I learn a lot when I take long walks on the beach.
I guess being in such an expansive space gives my mind the room it needs – to think more freely, to synthesize ideas and tap into the wisdom accumulated in almost 30 years of talking to and advising people about how they take care of their customers and their culture.
As I continue to study what makes businesses thrive rather than just survive, I pass along my learnings to you and invite you to put new and “Positively Deviant” practices into action where you work.
So I was walking and thinking about the kind of companies everyone wants to become – profitable, productive and fun. Great companies attract great talent. They also leave traces of their success.
The question I asked myself on my walk was this, “What qualities do those great customer-caring companies embody that others might learn from?”
I walked, and walked and walked some more. I thought about the hundreds of clients I’ve worked with and the companies I’ve studied and then I stood and looked out on the ocean. I took several deep breaths and then it came to me. Not to my head but to my body – I got a feeling of being grounded, of being still and at peace.
And then these ideas flowed.
Organizations that work at mastering the customer experience (especially those who do it with humility) practice a Zen-like approach to the activities involved.
Here’s what I learned as I walked and was open to hearing the answer to my question.
There is Zen Approach to taking “Exquisite” care of your customers. It consists of four “P’s”
Presence is paying 100% attention to the person in front of you, whether they are on the phone, standing in front of you or popping into your email box. Present means listening, with your whole body, not to respond, but to understand. Present is knowing that your job is to make sure that customers want to come back and do business with you again.
Being present to the customer means remembering to bring them up in a meeting, and remembering that they are the reason you are in business. “How will this change we are about to make affect the customer?” Being present means being responsible to and for the success of the relationship. It means showing up authentically with intention and attention. Companies that deliver world-class service understand that power is always in the present moment – and they use the moment to build the relationship stronger.
Every customer deserves to walk away from an interaction feeling good about doing business with you. When the service giver has the skills necessary to maintain a positive attitude and recover quickly from negative situations they have a good chance of creating a positive impression as well as a positive state of mind and body for customers.
Mounting evidence from the emerging “Science of Happiness” field tells us that the experience of positive emotion indeed builds good health, helps make us more resilient, and even allows us to think in broader, more wholistic ways. Optimists live nine years longer than pessimists. Workers report being more productive in the presence of positive people. Happy people have 65% more energy. Companies that want to win over and win back the customers had better be focused on creating a positive outcome in every interaction.
That positive outcome may come as a result of enormous patience. In this hurry-up-I-only-have-a-second world, patience is truly a virtue. Patience is required to understand what the customer needs (even if they don’t know themselves.) Patience is required to walk them through the process, one more time, with caring and compassion, even if you have told them before how your website works. Patience is required to make sure they know how to use your service or product and use it to their advantage.
Patience (and its sister, Kindness) means finding yet another way to create value, one that matters to the customer, so you can stand out in the crowded field. Patience – especially with those internal customers – to find out what really makes a difference – what really motivates and inspires – pays off handsomely in loyalty and repeat business.
I think of customer-caring as one would think of yoga, golf, woodworking, or cooking – a craft that is practiced, and mastered, over time. In all these kinds of endeavors we add to our learning on a regular basis, incorporate the new skills and do them over and over again until we master them. The practice of these things is a reward in itself – the same thing with service – if you allow yourself to look at the Zen of it.
Every day we get the opportunity to practice the art of relationship in life – in business, in community and in family. Some days (just like in yoga, or golf etc.) are better than others. We master an art when we learn to look at our practice objectively and understand what went right, what went wrong and how we can be better today than we were yesterday.
In business, as in other areas of life, practice makes profit. The discipline of returning our thoughts to taking care of our precious customers and creating value for all the people we work with does pay off handsomely.
As we practice being present – really showing up in our work; as we practice being positive – making the effort to look for the good and refocus our attention; as we practice being patient – to be calm in the face of craziness, we will find ourselves enjoying work more. We will find ourselves enjoying others more, and we will find that customers prefer doing business with us.
Use the 4 P’s to get to the 5th – Preferred.
Happy New Year – may it be peaceful, healthy and prosperous too.
PS: If this is the year you want to UP your leadership game NOW is the time to ACT.
After next week I’ll be finally taking down the special introductory crazy low price on my new E-Course – Ten robust Units of learning about the Science of Happiness and how to use it to lead your team to greatness. www.PositiveEnergizer.com