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Customer Disservice: Policies That Repel Customers

We've been thinking about customer service lately, inspired by a trip and a book.

 

I was in Chicago recently and I had to use the restroom. I saw this little hot dog place. I thought that I could grab a dog for lunch and use their bathroom. As I approached the door, I saw a sign. The sign said, “No Public Restrooms.” So I stopped, looked around, and noticed a McDonald’s down the street. So I went to McDonald’s.

 

I could see a business limiting the use of their facilities to patrons, because some people will just use the bathroom and leave. But to not even let your customers use it … that seems a little extreme to me.

 

I learned this lesson the hard way. One of my earliest businesses was a Ben Franklin store – the old “five and dime.” We didn’t let the public use our bathrooms. There was one particular day every year when the town held a huge community sale. We got tons of traffic on that day, many needing to use the bathroom. People would come in and walk out because we said, “No”. Why wouldn’t they? We hadn’t served their immediate need. So we changed our policy – and most people who used the restroom did buy something.

 

This makes me think of the book, Our Toilets are Not for Customers by Floyd Coates. He tells the story about shopping for light fixtures. His house had been severely damaged by a tornado. He had to buy lights for his new house, so he went to a lighting store. He was about half done with his list – having already selected about $2,000 worth of merchandise – when he got the call of nature. He asked a clerk where their bathroom was. She said, “Our toilets are not for customers.” She went on, “There’s a place a couple of blocks down the street.” So he left … and he didn’t return – they didn’t get a dime out of him.

 

One of my professors, who became one of my mentors, said that most policies are created for 3% of the people – the exceptions – rather than the 97% who are responsible for the success of the business.

 

The #1 … and #2 … ways businesses flush money down the toilet

#1 – Create policies for 3% of their customers
The hot dog place in Chicago is the perfect example of this. Would more than 3% of the people who walk through the restaurant’s doors do their business without doing business with the restaurant? Yet all of their customers are affected by this policy.

#2 – Create policies for 3% of their employees
The renegades, you might call this 3% of employees. But the other 97% suffer for it. This results in lower morale among all the employees – especially the ones who did nothing wrong. Lower morale leads to lower productivity.

What’s that sound? Oh, that’s the sound of money getting flushed down the toilet!

This 3% rule is a good thing to think about before making any policy decision that affects customers or employees.

We’ve given one example, but there are so many more. What have you seen – as a customer or an employee? How do businesses flush money down the toilet?

 

 

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(Image by Leo Reynolds, CC 2.0)

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Touching Others by Adding Your Personal Touch

Sometimes we forget what an impact we can make in the lives of others with our jobs. No matter what that job may be.

Barbara Glanz wrote a wonderful book called CARE Packages for the Workplace – Dozens of Little Things You Can Do to Regenerate Spirit at Work. In this book, she tells the story of a person who attended one of her workshops about putting your own personal mark on your work.

The story is about Johnny, who is a bagger at a grocery store. Johnny took Barbara’s point to heart.

Here’s what Johnny did …

Johnny had an idea for putting his stamp on customer service. He would come up with a thought every day and put it in every customer’s grocery bag. 

He went home that night and asked his dad to teach him how to use the computer. You see, Johnny has Down’s syndrome. His dad helped him develop a three column by three row page.

When he gets home from work each night, Johnny finds a thought for the next day. Sometimes he can’t find a good one, so he makes one up! With his dad’s help, he types it into the computer. They copy it into the other eight sections of the page. Then they print it out.

Johnny cuts up the nine thoughts and then personally signs the back of each one … which means that Johnny signs at least 1,800 thoughts each day.

Here’s what happened as a result …

The store manager noticed that Johnny’s thoughts were in huge demand. He first noticed it when he was walking through the store one day and there was a long line. He immediately called for more lanes to be open.

But the customers didn’t move – they wanted to be in Johnny’s lane so they got his thought for the day! One customer told the store manager that she used to only shop at his store once a week. Now she only comes to his store – because she wants Johnny’s thought for the day! Johnny’s thought has turned shopping into an experience for his customers.

Other employees also noticed what Johnny was doing. The people in the floral department started thinking about how they could put their mark on customer service. Now, when a flower breaks off or isn’t going to be used, they don’t just throw it away like they used to. They find an elderly woman or a young girl and personally pin it on her!

One of the meat packers loves Snoopy. He bought 50,000 Snoopy stickers, which he puts on every piece of meat he packs. Johnny’s thought has made work fun for his co-workers.

So Johnny shows us that every single one of us has the ability to make a significant difference in the world. No matter what our job is.

We applaud Johnny’s bigg success!

Our bigg quote today is by William James, who said,

“Act as if what you do makes a difference.  It does.”

Sometimes a simple thought, put into action, creates a chain reaction.

Next time, we’ll discuss how to establish credit for the first time. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

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Are You Good, Fast, or Cheap?

There’s an old saying …

You can be good, fast, or cheap. Pick any two.

So you can be good and fast. You can be good and cheap. Or you can be fast and cheap.

So why can’t you be all three?

 

Because you can’t deliver all three. More specifically, you can’t defend all three. It costs money to be good; it costs money to be fast.

If you’re trying to compete on all three, a competitor can come along who only competes on two. Let’s say they’re good and cheap. Their cheap is cheaper than your cheap because they’re not trying to be fast. So now you’re only competitive on two of the factors – good and fast.

“Good, fast, and cheap” is really just a way of discussing the three components of value:

  • Quality
  • Service
  • Price

6 strategies to beat your competition

Defensive strategies 

#1 – Improve quality, keep price constant
If quality increases but price doesn’t, you increase the value your customers receive. You focus on trying to make your “good” better so you gain business.

#2 – Improve service, hold price constant
If you improve your level of service, while keeping your price the same, your customers will perceive it as a better deal. You focus on making “fast” even faster. This actually applies to anything having to do with customer service, not just speed. 

#3 – Decrease price, keep quality constant

If you can decrease your price without sacrificing quality, you’ll increase the value to your customers. We all love a good deal, right?

#4 – Decrease price, maintain service levels
If price falls without sacrificing service, your customers will realize they’re getting a better deal. More people will buy more!

So here’s the caveat to these four strategies – you have to make a profit to stay in business. These defensive strategies give you a competitive edge, but they all cut into your profit margin.

So what you’re trying to do with these strategies is increase profit by increasing sales enough to compensate for the lower margin. It’s risky! Because if you don’t get it right, you’ll work harder (because you’re selling more) for less money (profit).

Compounding strategies

#5 – Improve quality, increase price
If you can improve your quality, but increase your price, you’ll hold value constant. Your customers are still happy, because they’re getting the same value as before. They’re paying more now, but they’re getting a better product.

#6 – Improve service, increase price
This is the same as #5, only here you’re delivering a higher level of service.

These final two are designed to increase your sales and at least maintain your profit margin. Therefore, your profit should go up. Of course, we’re assuming that you’re able to maintain your customer base, even at the higher price. 

As you consider these strategies, think across your whole business. You may find it valuable to use different strategies for different products or services.

Our bigg quote today is by Michael LeBouf:

“A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.”

Create value for your business by delivering what your customers value.

Next time, we’ll answer a question from a member of our community about getting started on a project. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

 

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(Image by egahen79)