We all have heard the saying “The Customer is Always Right”, and most companies state that in one form or another and give it half lip service. But, what if you really centered your business around what your customer needs and how you can best serve them? What if occasionally you lost a little bit on an order here or there? What if you put your future investments into ways to help your customers meet their goals, not your short-term metric driven selfishness? What if you made the customer the center of your business, the basis of how you and your employees make decisions? Is that a MORE profitable way to operate your business?
My answer is a resounding YES! Any business that wants to be around for the long term, wants an environment with happy employees and enjoy what they do each day, must make this change immediately. The first step to this is clearly defining who your customers are, as well as clearly defined expectations for your customers. This allows everyone to understand what you can and can not do. You need to focus your business on the types of customers that you want and who provide the most value to your company. In turn, this can allow you to provide the most value to them. As an example, say your business really is good at and wants to work with wholesale customers. If so, then everything you do, every policy you have and all of your marketing is focused on those customers. At that time, if a potential customer stumbles upon you that does not fit that mold, you can nicely turn them away and help point them to where they might be better suited to do business. Don’t get greedy or be something you are not.
Why is this way of thinking more profitable? Especially when there are times that you might lose money or you might get taken advantage of by a bad apple. It is a mindset of how you look at your business and what drives and indicates success. If success to you is in making a healthy profit on every single order and meeting month metrics, then this is not for you. I would argue that your “success” is going to be short-lived in our connected economy. I’m certainly not saying that making a profit and meeting goals is not important, but I’m saying it should not be the main factor in the success of your business and here is why:
It can be hard to justify on a spreadsheet when you have to redo a job when it was not your company’s fault. Being easy to work with, always being there for your customer even when “it’s not my fault” is a value-added service. Therefore, your prices can be higher than your competitors and your customer will not care because you will not give them a reason to go shop around. I have heard people say thousands of times “their prices are a little higher but it was so worth it because of the experience and how easy they were to do business with.”
The second way to put more profit on your books is to reduce your marketing costs. Study after study has shown that the cost to do more business with existing customers is far less than finding new customers. Also, new customers come along with the expense of setting up new customers in your system and training them on the way you need things done for efficiency. An existing customer has all of their questions answered and know that they can trust you to handle their project. They will be happy to pay for the service you provide. I have seen companies that build their company around their customer get gifted with open purchase orders and are allowed to fill in the blanks. Their customers trust they will do what is right by them and the right solution will be used for them at the best possible price.
Lastly, along with repeated customers, your customers will become your best salespeople. You can cut the outside salesman’s salary and the extravagant expense accounts and give your customers the means to “share” with their friends the amazing experiences they had doing business with you. They will let you put your logo on their products because you are part of their story. They will post their memorable experience on social media or better yet have face to face conversations with their friends about you. I know when I come across a company that is centered around what is best for me, I make sure that I share with my friends. Even the slightest opening to share makes me feel good that I’m doing right by my friends and connecting people that deserve each other.
The alternative to this positive marketing is spending massively on attracting new customers in an ever increasingly noisy marketplace. Or having to cut your price to match the competitor up the street and hope you don’t make a mistake that could be catastrophic to your business. And worst of all is the potential to have to deal with the vigilante consumer. Those folks who feel slighted by your service, even though that might be what your fine print policy stated. Yes, the warranty might be expired, but has the value of that customer expired? The customer is going to let the world (there are over 2 billion monthly active users on Facebook) know that your warranty/service is crap. These are not places I want to be with my business.
So with all of those advantages, it is a no-brainer to change how your company looks at your customers and make sure everyone from the top down makes their decisions based on the company business partner, i.e. your customers. Make sure you are clear with your staff and your customers what can and can not be achieved together, as well as supporting their efforts to problem solve outside of your company too. The important part is to manage expectations upfront with a potential customer, especially if their needs do not align with what your company truly does; since once they give you money, they are now your business partner and it is up to you as a company to do what is right by them if you are going to be a customer-centric business. But when done right, it makes business fun, it makes for a great community of people to be around and it makes for a nice long-term bottom line profit number.