(This article was first published in the Sunday Star Times and on stuff.co.nz on Feb 5, 2017)
The most successful companies are those who have a great base of repeat customers and get referrals of new customers from existing ones.
Obvious right? But I find many companies should be putting a bigger focus on this “Business 101”. Recently, my friend’s son had a really bad haircut, and the story of what happened illustrated ‘what not to do’ if you want to have customers for life.
He had just started at a new school, and for day two, wanting to fit in as teenagers do, went and got a haircut.
His usual barber was unavailable, so he went to another barber down the road. He wanted a one, two, fade – whatever that is? When my friend saw the haircut her son had got from the barber, her heart sunk, as it was a terribly bad job. They began an SOS mission to salvage his hairstyle and reputation at school.
They googled and found another barber with great reviews, and rushed to get there, arriving at 7:15pm because online it said they were open until 8pm. The barber was just finishing with another boy and had one other person in the line.
My friend politely asked if the barber could help her son but alas, he said he was unable to help as he closed at 8pm and he still had to sweep up after the next haircut.
My friend desperately pleaded with him, explaining how her son had just started at a new school and that she did not want him to be ridiculed. She said she would pay the business double to make up for any over-time required, sweep the floor and help him clean in return for his help.
He still said no without any further explanation. They were pretty upset by this stage not getting help in their hour of need. They left sad and defeated. Luckily, they managed to find a kind hairdresser doing a late night at the mall who was able to do a decent recovery job, given the poor starting base he had to work with.
So what are the business morals of this story?
Firstly, the initial barber who did the really bad haircut should have declined to do the haircut if they did not know what they were doing. Know your limits and don’t do mediocre work.
The best way to get strong word of mouth and repeat business is to focus on the jobs you are really skilled at. The old adage “stick to your knitting” is very true, and many businesses I see that are not blossoming are often not focused on their niche.
What are you great at? What are you not so great at? Learn to say no to the jobs where you are not so grea, and do more and more of the stuff you are great at and your business will flourish. You cannot be all things to all people. What can you do to attract more of the business you are really, really great at?
Secondly, I believe the barber who turned my friend and her son away was following a system too rigidly, and showed no room for judgment. Remember that all your customers are people, and the best sort of company is a company that treats customers with humanity, especially in their hour of need.
He showed no empathy for what was a perceived emergency situation in the mind of their potential customer. If he’d helped in this situation, this barber would have created a customer or 4, for life (she has two other sons and a husband). Instead he was too focused on getting out the door at 8pm. The owners of this barber shop with the great Google reviews, will never know that one of their staff had this attitude. I can only assume they would not be happy their employee was not prepared to go above and beyond to create a customer for life. Your staff are the frontline of your business, how far would they go for customer service? You are only as good as your weakest link.
When you have customers for life, it makes business a lot easier. How good are you at creating customers for life and do you truly know how you are performing on repeat and referral business?
Zac de Silva is an award winning business coach who owns www.businesschanging.com as well as being the co-founder of the Nurture Change Business Retreat in Fiji. If you like the questions that Zac poses, check out www.accme.co which will get you thinking on how to run a better business.