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Is Your Company Really About Your Customer?


B DIrect is working with the leading eLearning, training, and leadership development company right now. A lot of our messaging (to date, we've done design work, emails, landing pages, digital and print ads, sell sheets, case studies, and postcards) revolves around businesses recognizing that their most important asset is their workforce.

But, an equally important asset is the customer. In fact, you may have the best workforce in the world, but if you don't have any customers, that workforce will be polishing off their collective resumes pretty darn fast.

A true story from the Bs' archives. Prior to founding Plan B, which became B Direct, we worked together at a considerably larger direct marketing agency. One day, there was a fairly major f*ck up on a project for an important client. The Queen B (then the agency's COO and ECD) happened to be travelling with the Account Executive on the left coast when they got a call from an understandably distraught client. For about twenty minutes, the Account Executive made excuses and ignored the client's growing anger.

When the call ended, the client went into her supervisor's office — frustrated as hell — and said, "I can't believe they didn't even say they were sorry."

At the same time, the agency Account Exec hung up and burst into tears. She couldn't believe what had happened to the project, and she spent the next forty-five minutes beating herself up for every conceivable way she might have prevented the mistake but didn't.

She was sorry, terribly, terribly sorry.

And, there's the disconnect. At some point earlier in her career, the Account Executive had been trained never to apologize. Yet that was all this particular client needed: a genuine, heartfelt "I'm sorry," and a promise that the damage would be repaired.

Here's a quick test to see if you are operating as a customer-first organization:

  1. When you're in the wrong, do you apologize — immediately, genuinely, and without the use of the word "but ...?"
  2. Do your emails to customers come from a real person or from "Do Not Reply?"
  3. In printed or electronic correspondence, are your disclaimers longer than your body copy?
  4. Do you sell what you make? Or do you sell what your customer needs?
  5. Do you delete all negative feedback from your social media pages?
  6. Does your 800-number make customers do gymnastic routines before they can speak to a real, live person?
  7. Are your rules and procedures more important than making a customer happy?
  8. Is revenue the only way you measure success?
  9. Do your customers know what you're doing with their data? (And are they ok with it?)
  10. Do you involve customers in the decisions you make about service and solutions?

The bottom line involves changing everyone's perspective about why the business is in business after all. Is it to make money? Sure. Is it to innovate and solve problems? Ok. Is it to provide a pleasant and rewarding environment for employees? Why not.

But, is it to satisfy and delight customers? If you hesitate to answer this question in the affirmative, go back and take the test again. Because there's one person from whom you don't want to get a failing grade ...

The customer.

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