I believe in customers more than anything because the truth is, the customer is all you’ve got. Unless your business has disproportionate leverage or a monopoly, the customer has the final say as to whether to work with you or not. It’s for that reason that you need to pay attention.
While the customer has always been extremely valuable to a business, this has never been more true than today. A customer’s voice is more influential than ever. Years ago, anyone that had a poor experience would tell their closest friends or neighbors and that was the extent of their reach, but today, with the reach of social media, customer reviews, etc., there’s just so much scale at our disposal. Whether it’s a great experience or a poor one, the customer has way more power to tell the masses their thoughts and it’s time for businesses to grasp that.
Whether it’s on your social channels or review sites — which have become the word-of-mouth plumbing of our society — customers have more than enough ammo to tell those well beyond their inner circles about their experiences with a brand or product. Consumers these days have a certain level of expectation when it comes to service. When that threshold is not met, they are more compelled to complain about it publicly and let all those that are listening know about it. As a business owner, you just have to respect that.
And I get it, it’s more compelling for the negative or unhappy few to voice their opinions when dealing with a bad experience. It’s far less likely for the positive opinions to shine through and for those sentiments to carry as much weight, and as a business owner, you have no choice but to adapt. This new consumer behavior is why I think it’s incredibly important to start treating customer engagement as an offensive move versus a defensive one; proactive versus reactive. I’m empathetic to the fact that this might be difficult and drain some resources, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a mainstay in how your employees operate. As the market adapts, so should you.
Doing the right thing is always the right thing. A tactic that I’ve employed since my earliest days at my family’s retail wine shop was something we call “surprise & delight.” It’s a way to give back without expectations. A way to go above and beyond and make the customer feel special. Back in the days when I was running Wine Library, just by doing a little snooping on Twitter, I noticed that a customer of mine who had just bought a $117 case of Pinot Grigio (nothing too crazy), was a major fan of Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. With that knowledge, I decided it would be a nice gesture to send him the signed jersey of the guy he admired so much. Keep in mind that this jersey was far more expensive than the profits we would’ve made on his order, but that didn’t matter. It felt like the right thing to do and I knew that at the very least he would’ve been pleased with his experience with us, and that was most important. So, we sent it. We heard nothing from him until a few weeks later when we received a massive order on a peculiar varietal wine — not from him, but his friend. His friend, not only happy with the prices we offered, admired the approach we took with his buddy and that compelled him to shop with us and place an order.
In the digital age that we’re living in, it’s easier than ever to gather insight into who your customers are outside of the information they share with you directly. It’s far easier to learn about someone’s personality or interests just by doing a little recon on their digital presence. If you’re a business that cares and wants to make a difference, I strongly recommend you start employing these tactics, because as easy as it is to yell when something goes wrong, it’s just as easy, and probably more compelling, to shout when a company goes above and beyond.
And so, the punchline isn’t that you need to go out and surprise every single client or customer of yours. The punchline is that ‘care’ needs to be at the forefront of your business. Intent is all that matters and you need to show that. If your intent is pure, I promise you it will have an effect on your business. And let’s be real. How many companies are actually going above and beyond expectation? Not many — which means the power is in your hands.