As it appeared in the daily nation of April 14th 2015
I was on my way to see a friend and I decided to stop over at one of the fruit vendors in Nairobi West. The lady seemed not interested in me or the money I needed to spend despite the fact that she had loads of fruits some of which were rotting at a corner. When I sought to know the price for the bananas she responded with no enthusiasm that they were going for fifteen shillings each. I was rather surprised and I mentioned that I often buy bananas for at most ten shillings a piece. She did not take my comment kindly and she therefore asked that I go buy wherever I often buy. I walked away rather distraught by her reaction. Why did she not try to convince me that the bananas were worthy fifteen shillings a piece? Could her negativity towards her customers been the reason that she had a heap of rotting fruits at the stall?
This sort of experience is commonplace. I shared the story during a customer service training session last week and the participants were quick to point out the sort of response I was likely to get with my remark. They got it right. Many in business are sending their customers away. They fail to see the link between how they relate with their customers and their business performance. Those that are aware of this relationship can attribute their business success to relating well with their customers. At the core of customer relations is how we interact and communicate with our customers. It is about how we act and react towards them, it is about keeping the promises that we make making them feel great about being our customers. Customer relations, customer service and customer experience are often used interchangeably. Shep Hyken a Customer Service Guru that I had an opportunity to interview a few months ago sums it this way. “It is about the experience we deliver to our customers. It’s the promise we keep to the customer. It’s how we follow through for the customer. It is how we make them feel when they do business with us”.
When we relate well with our customers they are almost always likely to either come back or to spread a positive word about their experience with us. I would have bought the bananas for fifteen shillings a piece if the lady had been more civil with her response. Jeff Bezo the founder and CEO of Amazon.com which leads on the customer service hall of fame says we should see our customers as invited guests that we are hosting at a party. The way we relate with such guests can be used to guide how we relate with our customers and remaining positive is key.
Dr. W.E Deming popularly known for his 14 principles of management sums it up by saying “Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers who boast about our product or service, and that bring friends with them” When our customers purchase more and bring others with them our revenues go up, our marketing costs go down and our profits are well taken care of.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy