Everything should start with the customer. It only makes sense since customers are really the only reason any organization exists. Yet if I were to ask a number of people in any company why they are in business, I'll bet you the customer would rarely get mentioned. Staff meetings, organizational meetings, product meetings, planning meetings and marketing meetings probably take up a good chunk of a given work week. But how often have you heard of a customer meeting? Everything we do on a day-to-day basis should have the customer in mind. Why is it we develop systems for our own convenience, but not for our customers'?
One of my pet peeves I've used as an example before are the automatic answering devices encountered whenever you call companies to place an order, make reservations or ask for information. They're now installed in just about every place of business, but I think they only treat customers rudely and are an obstacle to good service. I don't know about you, but I'm tired of hearing: "All of our service representatives are currently busy serving other customers. But if you'll stay on the line, someone will help you shortly." Remember, the reason we are on the line is to give somebody an order and hand over our money. Yet here we are being greeted by an answering device telling us to push some buttons and then sit and wait. Companies need to wake up and get their priorities straight.
The first thought we should have when we come to work is how we can do a better job for the customer. Will that series of meetings benefit the customer? Will that new telecommunications system make it easier for the customer to do business with us? Do our new offices make us more efficient so we can better serve our customers? It's all so basic, but most of the time customers are treated like an afterthought.
1998 just started, but I'll bet many of us haven't even given a thought about how we can improve the way we treat our precious customers. I'll even bet our customers were the last thing on our minds as we celebrated the holidays. Yet without our customers maybe we wouldn't have been able to give our loved ones the gifts we did. How many of us have gotten on the phone in the past couple of weeks to wish our customers a happy new year? How many of us have told those customers how much a part of our lives they are and how much we appreciate their business? Customers are just like you and me. They like to be told how important they are and how much we appreciate them.
Poor customer service and taking business for granted are problems that touch all sectors of the economy. Healthcare certainly isn't exempt. I see it all the time, but from year to year nothing really changes. Customer service in all industries is generally so bad that if a company treats customers with a modicum of service it is heralded as a service giant. Yet that company is only doing what should be a given -- providing good service to its customers.
How about treating 1998 differently. If someone wants you to attend a meeting, ask if it will benefit the customer. If it won't, don't attend. The same should apply for every other decision being made. If it's not good for the customer, don't do it. Measure every action with the customer-service yardstick. You'll be surprised how little you thought about the customer before.
By the way, if you do treat your customers well, the word usually gets around, and you'll end up with more business than you can possibly handle. Wouldn't that be a nice problem to have?
Try something new,
Charles S. Lauer