Posted in Core Values, Leadership, Relationships

Leave no customer behind

Facebook has over 400 million users. Four. Hundred. Million. Who cares if a few thousand are upset? Right? WRONG! Every customer must count. The number 1, the number 359, and the number 295,134,876. In fact; if there is one thing that will give you the competitive advantage, it is the quality of your relationships with your customers.

I’m big, you’re small… why should I care about you? Corporations, non profits, school systems… everyone can have those moments… but they shouldn’t. It is the sum of individual clients, participants or students what gives their work meaning. If people stopped buying bottles of Coke, the Coca Cola Company wouldn’t be viable. If families did not register for services, the non profit organization would have to close. And without the students, the school system would have no purpose.

No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. In the education field we have had this conversation before. Relationship based services are not a new concept. Educators know that if all schools offered the same services, parents would choose the ones where they felt their children would be better guided and educated, where they felt most welcomed, where they felt the teachers would do their best to create nurturing relationships with their children.

When will the corporate world learn from the education world? When you go to a restaurant and have a delicious meal but a terribly rude or incompetent waiter: do you leave a good tip? When the food is not great but the waiter consistently checks on you with a smile, replaces the wrong order quickly, and treats you as if you were his only customer: do you leave a good tip? My bet is that most of us tip according to how satisfied we are with the service provided to us, which is different from the actual product that brought us to that business. That service is based on the relationship that the waiter is able to form with us, even in one hour or less.

Walk your talk or your customers will notice. I have 5 office stores around my home: across the street, a block away, 2 blocks away, 3 blocks away, and 5 blocks away. The last two are superstores (lucky me, huh?). However, when I need something for my office and I need to see it before purchasing it (otherwise I shop online or on the phone), I get on the subway and travel the 3 stations that separate me from Staples. Why? Because Staples Argentina is a model for a caring, relationship based provider of solutions. They want my business to succeed, they care about me being a happy customer and they actually show it to me in the smallest and biggest of ways, consistently, every time I go into the store, call them on the phone or shop online.

In return, I show them the same loyalty. I am a fan because I know that the respect and care for customers comes from the very top, I know it is authentic, and it is practiced by every single employee in their building. I know this. I feel this as a customer. I had an opportunity to visit their corporate headquarters and I saw it on the walls. Literally. I was blown away by the transparent walls and the surveys posted on the hallways. Customer satisfaction indexes are posted in big colorful signs on loading docks for everyone to know how their commitment and attitude is impacting the happiness of their customers (by the way, a big sign with the word “attitude” in red hangs over the giant product packing/delivery area). Seeing all that made me feel proud to be a fan of a business that is a fan of my satisfaction.

Officenet/Staples (Argentina)

Now, why did I start this post with Facebook? The social media giant made its customers feel disrespected when it disregarded their right to choose what to do with their own information. Privacy policies were a dime a dozen and they changed rapidly – never for the protection of the customer. Users grew restless and quite vocal, without a response from Facebook. Accounts were deleted. Facebook “fail” posts and hashtags went viral.  The result: the company had to apologize publically. In the end they had to come up with new privacy management tools. (There are other -big- problems with Facebook’s customers, check Fran S. Simon’s post about them and you’ll see what inspired me to write about customer satisfaction).

Relationships do matter. Relationships do make a difference. In this crazy, rushed, over-stimulating world, relationships are a balm of calm and trust. Relationships can make or break your business. Time will tell if there will ever be a relationship of trust between Facebook and its customers. Be smart and learn from their mistakes. Whether you run a one person consulting agency or a multi site corporation: do not forget you owe your existence to your clients. Treat them with the care and respect they deserve and they will transform from clients to fans before your eyes. Clients come and go. Fans stay. Which ones do you want to have?

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