Once a month, half a dozen New York- and New Jersey-based Glazer-Kennedy members get together for a Mastermind meeting. I always ask for an entire dish of lemon wedges for my iced tea, while another group member always has a piece of warmed-up chocolate cake as an appetizer. It's always very amusing to watch a new waiter try to grasp this peccadillo.
Last week the cake appeared after an unusually lengthy wait, accompanied by profuse apologies. Faced with an unfamiliar request, our waiter had to ask the manager what the procedure was for warming up chocolate cake. The manager pursed his lips and announced, "We don't do that here."
Our waiter found himself facing a dilemma. He didn't want to be the person who couldn't manage to deliver a warm piece of cake (no doubt he wasn't anxious to compromise his tip), nor could he disregard the manager's direction. Luckily, the assistant manager handled things. He microwaved the cake, explaining to the waiter that we were monthly regulars and "we do do that here."
The savvy assistant manager, treating us with the respect due loyal customers, ensured that we would continue to do business there. Realistically, that level of respect is the way all customers ought to be treated if a business has any interest in seeing them again. His "can do" attitude also deserves recognition.
You can generate repeat customers by training your employees to be friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. Give them authority to problem-solve on the spot. These actions make your customers' satisfaction your priority. The success of your business comes down to the customer experience. In this economic climate, customers are much pickier about where they do business; you won't earn loyalty if the experience they have doesn't add to the value of the purchase.
Providing customers with a positive experience doesn't necessarily cost you any money--except for electrical output, it didn't cost a penny to microwave that chocolate cake--but not prioritizing the customer experience can cost you thousands in lost business. Hire, train and keep employees with a positive customer-service attitude. If interactions with your employees creates a sense of appreciation, customers are likely to return the favor with repeat business.
Sydney Biddle Barrows is a New York based business consultant and recognized expert on the customer experience. You can find out more about her coaching programs, consulting practice and her newest book, Uncensored Sales Strategies, at http://www.sydneybarrows.com.