Communicate With Your Customers

For Fathers Day my wife surprised me with a weekend getaway to Whitefish, Montana. We stayed at a beautiful hotel on the mountain. It was a wonderful way to relax. I loved the subtle smell throughout the halls of firewood burning in the huge stone fireplace in the lobby. Our room had a large TV above the fireplace where we could sit back, relax and watch movies. The weather was great, so we were able to enjoy sitting poolside sipping on our drinks.

I had a great time with the  woman I love, in a great hotel with great weather.   Everything was perfect. That is, until breakfast.  We decided to stay at the hotel for breakfast and went down to the restaurant. After a little confusion we finally asked someone if we were supposed to seat ourselves or if someone would be seating us. We were suppose to wait to be seated, and they finally showed us to our table. Neither of us were real hungry. I ordered a couple eggs and toast while my wife ordered an omelet. Everything seemed fine at that point. We waited for our food, and we waited. And we waited. And we waited. I couldn’t understand why two eggs, toast and an omelet were taking so long.  We waited more. Nobody came by our table to give us an explanation. Nobody even came close enough that I could call them over to ask what was going on. I was getting upset. Finally someone, other than our waitress, brought our food out. There was no explanation or apology. So I commented that I thought it was rediculous how long it took to get our food. The only explanation I received was that they were busy and the kitchen could only do so much. As I looked around at the restaurant, which was about 1/4 full, I wondered to myself what their service was like when it got really busy.

Needless to say, even though I would highly recommend the hotel, I would not recommend their restaurant. This experience made me think about my own business.  In my business we have factories in the US where we produce our product.  But the majority of our sales are in Canada.  So every day we are working out logistics on shipping our product, and there can often times be delays. For example, last week we had brokered a shipment with a company and their truck just never showed up to pick up the load.  This obviously changes our ETA’s on some of our customers orders because we have to arrange a new truck to pick up for us.  (and no, we will not ever do business with that broker again)

How do we deal with our end customers at this point?  Do we just ignore the situation and deliver to our customers when the truck does arrive?  If that’s how we deal with it, I think it’s the same as how we were treated at the restaurant.  There are three things that I think we need to pay attention to in a situation like this.

  1. Communication
    • Clear communication with a customer can make all the difference in their overall satisfaction.  When I was waiting for my breakfast, if the waitress had just come to our table and addressed the problem, let us know our food would take some extra time to arrive, I would have been a lot happier customer than I was.
  2. What does the customer expect
    • What do you need to do to keep the customer happy?  In our situation, the communication of letting us know our meal would take a while to arrive would have been enough.  With other customers a little more may be required to keep them happy.  But until you communicate with them you don’t know what they want or expect.
  3. Keep the experience positive
    • Chances of me staying at that hotel again are good.  Chances of me eating at that restaurant again are not very good.  Look for opportunities to make the best of a situation and ensure the customers experience is still a positive one.  Repeat customers or customer referrals are what makes a business truly successful.  When problems arise, find ways to keep the customer happy so they will come back again.

With all three keys, it comes down to good communication.  Communicating with your customer can be tough at times.  We all hate to give someone bad news.  But more often that not, the customers disappointment when you give them bad news will not be as bad as it will be if you just ignore the bad news and let them find out on their own.  Communicate, be honest and do your best.  There’s not much more you can do.

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Raving Fans

As I’ve previously mentioned, when I have a book that I really think is beneficial to my staff we often use it for more than one of our Education Plan meetings.  One of those excellent books is Ken Blanchard’s, Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach To Customer Service.  This is a book that I think is excellent for everyone.  Whether you are working with the customers that are buying your product, or the customer you are serving is your boss, this book is full of great stuff.  In one of our previous company education meetings one of our team members, Red, taught us about Raving Fans.  One of the points he made that stuck out in my mind was:

“Once you have your vision of what you want and listen to your customers and find out what they want you need to DELIVER TO YOUR CUSTOMERS PLUS 1%”  One percent may not sound like a lot, but if you are delivering to expectations, plus 1%, it is a lot.   But DON’T PROMISE TOO MUCH TO GAIN CUSTOMERS AND THEN NOT MEET THEIR EXPECTATIONS!

It takes way too much time, money and effort setting up new clients to let it fall apart after the fact with poor follow up service.  A great product cannot sustain a relationship.  If you’ve built a relationship and don’t foster it once you have the customer, it will be a short term relationship.  Once you have built the relationship, deliver what you’ve promised PLUS 1%.