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One Critical Question to Ask Yourself Every Day

By Darcie Harris
Posted Thursday, February 10, 2005

What happened to the old saying, the customer is always right? I’ll bet every one of you reading this article has a “customer service nightmare” story to tell. My most recent nightmare experience took place recently when my business partner and I went in to a wireless phone store to purchase two new pda wireless phones. We told the young man who greeted us that we had only one question: is this phone compatible with the database software we intend to purchase? “I don’t know,” he said, “Most customers do the research on this before they come in.” We politely requested that if he didn’t know, he find the answer. He told us we could call the company ourselves, that he didn’t have time to be put on hold with them. As you can imagine, we left without spending what we felt was a significant sum of money. And of course we’ve told at least 10 other people about the disappointing service at that particular store.

So here’s a question to ask yourself every day: how does our business need to look and act in the way the customer needs it to look and act? What would happen if you thought through and walked through every step of the process from your customer’s point of view?

Here are a few thought-provoking questions for you and your employees to consider:

- What does our customer need, not just in terms of our product – what kind of experience does our customer need?

- What is it like to be our prospective customer?

- What do our customers see, read or hear about us?

- What are other customers saying about us?

- What experience our customers have when they call our business? (By the way, women hate layers of voice mail, they want a real person. And there’s nothing worse than reaching the voice mail system that asks you to enter “the first four letter of the person’s name.” What if you don’t know the name of the person you need to speak with?)

- What if our customers’ first experience with us is electronic, through our website or email? What impression do we make?

- What is our customers’ first meeting with us like? Are they comfortable, are they made to feel welcome?

- Do we ask questions to try to understand their needs before trying to sell them something?

- Are we asking about their expectations or making assumptions about what they want?

- What is our process for giving them a proposal?

- How long will they wait for an estimate?

- Will the project be ready on time, as promised, and at or under budget?

- Is it easy, relaxed, and efficient to do business with us?

- Is it frustrating? Where are the points of irritation?

- What does our customer experience once they become a customer?

- Is it predictable, reliable, rewarding, convenient, and consistent?

- What is not just adequate but over the top spectacular? How does that look and feel to our customers?

I invite you to play this game in your business…pretend you’re a customer. Get your employees, friends and customers involved. See what your customers experience from their eyes. Or better yet, survey your customers and ask them what it’s like.

And ask yourself this one critical question every day…how does our business need to look and act in the way our customers need it to look and act?

Let me know what you discover!

© Copyright 2005, Darcie Harris

About the Author
Darcie Harris is co-founder of EWF International®, an Oklahoma based firm providing peer advisory groups for women business owners and executives. EWF International® franchises are available throughout the Southwest. View this article and others at (http://www.ewfinternational.com).