Become Your Customer's Best Option

Posted by: Rod Kurtz on July 6, 2009

In fat or lean times, the greatest way to build business and strengthen relationships is to become the best option for your customers. Consistency and responsiveness are paramount to becoming the best option. The foundation to this can be achieved in a few simple ways:

1. Don’t rely on voice mail or automated menus—avoid them whenever possible. You can’t build relationships by having your customers talk to a machine; people want to know they have been heard. Customers need to feel they are important.

2. Be consistent in pricing—your prices don’t always have to be lower than the competition, but the price should match the value.

3. Understand your customers enough to know what a proper response time is, and be consistent in reducing yours. Whether a proper response time is seconds or hours, never delay communicating with your customers.

When building relationships, being able to say: "We are going to be the most responsive organization you will work with"—and then proving it goes a long way. When "I hear you" is coupled with "You hear me," then "I like you" can turn into "We like each other." That sounds like a relationship to me.

Joseph Gabriel
Founder and CEO
Southern Computer Warehouse
Marietta, Ga.

Reader Comments

bradley

July 9, 2009 2:18 PM

Duhh! common sense

Mit Miller

July 9, 2009 2:32 PM

Excellent -
You timing could not be better. I am just now going through this process with my staff - and it is working!
Thank you for an excellent reminder.

ELEANOR FLAGLER HARDY

July 10, 2009 1:06 PM

We have been in a business 26 years and have always put a premium on our personal relationships with our members and travelers. We have been told we have fantastic customer service and amazing response times. I wanted to throw out something I am seeing: We have humans answer the phone; we have humans answering emails quick as lightning; we are as consistent in pricing as we are fast and thorough. But when we get queries from our web page from people we do not know, we are finding people to be uncommonly rude sometimes. (Not all!) We do not experience this rudeness on the phone, by mail or even usually when people email us directly. But when they post questions on our web site, I am shocked really. These people don't want relationships. They don't care about the personal service. I think all they want is the cheapest price and to heck with service. Is anybody else finding this? And of course we are finding what everybody else knows: for the most part with some outstanding exceptions, the people who already know us and love us are the ones who subscribe to our magazine and buy our trips. Sincerely, Eleanor Hardy

Chuck Brown

July 11, 2009 2:13 PM

Dear Ms Hardy – In response to your posting concerning rude travel consumers, I too have been in the travel industry for more than 30 years and completely agree with your observations. Unfortunately, our consumer “social makeup” has become extremely complicated. The evolution from a Democratic Republic of States to a Single Capitalist Nation, combined with the emergence of the Internet has made the appeal of the apple too sweet. In other words, the vast majority of consumers will do and say just about anything to get a better deal, so long as they can get what they want and can keep up with, or one up the Jones. For example, consumers will get as much information and recommendations from you as they can, and then negotiate directly with the supplier they choose for the best deal if they can. Both consumer and supplier could care less about you or your business so long as they win. Unfortunately the segment that we both cater to is getting smaller and smaller. They have also been hurt by current economic events, which have changed their buying habits. But that’s they game we’ve chosen play. The suppliers hold all the cards, and consumers have final say. Maybe it’s time to search for the new cheese – read “Who moved may Cheese” by Spencer Johnson. – Good Luck! Respectfully, Chuck Brown

Brock Gunter-Smith

July 13, 2009 10:58 AM

Good reminder of the "basics" that many companies "know" but don't actually deliver on. The bottom line is consumer expect on-demand, highly proficient services. If you deliver in giving them a straight answer that demonstrates value 9 times out of 10 you'll have the sale if the person was truly at the buying stage. Delays of hours to get back to a customer often allow them time to find someone else who will respond to them immediately, and often enough they'll buy there even if the price is *slightly* higher.

Matt Heinz

July 13, 2009 11:22 AM

Joseph, great stuff! Anything you can do to make every facet of your business more customer-centric is a win. Here are a few tips on customer-centric selling as well:

http://heinzmarketing.com/matt-on-marketing/blog/five-tips-for-better-customer-centric-selling

Jen Berkley

July 13, 2009 11:30 AM

Yes, common sense, but unfortunately not common practice! Thx for the reminder!

Chuck Brown

July 13, 2009 11:39 AM

Dear Ms Hardy – In response to your posting concerning rude travel consumers, I too have been in the travel industry for more than 30 years and completely agree with your observations. Unfortunately, our consumer “social makeup” has become extremely complicated. The evolution from a Democratic Republic of States to a Single Capitalist Nation, combined with the emergence of the Internet has made the appeal of the apple too sweet. In other words, the vast majority of consumers will do and say just about anything to get a better deal, so long as they can get what they want and can keep up with, or one up the Joneses. For example, consumers will get as much information and recommendations from you as they can, and then negotiate directly with the supplier they choose for the best deal if they can. Both consumer and supplier could care less about you or your business so long as they win. Unfortunately the segment that we both cater to is getting smaller and smaller. They have also been hurt by current economic events, which have changed their buying habits. But that’s they game we’ve chosen play. The suppliers hold all the cards, and consumers have the final say. Maybe it’s time to search for the new cheese – read “Who moved may Cheese” by Spencer Johnson. – Good Luck!

Mike @ hotjobsfinder.com

July 13, 2009 4:15 PM

I couldn't agree more. That is the way we run our jobs website. Personal and professional and we treat our customers as the most important asset, because they are. We keep our rates low and offer better customer service then the other guys. A great post which everyone should remember.

Katie Ingraham

July 14, 2009 3:26 PM

It's important to take a step back and look at things from a customer's point of view. Many companies stress 'customer service' but so few actually offer it. What I say about life holds true in business for me- its the little things that matter :) Great post Joseph.

Steve Wadding

July 15, 2009 3:52 PM

One must keep in mind that "Common Sense" is anything but common any more. The author's statements are simple and straightforward. In the end it is about treating customers as people and treating people with respect. There is value in showing respect and leading by by example. Anything less is unacceptable and lacks integrity. Treat your customers with respect and they will respect your for it and hold your opinions in higher regards.

One Loyal Puppy!

July 16, 2009 1:52 PM

Customer Loyalty? That is the death blow to our US car manufacturers today. Big diff between Loyalty and customer sat. And although someone responded and said something like Duh, common sense, how many people today practice what they preach when in a siduation that can make or break this loyalty. And are aware that it is happening? Most of the time, not.

I beleive in this and helps greatly with the loyalty issue.....
"Treat people the way THEY want to be treated not the way you would want to be treated. If one demands that people treat you the way you want to be treated then the expectations is that everyone should be like you, which isn't the case for anyone I know of.

One Loyal Puppy!

July 16, 2009 1:52 PM

Customer Loyalty? That is the death blow to our US car manufacturers today. Big diff between Loyalty and customer sat. And although someone responded and said something like Duh, common sense, how many people today practice what they preach when in a siduation that can make or break this loyalty. And are aware that it is happening? Most of the time, not.

I beleive in this and helps greatly with the loyalty issue.....
"Treat people the way THEY want to be treated not the way you would want to be treated. If one demands that people treat you the way you want to be treated then the expectations is that everyone should be like you, which isn't the case for anyone I know of.

Julie Parsons

August 10, 2009 2:37 PM

About keeping a customer happy, is there really such a thing as this? Depending on the kind of day or week they are having, their demeanor can change like the weather. We have customers we have worked with for ten years, and they still expect the lowest price with the highest quality, and service with a smile. All the time they are thinking about how they can squeeze more money out of your price and your good nature.
I am as easy going and fair as the next person, but don't sell me out for pennies on the dollar to Joe Smo because he took you to dinner and sent your spouce a birthday present. I find customer loyalty comes and goes, depending on who is approving the orders. The purchasing agent may be your best friend, but if the General Manager has it in for you...your waisting your time and effort trying to please someone who doesn't want to be pleased by you.
Pick your customers like you pick your closest friends and just maybe you will get along. However, always remember whenever money is involved, friendships can part ways very quickly.
And if someone is rude or seem rude to you on your website, it is because they are fishing for someone with at least some compassion towards their ignorance of your product or service.

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