On Wednesday, September 29, customer service expert Cindy Solomon addressed an audience of 200 women business owners and professionals at the Ninth Annual Key4Women Forum at Abigail Kirsch at Tappan Hill. Her message: if you want to win in business, you had better be able to woo—your existing customers, potential customers and your employees.
Solomon recalled an experience when she returned home late in the evening after a long day at work. She was tired but hungry, so she called Pizza Hut for a delivery. The young man taking her order knew who she was, what she liked and had her credit card on file. It was kind of creepy, Solomon joked, but the transaction took less than a minute and was exactly what she needed.
While Solomon was waiting for the pizza delivery, she called her credit card company to resolve an issue…and was promptly lost in an automated response system. When her pizza arrived, she was still on the phone with her credit card provider. They had failed to live up to the expectation for service that Pizza Hut had set just moments earlier.
“My experience that night represents the new normal. Our expectations are changing, and today’s customers are more challenging than they’ve ever been. Regardless of what product or service they are buying, regardless of price point, regardless of industry and regardless of geographic location, we’re seeing some major themes, beginning with the big one. Wanting more for less.”
The other themes Solomon highlighted included the need to value time, relationships and the power of the individual customer.
To support her case, she referenced a real-life example of a singer who witnessed his guitar being thrown toward the cargo bin of an airliner, where it fell short and crashed onto the tarmac…several times. When he retrieved his guitar from baggage, it was damaged. The airline company refused to pay for the damages, so he created a YouTube video about his experience. The video became a sensation, with close to 8.5 million views, and he was featured on many of the nation’s daily entertainment shows. According to Solomon, some industry experts estimate this one customer and his video created up to $100 million in brand damage to the airline. The amount of money it would have cost them to correct what went wrong: $1,200.
The most unsettling thing to come from Solomon’s presentation is the fact that a recent study suggested that up to 80 percent of customers who defect from a company are actually satisfied. So even doing everything right is not enough.
“It’s horrifying, isn’t it?” Solomon asked. “But the thing to consider is that satisfaction and happiness do not necessarily equate. Satisfaction no longer equals loyalty.”
And according to Solomon, to win loyalty you need to be able to continue to meet ever-changing expectations by always delivering what the client needs and expects. Other people and other circumstances set the bar. To raise it, you must build a relationship with the people it matters to most—your customers.
How do you do this? Easy. Think like the customer you are. What do you value? Then do research. What do your customers value?
“It always comes back to understanding your strengths. One of the biggest mistakes I think too many people make, especially entrepreneurs, is trying to be everything to everybody. You need to stick with what you do best.”To help identify your strengths, Solomon suggests you ask yourself the following questions:
- What natural abilities (public speaking, physical strength, big-picture thinking, problem solving, leadership, and so forth) do I bring to the party?
- What knowledge and experience do I possess that allows me to do what I do better than anyone else?
- What skills have I learned that allow me to use my knowledge and abilities consistently and to a high degree of success?
- What strengths do my customers tell me I have?
It’s important to dig for the answers. Having a passion for something isn’t enough. You must also have the capacity for it. I’m tall, like Cindy Solomon. And I’m athletic. So basketball was a natural for me. Singing operatic arias…not so much.
If you own a business and have employees, then there are even more considerations. But Solomon says there are four common things successful organizational leaders do to make their businesses customer service champs.
- Engage people who have a common understanding and passion for what it is they’re trying to do.
- Inspire people by giving them a meaningful role in achieving the goal they’ve committed to.
- Enable people to do great things by giving them the skills and training they need to be successful.
- Reward people.In today’s business climate—and even on a broader level—there are few second chances. To win, to be successful, you have to be courageous and willing to continually be better. Or, in the words of Cindy Solomon, “you must learn how to capture the hearts and minds of today’s customers.” You must woo them.
[blockquote class=blue]Ruth Mahoney is the newly appointed president of KeyBank’s Hudson Valley/Metro NY District. She can be reached by phone at 845-512-4020 or email at email@example.com.[/blockquote]