Dr. Steve Greene (Sean Roberts)
Your store’s customer service will determine its future
Familiarity breeds contempt” is one of those common expressions that appear to come from the book of Proverbs but fall well short of spiritual insight.
The phrase tends to indicate that the more time we spend with someone, the more likely we are to miss fresh and valuable experiences from the relationship. “I know you. I know how you will respond.”
I’d like to amend the expression and offer a cautionary exhortation: Expectation breeds contempt. Sometimes we see only what we expect to see. Many work teams are trapped in the zone of expectancy. Perhaps booksellers wake up every morning with dismal expectations. We look out of gloom-fogged windows and expect to see pieces of the sky littering the ground.
Some ask, “What’s the use? There’s a giant in the field, and all we have is a slingshot and a rock.” Trade news is filled with data that suggest there’s little we can do to rebuild foot traffic. Convention exhibitors and attendees gather in hopes that others will join them to develop a plan to sling the shot heard ’round the industry.
Some will suggest I’m waving pompoms for an “0 and 12” team. The coach’s home has a moving van parked in the front yard. No, the coach didn’t order the van; the fans did. It’s time for a new leader.
Leadership in our industry has the opportunity to agitate acclimation. We must lead others away from their daily routine. Leaders must shake up artificial boundaries established by their teams and tear down those “falling rocks” signs. We must pull down the paradigms that hang from the rafters of the shop like last year’s backyard corn crop.
Leaders must fight the gravitational effect of performance expectations inside and outside the store. Effective leaders continue to enlarge the performance arc. We must develop work teams who look beyond the problem in an industry full of opportunity.
We need change agents to invite a few bulls into the bookshop. There’s no need to hold on to what isn’t working. Change must percolate from the ground up.
We also need leaders at store level who are willing to sit at tables with their customers and listen. We must ask better questions than “Are you satisfied with the customer service at Amazon?”
I believe the only way we can attract new customers to our stores is with higher levels of customer service than ever offered in the industry. We need to rethink, redefine and revive what we do and how we do it. Revival must begin with leadership and emanate from everyone on the team.
When I visited my favorite bookstore last week, I found nothing to revive. I didn’t bother to ask for the shock paddles for the heart of the store. It had flat-lined. Management just didn’t know it.
I truly believe more of our bookstores close due to service issues than industry shrinkage. Which came first? Poor customer service or declining customer counts?
Great customer service is marketing. It’s the best marketing. When we deliver memorable service, customers return.
When I worked in broadcast television during my years in marketing consulting, I learned that most business owners have an inflated opinion of the customer service they provide.
I met with over 1,000 business owners throughout my career. Not one time did an owner tell me they had a problem with customer satisfaction.
Based on customer satisfaction research for most of those clients, customer service was a major problem, and owners were delusional.
When we shuffle out poor service, we should stop all forms of advertising. We don’t need new customers to find us with our service down. I’ve told many store owners, “All advertising can do for you now is help you go out of business faster. You are running people out the back door faster than we can bring them in the front.”
Consider this oft-quoted rant from a Seinfeld episode: “No soup for you.”
Maybe chasing customers away is a sign of a wildly successful business. We’ve all met people at a service counter who seemed too bothered to serve. Does your team dish out no-service stories that could be developed into Seinfeld scripts?
Find ways to overserve at every opportunity. Do what others cannot or will not do. Exert every ounce of energy toward the delivery of a customer service level that exceeds any business in any industry.
When is the last time you surveyed your customers? The truth might set you free.
We cannot allow performance contempt to creep into our organization. It’s just too familiar.
Dr. Steve Greene is publisher and executive vice president of the media group at Charisma Media and executive producer of the Charisma Podcast Network. His Charisma House book, Love Leads, shows that without love, you cannot be an effective leader. Follow his Love Leads blog and listen to his Love Leads podcast.