of time without acknowledgement of a server and having to send a search party for the server for the check. My feeling would be that I really didn’t matter to the establishment as a customer nor was I valued to be a return one.
Maggie’s pet peeve: Avoidance of eye contact. Ever been at a restaurant or service provider that upon walking in, they WILL NOT MEET YOUR EYES. The game is, no eye contact and the person who just entered doesn’t exist until I am ready to deal with them. We all understand busy and if you cannot get to me when I walk in, please acknowledge me with a nod, eye contact or a “I’ll be with you in just a second”. I am satisfied that I exist and that you will get with me shortly.
In closing, I know these times are still challenging in finding good work force, rising prices of product as well as setting yourself apart from your competition. The three points are not beyond your reach nor an impossible goal to achieve. I might even say it is common sense for the average business owner. Sometimes as an owner we forget how to be a client. Review in your mind the past week of when YOU were the customer at an establishment. Did you feel all the things that we just discussed – meaning value? Are there places that you would never return to because you felt you were not valued as a repeat customer? Use these experiences as well as the ones you receive as being your own business customer and reinvent and reestablish the passion you first had when you opened the doors of your business.