Friday 27 February 2015

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culled from:
Frequently I’m brought in as a customer service consultant when things seem to be going inexplicably south at a previously-thriving company. Often I’m brought in by a company founder who has built his or her empire starting with a very small number of customers–zero customers, to be precise. Then one customer, then five.

When I start consulting for them later in the growth of their companies, we’ll look together through the notes they have from those early days for clues to what’s gone wrong. Invariably we find that in those early, desperate but exciting days,  the level of detail they kept on each customer and prospective customer, the number of times they followed up and the care with which they did it, was over the top impressive. These were big-ticket customers to them when they were just starting out; they were each crucial to the business; they were their business.
Unfortunately, the kind of focus and attentiveness that’s common when you have only a few customers almost invariably starts to slide when those five initial customers became 50, and a thousand, and ten thousand; the commitment to keeping close to the customers, with a similar level of detailed interaction and care and knowledge of  the customers as in the early days  falls by the wayside.
You stop signing your notes by hand. You stop writing “thank you” on the invoices. You get rid of Jackie and Joanne, your quirkily charismatic receptionists, and switch to an auto-attendant to answer incoming calls.
This loss of focus doesn’t happen on its own, or overnight. At every step of this downward journey, there are defining moments, the moments when you answer, one way or the other, questions like: Do we really want to stop including a postpaid return envelope with our invoices? Should we just let it slide when a new employee is sneaking texts in on the job, in sight of customers, where in the past we would have been sure to gently and quickly correct such behavior?
These moments represent your chance to prevent, or slow, the blurring of your initial customer focus, but only if, in every single case, you answer the relaxing of standards with the following retort: “If we would do it for our first customer, we’ll do it for our 10,000th.
Never stop believing in the importance of the single customer
The secret, in other words, is to never stop believing in the importance of every single customer.  Never start believing – as cell phone providers and so many companies in so many other industries have – that there is an infinite cohort of customers out there for the taking, if only our marketing and sales get the promotions and discounts out there far and wide.
Tell yourselves instead that there’s just one customer, the one you’re facing. The one you need to follow up with, to make sure her problem was successfully resolved.
There’s only customer Jim. One Margo. One Alecia. Which means that even after you have thousands of customers, you need to do everything you can to maintain the mindset that every one of them is a core customer—and to treat the loss of a single customer as a tragedy.
Here’s why: Because every single customer is irreplaceable.
Regardless of the size of your market segment, once you start writing off customers, I can predict the day in the future (and it’s probably not far into the future) when you’ll be out of business.
And this is a calamity to be avoided.
Let your competitors keep thinking of customers as an abstraction, as an infinite plurality. You need to think of them, and serve them, in the specificity of their individuality, their Jim-ishness, Margo-ishness, and Alecia-ishness.
Jim, who likes his service languid with plenty of time to consider his options. Margo who is always in a hurry, and doesn’t care how your day was. And poor Alecia, whose cat is at the vet, and isn’t in the mood for your Pollyanna ponderings.
Now, every customer’s different from the next one — Jim from Margo, Margo from Alecia, and Alecia from Jim. Some will be easier to serve, and some harder.  And some are easier to serve sometimes and less so at others.  But each of them is precious.
Recapture this attitude. Stop thinking “good enough” is o.k. Stop thinking your early reputation (built on those moments when you were treating every customer as precious) can pull you through your current slackness. It won’t. Only your redoubled attention to superior service can do that.


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