Is It Really All About the Customer?–YES!

In this video, I discuss a recent e-mail I received from a friend and colleague which really surprised me and made me realize that sometimes things which I think are totally and completely self evident to others may not actually be obvious to some people at all.

In my mind, it’s completely clear and non-debatable that that the customer is the most important entity when it comes to the success of any given business.  Realistically, however, it’s quite common for business owners to get caught up in the aspects of business they think take precedence over everything else when challenges arise and it’s easy to forget that the most important aspect of business is ALWAYS the people paying for the service.

In this short video, I explain why, in business, the customer is hands down the most important player in the game.  It’s not that the customer is always right–believe me, they’re not–but without the customer, you have no business.  If you are conducting your business with the belief that you, your business partners, your franchisor, your vendors, or anyone else is more important to your success than the customer then, I hate to break it to you, but that belief is absolutely bunk.  Even the legendary Henry Ford acknowledged during his lifetime that the customer is the ultimate key component in business–watch the video now to see what he had to say about this topic and, also, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic so please leave your feedback in the comment forum.  Thanks!

May I Take Your Photo?–A Lesson in Great Customer Service

Givers Gain Art

I was at the BNI® U.S. National Conference in Nashville, Tennessee last week and every day, room service would come up and deliver my meals (often, right as a meeting in my suite was wrapping up).   Leslie (pictured below) was the employee who most often made the deliveries during the last part of my stay. On one of these days, I had a group of ten BNI Directors in my suite. They were kind enough to give me a Givers Gain® plaque (pictured at right) made by one of their local members.

Leslie--Omni

We started to gather around to get a photo and Leslie said, “Would you like me to take the picture?”  Now that’s not a big surprise, employees at hotels and restaurants have become accustomed to taking photos of the many people going through their venues. But here was the unusual part; she then said to everyone – “Okay, everybody give me all your cameras–I’ll take a photo with each of them.” She then dutifully accepted each camera and phone and, one by one, took many photographs making sure that everyone got their own picture.

While I was watching all of this, it struck me that she not only didn’t act “put-out” by having one camera after another given to her – she happily took each picture patiently and professionally, and smiled and chatted while she took each and every photo as though she were taking photos of her own family. I couldn’t help but think that there was some supervisor downstairs wondering what was taking her so long. The truth is, she was giving the guests at her hotel a very nice experience.

It made me start to think about each trip that Leslie made to the room. She was courteous, friendly, helpful, and attentive. I was so wrapped up in “the business of a running a conference” that I didn’t really notice just how good she really was until things started winding down for me.

So, for the record – to Leslie’s supervisor at the Omni Hotel in Nashville: Please know that Leslie was working diligently at creating a great guest experience. So much so, that I told the hotel manager that Leslie should be teaching customer service training – she’s that good. Thank you, Leslie – your stellar service was well noted (it may have taken me a few days – but I noticed).

If you’ve had a terrific customer service experience in the past, I’d love for you to share it in the comment forum below because I’m very interested in hearing about it–I’m particularly interested in your thoughts on what it was specifically that made your experience great.

P.S.–Many of you know that I radically altered my diet and, because of that, my wife Beth and I work closely with the hotel chefs when we travel. Well, Chef Harker from the Omni was also incredible (much like Leslie)–he’s one of the best chefs I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with during my travels.  Thank you, Chef Harker!

The "Friendly Skies" Are Back

Long lines, deteriorating service, flight attendants grabbing a beer and pulling the emergency exit handle to slide out onto the tarmac are part of our vision of airlines these days.

However, I had an experience last week that was truly amazing in this day and age.

My wife and I were flying on United from LAX to New Orleans for a business conference.  Before we were about to land, Rebecca, the flight attendant, handed me a business card from the Captain.  His name is Patrick Fletcher.  On the back of Captain Fletcher’s card was a handwritten note that said:

Flight 139, January 19, 2011

Mr. and Mrs. Misner,

It’s great to have you both with us today – Welcome!  I hope you have a great visit to New Orleans – we really appreciate your business!

Sincerely,

Pat Fletcher

Rebecca (who was a great flight attendant, by the way), told me the Captain wrote these notes to everyone who was a member of their premier level frequent flier club as well as all the 1st class passengers.  On this day, that was around 12 people.   She said he is great to fly with because he really treats the passengers AND the crew very well, mentioning that he had brought scones to all of them that morning.

I fly A LOT.  In the last 20 years, I’ve probably traveled on over 800 flights all around the world.  In that time, I’ve never received a personal note from the Captain.

Entrepreneurs and major corporations alike can learn from this story.  Personal service that goes above and beyond the call of duty, can generate great word of mouth.

Captain Fletcher – my hat’s off to you.  Well done.  I think this is a great example of how one person in a really large company can make a difference in a customer’s attitude.  Your note was creative and appreciated.  I hope to be flying with you again.

In the comments section below, please share with me a great customer service experience you have had and how it has impacted your conversation about that company with others.

My Marriott Experience

UPDATE:  Before you read this blog (which was posted on Saturday the 8th), I’d like to give an update.  I was contacted by John, the Director of Customer Advocacy at the Marriott Hotels.  He contacted me when he heard of my complaint.  He handled the situation with concern and professionalism.  He also made the matter right in the best way I think he could.  All companies make mistakes, attempting to make it right says a lot about a company.  Thanks John for your follow up.

Just yesterday I wrote about the great experience I had at the Apple Store in Southern California and now one day later I have a great example of how NOT to treat a customer.  I’ve been staying at the Marriott Desert Springs Vacation Villas in Palm Desert for the last several days.  I brought more than a dozen members of my executive management team here for a 3 day strategic planning meeting during which time we had all our meals on site, some golfed on site and some used the hotel’s spa facilities.

Checkout for the facility is at 10am (10am—how many hotel/villas have a 10am checkout!?).  OK, it doesn’t matter—I called more than an hour before checkout time and asked for an 11am checkout.  The Marriott recption desk attendant said, “Sure, if you want to pay an additional $50!”  Really? $50 more to check out at 11am?!!!  I told Melissa at the front desk that I brought more than a dozen people here for the last three days and charging me $50 to check out at 11am didn’t really seem appropriate.  She said they charge everyone—period.

Now here is where it gets really interesting.  I told her, “I brought 12 people for three nights and put them up in three – 2 bedroom villas and you won’t give me an hour later checkout?  If that is the case, I’ll never come back here again.  If you’re OK with that, I’m OK with that.”  And her answer was… wait for it… wait for it…. “Yes,” she actually said: “I’m OK with that.” 

So let’s go back to the “experience.”  This employee could have acted like she cared and maybe even asked her manager (which I requested).  But no, her answer was a “No,” end of discussion.

It wasn’t the $50 that was the big issue for me.  After spending thousands to bring my team there – $50 was not a big deal.  What really frustrated me was the fact that she didn’t seem to care if we ever came back or not.  It was not important to her.   The quality of customer service is so different from company to company and even locations within a company.  My experience here—was bad.  And Melissa should be happy to know that she has motivated me to not come back again.  Well done, Melissa.

Oh, if only Apple ran a hotel.  That would be an amazing place to stay.

My ‘Apple’ Experience

It was a few days before Christmas and the malls were incredibly packed.  My eldest daughter needed a new Apple laptop for college and I was going to get her one as a Christmas gift.

Apple’s in-store customer service is legendary and I would soon experience it firsthand. I went to Victoria Gardens, an outdoor mall near my home in Southern California.  I walked up to the entrance of the Apple Store and the first thing I saw was that the place was wall to wall people. No, really – I’m not exaggerating – it was literally wall to wall people.  I think if there were any more people in that store the Fire Marshal would have had to empty the place.

I stood at the door and was dreading the idea of going into this packed store and waiting forever for service. I took a deep breath and walked through the entrance.  I was no more than two steps into the store when I was greeted by an Apple employee. I expected her to instruct me where I needed to go in order to take a number and wait for service.  Instead, she said, “how can I help you?” I was a little surprised but, I told her what I was looking for.  While standing in the middle of the store she paged someone from a mobile device.  She told me he was the expert and could set me right up with what I needed.  After a few moments Chris was standing next to me answering my questions.

Within minutes of walking through the door I picked what I wanted.  Chris swiped my credit card with his telephone and instantly sent the receipt to my email address.   The entire transaction was done in a fraction of the time I expected in a store that was busier than I thought possible.

A good friend of mine, Stewart Emery wrote a book called “Do You Matter?” A major premise of the book is the idea that customer service is all about the “experience” people have in the transaction of business.  I’ve been to the Apple store a few times now and I can say with conviction that each time has been an amazing experience in customer service.

Another thing Stewart talks about in his book, which the Apple company seems to truly understand,  is that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  The Apple culture of customer service is light years ahead of any other computer company I have done business with – period. No computer company has come close to giving me such great customer service (some other computer companies even rank amongst the worst service I’ve ever had).

Well done Apple.  I will be back again… and again, and again.

If you’ve had a similar customer-service experience, I’d really enjoy hearing it.  Please leave a comment and tell me about it.

The Five Key Competitive Strategies

A few weeks back, I encouraged you to assess your company’s competitive position and find out whether you’re positioned for success or if your competitive position is in dire need of improvement.  If your position happens to need some help, read on . . .5KeyCompetitiveStrategies

Your competitive strategy consists of the approaches and initiatives you take to attract customers, withstand competitive pressures, and strengthen your market position.  According to Arthur Thompson and A.J. Strickland in Strategic Management: Concepts and Cases, there are five competitive strategies you should consider:

  • A low-cost leader strategy: striving to be the overall low-cost provider of a product or service that appeals to a broad range of customers (a couple of examples are Sam’s Club and Southwest Airlines).
  • A broad differentiation strategy: seeking to differentiate the company’s product offerings from rivals’ in ways that will appeal to a broad range of buyers [a couple examples are Nordstrom (known for customer service policies and personnel) and Whole Foods (emphasis on health foods and organic groceries)].
  • A best-cost provider strategy: giving customers more value for the money by emphasizing both low cost and upscale difference, the goal being to keep costs and prices lower than those of other providers of comparable quality and features (a couple of examples are the Honda and Toyota car companies with customer satisfaction ratings that rival those of much more expensive cars).
  • A focused, or market-niche, strategy based on lower cost: concentrating on a narrow buyer segment and outcompeting rivals on the basis of lower cost (The Gap is a good example).
  • A focused, or market-niche, strategy based on differentiation: offering niche members a product or service customized to their tastes and requirements [examples are Rolls-Royce (sells limited number of high-end, custom-built cars) and men’s big and tall shops (sell mainstream styles to a limited market with specific requirements)].

So, which one of these strategies is best for your business?

Taking Charge

The best word-of-mouth programs I’ve seen happen by design, not by accident or wishful thinking. Unfortunately, many businesspeople view word of mouth somewhat like the weather: “Sure it’s important, but what can I do about it?”

Based on more than two decades of research, observation, and practical experience, I’ve found that in addition to focusing on the important issue of customer service, the average businessperson has much to do in order to build a referral business.  Word of mouth can be planned and nurtured.  Anyone, including business owners, entrepreneurs, sales representatives, staff employees, even individuals serving in a volunteer capacity in any field, can accomplish plenty with a well-structured and systematically executed word-of-mouth plan.

All too often I have seen businesspeople waiting for business to walk through the door. They think because they are good at what they do, people should be flocking to them.  I’m afraid the truth is, it doesn’t work that way!  You have to take charge, no matter what business you’re in or how good you are, and bring the business to you.

I once saw a cartoon strip of two large, ravenous-looking vultures perched on a tree limb, overlooking a dry desert plain.  After quite a while, one vulture turns to the other and says, “Wait for something to die?  Heck, let’s kill something!”  So it is with word-of-mouth marketing.  You can’t simply wait for people to come to you.  If you do, one of your competitors who also provides good customer service will most likely find them before they show up at your doorstep.

If you want to succeed, you have to go get your business, or better yet, have someone else get it for you through referrals.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
   Follow Me

Get every new post delivered to your inbox