Have you asked your customers?

Bound for Savannah, sitting on a transfer boat from a resort island in South Carolina, I cannot stop thinking about the resort.

It is beautiful and staffed by nice people. But is that enough? I think not.

How was your stay?

When I checked out of the resort, the woman at the front desk never asked me about my stay; wonderful, good, bad, or indifferent? This is the best time to query guests — asking for their honest feedback about their stay. However, nobody cared to ask me.

Had she, I would have mentioned the cob webs hanging from the ceiling, the fact that the bathroom was in desperate need of repair, that I had to call to request maid service, and that none of the resort’s materials were in the room, not even a pen and paper — good thing I did not need to order room service.

My conversation with me

As I leave, the conversation that I’m having with myself about the resort is, at best, mixed. While most of the time that I’m visiting hotels and resorts is as a speaker, I also organize a number of small meetings each year. Would I bring my group to this island resort? I really do not think I would. My conversation with myself about the place is, “Pretty property and nice people, however
I truly question the competency of the resort’s staff.

Every time one of your customers does business with you, it is your opportunity to develop or strengthen the relationship — or to damage it.

What’s their conversation?

How in the world can you query all your customers? Simply ask them.

You can have customer service representatives ask your telephone customers and you can have other employees ask in-person customers.

How do you get your employees to ask? Motivate them through incentive.

This information is golden as you periodically review your business strategy.

Earlier this week, when I was in my office, I received a call from one of my suppliers. The customer service person was calling to ask how we could do more business together. I suggested a strategy change for sample ordering from their web site — to make ordering easier for the customer. They asked! And, if they make the change, I will do more business with them.

‘Ask strategies’

Consider developing both a formal and informal “ask strategy” for your organization.

The informal will consist of your employees asking at every possible opportunity, “How are we doing?” And, truly caring to listen, and record, the answers offered by customers. Offer various low cost incentives to employees that turn in their “ask sheets” each week. Hold contests only allowing the people that turned in their “ask sheets” that week, or month, to participate. Offer positive motivation.

For your formal ask strategy, mail out “ask surveys” with every order. Incentivize your customers to participate. Have your sales staff conduct an “ask session” with every customer quarterly — and incentivize the sales staff for their participation.

Path toward improvement

You can improve your products and services much more effectively when you have a deeper understanding of what your customers consider to be valuable and important.

Your “ask strategy” will quickly fill in your knowledge gaps in this area. You do want to serve your customers the way they want to be served, don’t you? n

Copyright © 2008 Ed Rigsbee
Ed Rigsbee has been fumbling, bumbling and stumbling his way through the organizational mazes of for-profits and non-profits for over four decades. For the last two decades, Ed has been an observer, researcher, and teacher; he’s been helping organizations of all sizes to build successful internal and external collaborative relationships.
Ed travels internationally to deliver keynote presentations and workshops on profitable alliance relationships. In addition to serving as the president of Rigsbee Research Consulting Group, Ed also serves as the executive director of a (501 c 3) public non-profit charity. He has authored three books and over 1,500 articles helping organizations to take full advantage of their potential.
Contact Ed, sign up for his complimentary weekly Effective Executive eLetter at www.Rigsbee.com and also enjoy Ed’s hour-long video presentations available at his web site.

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