(As published in the Sunday Star Times, February 6, 2015: http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/opinion-analysis/65860029/winning-ways-mean-showing-some-heart)
I’m sure you’ve done a lot of big-picture thinking about your hopes and dreams and plans for 2015. So tell me: what did you decide you’re going to do for your customers? What are your plans for them?
In planning mode, too many businesses think about the processes and the transactional areas of a business (marketing, sales, processes etc) but completely neglect the real focus: the customers. Sure, you might reference customers in your plans – generally along the lines of how to find and get more of them – but I don’t see many businesses sitting down and really making a plan about what they can do differently to truly make a difference to their customers’ lives and experiences.
A critical question around this is do you and your team (truly) treat your customers with compassion? Any business can be polite and helpful in their dealings, but those who show real compassion will be the biggest winners at the end of the day.
Encourage your team to be compassionate towards customers and you’ll see big results. Your customer experience levels will rise, as customers feel respected and cared about in their dealings with you. Complaints will go down, as its human nature not to want to tell off people you genuinely like or who have treated you with kindness. People are also willing to put up with more mistakes and stuff-ups if they like you (not that that’s ideal to be stuffing up, but it’s a good buffer). Even better, studies show that doing nice things for others makes us feel good about ourselves so your employees will feel happier and more engaged in their work if they’re given permission to act with compassion. It’s pretty cool to go home at night, knowing you’ve made a positive impact on someone’s day.
So how do you show compassion?
Hear what it is your customers are saying, rather than just listening to their words. Deciphering what they really need (rather than what they think they need) goes a long way to winning a customer over and building trust. A customer might say they need a heat pump for the lounge, but when you talk to them you find what they most hate is sleeping in a freezing bedroom, so in fact a heat source down the bedroom end of the house would be a valuable addition for them. You wouldn’t know this if you just listened to their opening statement: that they wanted a heat pump.
Always act with the customer’s best interest at heart. If someone buys something from you and then realises down the track that it’s not the best option for their personal situation, it will quickly dim the glow of any good experience. Work hard to help customers find the perfect product or option for them, so that in months and years to come they think, “Man this was a good decision. That employee was fantastic helping me decide on this”. This leads to trust and it leads to them liking you and your company – two factors that will have them returning to you for future transactions.
Always put yourself in your customer’s shoes. How often have you seen someone roll their eyes when on the phone with a customer who has a complaint? Or slam down the phone at the end of the conversation with a, “Not my problem”. This mind-frame is so off to me. Your team members should be doing what they can to make life easier for your customers… even if it’s not directly related to what you do. Yes, you may hear the same question twelve times a day and it’s nothing to do with your role, but how hard is it to be compassionate and helpful in your response, pointing them in the right direction?
You see, when you genuinely care about helping others, going the extra mile isn’t an issue – it’s a pleasure. That’s the sort of attitude you want any business to have.
Yes, some hard-nosed people will say business is business. And it’s true, to an extent – let’s be honest, you’re running a business, not a charity. But business is also customers – in fact, that’s essentially the crux of a successful business: you can’t have a business without customers. So make a real plan for your customers this year including proactively identifying how you show even more compassion.
Zac de Silva owns www.businesschanging.com and was recently awarded International Business Coach of the Year. He also speaks and delivers a business bootcamp intensive – find out more about our business bootcamp HERE.