A key differentiating factor in any company’s success formula can be attributed to the philosophy and practices of their founders and executives regarding service to both their internal and external customers. To create a caring organizational attitude, a philosophy of employee appreciation must be embedded in the culture of the company and practiced on a regular basis. Executives and managers must understand that long-term success and growth tend to be the end result of having satisfied clienteles and engaged employees who in return can create a delightful culture of customer intimacy each time they deal with consumers or end-users. As such, managers and employees should be encouraged to interact both with their colleagues and customers on a regular basis.
Know the customer
A firm’s managers and employees should keep their fingers on the pulse of their customers in order to get immediate and local feedback. For example, research shows that nearly 75 percent of retail shoppers shop on a weekly basis, so getting to know them is an important factor in retaining them. Building a relationship with customers is a necessity as opposed to a luxury in order to stay aware of their needs and expectations in each community.
A major factor contributing to a company’s ongoing success would be their loyalty and commitment to employee training toward providing a culture of delightful service with a smile; in other words, a firm must have an organizational environment that is focused on customer intimacy. Today’s managers and employees must understand that they cannot be casual about achieving customer intimacy, as it needs an intimate, professional, thorough, consistent and disciplined method of serving customers that will become a normal way of doing business. Companies need to build an organizational culture of customer intimacy by creating an environment that is both sensitive and responsive to the wants and needs of all their internal and external customers.
Serve with a smile
Developing customer intimacy means, at a minimum, working through certain principles and concepts over and over again in order to make it a normal part of the organization’s culture. Each concept is critical for success of the program and feeds the next phase.
- Understand your customers’ wants and needs.
- Understand your customers’ perceptions of your company and your competitors’ perceptions of your company.
- Establish and maintain a strong customer intimacy program throughout the company.
- Continually improve the customer intimacy relationship program.
The philosophy of a company should not just be to satisfy and delight customers one time; today’s time-impoverished customers must be satisfied, delighted and excited every time they visit the company. Employees must be taught that customers are their most valued assets who must be welcomed, cherished and appreciated for choosing to spend their time and hard earned income with this firm. As part the training process, managers and employees should reflect and focus on the following facts about customers.
- Attracting a new customer costs companies five to six times more than keeping one who already shops with them.
- Ninety-five percent of complaining customers will continue to do business with the company if you take care of their problems properly and resolve those problems on the spot.
- One dissatisfied customer tells eight to 10 potential customers about a problem or bad experience that wasn’t addressed during a transaction. It has been said that each of the eight to 10 potential customers are likely to tell at least five more people about the problem or bad experience.
To provide customer intimacy in a timely manner, employees should be taught the 10-Foot and 10-Second Rules concept to help them quickly acknowledge customers. The 10-Foot rule or concept states that one must acknowledge all customers who are within ten feet of one’s surroundings. The 10-Second rule states that these customers must be acknowledged within ten seconds of entering into the service area or the 10-Foot zone. Research in the retail industry indicates the factors that most affect customer loyalty:
- The largest percentage of customers (68 percent) leave if they perceive an attitude of indifference.
- Some customers (14 percent) leave because they feel they can find better quality products and services elsewhere.
- Customers (9 percent) shop elsewhere because they think your prices are higher than your competitors.
- A few of the customers (5 percent) become friends with people who work for a competitor and take their business there.
- Some customers (3 percent) leave because they move to a different area.
Employees should be encouraged and empowered to use their daily observations, customer feedback, survey evaluation and other data to improve their jobs, better serve customers, and make their company the best alternative in the industry.
Change is constant and ubiquitous because customers are becoming more knowledgeable and demanding. In today’s market-based economy, customers want a variety of options that meet their needs, demands and desires in a timely manner. Customer intimacy means that employees must deliver what the company promises; and when possible, they should exceed their customers’ expectations in order to wow and delight them. Companies that create an organizational culture of customer intimacy where employees consistently offer good service with a smile will survive and thrive in the long run. Executives and managers must be role models of customer intimacy so that it can become part of the organization’s culture.
Dr. Bahaudin G. Mujtaba, is professor of management for Nova Southeastern University at the College of Business and Entrepreneurship. He has served as a corporate management development and diversity trainer. He is the author of “Managerial Skills and Practices for Global Leadership” and “Coaching and Performance Management: Developing and Inspiring Leaders” book, published by ILEAD Academy, LLC. Reach him at (954) 262-5045 or [email protected].