Winning and losing customers

 “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises; he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.” – Mahatma Gandhi

At Work Better training, two of our core training programs are Customer focus and Service Excellence. Hence ‘Service Excellence’ as a subject is very close to my heart. In the last month, 2 examples of customer service were displayed which were remarkably different from each other and yet can teach businesses so much.

Going the extra mile for a prospective customer by Work Better Training: Our Sales team had been pursuing a certain customer for a while for Business. That client happened to call with a request for an Open workshop. We don’t conduct open workshops and as such informed him that we only provide customised workshops for corporate organisations. The call ended and we thought of a world class customer service concept pioneered by Zappos (American online retailer, now acquired by Amazon). We called the customer back with contact details of competitors who conducted Open workshops on the subject this prospective client was looking for. The customer was absolutely delighted by our service even before he started doing business with us. He connected us to the relevant people in the organisation and now we are in discussion to start work with them. We are sure that in the future he would definitely think of us. We also created top of mind presence in his head.

Taking an existing customer for granted – Sveda Banquet Halls: We conduct several training programs at a Conferencing facility called Sveda Banquet Halls. From the beginning, I observed that this place had got a lot of their basics right. Good facilities. Well trained staff serving the customer. The pricing was reasonable. Hence a lot of our clients kept repeating Sveda as their venue. One of the things that is almost standard practice at most facilities of that price is to provide small bottles of mineral water to the participants. Sveda did that. In a conference/ training set up, the participants find it convenient to drink out of smaller bottles to avoid confusion that often happens with the glasses used. Then all of a sudden one day, they stopped that practice. When asked they said it was top management decision.

Here was an organisation that had started to compromise on the customer service front because they had taken their customers for granted. They took the small things that make a difference to the customer for granted. And that is usually the start of the downfall.

I believe that organisations that think more like Work Better Training are the ones that are likely to add new customers while retaining the old ones. And organisations like Sveda are likely to lose customers by taking them for granted.

Providing great customer service is not easy at all. It requires every business to look at its model closely and see how it can meet and exceed the customer expectations. This involves setting the customer expectation right to start with. How a customer perceives and expects of the service will determine his level of satisfaction. Sometimes an entire business has to be remodelled for the same. I have seen my own family business been caught in a state of confusion on where we stand on customer service. The margins on IT products are so thin that providing great customer service became impossible. Could we have re-thought the model of business? Where we charged a service premium over our competitors and then gave our customers better service? These are important business decisions that make or break any business.

Irrespective of your Business model, keep a close eye on the Customer Service as felt by the customer. After all, Serving and fulfilling a customer need is all that business is about anyway.

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