October 23, 2014

Small Business Advice

It's important to make your customers feel special

"The more you engage with customers, the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing." ~ John Russell

Jerry Osteryoung | 7/21/2014

FBMC Benefits ManagementIn the dictionary, “special” is defined as “better, greater or otherwise different from what is usual.” In business, it is so important to make sure each customer feels special, as this generates a great competitive edge.

Recently, I went on a cruise with my family. The ship was brand new and featured amazing amenities and wonderful entertainment – even zip lining above the deck. The cruise line clearly spared no expense making the ship great, but they completely forgot to factor in ways to ensure each customer felt special.

The first four nights of the cruise, we ate in the main dining room, and each night, I noticed there were fewer guests than the night before. By the fourth night, fewer than half of the seats were occupied.

It did not click with me what the problem was until we got tired of the formal dining room and decided to try one of the restaurants. We had to pay a bit more, but the experience – from the quality of the food to the quality of the service –was so much better than in the dining room.

Where the staff in the dining room did little more than serve our food, the staff in the other restaurants went out of their way to interact with us. They asked for our names and were genuinely concerned with the quality of the food and our likes and dislikes.

One of the evenings, my 10-year-old grandson asked for an appetizer that was not on the menu (a plate of prosciutto), and they made it happen with a smile on their faces. The staff in these restaurants went out of their way to provide service that was both unique and way beyond our expectations, which is something the formal dining room did not do. Bottom line, they made us feel special.

On the way back from this trip, we stopped for lunch at a Taco Bell in Lake City. I meant to order a crunchy, corn taco shell, as my body does not process flour well, but I accidentally ordered one with a soft, flour shell.

When I received my order, I told the staff I had made a mistake and that I wanted to order a new taco with a corn shell. The staff insisted that I would not be charged for the new taco. They said they just wanted me to feel good about their location and service, which I did. The way they handled the situation just made me feel so special.

The AT&T Store is another example of a merchant who understands how to make their customers feel special. As the representative saw us approaching the entrance, she met us there, opened the door for us and welcomed us into the store. Then, as we left the store, she walked us to the door, opened it and wished us well. These simple gestures really did make us feel so special.

Now go out and think about ways you can make your customers feel special. I promise this will make a difference in your business.

You can do this!

Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses - he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of The Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His newest book co-authored with Tim O'Brien, "If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book," is an Amazon.com bestseller. He can be reached by e-mail at jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com.

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