Every day, hundreds of thousands of people choose to do business with a particular person or business because there's an assurance they'll get what they expect, when they expect it, the way they expect it.
And yet thousands of businesses lose at least one customer every day because they did not live up to the reasonable expectations of their clientele in terms of reliability, responsibility or dependability.
The sad truth is, many businesses (and people) have made a habit of being:
Maybe they forgot, maybe they get a better offer or opportunity, maybe they just can't get their act together--the bottom line is, whatever you wanted didn't get done.
People will tell you they'll have something completed by a certain time or date even though they know they know they can't deliver. That's because they believe (often with good reason) that you'll take your business elsewhere if they tell you the truth. Somehow telling you "yes" now and facing the music later feels more comfortable.
Often, people are embarrassed to admit they don't understand what you want because they're afraid they'll look stupid. They are uncomfortable calling back when they realize they forgot to call earlier because they're afraid they'll look like they weren't paying sufficient attention to the account or aren't on the ball.
Many businesses lowball a price in order to appear competitive, and then make up for it with hidden charges. Or they provide an inferior product or service and declare you'll have to pay more if you want what you thought you were getting in the first place. And then there are those who refuse to complete the service or hand over the product until you pay more than originally agreed on.
Where does that leave the customer? In dire straits. It's bad enough if the customer is purchasing the product or service for himself. But if it's a component of a product or service for that customer's client, it could easily cost the customer that client, other monetary damages and the company's reputation.
Reliability in Action
When someone needs something done by a set date, or a service performed in a specific manner, he's seeking someone who can provide that service with certainty. Many companies have built their reputation by providing that certainty for customers.
Reliability: FedEx realized it could corner the market by promising to get your letter to its destination overnight, without fail. The company created an entire niche that never existed before.
Dependability: A major attraction of all fast-food chains, aside from fast service, is that you can depend on the food tasting the same, no matter where in the country you happen to be.
Responsibility: A big selling point for many pest control businesses is that if you see another bug within a designated period of time, they'll come back and take care of it for free; in other words, they take responsibility for the quality of their work.
What about your business? It's easy to pay lip service to good customer service, but you need to back it up with action. Have your customer service department keep record of customer complaints. You should know how many orders have shipped incorrectly in the last 90 days, or how many times a product has been returned. Armed with this information, you can take measures to correct the problem and prevent it from happening again.
A high level of reliability, responsibility and dependability are lacking in our society today. The wise entrepreneur can build a profitable and steady business if she becomes known for having these traits.
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.