As an entrepreneur, there are two key attributes, amongst others, that you need to run your business successfully. Integrity and service excellence. Your personal integrity is critical for getting and maintaining your investors’, colleagues and team members’ support, and your company’s integrity is critical for acquiring customers, negotiating with suppliers and distributors, as well as dealing fairly with the competition. Providing excellent customer service is critical in ensuring that you have a continuous inflow of customers, through come backs and referrals.
Let’s start with integrity
Integrity is a key foundation to building a strong, solid and successful business. As an entrepreneur, you are involved in negotiating and closing deals with investors, with suppliers, with distributors, including the competition – there could be potential for negotiating ‘under the table’ (a practice to stay away from) and there could also be potential for wanting to sway the competition. How then, do you develop integrity in the various business aspects?
Investor Integrity: Make commitments you can stick to
When you make a commitment, make sure that it is within your reach, your means and is doable. Numerous and unforeseen circumstances can present challenges to what you may need to submit to investors. Should it happen you encounter these challenges, make sure that you do not renege on your commitment, and do not lie. Communicate upfront and let them know your challenges, and commit to a new date, which you need to ensure that you will be able to meet, irrespective of your challenges. Otherwise you will lose your investors.
Customer Integrity: Honesty is the best policy
There may be something faulty with your product or service – should this be the case, be honest about it, and commit to resolve the problem as quickly as you can. Apologise to your customers, and be honest about what caused the problem, and commit to how you are going to resolve it and by when.
Morals. Whose morals?
Remember that whoever you are dealing with have their own expectations in terms of the moral code, which your intention should be to meet. The aim will be for you to meet the investor’s/customer’s moral code, ensuring that it is aligned to your own. It’s that simple.
Courtesy and consideration will go a long way in addressing key customer concerns. It is not about who is wrong or right; it’s about the customer feeling that they are and have been respected.
Create, build and maintain trust
It takes years to build trust, but it takes a minute to destroy it. Success in your business is not guaranteed if you are not trustworthy. It is about you as a leader of your organisation, and how you treat your employees and your customers. If you are seen to be dubious, you are going to lose business. Very fast.
How do you provide excellent customer service?
As a founding member of your organisation, you had a vision. Do not lose sight of that. Your ultimate goal should be to always, always provide flawless service to your customers. Ever heard of the saying: ‘the customer is always king’? Well, it is true. Because customers are the life blood of your business.
Recognise that you are serving others
Demonstrate this by having impeccable knowledge of your product or service. Everything about your product, what you are selling, what the benefits are, should be at the tip of your fingers whenever you are dealing with customers, especially if they have specific questions. Be ready to answer them. Serve them with a smile, always welcome them and give them a warm and friendly greeting, and give them the impression that they are the only important person in your life in that moment.
Your aim should always be to exceed their expectations
Be responsive and start providing more and more value to your customers. This means going out of your way to make sure that when customers require a product or service from you, you provide it on time, to the required levels of quality, and at an affordable price. It also means listening – a very difficult attribute to have. If you do not have something, communicate with them about when you will have it. Follow up and keep them informed. When it has arrived, let them know that it has arrived, and by when they will receive it.
Say Thank You
Gratitude goes a long way, and it’s what customers remember the most. Saying ‘Thank you’ after every purchase is one of the easiest ways to start a habit of good customer service.
Just as with integrity mentioned above, situations can cause customers to be emotional. Treat them with respect. No one likes to be treated like a small child, or as unreasonable. Listen to their concerns, address them with courtesy, and ask for feedback. A follow-up phone call to your customer to check if their issues have been resolved will not hurt.
Align your employees to your organisation’s vision
You and your team should display the same attributes in dealing with customers. It’s important to make sure all your employees, and not only those who are facing customers, know how to address customers, how to resolve their issues, and understand the importance of providing excellent customer service. Train them and ensure that they are aligned to your organisation’s vision. If your customers are delighted, they will come back to you, and they will refer you to others.
My challenge to you? People do business with people. Have integrity, and always create a memorable experience for your customers.
‘Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet’. Kevin Stirtz