Think about all the receipts you accumulate in a day. You might have gone to the convenience store for gas. You bought breakfast later. You picked up dry cleaning. You went to a gym. You went to a bookstore.
Now, from those, how many of those did you have an experience at? Did anyone even call you by name? If you showed up at places and you were ignored or marginalized, then you did not even get a transaction. You got ripped off. They did not care enough to attend to you.
The reality is that you are always buying, and you likely do not think about how the dry cleaner does his process. It is opaque to you. You care about fast service with a smile. You want perfectly clean and pressed clothes through the drive-thru. You don’t have time to think about the dry cleaner’s business. You are moving on to your next shopping venue.
Your customer, likewise, is not thinking about your business. They leave the details to you. They expect you to lead. You think about your business a magnitude of order more than they do. They just know they will like it or dislike what they experience. They want you to lead, and if you do not lead, they feel awkward or dispirited.
Leading your buyer assumes that you know where you are going. You know what experience you want the customer to have so that they will refer. Buyers want to follow. It is inappropriate for them to lead. It would be like a guest preparing dinner in the home of his new host. It is not their home. They do not know where everything is at, and the situation can easily become awkward.
The buyer wants to know what the next steps are. There are two ways to drive the next steps:
- By Design. Notice how airports have signs to direct you. The seats have armrests to dissuade you from taking naps across a bench. Your function follows the forms they set up.
- By Direction. When you are getting customer support from a software company, they often have live chat. You know to push a button. The person on the other end tells you what to do and manages you step-by-step within this medium. They are your virtual concierge.
Your business has one goal. It is to lead the customer through a process which delivers your promise. Get clear on the promise and execute the process and you have leadership. The customer delights on this. You are one business of many on their checklist. When they interact in your environment, you are expected to show them the next steps.
Defining How You Do Business
Leading the customer requires a clear definition of how you do business. It is your trademark, what you are known for. But before asking how you do business, it is important to ask why you do business. There are millions of businesses out there. Why do you exist? Why should someone pick you over another person?
These are your core values. They are the very reasons you do what you do in the first place. Key questions to ask of yourself are:
- What’s important to you about success?
- What’s important to you about who you do business with?
Get detailed in your answers. In our consulting with clients, we walk through mindmapping exercises to help the client define specifically why they do business in the first place. It is extremely powerful to help a business identify their purpose for being in business in the first place. The products and services they sell are a means towards this end.
The why unlocks the how. If you start with the mechanics, then your customer will see and feel the disjointed engagement you present. It would be like dancing by following directions off a script in a quiet room rather than having an instructor guide you in a music hall. The music creates fluidity and passion behind the movements. The movements merely isolated will be mechanical and contrived at best.
How you do business becomes an art form rather than just a way to make money. A thought to consider: Does your customer want to feel that what you offer is just a way to make money? If they feel this way, then you lose.
After truly identifying the core reasons for why you do business, identify the key values which describe what your business and culture are about. For example, one might be “Care.” You want your customers to know you care.
Ask yourself the following questions to get concrete about this:
- What would make my customer say, “I know they care about me?”
- What environment would communicate that we care?
- What are the behaviors I would personally need to show for someone to feel like we care?
- What does care look like in the way we serve our customer?
You must push on these until you get concrete. Imagine being the owner of a fine restaurant establishment. Behaviors that would be measured and rewarded might include:
- My employees greet every repeat customer by their first name. We have a weekly reward for the most new customer names an employee can learn.
- There are free drinks in the waiting area.
- Each patron gets a handshake during their meal by the owner or manager saying, “Thank You. We are appreciative of your patronage.”
- The business software system sends deals and alerts at the right increments based on individual customer buying habits.
The list could fill several pages. It is your imagination and determination to live into your values which will help you get concrete about specific steps. Make it a show your customer will never forget and want to comment on to their friends. They will talk about your show. They expect your commodity. Give them the unexpected.