In my profession, I’m blessed to have the opportunity to meet people – lots of people, especially at events like open houses and ribbon cuttings. These celebrations are a highlight for me. Everything is shiny and new; everyone is wearing a smile and their best clothes, and there is a feeling of excitement in the air.
At these events, business owners and employees work hard to get to know potential customers, trying to remember all the new names and faces in hopes that they will be long-term customers in the future.
Very typically, things change quickly. The smiles are a little dimmer, the floors a little dusty and the excitement gives way to the day-to-day. I believe this is where the difference lies. I have seen some businesses maintain the ribbon-cutting excitement and excellence for the long-term, and those are the ones that not just survive, but thrive.
I have the pleasure of knowing Jack Burke, founder of Champions Golf Club, who said to me once, “It’s opening day every day.” That has really stuck with me. It’s a challenge to bolster up that grand opening feeling every day, and to spread that same attitude to employees and staff.
I recently was speaking with my friend Harvey Stalarow with Emergent Partners about this very thing, and he had some very interesting insights. He said, “It makes no difference what the widget is. Our primary product really is taking care of the customer.”
Think about what attracts you to spend your money somewhere. Much of it is how you are treated while in their place of business. It’s up to us, business owners and leaders, to set the tone. When someone enters our place of business, do they feel welcome? If we set a positive tone, by simply and genuinely asking how they are, customers will feel comfortable and more likely to ask questions and hopefully return for a future shopping trip.
Harvey also said, “You don’t have to like what you sell, but you need to sell what your customer wants.” His point was to take notice of what sells and what doesn’t, and make adjustments accordingly. This principle applies to both products and services. “Take care of the customer, understand who they are and make sure they get what they need,” Harvey said.
Many of us are feeling a downturn in the economy right now; I want to encourage you to make the most of this slow time by focusing on customer service. Make every experience a personal one. Back to my friend Harvey, who also said, “Too many stores in the world run on price. If you run your business the right way, price is a secondary matter. In fact, most businesses who get chased away by big retailers really shouldn’t have been in business in the first place.”
Nothing replaces customer service. Cheaper prices can be found, especially online, but it doesn’t bring with it any expertise or knowledge. That’s where we come in. Each of us are experts in our area of business. Our experience, combined with our knowledge, creates a unique perspective for us to share with those customers and clients we serve. When we get past the idea of selling widgets and delve into the area of building relationships, success is the result.
When we push customer service to the side, mediocrity occurs, which makes me recall something another wise friend, author, and speaker Bob Goshen said, “When mediocrity enters your life, miracles cease to happen.”
I challenge you this month – and every month - to be intentional with your customer service, and to train your staff to do the same. There are endless resources available in bookstores and online if you need help getting started. My hope is the next time I see you in the community, you will have some great customer service successes to share.
Let’s keep the smiles bright, the floors shiny and remember, “It’s opening day every day!”