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by Tara Taffera
People talk so much about customer service that many business owners (window and door manufactures included) may say, “I know enough about that, I need to focus on my plant and improving production efficiencies, etc.” So when someone talks about customer service your mind may wander to improving production flow on your IG line, or some other production matter. But once in a while someone may talk on this subject with a fresh perspective. This happened at the last meeting of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association in Palm Springs, Calif.
Horst Schulze, former president of Ritz Carlton Hotels, was the keynote luncheon speaker and acknowledged when beginning his speech, “there is a lot of talk about customer satisfaction but not much action.”
One of Schulze’s statement’s really struck me. “What a ridiculous expression—cost cutting,” he said. “What you’re really doing is taking away value to the user.”
He mentioned how one airline company lost him as a customer, and the approximately $150,000 he spent on airline tickets each year, much of it first class international travel. Why did he change airlines? The airline stopped carrying his favorite newspaper on the flights.
He then clarified what companies really need to do.
“You take away what has no perceived value to the user … If you save money but take away value you’re not improving your business.”
Schulze also stressed the importance of timeliness and put it bluntly, “If you’re not timely it communicates that you’re not trustworthy.”
He also mentioned that once you establish customer satisfaction it is then time to establish loyalty. One of the ways this can be done, according to Schulze, is to demonstrate to customers that you care.
He ended his talk with a statement that personnel in any industry should remember.
“Once a customer is loyal, they don’t care if it costs more.”
I know it takes a lot of time to develop that loyalty. In this era of, “go with the company that has the cheapest price.” I know it is easier said than done but when a builder tries to get you or a dealer to lower your prices remind him of the value you offer and how you’re sure he wouldn’t want you to take these things away (like the newspaper that was so important to Schulze). Try not to lose thousands of dollars because you lose a customer when you were trying to implement cost cutting measures.
As always, I’d love to hear from you. What types of extra values do you offer to your customers? What types of little things do you do to show you and your company is trustworthy?
When it is time for cost cutting, how do you determine what services, if any, to eliminate? Do you first ask your customers how much they would miss this service?
If the airline had done this they may not have lost that $150,000 per year.
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