Before we discuss customer service in this article, let’s first address the essential purpose of business. Admittedly, for most people the purpose of business is to make money. In fact, this assertion is validated by the renowned economist Milton Friedman, who observed that the only purpose of business was to maximize profits for its owners. While this may be the first interpretation for many, I am of the unequivocal belief that there must be a dramatic paradigm shift in business for those within it to be both competitive and profitable. As opposed to that outdated and purely monetary function of a business, I would like to humbly suggest a different purpose: to add value to the lives of our customers through the time that we save them, the money that we help them to keep, or the use of our product or service to make their lives easier or better. By setting out to sincerely add value to our customers’ lives we will invariably make money. To do this consistently and effectively, we must be clear about our purpose in order to make proper decisions within our sales and customer service efforts. In this article, I’d like to suggest some ideas on how we can better service our customers and in return make more money than we ever dreamed of, while building lasting relationships that may continue for generations to come.
First, we must keep in mind that without the customer we have no business. The only way for a business to have any real viability is for it to consistently and willingly serve the purchasing decisions of its customers. It’s essential for us to see the customer as the most vital part of the whole business structure. The most basic aspect of this point of view is that customers are people just like you and I, they are often looking for the same things we are looking for: a great value, a trusted salesperson or service provider, and a great product or service. Conversely, if our products and services have no real use in the marketplace our potential customers’ disinterest will show. Listening to and evaluating feedback from customers helps a business improve and refine its products and services.
Secondly, let’s focus on an important piece in the customer service equation, the actual manner and commitment with which we give service. Many salespeople and service providers are lazy when it comes to this part of their interaction. They are relieved to have the sale but reluctant to effectively manage the relationship afterwards. Indeed, I myself am all too familiar with the pressures to procure new business, but I am equally aware that the true longevity of today’s businesses will only come as a result of their services being thoughtfully and positively rendered to their current customers. Properly maintained customer service relationships can result in both lifetime customers and vital multiple referrals generated by them. This kind of great service comes down to successful communication. Customers have to know without a shadow of doubt that they can trust their service provider to follow-up on every detail to make sure that their purchase is being fulfilled as promised. In the event there are complications or problems, customers appreciate honest and sincere efforts to correct those things immediately. I often suggest to sales people to see themselves as their customer, then to consider what kind of service they would expect, having made a purchase decision based on dealing with a trustworthy service provider representing a reputable company. Making things psychologically and emotionally personal allows an emphatic approach to customer service, one that most often results in genuine satisfaction and gratitude, as well as regular return business and referrals.
Lastly, we must use these first two elements towards generating good, consistent profits. You’ll notice we are back where we started with the originally stated purpose of business, to make a profit for its owners, a point I would never seek to dismiss but instead re prioritize. What we’re advocating here is reversing the customer service mindset from “profit, product, and customer” to “customer, service, and profit.” As we alluded to in our earlier discussion of customer feedback, poor customer service has often been the primary reason that customers stopped doing business with a company. Again, without customers, we have no business: they are the only reason that we are able to generate profit in the first place. According to customer service industry research, a five percent increase in customer retention can increase profits by 25 to 125 percent. That’s the difference that separates mediocre companies from exceptional ones. Good, consistent profits only come after genuinely beneficial customer relationships are made, as those are the key to growing business through referrals and sharing positive feedback. Ultimately, I feel deeply that business is about doing good and serving people, and when we act with these goals in mind I’m convinced that we will have more business than we can handle while enjoying the good profits that result from our sincere efforts. We must always remember to add value to the lives of our cherished customers.