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Seen hanging on an office wall:
Rule 1: Customer is always right.
Rule 2: If you think the customer is wrong, refer to rule 1.
In essence, this is not that different from what McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc said – “if you work just for money, you’ll never make it, but if you love what you’re doing and you always put the customer first, success willbe yours.”
Some might argue that not all customers have high integrity and they will take advantage of your customer-centric attitudes. That may be true in rare instances, but if you have a product that the customer needs or wants, and if you have a business culture that focuses on maximizing customer satisfaction, the benefits far surpass the any small disadvantages.
In 2009, GM learned a hard lesson in customer satisfaction. They officially declared what many of us had known for decades: it is unable to compete in the global marketplace. The fact that it can’t even compete in the US market, where it got its start a century ago, shows how far the mighty can fall when they’re not paying attention.
There are many reasons for GM’s failure, including:
- Its sheer size and the attendant inefficiencies
- Corporate hubris (perhaps reflected in the famous statement, “What’s good for the country is good for General Motors, and vice versa.”)
- An outmoded business model
But perhaps most importantly:
- Lack of customer satisfaction.
ISO/TS 16949, the automotive quality standard similar to ISO 9001 and based in part on QS 9000 — a standard developed in part by GM — places a great emphasis on satisfying customer requirements.
Customer requirements are often fact-based (e.g., safety standards, legislation) but just as often, they’re based on perceptions. A company can compile the most lengthy, detailed checklist of customer requirements yet miss a lot of important information when that checklist is not reexamined on an ongoing basis. If that checklist becomes the “Commandments of Manufacturing”, the company using it runs the greatest risk of all. Ask GM.
This is a lesson every remaining business must take to heart. So, ask yourself: When did you last have an open, honest discussion with your customers (maybe not all, but certainly your best ones) to see how they feel about your goods and services? Do your customers consider your product – your company – useful and relevant?
When did you last reevaluate your definition of your target customer? Do you use the “best” tools for getting and evaluating your customers’ perceptions? Are you doing all you can tocultivate customer relationships? To maintain them? Are you making an effort to anticipatecustomers’ needs? Are you listening?
Taking care of your customer, listening to them and acting on their best interest pays off. After all, the primary goal of any business is to provide goods or services to its customers. So why not treat such an important component with utmost priority?
Most customers will walk away from you without complaining. They don’t announce that they’re taking their business elsewhere: they just do it. They don’t give you a chance to explain yourself because they feel like they’ve been let down all along.
Dissatisfaction isn’t the result of a one-time occurrence. It happens over a period of time. If, from the outset, communication is poor or nonexistent, the foundation for customer dissatisfaction is being laid. If you don’t continue to make your customer feel valued and welcome, the relationship that might have been never is.