One of the principal targets a business owner can focus on, and gage, is the returning customer. This is followed, by a very close second, with customer referrals. How your products or services compare to your competition will establish the level of acceptability to your customer. The term You get what you pay for still holds true for the most part but for the customer who does not have the experience or knowledge pertaining to the specific products or services value per dollar, this old adage becomes strictly an afterthought when the work is completed and if the expectations were met. The arrow that often misses the mark is in two areas. The first is the communication to the customer so they really know what they are getting and the value of what you were delivering. The second is the level of performance from your staff. If not done well before the sell, and maintained during the delivery, the chance of a repeat customer or customer referral becomes a slim opportunity. In the end, no matter how hard you work or strive to deliver a product or service, it is the comparison to others which you will be measured against for a repeat or referral when your customer begins to talk through either solicited or un-solicited conversations with friends, relatives, neighbors, and even complete strangers in passing time.
It is important to determine the expectations and standards from the industry within the product or service that is being provided. From that, the level of expectation is solely up to what is being offered to a customer. Standards and expectations (Quality) must meet the level your target audience is requiring for the value or cost for them to purchase it. If you are manufacturing a product or component part for an assembly process, the expectations are, or should be, established fairly high. You can debate if the levels of expectations are relative with the amount the customer is willing to pay. While this is true to a certain extent, this form of logic is often an excuse for producing a sub-par product, which in the end, increases the risk for the customer to go shopping. If the product or service being sold is a final output and will be sold to an end user, the expectation levels you are delivering are often established during advertising. In either case, it is the direct communication with the customer that will establish the level of expectations of value for dollar. During this exchange things like body language will provide some indication if youre in the ball park. And yes, this is a sales function and should be saved for another time. For my purpose with this posting, my intent is to not simply target the established level of expectations, but some point higher and above. The stronger the completion the more important this becomes.
During delivery of your product or service, it is important to pay close attention to the customers comments, concerns, apprehensions, and even body language. If you have not secured their confidence in your product or service, there will be an increased risk of losing a repeat or referred customer. How many times have you sat in a restaurant and the server reached across the table instead of walking around it? How about when a service technician walks into your house or business office area in the dry and hot summer and doesnt remove the shoes or puts on booties to protect the carpet? Then there are the times when a group comes into your facility and fails to clean the work area after each day leaving trash and debris lying around? If these types of lazy short-cuts are taken during times that may seem insignificant, they will definitely happen what it is important. As Ive said in earlier postings, you need to raise the level of expectations for your staff, which will ultimately raise the delivery level as well. This translates into repeat customers and referrals.
Every question or concern from a customer must be met with specific knowledge and factual information that does not belittle or make the customer appear stupid. While you may think, and may even be, the best at what you do, if you present that fact merely in an attitude to the customer, your simple arrogance could potentially be your largest competitor. Competing with your personal attitudes and ego is never a wining solution. Im not saying the customer has to be patronized and that you should not display confidence in your product or service. What I am saying, is there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. If you dont know where that is, you will definitely have internal business issues as well as customer issues. When the customer challenges or questions what is being delivered, their question has to be satisfied to a reasonable level which instills their confidence in you at the same level you have in yourself. Im not saying the customer is always right. Im a firm believer this is a risky business solution. What I am saying, if you want to be successful in the product or service you deliver, you and your staff must perform at a level of expectation which exceeds the expectations of the customer.
It is impossible for me to discuss every detailed aspect of customer service for a successful business model. I have only scratched the service of a few for the purpose of provoking the required thought process to establish the necessary and require level of expectations for a successful business model. In the end, it boils down the level of expectations you establish for your staff. I discussed this earlier in my Business Improvement series. Details can hurt immensely. Put yourself in the shoes of the customer and what you would expect from others dealing with you
then raise it higher. In a word, the level of Professionalism you instill within your organization will transition to the quality of delivery for your product or service.