Don't lose sight of why you're in business.
Today's technicians and DIYers have an infinite number of choices on where they can shop for parts. In each given area, there is typically a handful or more jobbers, retailers, WDs and dealerships that they can choose from. According to Craig Cochran, a certified quality auditor through the American Society for Quality, in order to keep a business in high gear, you need to focus all your attention on your customers, as it's extremely easy for them to go elsewhere.
In his new book, "Becoming a Customer-Focused Organization," he outlines the steps needed to ensure your company is meeting the demands of its customer base.
"The moment an organization stops focusing on the customer, it will start to fall apart. A successful organization always puts the customer's best interest first."
You're probably wondering how, in the midst of juggling phone calls, ordering parts and managing hot-shots, you are supposed to spend all your time focusing on the customer, but there are actions that you can carry out every day that will help your company become extremely customer-centric.
1. Practice what you preach. As a leader, you set the tone at your store or warehouse, be it with good, bad or indifferent business practices. Cochran says, "It is important that the leader keep his or her focus always on the customer, rather than internal politics, ego gratification and other typical distractions within an organization."
2. Keep employees mindful of your mission. If you don't remind your everyday workers that the reason they have a job is because of the customers they are serving, they might begin to forget why they are there. Set the tone of the workweek with a quick morning meeting, suggests Cochran.
3. Spotlight your employees. A great way to improve customer service is to give employees well-deserved attention. If one of your counterpeople does an extraordinary job solving a dilemma for a shop customer, be sure they are recognized in front of others. This practice should serve to motivate everyone.
4. Learn from your mistakes. If you make a grave mistake when dealing with a customer, be open and honest with your staff and your other customers about it. Then, outline the actions needed to alleviate the problem moving forward.
5. Focus on focus groups. "The power of a focus group lies in its ability to leverage multiple channels of communication and thought," Cochran says. If you are a warehouse distributor, bring in some of your jobber customers before launching a certain service or instituting a particular policy. If their availability is at a minimum, try and schedule a brief phone interview to discuss the idea with them so you are still getting their feedback.
6. Communicate improvements. All too often, when service enhancements are incorporated, not enough people are made aware of it. Cochran warns, "If customers don't realize that there's been an improvement, there is no improvement."
Cochran's book, "Becoming a Customer-Focused Organization," is available at bookstores nationwide, all major online booksellers and at www.patonpress.com.