Dealing with Customers

photoDealing with Customers
By: Cynthia Bull

Whether your business involves direct or indirect customer contact, a product or a service, a brick-and-mortar or virtual office, good customer relationships remain a cornerstone of business. To become successful, customers not only must buy your products and services, they must also recommend your company to their friends and associates, who, in turn, also become profitable customers; meaning, they continue to buy from you.

Providing customers with quality products and services drives the economy, but other aspects of customer relationships also contribute to a successful business. Customer satisfaction is subjective and, therefore, isn't always a reliable tool for measuring the success of a business. The personalities of business owners and product/service providers play a key role in how customers perceive their transactions and whether or not they recommend your company.

Essentially, customers become advocates for your business, which involves trust between the buyer and the seller. Simply stated, customer advocacy is the interaction between a business and its patrons that promotes the extension (or growth) of business using various approaches, such as word-of-mouth, promotional materials, polls and surveys, and other strategies.

A recent blog entry (Oct. 13, 2009,http://blogs.oracle.com/) cites Paul Greenberg, one of the world's leading authorities on Customer Relationship Management and author of CRM at the Speed of Light. Mr. Greenburg suggests asking four key questions to measure customer advocacy:

1. Would you (the customer) recommend this company to someone you know?

2. Did you (the customer) recommend this company to someone you know?

3. Did they become a customer?

4. Are they a profitable customer?

In a progressive, action-driven relationship between management and customer, management frequently offers an incentive for customer referrals, often with little or no additional business cost. While a satisfied customer may be your best advertisement, satisfied customers who are rewarded for their referrals tend to be return customers, without question.

Consider the effects of customer service slogans and mission statements on the relationship between business and customers in these two Fortune 500 companies, Allstate Insurance and Office Max:

• Allstate: "You're in good hands." "To be the best...serving our customers by providing peace of mind and enriching their quality of life through our partnership in the management of the risks they face."

• Office Max: "A relentless focus on you." "Every company can claim to be a leader. We earn the distinction from those who matter most: our customers. By partnering with our customers, understanding their needs and exceeding their goals, they succeed and so do we."

Phrases like "serving our customers" and "partnering with our customers" suggest a strong focus on meeting the needs of customers. A business with a frontline statement of the relationship it wants with its customers is simply good business.

Inspiring customer service quotes from noted business leaders contain excellent guidelines for good customer relationship management that apply anytime. Consider comments from Henry Ford (1863-1947, Ford Motor Company Founder), Peter F. Drucker (1909-2005, well-known economist and business strategist), Sam Walton (1919-1992, Wal-Mart Founder), Bill Gates (Microsoft Co-Founder and one of the world's most generous philanthropists), and Jim Rohn (business philosopher and coach, motivational speaker).

• Henry Ford: "It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages."

• Peter F. Drucker: "The single most important thing to remember about any enterprise is that there are no results inside its walls. The result of a business is a satisfied customer."

• Sam Walton: "There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else."

• Bill Gates: "You need to know about customer feedback that says things should be better."

• Jim Rohn: "One customer, well taken care of, could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising."

And remember these basic Customer Service Tips:

1. Welcome customers with a warm and sincere greeting.

2. Remain attentive to and focused on meeting the customer's goals.

3. Always thank a customer for choosing your product or service.

4. Stand behind your guarantee.

5. Maintain good customer communications after a transaction.

Whether you're a Fortune 500 company, a mom-and-pop business, or a one-person show, how you deal with customers can either push your reputation and your profits forward or put you in File 13 of their Rolodex. Dealing with customers in a direct, respectful and knowledgeable way and doing your job well is good customer relationship management and creates lasting business customer relationships.

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CYNTHIA BULL (http://www.cynrje.com/) is an internationally published writer and editor who helps international authors, marketers and speakers add greater value to their products through her top-quality writing, editing and transcription services. She is the author of How To Be A Medical Transcriptionist and Winning At Work While Balancing Your Life, a contributing author of Walking with the Wise Entrepreneur (Mentors Publishing House), cited in Make BIG Profits on eBay (Entrepreneur Press), and Managing Editor of Mentors Magazine Think & Grow Rich Edition. Cynthia has created over 200 book products in the past two years for her clients and, as mentor, helps clients reach their goals through her products, experience and genuine caring. Cynthia writes this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.