Monday September 10, 2012
By Mary Jane Flanagan – Head of Learning
Having just spent the last three weeks eating and drinking my way across Spain, I decided to indulge my curiosity and check out the much publicised Fifty Shades trilogy. OK so they’re not going to go down as the greatest work of modern fiction and the content was certainly very different from that of the business books I usually choose. However, it’s good to have a change on holiday and these novels certainly kept me entertained.
Believe it or not, I can always draw the life lessons from any reading material – however diverse. For me this trilogy was a constant reminder of the contrast between the hard slog; making a real effort and a ‘wham bam thank you mam’ mentality. That and making me think wouldn’t life be great if like Anastasia Steele we merely had to bite our bottom lip, speak to our inner goddess and say “Oh my” a fair few times to win ‘business’.
It was this difference in mentality which could be seen throughout my summer holiday. We started out in San Sebastian where the emphasis is on making an effort - outstanding customer service and high quality products. Here, there’s real sense of pride about the food and the service delivered; even simple tapas or pinchos could have come from Michelin starred restaurants. It’s because of this I return almost every year and indulge!
Contrast this experience with the ‘wham bam’ bars we encountered across the Costa Brava; terrible wine, bad music and awful food – cheap materials purchased carelessly in order to make more mark up. A local bar I’d normally avoid like the plague (and the clue was in the name: Steady Eddie’s) attracted me in because it had WiFi and was within easy walking distance of our hotel. Sadly, I left wishing I hadn’t taken the risk. The wine was so bad that I could not even drink it. Had the place, product and service been better we would have popped down each evening to have a drink and pick up our emails. With an average of two rounds at €8.00 each for seven nights, the profit ‘Steady Eddie’ could have made from us would have been greater than the mere few Euros extra he achieved from selling inferior wine.
Unfortunately, as the world continues to fight economic difficulties; we’re seeing more and more businesses adopting the ‘wham bam’ mentality; opting for lower priced goods which generate higher profit margins. Or they’re offering quality products yet don’t match this with the right mindset.
It seems a focus on customer relationship management (CRM) needs to return; where customers are met with positive, enthusiastic servers who want to build a relationship with the individual. They offer a choice of quality products at a price where both parties are happy; resulting in customers returning time and time again.
So, in the spirit of fifty shades; here’s my ‘fifty shades’ of CRM:
Know your ‘hard limits’ - these are your non-negotiables. Be clear about what you, as a business, stand for and how things are done in your organisation. Then regularly measure your procedures, practices and behaviours against your hard limits to ensure you are on track.
Allow things to develop and grow - get under the skin of the customer and their business so you can deliver what they need and build a relationship. Sometimes you may even be recommending something which is not what they initially ask for – demonstrating just why they come to you. Remember, it is not always about getting the sale - sometimes it is better to play the long game. However, never take long term clients for granted; always strive to deliver a better service each time so that customers become advocates.
Give a bit more – look for ways you can enhance your product and theirs. I often meet my clients with a gift: this could be an article I have seen, a book or an idea they could use. Be innovative and creative.
Have the right tools and know how to use them to your advantage - form a toolkit for perfection, ensuring you always make a ‘wow’ impression to building your knowledge and be aware of the latest tools, techniques and gadgets that can enhance your client’s experience.
Recognise the ‘safe words’ - speak the same ‘language’ and tailor the examples and stories you use to make it truly bespoke and customers feel special.
Be in tune with their touch points – how they get in contact with your business. Work out the all points along the customer journey; quality and consistency matter, be the best you can be EVERY TIME. Consistency is paramount.
Just do it - Deliver on your promises. If you say are you going to do, then do.
Build stamina - each point of contact is a step closer to achieving the goal; you’re in this for the long term.
Develop trust - regularly audit yourself and your practices, are they up to scratch, accept feedback willingly and act on the information.
Much can be said for getting CRM right in your business; taking time to build relationships, exceeding expectations and delivering every time. It can be challenging, especially when you’re up against it to create a profitable business, however taking a long-term approach can be immensely rewarding for you and your bottom-line.
What are your experiences of ‘wham bam’ businesses? How does this compare to those organisations that have made the effort and are in it for the long run?