TAKE A DIFFERENT LOOK

French novelist Marcel Proust said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

This could not be more apropos for salespeople and sales manager as they seek to understand and improve their customers’ experiences. Looking at, experiencing a store, a sales process, a customer service interaction or any facet of a business through the eyes of a customer can be extraordinarily revealing. Taking a different look can clarify what customers want and what they don’t want from a business.

Through years of working with customers and sales professionals, and through personal experience, APB has identified the following checklist of what every customer seeks when they come through the door of a business. How does your business measure up?

Customers are looking for…

1. A place to do business, where they are comfortable and confident they will be treated fairly with professionalism. While price is always a concern, when the customers are treated right and the ambiance is exceptional, price becomes a secondary concern in most cases.

a. Professionalism includes not only respectful interactions with people but appearance of both the  facility and its salespeople, from the clothes to the shine on their shoes. If you are asking a customer to  make a $40,000 purchase, you need to look the part; a T-shirt and   cut-offs just won’t cut it.

2. Professional trained and educated staff.

3. Information on the products they are interested in – not the newest or “hottest” models that the salespeople are trying to push.

4. A salesperson who will learn to listen to what the customer wants.

5. Friendly atmosphere – salespeople who have a positive attitude, who want to be here at work and who are sincerely interested in helping them. In addition, an ambiance that makes people feel comfortable –yelling, blaring music, tinny PA announcements, displeasing odors can negate the efforts of even the best salesperson.

6. A warm greeting and sincere interest in helping find the right product, one that fits their wants, needs and desires.

7. A clean environment – from reception areas and offices to the sales floor, and especially the restrooms.
8. Value beyond the ordinary parameters of service – this is how customer loyalty is established. Follow up. Stay in touch. Ask how you did?

9. Integrity, people and business practices they can trust, time and time again.

10. Appreciation for doing business – a simple thank you goes a long way.

11. Customer service that focuses on resolution, not speed. Customers want employees who are empowered to resolve issues without needing to escalate an issue, even if it means taking a little more time.

12. Personalization, not simply knowing a customer’s name, but taking time to how best to serve every individual customer well.

Let’s look at two diverse examples of businesses that understand and focus on what their customers want.

Being Consistent Is the Key

The first is The Creamery Fountain in Palo Alto, Calif. This diner-style eatery is intent on making every customer feel like a guest would in their home. Observing, it was quickly evident that the employees enjoyed their work and brought a positive attitude toward each other and their customers. Despite being incredibly busy, with customers waiting to be seated, servers provide a positive experience for each customer. They took time to talk to regulars about their families; to offer suggestions to regulars and newcomers alike on food choices; they accepted special requests without hesitation, and they delivered precisely what was ordered. No wonder, that even in a recovering economy, this restaurant has patrons who don’t mind waiting.

The next is Southwest Airlines, a carrier known for creating unique customer experiences, for having loyal customers and earning high ranks in customer service. In fact, the airline’s mission states: “The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.” It’s no surprise that in June 2010, the American Customer Satisfaction Index ranked Southwest Airlines number one among all airlines for the 17th year in a row. Yet, less than 24-hours after completing a trip, a customer satisfaction survey arrived by email, seeking feedback and suggestions for improvement. One of the things that makes this airline great is that they take the feedback and make changes to improve the business. Without action, feedback is useless. Another hallmark of their success is their people, who are known for their positive attitude, entertaining style and enthusiasm, all attribute that make people want to fly Southwest. Continuous improvement, passionate people, and a commitment to avoid complacency helps this airline fly.

Like the Creamery, treat every customer as if he or she were a guest in your home. Make them feel welcome and create a positive experience they will remember. Like Southwest, never grow complacent; continually look for ways to improve. Being the best is an ongoing commitment that must be delivered consistently; it’s not just a one-time goal.

America has shifted from a service economy to an experience economy. Customers are in control and successful salespeople and managers create consistently superior experiences. Price is still important, and in some cases a primary factor. However, if professional service, a positive atmosphere, and a commitment to helping the customer become a dealership’s trademark, then more sales will be made on the quality of the experience than solely on price. The key is to truly understand the experience your business offers, and to do that, managers and salespeople must take a different look, the same one that their customers see every day.