All business is customer related at some level, but some activities of business are more directly and clearly related to customers than others. The public face that a business presents to customers is critical to its level of success. Above and beyond the quality of its products, a business needs to develop a public reputation of competence, honesty and quality if it hopes to succeed.
Advertising is often the first contact that is made between a business and a potential customer. Wittiness, liveliness and creativity are highly valued in the world of advertising, as they are effective at capturing and keeping the attention and goodwill of customers. If these qualities go too far and are perceived as pushiness and arrogance, as has happened more than once in some disastrous advertising campaigns, customers will jump ship en masse and a few ad executives will probably lose their jobs. Advertisements that appeal to a need of the customer, whether real or perceived, and then convince the customer that this company will fulfill that need, often succeed at establishing that first critical contact.
Once a customer is acquired through publicity and advertising, he must be retained through a high level of customer service. Today's customer has a very high opinion of himself, a sense of entitlement, and will not hesitate to take his dollars elsewhere if he feels that he isn't being appreciated. In retail environments, restaurants and service industries, employees need to be trained to treat customers with attentiveness and respect, while at the same time not smothering or crowding them.
Keeping Employees Happy
Edward de Bono and Robert Heller, writing on the website Thinking Managers, claim that the first step in keeping customers happy is keeping employees happy. Because employees are almost always the first, and sometimes the only, contact that a customer has with a business, the employee is going to have an enormous effect on how the customer feels about the business. If the employee is underpaid, overworked, exploited or otherwise unhappy, she is probably not going to go out of her way to treat the customer well. Conversely, if she is happy at the company and feels that the company's well-being and her own are vitally linked, she will take those extra steps to be sure that no customer goes away unsatisfied.
Despite the best efforts of management and employees, sometimes customers will not be happy. In the event of poor service, defective products or other unforeseen complications, what separates poor companies from great companies is how they react to the customer's negative reaction. A company that understands business success will take the customer's complaints seriously and take immediate steps to remedy them. Erring on the side of the customer, even if it means a minor financial loss to the company, will always lead to greater business success in the long run, because it will build public support of and trust in the company, two things that are critical for long-term survival.
- laptop, salesman and the customers image by Dmitri MIkitenko from Fotolia.com