I’m One Tough Customer


Who am I? Permit me, please, to describe myself…i’m one tough customer!

I want service now!

I’m better educated, more individualistic, and more discriminating than my predecessors. I expect a lot more than they ever did, too. For example, if I call your organization on the phone to make any type of inquiry whatsoever, I expect you to be able to give me an answer in three seconds. I expect you to be easily available for me at any time, and I want a speedy-response and efficiency.

Bend over backwards!

I expect you and everyone who works in your company to be friendly—remarkably more friendly and caring than your competitors, highly competent, and knowledgeable. As a company ambassador, I expect you and your associates to stand on your heads for me when necessary. I even expect you to anticipate my needs even before even I become aware of any I may desire. If you know how, you’ll be in a better position to keep me.

Read my mind!

I expect you to not only know what I want, but I expect you to know what I’m willing to pay for it. And, if you cannot deliver what I want, when I want it, how I want it, and at the price I’m willing to pay for it, I’ll go to your competitor. There are other places I can buy.

Are you scammin’ me? And how the heck is your reputation?

Selling to me is more difficult than ever. That’s because I’m more cynical and skeptical than ever. You might say it’s a fact that I’ve become highly suspicious as to whether you are giving me a really fair price, and whether you’re going to deliver what you say you’re going to deliver, when you say you’re going to deliver it, and not give me some excuse and disappoint me. Besides, I thought your advertising claims “Five star service guaranteed.” I often wonder if there’s any truth in advertising. Sometimes a company has great systems and procedures in place, but when it comes to service, it depends on whom you get to serve you! So if you boast of superior service, make sure you and everyone in your company demonstrates it in every aspect of my experience with you. After all, your company is supposed to provide exceptional customer service, not sometimes, but all the time. Be sure they do, by providing a consistently great customer experience. That’s how you will develop a reputation for World Class Customer Service, which you need to do if you want to keep me.

I didn’t hear it through the grapevine!

Let’s talk about my experience. It starts with your reputation. Lucky for you, I didn’t hear anything negative through the “Grape Vine” otherwise I would not give you the time of day. When I call for the very first time, I will then form an impression of your organization’s level of professionalism from the person who answers the phone. If they don’t sound sharp, how can I expect good service?

Customer satisfaction? Nice, but who cares! Tell me about your loyal customers!

Your website states, “We have very high levels of customers satisfaction and are known for it.” Who cares?! Show me your numbers for customer retention, customer loyalty and customer advocacy! If you can boast high numbers there, then, I’ll be impressed! Business is tough. Real tough. If you have an abundance of loyal customers and advocates who give you referrals, then I’m seriously impressed.

It’s always about me, me, me!

I gave your sales person a tough time, but he asked me all the right questions, provided all the right answers, and showed me he cared about my needs when I called on the phone. So, here I am. But keep this in mind: He was lucky enough to have won me over, but you and everyone in your organization needs to remember that I’m very demanding. I demand courtesy and respect. I want to be treated like a Stradivarius violin—precious, valuable, and irreplaceable.

I’m always right!

If I’m wrong or mistaken about something, (how could I be, I’m always right, remember?) then you’d be wise to simply say, “perhaps there’s been a misunderstanding.”

Treat me right! And connect! Get it???

By the way, if my origin is from a country other than this great USA, I expect you to be able to communicate with me and understand that although my culture may be different than yours, my hard-earned money is still green, and I wanted to be treated with the same importance as others. If I’m female, I want you to connect with me and talk to me a lot more than my opposite sex. Studies have proven that you need talk more with me before I buy than if I were a man. I want a feeling of connectivity. I want to hear: “Thank you, Ms. Smith. We appreciate your business. If we can help you in any way, we’re always here for you.” I want to feel like I’m family. That’s how you can keep me.

And speaking of connecting, don’t forget to record every single thing about me in your database, CRM system, etc. I expect you to remember things about me, know my buying habits and anticipate my needs even before I’m aware of them.

Be very social!

Oh, come on now! If you’re not using social marketing at its highest level, you will definitely not bet able to keep me! Just like the Internet, it will explode exponentially. You will fall so far behind the times, I’ll wonder how smart you are if you’re not using it.

Don’t #@* me off! I’m the judge, the jury, and can be your executioner!

When I do business with you. I never want to have to worry about anything. I have enough worries already with this volatile economy. I’m impatient, too. Fair warning…as much as you want and need me, I can be dangerous to you. If my buying experience and every interaction with you isn’t positive, I can become your strongest critic. I am your judge and the jury. And remember—I can be your executioner too. If my experience with you is not positive in every aspect of my experience with you, I’ll tell everyone not to do business with you. Sorry, but research has proven that I tend to tell a whole lot of people about any negative experience I have with you. In fact, if even one person in your organization acts indifferent to me, I’ll get turned off fast!

Five Star Service

The good word about you will spread.

On the positive side, if you do well by me, I can be your ambassador; I’ll tell others about you. See, I want a flawless customer experience.” That requires you to have what I call, a “Sales-Service Excellence Culture” throughout your entire operation, where everyone recognizes that they, too impact your bottom line. Speaking of ambassadors, everyone in your organization should think and act as your ambassadors, and do all they can to support you and each other too. If they don’t, then wake up! You have the wrong people on your team. Creating a Sales-Service Excellence Culture and having service oriented people on your team is not optional; it is critical to your success.

I’m a tough customer. Get over it and document my complaint.

Am I being too hard on you? I don’t think so. I believe I’m doing you a favor by being blunt with you. Why? It’s because I’m the customer! I rule. So get serious about the level of service you provide to me. In fact, if I call you to complain about something, you should welcome my complaint. Not only do I have a right to do so if the complaint is viable, but how else will you know where improvement is needed? If you are smart, you will instruct your team to document all complaints, so you can be proactive in preventing them from occurring in the first place.

Don’t Take Me for Granted!

Take a good hard look at how I’ve come to you and where we are today. Your captured my attention with your good name, and your creative marketing and advertising practices. Then, you won me over. Now, you need to keep me. I hope everyone in your place of business realizes that without me, no one gets a paycheck. Not to be redundant, but they’d better think and act as your brand ambassadors and treat me exceptionally well. If they do, I’ll not only be your loyal customer, but your greatest advocate. I’ll tell everyone about the superior service I received from you and refer business to you.

Look at the big picture from the outside in.

Look at your business. Examine your systems and procedures, and look at every person in your company from my position. Then, get serious about customer service!

If you are ready to get serious, below are actions that I recommend you should take to keep me and earn my advocacy.

  1. Make a list of what your customers want, need, and expect. For example, they want quality and durability, and a fair price, (better yet-a real deal!) etc. That’s the product side. The interpersonal side is that they want to buy from people who are remarkably friendlier, more professional, and more knowledgeable than your competitors. They want to be appreciated and valued. They want higher level of service in every aspect of the buying experience. Write all you can think of. Then, determine how well you do you deliver these.
  2. Maintain the good reputation of your brand. It is one of your strongest weapons against your competition.
  3. Make sure everyone in your company displays the core values of honesty, integrity, professionalism, accountability, respect, safety, teamwork and the other values you should have established when you first started your company. (If you haven’t, do it now). Then, hold a meeting. That’s right, a meeting! Have everyone state how, specifically, each person should display those values in their day-to-day activities and interactions with me, and every existing and potential customer. Equally important, have them address how to treat their coworkers. Don’t be generic. Be specific. Choose the best examples, put them into writing.
  4. Involve your entire team in creating “guiding-principles” on how you will treat customers and each other. For example, “We will have a sense of urgency to service the customer.” “We will make sure our store is spotlessly clean, maintained, and ready for business each day.” “We will never say, ‘it’s not my job.'” “We will double check our work and be proactive in preventing any complaints.” Oh, there are so many more examples I could give you, but that’s it for now. You need to work with your these.
  5. Record these value demonstration promises, guiding principles, and consistently add to these. You may even want to follow the example of many smart companies who have every employee sign statements that they will adhere to the promises they make to you and your team.
  6. Instruct your team to help you to uncover and eliminate any service flaws that might exist and seek ways to make it easier for me to do business with you. And if you really want to impress me, ask them to figure out ways to put the “WOW” into my experience with you. Then, I’ll really send customers to you.
  7. Appoint (not hire, appoint) a Director of Sales-Service Excellence or CEO (Chief Experience Officer) or business ambassador to make sure I (and every customer) have a consistently great experience. You can have one person in charge, and after a few weeks, you can pass the title onto someone else.
  8. Train managers at your different locations on leadership skills. Adopt a “Zero-Tolerance” for Bad Bosses policy in your company. If your bosses don’t treat your people well, how do you expect them to treat me well? Studies have proven that if your employees are happy with their boss and your culture, then, I’ll be happy for the long run. Happy Employees = Happy Customers. Get it?
  9. Train your employees on how to speak to me. I am impressed when people communicate in a manner that is more professional, caring, and remarkably friendlier than your competition. Make me feel you have my best interest at heart, and be sure to call me by name. Ask me how I’m doing too. Provide more knowledge, more information, and more expertise than your competitors. I especially like the “Business Made Easy” tag line on your website. Work with your employees to streamline your operations and procedures and make it really easy for me to do business with you. Make me use the Staples slogan, “That Was Easy!”
  10. Conduct an employee satisfaction survey. In the survey, ask if your employees would recommend working at your place of business to others. Ask if there’s a spirit of teamwork in your team and whether territorialism exists across departments.
  11. Conduct that employee satisfaction survey every year, and strive for higher scores each year. Work with your team to identify three key areas to improve the level of job satisfaction. (By the way, when’s the last time you told one of your employees how much you appreciate their hard work?) Enable your employees through training. Then empower them to make decisions to keep me happy without having to go to management for permission. Find ways to put the “WOW” into the level of service you provide. This is how you will differentiate yourself from your competitors.
  12. Ditch the word “employee” and change it to “associate” or “team member!” It just might make an impact on your people they feel about their job. Give a small reward for “biggest sale of the day.”
  13. Develop an obsession to deliver your best performance with every customer every day. Instill that obsession into your entire company.

Delivering “World Class” service involves a great deal more, but take these steps, and you just might keep me. Better yet, your business will be in a better position to compete, win, grow, and prosper in today’s challenging economy.

Get serious about customer service!

You may have some work to do.  For now, take a good hard look at the level of service you are providing today and ask this pressing question:

Would you do business with YOU?

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About Christine Corelli

Christine Corelli is a motivational, keynote, business, leadership, sales, and customer service speaker, sales trainer, and author of six business books. As a keynote speaker, she is known for her high energy and interactive speaking style.

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