Thursday, April 24, 2008

Are You ETDBW?

How easy are you to do business with?

In this day of unfettered and increasing competition, your ability to distinguish yourself through being “easy to do business with” could become a strategic differentiator. But first, you have to be genuinely customer-focused: you have to put the customer's needs ahead of your own.

That's harder to do than it sounds. Every organization has rules and policies for its own health that interfere with its ability to satisfy customers quickly and efficiently. Think of companies that rush to market with buggy software, hoping to make up for it with updates later; products with warranties that aren't what they seem, with the truth buried in the print; retail stores with spotty inventory records and untrained staff who can't tell you the difference between Product A and Product B; and companies that make you regret ever doing business with them at all when you try to make a return or exchange.

My column in this month’s PROFIT magazine looks at ways to make your business “easier to do business with.” To remind you that bad service is still all around us, the article also recounts the ludicrous story of a company that put one barrier after another in front of me when I went to it for help.

How do you lead your business on the path to being Easy to do Business With?

* Look internally first. Find out where your own people are “roadblocked,” where your own rules prevent them from helping customers.

* Analyze your business from the client's point of view. Survey your customers, track their complaints or ask your front-line people what’s preventing their prospects from buying more. They'll have lots to tell you.

* Empower your employees to take the customer’s side. Seattle-based department-store chain Nordstrom reduced its employees handbook to one rule: “Use your good judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.”

Read the full story here.

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