Headline news: “Economic wreckage expected to hit the U.S.”
Sure, the economy is in turmoil, but it’s no reason to panic. Doom and gloom sells the news, but we have to stop being the media’s suckers.
Believe it or not, there are many companies surviving significantly better than the competition. How? Because in a down economy, customer loyalty is your stronger asset. More than ever, as leaders of companies, we need to get back to the basics and focus on the foundational formula that has always made the market leaders continually dominate their industry:
- Selling your service vision to your team members, creating a purpose and a cause that allows them to make a difference
- Ensuring your organization is doing everything to make the customer experience you deliver significantly better than anyone in your sandbox
- Developing an internal culture that buys in to your service vision and the opportunities available from successfully delivering on that vision
- Being creative and finding new revenue streams that benefit your customers
It is an employer’s market again, and while all your competitors are panicking and making decisions that upset their customers, it is much easier to stand alone.
Are you part of the customer service crisis or the customer service revolution?
Recently, the airline industry fought a proposed bill that would not allow passengers to be stranded on runways for extended periods of time without proper food, water and sanitation.
We have all seen how the major airlines have been like blind sheep, following each other in cutting amenities and services, or if their customers still want these services, making them pay for them. The prevailing theory: If everyone else is doing it, we should be, too. So there are no free meals on a long flight, but you can buy a tasteless sandwich for $5. One airline decided to help increase revenue by charging any passenger wanting to check more than one bag, then other airlines, not wanting to leave money on the table, decided to follow suit. Then another decided to charge for the first checked bag and the rest began to fall in line.
Customer service revolution
One airline did not follow the trend. Southwest Airlines lets you check two pieces of luggage for free. Wow. Why aren’t they playing follow the leader?
I recently flew Southwest to Nashville. I was able to send my two pieces of luggage for free, but what really amazed me was when the flight attendant was coming down the aisle with the beverage cart and the passenger in front of me ordered an alcoholic drink. The employee informed the passenger that it would be $4 and that she could only accept credit cards. The passenger didn’t have a credit card available and asked if it would be possible to use cash. The Southwest employee responded, “I apologize; we only accept credit cards and are not allowed to take cash. But that certainly isn’t your fault, so let this one be on me.” It gets even better, on her way back, she brought the passenger a refill.
Will someone please tell Southwest Airlines how the sky is falling and how much money the company is losing by not charging $15 per checked bag and by giving away free drinks because its employees are afraid to say no to a customer?
Or maybe no one has to tell Southwest Airlines anything. Southwest doesn’t play follow the leader, because they are the leader. Maybe, just maybe, the other airlines should pay attention to Southwest they carry more passengers than any other airline and have maintained profits while others fall apart and are forced to merge.
Educate your people to stop listening to and believing in all the hype and find opportunities to expose your competitors’ weaknesses and capture market share that is dying for someone who cares about them.
In the past month, I have asked several thousand audience members what they would prefer: A stronger economy or to duplicate their best employees the people who get it, buy in and do anything necessary to satisfy customers.
The vast majority answered they would take No. 2. Well, the good news is you can have that. We can’t control the economy, but we can create a stronger internal culture that produces satisfied customers who become loyal, repeat business. /P>
JOHN R. DIJULIUS is the best-selling author of “What’s The Secret? To Providing a World-Class Customer Experience.” (Wiley, May 2008). He is also president of The DiJulius Group, a firm specializing in giving companies a superior competitive advantage by helping them differentiate on delivering an experience and making price irrelevant. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org