Business talk with Steve Elsom, August 2020
The musical headline from last month’s article seems to have ‘struck a chord’, so let me indulge you again this month… courtesy of a dance floor classic from 1978.
I was speaking with an office supplies business owner over Zoom last week and asked what he had done to keep in touch with his customers through lockdown. Turns out… he hadn’t. The conversation went something like this “Oh, so whilst I get that they might not be ordering printer ink, paper and pens right now…..wouldn’t you like to know that their business is still in good
shape, so that they will be in a position to order ink, paper and pens from you when we ease out of lockdown?’ His face was a picture…. the proverbial penny had dropped. Reaching for a pen and some paper he asked, “so Steve, what shall I say to them?”
I replied "the first rule of customer service is that it’s two words... customer and service."
The customer maybe wants a relationship, so reach out and look to build rapport… how have they found the past few months, how are they feeling and would they welcome a conversation with you, so that when we do return to ‘normality’, we have a relationship…..not just a transaction. The service is what you deliver and how you deliver it. How many business owners say that ‘providing excellent customer service’ is their USP? Lots. My response to them is – “sounds great…can you give me some examples? Will I find
any customer testimonials on your website?” That ‘proverbial penny’ look usually returns. You can’t build your
business on a strap-line…..you have to live and breathe customer service, you have to train it in, test it, deliver it,
evaluate it and then tweak it and then you can consider it a ‘USP’. You have to make the customer feel ‘mighty real’.
I once observed butler to the stars, George Telford, work a busy hotel lobby reception. A smile here, a nod there . He told me “ I adopt the 5/10 rule… 5 foot away say ‘hello’, any further a nod and acknowledgement is sufficient”. Great listening skills, no interruptions… and very attentive. It was like watching a well oiled engine, purring with efficiency and high performance. The hotel clients were being made to feel ‘mighty real’,
George had time for everyone and it was amazing to hear folks walk away from the desk with smiles and positive attitudes. Wouldn’t we want all our customers to feel like that? George is a fan of mystery shopping, and learns a lot from observing his team interacting with customers and then giving feedback on those observations. If you mystery shopped your business what would it reveal? Would you see relationships being formed or just a series of transactions? How much time do you spend on training ‘customer service’? If the answer to that last question is – “not enough”, I would suggest that ‘providing excellent customer service’ is not your USP.
Countless business gurus over the generations have suggested that the ‘customer is King’. Mahatma Gandhi said as much in 1890, ‘a customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependant on us, we are dependent on him. He is not an interruption of our work’. Reflect on the first impression that your business portrays to a customer, either face to
face in your shop or over the telephone or email in your office. Are you making that customer feel ‘mighty real’… will they leave the shop with a smile and a positive attitude, will they end the phone call ‘on a high’? Maybe ask them ‘how has that made you feel’?… if they reply “mighty real”… you are on the way to that USP!