When running a business, you always want to serve all of your customers in the best way possible. Their wants, needs, and demands all become yours and after some time you find yourself doing tasks that you’re not supposed to be doing or providing special treatment to a customer just because you feel like it at the time. This way, it’s really easy to forget the bigger picture and the ultimate question: does any action you take really help your business in the long run?
Let’s face it: some customers can be unreasonable. You offer them the best possible solution for their problem, yet they decline it and propose something out of the blue instead. In his blog, Steve Borek tells a story of a customer who was unhappy with a new invoicing system which was meant to make things more streamlined and simply easier to handle.
The customer, on the other hand, didn’t want anything to do with the new system without any particular reasons. After dealing with the customer in a professional manner, things were still in the standstill, thus a branch manager was called in and decided to give the customer exactly what they wanted – regardless of the problems it might cause them in the future.
Now it isn’t clear from the story, but we can only imagine that it means the company wasn’t paid for all the hours of work put into the new system. For a small business, such endeavours might be really costly, but we still tend to adhere to the customers’ requirements 100%, however questionable they might be. It’s clear that providing great customer service is vital, but does it mean we have to nod our heads and accept our fate no matter what the customer might think of next?
In a great piece for the Chicago Tribune, Dr. Daneen Skube indicates that the problem of unreasonable customer demands can have its roots in the business itself. For instance, if you’re providing special treatment for any single one of your customers, you should always remember that other customers receive poorer service at the same time. Everyone wants to be treated exceptionally, and plenty of customers will try to see if you can bend the rules of your business just for them.
If you do, there’s no way back, especially with that particular customer. As Dr. Skube points out, it opens up the “take an inch, get a mile” problem, meaning the customer will start thinking that rules don’t apply to them, as they’re vital to your business. If they actually are, you might have a really, really hard time meeting the constantly increasing requirements and expectations.
The moral of the above story and the words of Dr. Skube is that any small business which wants to be successful in the long run should have clear rules for customer service. If you want your customers to feel special, you should appeal to their emotions instead of breaking your rules “just for them”. It really is easy to lose focus of what you’re doing and losing yourself trying to exceed everyone’s expectations by a mile.
The approach of having strict rules and boundaries doesn’t only apply to customer service: it’s equally important for other parts of your business as well. Dealing with employees, suppliers, or partners should probably be done the same way – if you start playing favourites, you might quickly lose focus on what really matters to make the business grow in the long-term.