Are you unaware of comparable disrespectful customer practices in your business?
“Never!,” you say.
Yet, United Airlines (UA) did not set out to deliberately disrespect and mistreat its customers. UA’s disrespectful behavior—on every level, including at the very top—just came naturally. Now, it is obvious the CEO and UA culture did not value and respect the very target customers whose spending drove UA profit.
Even in UA marketing, customers do not come first.
Before and after being shown up, UA marketing trumpets: “Every day, we help unite the world by connecting people to the moments that matter most. This shared purpose drives us to be the best airline for our employees, customers and everyone we serve.”
The disrespectful practice of “voluntarily” taking customers off UA planes—by bribing them or physically confronting them—has continued for years as part of the UA culture. Does it matter how United Airlines justified the need to put their paying customers second to company needs? Wrong is wrong. Wrong thinking is not justification for anything.
Disrespect can be less brutal and yet just as powerfully negative an experience for customers and clients.
In your shared outrage at United Airlines’ barbaric treatment of its unwitting customer, have you stopped to wonder whether, inadvertently, disrespect has crept into your business and services?
Yes, the context and scale would be different, but could blatant customer disrespect materialize when employees are incentivized to fulfill company-centric mandates from their employer (you)?
What specifically are you and your employees doing that communicates respect for the time, money, and stress customers invest in you and your business?
If you have asked each customer and been told, “I feel very respected by you, your employees, the services, marketing, and every other element of your business” hurrah! That would make all of you very special and extraordinarily good at customer care and putting yourselves in customers’ shoes.
The following excerpt from my latest business book, “What’s Your Point?: Cut The Crap, Hit The Mark & Stick!”* emphasizes how important it is to make conscious decisions about the true priority assigned to customers and clients. Then, incorporate this into your Brand and keep communicating their priority for you with every action and word. Let customers and clients understand exactly where they stand.
Chapter 7: On Target: Hit The Mark!
7.3 Service Reality: How “First” Are My Clients?
“The client always comes first” is one of the most commonly repeated promises in customer service, but it may also be the greatest lie.
Once “Who is my target client?” has been dealt with, the question to address is, “Who is my top priority?”
Think of an example in your practice or organization when the client and their interests truly came ahead of management edicts, sales goals, new product roll-outs, supplier constraints, and a long list of permanent and temporary distractions in delivery of service. If you recall a genuine comes first example, was it a service rarity or is it the norm?
How first is a client in your world?
Experience taught you that, although “the client is number one” is the most widely-touted high standard, there are many others you must serve before relevant, error-free services and products are consistently available to your target clients.
- Who lies between you and delivering customized services and/or products to your clients?
- When you engage the client, which filters, values, and policies must that communication survive—online and off?
- Whose acceptance must you earn over and above that of clients’?
- Whose approval do you seek, consciously and unconsciously?
- How do sales targets, bonuses, and awards influence what you offer prospects and clients and how you act on behalf of clients?
- List the high-priorities in your organization or industry that must be addressed or served, before your client can come first? How do they positively and negatively impact on what the client receives?
- If you have the power to implement improvement, how many layers can be minimized or eliminated to enhance individual client results, working relationships, and your bottom line?
Pat on the Back: You want clients to know you put them first to earn deserved trust. Consciously and dramatically reduce—or eliminate entirely—the number of times you start sentences with “I” to demonstrate who comes first. Effective communication begins when you “put first things first” and start with “our clients” or “my customers.”
* To be published Fall 2017.
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