Writer Suggests How to Make 'Customers for Life'
Editor's Note: The following column was written by Bud Surles, principal in Bud Surles Consulting GroupBud Surles Consulting Group, Victor, Idaho, and first appeared in his newsletter.
CUSTOMERS FOR LIFE
By Bud Surles
There is an old adage (from "In Search of Excellence") which states the two rules of customer service: "Rule #1 – The Customer is always right. Rule #2 – If the Customer is wrong, please refer to Rule #1." Maybe that is simplistic, but in our hammered economy, I don't think we can put enough emphasis on good customer service if we are to survive in the "new paradigm."
Clarity of thinking in customer service is essential and from my 40 years of experience in serving people, let me give some pointers of what I feel is important in obtaining a lasting customer base.
First of all, I believe we must understand the importance of excellent customer service. There are two factors at play here. In the resort and outdoor hospitality industry we have the unique opportunity to serve people whose primary purpose in using our services and facilities is to have a good time. That means, we have it within our power to help them achieve their purposes or to totally disrupt them. If we achieve the former, we have a customer for life; if we achieve the latter, we have made a very vocal enemy.
The second and more selfish factor of the importance of excellent customer service is that the cheapest marketing dollar you can spend is marketing to people who are already clients. It takes a whole lot more money to get them to your resort than to make them happy while they are there.
With those factors in mind, here are some pointers I believe are important in establishing and maintaining quality customer service:
1. Treat your employees as you want them to treat your guests. That means management must create an atmosphere where customer service is king. You cannot be with every guest at every point of interaction. But someone in your organization will be, and they will reflect to the customer the respect and servitude you give your guests. The Apostle Paul taught that employers should treat every employee as if they were Christ Himself. That is a divine inspiration in customer service.
2. Don't be a Pharisee. Rules are made for a purpose and that purpose does not include letting the rules be the reason for your existence. So often our human nature forgets the reason a rule was enacted in the first place and it doesn't matter whether the occasion fits or not. Remember the purpose the rule is trying to accomplish and keep the purpose but be flexible with the rules. Your clients deal with enough bureaucrats in their daily lives and do not need for you to be one.
3. Make sure your systems are user friendly. This is a lot like the former. But so often we buy a system and then demand that our customers adhere to the system regardless of its impact on quality service. Check-in and departure should be seamless. Wi-Fi and other services should be easily accessible. Accounting systems must be designed to promote good customer service first. Cash reporting systems must respect the integrity of the client. Whatever the system, make sure the customers' purposes are served before your own.
4. Be present. Your customer wants to see you. They want the assurance that you care about their experience. If you don't like living in a glass house and working long hours, you are in the wrong business. Shake their hands, laugh with them and care about their concerns.
5. Honor their business. As I said earlier, the cheapest marketing dollar you will spend is making every customer a repeat customer. Honor the money they save you by giving incentives for being a customer for life.
6. There should be only one bad guy per business and that should be you. As far as the employees are concerned, they should honor the customer. And if someone gets out of hand, makes unreasonable demands, places burdens on other guests or your facility, it is up to you to make the decision of how firmly you deal with it. Never let anyone but yourself be in an adversarial relationship with customers.
7. Remember irrational guests may be testing the principles of "Winning by Intimidation." Don't be intimidated; keep your cool; and don't be defensive. You can make winners out of those situations. There are many ways to serve our customers. By making sure your objective is to give them the "time of their life," you will be successful.