Week three – What a customer wants

26 September to 2 October

Last week we focused on recognising and acknowledging people. These simple, quick actions are very powerful in motivating employees and building relationships with customers.

This week we’re taking that a step further and looking specifically at what a customer wants. We’re not talking about what product they need, but about why they use your business instead of any other. Our ‘polite prompt‘ suggests ways of addressing this.

What a customer wants – polite prompt

Products or service?

Most businesses have competitors. Take a loaf of bread. If we have a choice of bakers, supermarkets, convenience stores and other outlets all selling bread and we have no idea what their bread is like, how do we decide where to buy it?

If we try the first shop we come to, what is going to convince us to spend our money there? Good-looking products could do this, but if there is a surly shop assistant who ignores us, we’ll probably turn round and walk out the door without making a purchase. Products are not everything: service is often the deciding factor.

Service leads to sales and happy customers

A polite shop assistant is more likely to engage us, especially if they find out what type of bread we want and then offer this to us. Or perhaps they’ll explain about the breads they have and entice us to buy some. In fact, before we know it, we’ll be buying a loaf from them and leaving the shop content that we have bought the best bread we could possibly find.

This can apply to any product or service, not just bread, and it applies to every business that wants to attract more customers, retain existing ones and increase its sales. When I monitored customer service performance while working at an international airline, we found that it cost five times more to get a new customer than it did to get an existing customer to book a flight.

This is true for every size and type of business. In the present challenging economic climate, courtesy is not a luxury, but a necessity for any business wanting not just to survive but also to thrive.

What if we can’t offer what a customer wants ourselves?

And it’s not just about treating customers how we would like to be treated ourselves, but about being genuinely attentive so that we treat them how they want to be treated.

This means really listening and responding to customers, even if we cannot provide what they want (as no business can provide everything). Sometimes helping people to find elsewhere what we cannot provide ourselves can turn them into customers at a later date because they remember that we helped them find what they really wanted rather than trying to make a sale at any cost.

Position your business as the one that looks after customers

When businesses are vying with each other for customers, courteous service can help us stand out from the crowd.

Why not consider the approaches in our polite prompt? Or if you have your own suggestions or want to share your own successful experiences, please add them as a comment below.

What a customer wants – polite prompt

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