I”m getting ready for two important events: Customer Service Week (Oct 4th – 8th) and uploading the short videos I made yesterday that we’ll be sending out every day that week (It’s the ONLY time of the year that you will be receiving mail from me every day – and it’s only 5 days). And I’m getting ready to travel to CA to be there for my daughter’s birthday and to play with my little grand baby.
So, I think for this week’s tip I’m going to relax and share with you a piece I wrote a year or two ago at the beginning of a new year – because it’s just as relevant – and maybe more so than it was then. It’s one of my all time favorites – It’s called “How Zen It Is.”
It’s a new year and that always sets new thoughts off in my mind. Being an “idea person” I love to play with ideas and look for analogies and work on new plans for making things better.
This weekend I had the time to take a long walk on the beach and play with some of those ideas. Lately I’ve been working with the word “Simplify.” The world is so noisy and cluttered and everyone I know is feeling a little overwhelmed with it all. Thinking about how to makes things easier, simpler and even more peaceful, my mind turned to thoughts of business.
My business and yours.
What all businesses have in common is the need for taking outstanding care of customers. No matter what kind of business you’re in it’s critical (especially now with the economy moving in the direction it seems to be going) to have a philosophy about and a methodology for continuous improvement in the area of customer relationships.
That goes for internal customers as well as external customers.
As I walked an idea began to form in my mind as an outgrowth of this word “simplify.” What simple advice could I give to start the year off about taking care of customers?
What do the companies that are doing it right know, and do, to sustain what I call “exquisite” care? What qualities do they embody that others might learn from?
I walked, and walked and walked some more. I stood and looked out on the ocean and 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 the ideas flowed – companies that have mastered customer service – ones whose customers rave about them practice a Zen-like approach to the activity.
So herewith you have the 4 P’s of the Zen Approach to caring for customers.
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. 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.
Peace and Prosperity!