Think about living at the North Pole. And think about you business as a sleigh. You’re the driver. Your customers are the dogs who pull your sleigh. You could just give them food and water (clean and press their clothes) each day, or you could feed them, pet them, and show them real affection. Which way, do you feel, would make them work harder for you?
I’m always amazed at the number of cleaners who ask: should they give into customer demands? Should they pay a particular claim, etc.? When you really want to be successful and profitable, build an organization that revolves completely around your customers (see box). When you create this customer-first environment, you’ll attract customers to your store.
The problem is, most businesses today have lost their customer focus. It’s that simple. No spin, no hype, no play on words. Most drycleaners have lost their reason for being: customer service.
Most drycleaners are no longer in business to serve customers. Today, everyone wants to make money as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Other businesses have followed suit; hospitals, banks, airlines, department stores and telephone companies, to name but a few. They have all lost their desire to delight their customers.
Commit to continual improvement first. Not profits.
Ninety-five percent of companies today focus exclusively on profits. Profits should not be your goal. Your goal should be to continually improve your service, just like Jim Parham is doing. When you accomplish this, you will make more profits than you can imagine.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at the record breaking success of Wal-Mart and you’ll see that Sam Walton’s greatest accomplishment was to teach his employees the importance of continual improvement. He walked into his stores, across the country, and asked employees what was working and what could be improved. And he had no intention of being placated by pat answers. Specifically, he would ask: “If you could change one thing about this store, what would it be?”
Most businesses are in such a rush to make money that they have forgotten the importance, and necessity, of excellent customer service. All they hear is the ringing of cash registers and not the churning of customers.
When you want to develop long-term customer loyalty, the first step is to be obsessed with improving the quality of your service. Here’s the formula: excellent customer service = customer loyalty = increased profits.
Be in business for your customers. Few cleaners actually achieve this customer-first service. Simply put, every action your company takes should be in your customers’ best interests. Customers should remark how easy and pleasurable it was doing business with your company.
A company that does a great job of being in business for its customers is Johnson & Johnson. Its mission statement states that its first priority is to the “doctors, nurses, mothers and fathers, and all who use our products.” Not only does Johnson & Johnson have a mission statement, it backs up its words with action. When the Tylenol scare hit, the company voluntarily removed the product from shelves all over the world. Is this kind of commitment profitable? Johnson & Johnson has greater market share today, with Tylenol, than it did before the crisis.
To be successful and profitable, you need to know exactly how your customers feel about your service. Do whatever is necessary to make customers happy. Ask customers what else can you do to serve them better.
Seek out customer complaints. Most cleaners do the opposite. They either don’t hear what customers are saying or let them walk straight out the door. We all know that it cost more to find a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. The question is: what are you doing today to keep your customers? Think of every customer complaint as an opportunity to develop a long-term relationship.
Unfortunately, most businesses today are built on customer churn. This churn allows for little or no customer loyalty. Companies bring in, at great expense, a new crop of customers, give them poor service, then spend more money for a new batch of customers.
When your customers take time to complain, they are telling you how to improve your service and are offering an opportunity to earn their loyalty.
Listen to customer complaints, and quickly respond to issues. Track their complaints, and measure your ratio in converting them into long-term customers. This builds long-term customer loyalty. You cannot make a better investment for your business.