In my last column, I described how allowing personal issues to negatively affect your customers exacts a heavy cost on your business due to customer dissatisfaction. I also explained that in order to be a top notch company, you must eradicate any undue burden to your customer base. Now, I want to share with you the tremendous power that lies in always being integrity based and personally accountable.
Both my previous column and this one were inspired by two separate negative interactions with the same business owner – my gardener. During his last two visits, my fountain was showered with grass clippings and my newly reseeded areas were mowed, even after having asked him not to do so. After being met with only attitude and excuses, I was planning to fire him until his integrity and personal accountability came shining through in a personal phone call.
Being a person of integrity, holding yourself personally accountable and operating your company from these core values, will limit negative customer interactions and can save customer relationships gone awry. Even the very best businesses do not run perfectly and without missteps. While you obviously need to be your very best – day in and day out – in order to attract and retain customers, operations will not always run at their highest level without fail. When your company drops the ball with a customer, operate with profound integrity to make the most of a bad situation.
There is no doubt that my gardener let his own personal issues affect his interactions with me in ways that damaged our relationship. Doing business with him was actually detracting from the quality of my life because of the added work it took to repair his poor workmanship and his lack of attention to detail. In addition, the negative interactions in my otherwise pleasant day were disheartening. Bottom line, I was not receiving value for my investment.
I was literally discussing letting him go with my wife when my gardener called. He proactively took responsibility for his lack of quality work and the unsatisfactory experiences I’d had with him. This time, his tone was polite. He did not make excuses or try to blame me. He acted professionally, with integrity and took personal accountability for the actions that led to my lack of satisfaction. In addition, he apologized for his actions, promising that there would be no issues going forward and asking that we give him another chance.
His “timely” phone call saved our business relationship, for now. Although I agreed to his request, I know — as a customer — that only time will tell if he delivers on his promise. Choosing to take this path when you or someone on your team has mistreated a customer can salvage a business relationship. If you then follow through on your guarantee to never let it happen again, a loyal relationship — one filled with repeat business and referrals — can be built.
My gardener’s call — with its content, tone and his personal guarantee — immediately allowed me to reconsider my decision to fire him and instead keep him on. My mind was freed to change direction as his actions reopened the door for us to continue, at least for now, doing business together. This is what you will buy yourself, and your business, if you take the same road my gardener did when your company wrongs a customer.
The critical component to creating and maintaining top notch customer service is often overlooked as businesses focus on the financial bottom line. Never forget, however, that without loyal customers, the resulting bottom line is closing your doors. And, if you can’t attract and retain new customers, your bottom line won’t grow at all. Exceptional customer service must be a top priority every time a customer “chooses” to interact with your business.
In closing, rather than viewing “customer service training” as a cost to your business, come to see it as a very wise investment in your team, your customers and their satisfaction, and ultimately, in your bottom line success. When you make the strong decision to hire a qualified professional to guide you and your business to the ranks of the exceptional, your operations will run smoother, you will attract and retain new customers, and your business will flourish.