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Saturday, 03 February 2007

The Last Thing You Want Is A Satisfied Customer

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Originally published in Twice Magazine


Ever notice how customer service and New Years resolutions seem to go hand in hand. Did you know that 2 of the most common New Year’s resolutions are 1.To get into better shape 2. Lose weight or to go on a diet. Both of those are exemplary goals but did you also know that of all the people who flood the health clubs in January only 25 % of them are still there on a regular basis in May. And the 90% of all people that were going on that New Year’s diet are off it by February! So have you deduced the connection to customer service?

Well here it is. Each year countless companies hold their annual management meetings where the subject of improving customer service always comes up. It always consists of catchy slogans like: The Customer is #1; We care about you!; and The customer is priority one. These little gems crop up and become the resolution to improve the deteriorating levels of customer service. BUT just like the New Year’s diet or exercise resolution, the implementation and follow through of the customer service resolution loses momentum and dies an agonizing death until it comes back to life at next year’s meeting. Why? It’s because there is a lack of PASSION. If you don’t believe me ask the management of any of the countless bankrupt companies that wish they had one more chance. 7 out of 10 customers who switch to a competitor switch because of service and not price. A recent study by our company asked customers to rate their retail shopping experiences, here are the results: 58% POOR 24% FAIR 15% GOOD 3% EXCELLENT (the 3% excellent were customers who had purchased on the internet!) Does your company have a customer service problem? Most likely yes, and if you can’t see it or hear it then you are already on life support, headed for the same demise as the companies mentioned earlier. Is it avoidable? YES, but you need to act quickly allowing your PASSION to drive you. The last thing our company wants is a satisfied customer. What does satisfied mean? When you answer surveys and say things were satisfactory did you mean to say things were GREAT or that it was just ok? The latter of course. So do you really want a satisfied customer or do you want one that is Thrilled. Exhilarated, Delighted, Beholden or Euphoric? RIGHT! So what are you doing to make shopping with YOU an experience for the customer? Remember that lasting impressions are BOTH the first and last impressions your store makes. What have you done to improve the last impression the customer has of your company during the delivery or service phase? If you are making a delivery how will it be better than your competition? Will you give coupons to Blockbuster or Dominos, will you install plastic sliders under the sofa legs for the customer’s ease of moving furniture, do you vacuum or clean the glass on the front door? The options you have are endless but the question is what are you doing? How are you different?


The # 1 way to start the process of improving customer service is by improving associate morale. The associate is your customer. Most management doesn’t think of it that way and this is where the problem begins. The associate often treats the customer with the same respect you give them. Companies spend millions of dollars on marketing studies that tell them more about their customer with the purpose of better understanding the needs and desires of the customer. If the associate is your customer, how well do you know their needs and desires? Think of two associates you know very well and ask yourself these questions

  1. What are their aspirations, work and personal (have you helped them achieve these)
  2. When is their birthday (did you recognize it in any way)
  3. What is their spouses name (when is their anniversary and did you recognize it in any way)
  4. How many children, and what are their names (ever initiated a discussion about them)
  5. What is their favorite activity outside of work (ever initiated a discussion about it)

Human nature dictates that you might be feeling a little ashamed right now. If these are two associates you know very well, can you imagine what you don’t know about other associates. Don’t be embarrassed, you are the norm in management today. I hope now however, you have a better feel for what PASSION means. Show a passion and interest in your people and most of them will do the same for your customer. Will all associates respond this way? No, but the majority will. Those who don’t, fall under the weed, seed and feed program. You constantly weed your lawn to stop them from choking out the good grass. You seed the lawn in hopes of replacing the weeds with healthy grass. You feed your lawn to keep it healthy and the weeds out. You need to constantly do the same with your associates. Get rid of the weeds, seed your organization with new people that reflect the right attitude. Feed all of them by giving the necessary attention and recognition so they will grow.

It’s time to end all the rhetoric at the annual meetings and make the commitment necessary before your company is left wishing it had just one more chance to do it right.



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Bill Stuart

Bill Stuart is CEO of Stuart & Associates, a retail consulting firm specializing in Sales and Margin Growth Programs and Returns Reduction Programs.

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