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To Succeed, Stay Close to Your Customers and Closer to Your Employees

By Jay Forte

Mark is the store manager in a large retail store. Though times are tough, he has not had to lay off any employees and his results continue to grow. How are his results so much better than others? He stays close to his customers; he stays connected. He makes the effort to always know what they think, care and worry about. He knows what they need, want and value. He asks what inspires them, engages them and excites them. It is his job to know this; it keeps him connected and responsive. At a time of doing more with less, Mark knows how to wisely spend his (limited) resources for high value customer impact.

Marie manages a team of 15 professionals. Only one employee left in the last five years – because her husband was transferred to another state. Marie received 45 resumes for the vacated position, three times what others managers receive. Her department consistently outperforms all other departments and contributes more to company efficiency and profitability. How does she inspire great loyalty and performance? She stays connected to her employees. She makes the effort to always know what they think, care and worry about. She knows what they need, want and value. She asks what inspires them, engages them and excites them. It is her job to know this; it keeps her connected and responsive. At a time of doing more with less, Marie knows how to wisely spend her resources to maximize employee performance, engagement and loyalty.

Employees and customers have the information you need to be successful. When most of us have to do more with less, businesses must know how to allocate their resources to inspire greater customer and employee loyalty and performance. Only by knowing what each customer and employee thinks, needs and values, will businesses have the information to determine how to spend wisely and with great impact.

The way to stay close to your customers and even closer to your employees is to learn how to ask great open-ended questions – to get them to talk, share and explain. Then, listen to the answers. Take notes. Develop the right responses. Show you care. Know what matters to them. Earn their trust. Be worthy of their loyalty. Give them reason to stay with you.

Consider these “stay close to your customers and employees” questions. Ask. Listen. Think. Care. Respond.

For Customers:

  • What is the most important thing you look for in a retail (service, construction, manufacturing, etc.) business? How do we compare with this?

  • Are we your first choice for products (service)? Why or why not?

  • We pride ourselves on our extraordinary service. What is the most extraordinary thing we have done for you? Why did this impress you?

  • If we could improve just one thing, what would be the most meaningful thing for you? What would the benefit be for you?

  • We are committed to creating a family here at ___________. Have we made you feel part of our family? How? What else would you like to see to feel like family?

For Employees:

  • What are you good at and what do you love to do? How do you get to do this (these) in your job?

  • What are two things you need in the workplace to help you perform better?

  • What makes you feel important, valued and part of our workplace family?

  • What skills would help you feel more competent and confident in your job?

  • What other responsibilities or jobs in the organization would you like to be involved in?

One-size-fits all responses are ineffective with both customers and employees. Both perform based on how connected they are made to feel – and how customized the responses are. This requires meaningful information – information to learn what inspires, challenges and encourages them. Developing a process to open the communication lines, then gather and use the information to influence decision-making, is as critical to the success of an organization as is cash flow, operations, marketing, and strategic planning.

Employees are the key to extraordinary service; employees who are good at what they do and love doing it, can provide the type of response that activates customer loyalty. A successful customer-focused organization is first an employee-focused organization. Stay close with your customers but stay closer with your employees. Employees are the ones who provide service. They are your eyes and ears to the customer world. They are your idea generators, your efficiency experts and your image-makers. Connect to them, know them, respond to them. An employee who feels listened to, well supported and personally cared for will provide the same responses for the customer. Great employees create great customer service.

At a time of doing more with less, it is critical to know how to use your limited resources to always get it right. Get close to your customers. Get closer to your employees. Both have the information you need to be successful. Ask. Listen. Think. Care. Respond. Connect. This is personal.

Read other articles and learn more about Jay Forte.

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