I have lived all over the world. Several places in the US, lived in the Middle East and in Africa. Traveled to over 87 countries as a pilot and, in some cases, as a Diplomat.
Just out of college, I moved to Pensacola Florida for Navy flight training. And discovered something interesting. Now that I had a job, it was time to buy a car. So off to the Chevy dealer it is. A locally owned showroom full of good ole boys. None of the sales people would talk to me! Floored by the reaction, my next door neighbor had to help me understand what was going on.
He diagnosed the issue immediately. “You talk like a Yank- a northerner!” To overcome this handicap, he taught me the local accent, even recommending a phrase to win immediate acceptance. Sure enough, it worked. An incredible deal on a good little car.
From then on, I used the local accents, wherever I lived, to gain trust and confidence. When dealing with people from other countries, I used their accents (when speaking English) when we conversed. They heard themselves and it formed lasting relationships.
When people hear someone communicating in a way they also communicate, a bond is formed. That’s one form of Client Oriented Thinking. (No, don’t start using accents- there are better ways…)
Who is your Ideal Client?
Thinking like a customer or client begins with knowing who your ideal or best customer is. How old, what income, where do they live, what do they do for fun, their average purchase, why they shop with you as opposed to your competition- the list can be endless. But the more you know about him/her/them, the easier it is to make their purchase more enjoyable.
What is Client Oriented Thinking?
It’s an attitude that bends the business to the clients. Remember, clients and customers ultimately pay the bills for you. Without them, there is no money in the checking account to pay the expenses of the company.
Imagine running a playground for 6 year old children. You put in a regulation height basketball net, 6 foot high walls on an obstacle course, a full sized tennis court with an ‘auto-ball-server’, and a baseball batting pen with balls thrown at 95 MPH. To get in, there is a two page set of rules and regulations for the little tykes to read and sign before they can play.
From this overly simplified example, you can see the misstep- no customer or client oriented thinking. Kids that age can’t read or comprehend the rules just to get in! And they won’t enjoy any of the play items which are designed for much older kids.
This same analogy happens with businesses. And it falls into three general areas.
Do you tell clients “It will be a minute while I contact an inventory management specialist?” instead of “I’ll see if we have more of those in the back.” Or how about ‘our SMART system isn’t working right now’. Huh?
You would never talk to your 5 year old son, your 16 year old daughter, and your spouse the same way, would you? If you did, it would be a horrible experience. Being able to communicate in a way that makes clients understand, feel appreciated, and actually happy, can work wonders on any business.
Starbucks® was one of the first to change from calling receipt numbers to calling names when coffee was ready. This is a form of scripting. You’ll hear the same convention at a Panera Bread®. But go to most fast food places and hear “27!! 27!!” You should instantly hear the difference. Hearing your name immediately gets your attention. People like to hear their name pronounced.
If you look around at the worst places for customer service, you will think of 1. Government offices, like the license renewal. Numbers or yelled last names. 2. Medical offices. Same thing. A door opens, and someone yells “Mealing!” (mispronounced my name AGAIN and I’ve been a patient there for 15 years…).
How do you ensure you and your team are communicating? How do you indoctrinate new customers into the joy of doing business with you? Scripting is one way.
By knowing your ideal clients, or as a minimum, your most common customers, you can adapt to their needs with every interaction. Here are some common examples I have seen of failure of Client Oriented Thinking:
-In a store catering to an older clientele, the merchandise bags were typical grocery store style plastic. Without defined handles, many older people cannot carry the biting plastic very far. So they won’t buy as much, or simply will not buy at all. Will they mention this? If they do, would your employees actually listen? Or would they merely write her off as a whiner…
-How about instructions printed in “#2 invisible font”? That’s my name for those ridiculously small fonts that require a magnifying glass for anyone to read. Want a simple place to see this? Look on any pill bottles, especially prescriptions. Many of these drugs are for people over 45- meaning they wear glasses. Yet, it is written in such a small font that even glasses don’t help. I’ve seen this on food box recipes, ingredient lists, and yes, prescription and assembly instructions.
Use yourself as an example
What do you hate when dealing with businesses in your personal life? Waiting on hold forever? Leaving messages that are never returned? Grumpy employees? Inept/untrained people? Being treated like a criminal? Powerless employees who cannot use common sense? Policies designed for the company and not the customer? Look around and see how many of these are in your company. These are a failure of Client Oriented Thinking.
How do I know if I am thinking like my customers and clients?
Use these four steps to get you on the road:
The old saying about getting to know someone by ‘walking a mile in their shoes’ still applies.
Picture your customers or clients. Pick a name. Then do everything you can to understand “Frank”, “Trevor”, Samantha” or “Monique”. How old are they, what is their income, why do they shop with you, what kind of car do they drive, how many kids do they have, how long have lived in this area, how long have they been under your wing- the more you know the better.
You may be able to proactively solve issues if you know your target market. And this alone will impress them.
One store was rather remotely located from their customers. The store owner realized his clients really had to make an effort to get to his place. He thought about what could make their life easier when they shopped. He extended his return policy from 14 to 30 days so that customers could find time in their busy lives to come back. It eliminated hassles for him (“I’m sorry, it’s past the return period…) and his customers appreciated the policy that didn’t force them to drive back merely for the return.
If you interact directly with customer and clients, see what makes them happy or bothers them. I go to a dermatologist’s office and the waiting room has 14 chairs- twoof which are comfortable. Guess which chairs are always full? They cater to a clientele with many different aches and pains. Does anyone from the staff notice? Ugh, no.
If you’re essentially online only, go over your website carefully, preferably with an outsider. You may find patterns to abandoned carts, searchers that leave after a certain page, or returns from certain demographics. You can learn a lot from observing.
A small company mailing out courses had an unusually high refund rate and a lot of extra customer service interaction with customers claiming they never got their course. And it seemed to be growing. A little research by the owner found the problem. To ensure the packages were tracked (it was an $800 course), they required the customer’s signature on receipt. But almost half of the customers were at work when the package came! After two delivery tries, the shipping company returned the package. By observing, the owner realized it was much less costly to allow the product to be left without a signature. Returns and customer service calls both dropped.
Have you ever just asked your customers what could be improved? You may get a lot of dirt, but there will also be pieces of gold that you never knew about.
With all the online tools, like SurveyMonkey®, it’s easier than ever to get input from customers. But the best data may be found when a personal letter accompanies a short survey with an incentive to complete it. Will everyone respond? Of course not, but you will up the rate with a ‘bribe’ and communication that makes them feel special about participating.
Having information is great, but actually acting on it is what’s required. Don’t make knee-jerk reactions or snap decisions, but long term changes that can be easily executed. You don’t want to revisit this issue again and again.
Remember the example of the plastic shopping bags and older clientele? The shop owner instituted a three pronged solution. First, he ordered bags that were more comfortable to carry. While waiting for those to arrive he offered a ‘carry to your car’ service or a ‘hold until you are done your shopping’ option. While the new bags cost more, it was a minimal increase. The interim solutions had almost zero cost- just a little time and patience on the part of employees.
Why do some companies bring in outsiders for this process?
Several reasons, including a lack of expertise, training materials, situations, and systems. This is a new way to think and most companies need the outside view and expertise. It’s cheaper to bring in an expert than to try and get it wrong.
What to do:
Look at your services, customer service processes and solutions and determine how each could be re-oriented to the customers and clients. If you need an outsider, seek one out.
Have more questions about marketing? Here are two resources you may find useful:
A great list of easy to understand marketing topics. More each week, too. If you don’t have a marketing degree, this is the next best thing. And there are no student loans to pay back!
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