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Little and Big Commitments

Aug 18, 2007
The car was drop-dead gorgeous. It had a beautiful dark blue exterior and the interior was brown - very sporty - with a 6-speed manual transmission to boot. There was no use denying it. I was in love. I probably reduced my negotiating leverage immediately by falling in love with it; however, at that point I just wanted to see it in my driveway.

The love affair was tempered, slightly, when the salesman handed me the key. It was bent like the leaning Tower of Pisa. The salesman didn't dare try to bend the key back into place because it certainly would have broken, which would have sent me to another dealership. He promised to order two new keys, so I bought the car and left.

They never sent any keys, nor did they communicate with me again. Weeks later I still had this goofy-looking key in my pocket. Whether he realized it or not, the salesman made a commitment to me, and I placed my trust in him. He failed to deliver. Part of "Hitting the Grand Slam" with your customers is respecting that your customers have choices, and always meeting their intangible needs. Winning, profitable companies constantly inspire customer confidence by their actions, and always conduct business in a trustworthy manner. They keep their word. Commitments that are kept create repeat customers, and repeat customers create profit.

Here are some tips for meeting a customer's intangible needs:

*Follow through! It has been my observation in life that people who do not keep small commitments don't keep big ones either. Customers watch what we do, rather than what we say, because actions, as the old saying goes, speak louder than words. Think about it. If somebody says to you, "I'll call you tomorrow" that's a small commitment. If they don't call you tomorrow, then they have broken a commitment. You will take what they say after that with great skepticism.

*Always act in an ethical manner: From the top of the company to the bottom, always do the right things. Every so often, when I was running my family's retail wine stores, I would come across an associate that thought he or she could pull a fast one on unsuspecting customers. One time, in particular, an associate tried to charge an elderly couple a higher than advertised price for a case of wine. I was devastated, and after dismissing the employee, I reiterated to our staff how important it was in business to keep our customer's trust. The same thing applies to life in general.

*Remember that the customers' service experience isn't over just because you have their money: Often, despite our best intentions, our service isn't perfect and our customers call us for additional help, or to rectify problems. This is "show time"! Customers calling to check on an order, or make other changes are providing us with great opportunities to shine and instill more confidence in our overall trustworthiness.

The good news is that customers are pretty loyal when you get down to it. In fact, according the book When Customers Talk, only 16% of customers will leave after one bad service experience. As a result, even if your organization has slipped up once, with certain customers it is not too late to show your respect by seeking their trust and confidence anew. They will believe they can depend on you, and seeking their trust will pay off over the long haul with repeat business.
About the Author
Mr. Rosen served as President and Owner of Sam's Wines & Spirits, a family-owned business established in 1940. Mr. Rosen has founded Grand Slam Results, LLC, a speaking and training workshop firm. For more information, visit http://www.grslamresults.com
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