Money and Customer Service
oney is a fantastic measure: it powers the capitalist world. But it is a phenomenally short sighted measure as well.
Money is usually measured, in essence, by ‘profit’.
Profit is a great measure of ‘success today’.
But profit can often be achieved at the expense of ‘success tomorrow’.
The ‘ customer experience ‘ is the measure of ‘success tomorrow’.
Money is just a measure of ‘energy’. It’s a very important form of energy, and it makes many things happen. But, there are other sources of energy that should not be dismissed in the mad quest for money, and the most powerful of these, and getting more powerful every day, is the ‘customer experience’… which is manifested through what they say about you and your services behind your back.
This is called: ‘the word on the street’.
Well managed, the word on the street can be harnessed to drive your business forward. Poorly managed (or, what is more commonplace, not managed at all and left to chance), it can destroy you overnight.
Unfortunately, people are much keener to talk about ‘poor’ experiences than ‘great ‘ experiences… at least 10 times more.
So you have to be ‘great’, or else your ‘ poor ‘ experiences can ruin your organisation.
Unfortunately, no matter how ‘great’ you are, ‘poor’ experiences will always happen, because nobody is perfect. If you are just ‘satisfactory’, then there is not enough customer loyalty in your business or brand to get you through these problems. If you are ‘great’ you will have enough goodwill built up to rectify the issue and retain the customer’s loyalty.
If we accept that money is energy, then your ‘ customer experience ‘ must deliver significantly more energy to your customer (from the customer’s point of view) than the energy it cost your customer to acquire it.
Sometimes I’m accused of talking soft and fluffy nonsense, and
1. ‘it’s tough out there’
2. ‘in reality it’s not like that’
3. ‘price is more important than service’
To which I reply (in order):
1. ‘Yes, that’s why it’s so important to get this right: the worse you do this, the tougher it will be for you’
2. ‘Reality is what you make it':
a. If your attitude is ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ (the great ‘glass half empty’ view), then you’ll be right.
b. If your attitude is ‘I’ll see it when I believe it’ (the great ‘glass half full’ view) then you’ll be right.
c. Give it a go: if it’s so awful ‘out there’ then ‘surely things can’t get any worse!’
d. I love the quote from Henry Ford, and have it stuck on my office wall: “If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re probably right”. Great!
3. ‘Yes, price is important, you always have to charge a fair price for the long term, but it’s ONLY more important than service when there are no other discerning factors.’
• If your customer trades with you purely because of your price, what they are really telling you is that your service could do with some improvement!
• What will then happen when someone with lower overheads and better systems suddenly starts to undercut you?
Some more views on price:
o If price is your ‘unique selling proposition’, then, in reality, you haven’t got a unique selling proposition.
o People who trade on price rip you off, pay late, steal your ideas and mess you around… don’t go for them… go for the sensible majority who want a ‘great’ experience at a ‘fair’ price!
o If you win business on price, then you’ll lose it on price: the ONLY long term factor for success is great customer service, producing customer loyalty.
There was a fantastic example of this in the UK in 2008, when a ‘Poundland’ shop was put out of business by a 99p shop next door!
o Be transparent on price: if you’re more expensive, be open and tell your customers why: they’ll often opt for the more expensive but more transparent option (because it engenders trust). Some examples of this:
Amazon.com: tell you all the different price options on products they sell or source.
Waitrose supermarkets in the UK: promote quality and service over price, and enjoy consistent growth & good profits
Stella Artois was always promoted as ‘reassuringly expensive’ in the UK during the 1990s, where it because the No 1 premium lager by a huge margin. (Incidentally, this was fatally undermined when the owners started doing discount price deals on it in supermarkets, and promptly removed the USP!)
o A curious, but real, economic fact: the more you pay for something, then the more it’s worth. For example: in my profession, if I give material away, people rarely pay attention to it… but if I charge a fair price, then it usually has a good effect!
o And always remember: reducing your price won’t affect your ‘customer experience’ one bit!
So, in a nutshell: ‘service first, profits second’. If you deliver consistently great customer experiences, the profits will follow… not the other way round!