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Shah: Make it your business to make customers happy
Navin Shah

Customers are your business – without them you have no business.  So keeping customers satisfied and coming back is vital to your success.

That can be especially challenging when online shopping is impersonal and when social media minimize our face-to-face business interaction. 

Yes, the benefits of technology to companies are numerous, wide-spread, and undeniable.  It’s also undeniable, however, that technology is turning us into introverted communications zombies. 

And while “walking dead” zombies have been very good to Covington, keeping your business alive and thriving requires a constant infusion of spirit and soul.   

No matter how much your company relies on the benefits of technology, your business success is built on people – not key strokes.  It’s this simple: winning over customers requires the human touch. 

To build loyalty and to generate referrals from your existing customers, consider these “back to basics” tips.      

·       Say “thank you” often:  People like to feel appreciated and no one has improved on those two little words -- they pay big dividends.  Never take customers for granted or they will take their business elsewhere.     

 

·       Know when to say “sorry:”  Think of a customer complaint as the opportunity to correct an error and improve your product or your service, or both.  A sincere apology can often keep a customer from going to the competition.  After all, keeping an existing customer is always more cost-effective than finding a new one.   

 

·       Respond quickly:  Handle customer inquiries promptly, especially complaints -- immediately if possible and within a reasonable deadline period, such as 24 hours, if you need some extra time to resolve the issue.  People don’t like to wait, especially in our always-connected, instant-everything society.  They feel insulted, ignored, or not important to you, and they go somewhere else to do business.  People also don’t like surprises, so manage their expectations by under-promising and over-delivering -- and by communicating with them constantly, candidly, and completely. 

 

·       Give your customer something extra:  Whether it’s a free sample, an unexpected discount, or additional attention, people enjoy getting something special that is “above and beyond” and they didn’t anticipate. 

 

·       Personalize your service:  Know things about your customers -- their names, their families, their hobbies, their travels -- so you can have genuine two-way conversations or send notes on special occasions such as birthdays and holidays.  This enables you to build relationships, not just conduct transactions.

 

·       Hire good staff, then train them well:  Make sure the right people are in the right job -- for example, extroverts usually deal well with the public, while quieter personalities may be better suited for “behind the scenes” positions.  Empower employees to resolve problems quickly, especially customer complaints.

 

·       Think long-term and act short-term:  Even as you plan for the future, be sure that day-to-day you are offering “the best” products and service -- regardless of what you do or what you make.  When your improvement plans require an investment in your business, a banker can help structure the loan you need at affordable terms. 

Some business owners think that customer service ends when the customer says “yes” and the sale is complete.  Actually, that’s when customer service begins. 

Better yet, satisfying the customer should start when the customer says “no” or even “maybe” – that’s when you must really convince the customer to do business with you.

In our fast-paced world, we are all tempted to save time with short-cuts.  To take the easy way out.  To not deliver on something we promised.  Instead, I suggest doing more for your customers than you think you need to do. 

Our lives are full of mediocre service from companies that treat customers like numbers – think airlines, for example.  But you probably didn’t go into business to be average.  You certainly want to aim higher. You want to stand out from your competitors.  You want to be the best in your field.

How can you achieve that?  In a word:  care.  By caring about your customers in our “couldn’t care less” culture, you will be different -- and you will make a difference.  One customer at a time. 

Businesses that are serious about succeeding find ways to make their customers happy.  That’s why McDonald’s sells Happy Meals. 

It’s why Disneyland describes itself as “the happiest place on earth.”  And it’s why the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) promises “Come hungry.  Leave happy.”

Make sure your customers stay happy and you will make your business even more successful!        

Navin Shah is Chairman of Royal Hotel Investments, which owns and operates two hotels in Covington and one in Conyers.  He is also Vice Chairman of Embassy National Bank, a
community bank in Lawrenceville that he helped establish in 2007 and has become one of the leading SBA lenders in the southeast.