Who is your customer? According to Peter Drucker, “a customer is anyone that can tell you ‘no'”, and similarly, Sam Walton asserts that “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company, from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
That’s pretty big stuff. In your world and within the company, who has the ability to say ‘no’ to you? Yes! Believe it or not, we all have customers. Every person in the company has at least one customer that they must satisfy, and that’s why fundamental number 16 is so helpful and so vital to our success.
Fundamental No. 16: Walk In Your Customer’s Shoes – Think from their perspective. Understand their challenges and frustrations, and find ways to make their jobs easier. Seek to create win/win solutions. This includes both internal and external customers.
Putting the customer at the center of what we do requires us to be able to think from their perspective. There is an old saying: “You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” Walking in our customer’s shoes means understanding our customer’s business and the issues that are critical to their success. Simply put, be empathetic with your customer. Ask yourself questions like, what might this person be experiencing? What are the factors critical to their success? Many people understand this concept, but not everyone sees its’ importance or practices it regularly. Yet it is absolutely key to truly serving the customer well, and guaranteeing repeat business for the company.
Walking In Our Customer’s Shoes
How can you walk in our customer’s shoes? Asking good questions and listening are the first steps, of course. Here are other ideas you can use, with the customer’s permission:
- Conduct an in-depth interview to make sure you understand their expectations, and that you’re giving them what they want.
- Find out what they don’t want and stop doing it.
- Find out what you’re not doing but should be doing, and start doing it.
- Spend time observing their work operation. What are their pet peeves? Is it cleanliness, punctuality, quality, or maybe paperwork? Do they have a dress code? Do we follow their dress code when we interact with them?
One of the greatest challenges in working with people is having consistent behavior with customers. A customer can encounter one employee one day and a different person the next. Their styles can be very different. Even encounters with the same person don’t always produce the same interaction. Our moods depend on many things, some of which relate to personal factors. Because business involves humans, behaving in a consistent way in terms of professionalism, attitude, knowledge, and skills can be challenging.
The key is customer expectations. If they come to expect a certain response to their needs, and less is provided, they may be disappointed, surprised, or angry. The relationship will be diminished. Almost more than the level of response, customers value consistency. If you can deliver consistent service, you can capitalize on it as a selling advantage. If you can exceed the minimum expectations and do things that are unexpected but welcomed by our customers, so much the better.
Delivering Great Service
If our company is to deliver a great customer experience, we must first know:
- Who our customers are. Not just what the customer does, but literally who is the actual person we have to satisfy? What’s their personality like? Knowing who you serve and what their interests are will greatly aid you in serving them more efficiently.
- What customers expect from us in the delivery of our products or services. For example, how do they like to receive feedback? Do they prefer email, a phone call, face to face interaction? Do they like regular reports or do they just want the end result?
- What they are going through in order to achieve their results. Try to see their struggles as your own, their successes as your successes, their deadlines as your deadlines, because, in the end, that is what it comes down to.
How consistent are you at delivering what customers expect? How do you know? How easy is it to do business with our company? How do you know? There’s only one way to find out; ASK.. People will gladly tell you just about anything you want to know if you will only ask. Become a master at asking questions. Then listen to the answers. Take good notes, that information you have been missing is important.
As Always, Deliver Results! (Fundamental No. 14 🙂 )
When serving the customer, and in everything you do, always focus on the desired outcome, the end result. Results are what will differentiate you from everyone else. Standing out in a world of many choices is critical to success. Regardless of what you do, at some level you are delivering results to others. Your success will depend on how those people perceive the value of the results you deliver and how unique those results are. Walking in your customer’s shoes so that you can get clear on expectations is the only way you can deliver results.