What makes some companies stand out?

SuccessI don’t think there is a magic formula, specific software, or a fancy marketing plan that can make a customer like a particular company. I just think companies like Zappos.com, Barnes and Noble, and Apple have figured out what customers like and have adopted the customer-centric culture where everyone in the company understands what customers expect.

Let’s start with how and why customers find us, and let’s assume a potential customer hears about a specific product from a friend, relative, or the internet. Most likely the search starts online, and the consumer searches for a particular vendor. Buyers may look at social media reviews, and then proceed to look for online promotions and sales. If your store fits the criteria, carries the merchandise, and can be competitively priced, the purchaser may show up at your brick and mortar store to make the purchase in person.

So how do you keep this customer coming back to you? Even successful companies struggle in this economy, but those who look at things from the customer point of view and make decisions accordingly seem to have the upper hand and the most business. Top performers have customer service agents who use positive language. “I can certainly help you with this,”  is a far better statement than, “I will find my manager to try and help you.” Even with a complaint looming, a statement such as, “We certainly value you as a customer,” is much more positive than, “It’s not our policy to make returns on sale items.”

Customer feedback and information need to be widely available. (VOC – Voice of the Customer) Customers need to be able to lodge complaints because that can make a profound difference in solving future problems. For instance, if enough people complain about checking account fees added on balances of less than $500, there’s a chance for a bank to solve the problem and dispense with the fee. Customer service representatives need to be listening as customers lodge the complaints, and instructing agents not to type until the customer is finished can help agents listen more effectively.

A company can not always solve all of their problems at once, but being able to prioritize and design an action plan can benefit customer expectations. Everyone in the company needs to concentrate on specific tasks and have a plan. It’s no coincidence that top companies continue to make constant commitments to excellence, and share those commitments with their employees while carefully scrutinizing the latest innovations, economic, and social trends.

photo credit: h.koppdelaney