A Customer’s perception is their reality.
And they don’t care about your excuses.
They really don’t.
I was waiting in line for a cheeseburger this past week, and I noticed it was taking a really long time. I looked up and saw what could best be described as a fire drill behind the counter as the line cook, manager, and cashier were all trying to figure out who was doing what. And to make matters worse, it looked as though one of the cashiers was trying to “cash out” at the same time. That is to say they were counting out their drawer and trying to get the system ready for another cashier to take over.
“But Tony, how does that help Guests get their cheeseburgers?” you might be asking.
Great question – it doesn’t. It doesn’t do a thing for the Customer experience except tick off those waiting in line.
Suffice it to say that the Guests were becoming ever more agitated and some even begin to leave the line. They really didn’t care why the line was taking so long, they just knew that those behind the counter were making no progress with correcting the issue. The thought I had was more long term: Will any of these folks ever come back? Some will and some won’t, but in the restaurant business you are lucky to make a nickel on a dollar, so frittering away Customers is not something that can be tolerated.
The real key learning here is that guests often don’t care why something is broken; they just care that it is broken and they’re looking to us as Leaders to fix it. Those who want to win the loyalty of their Guests will need to understand that perception is reality and that they are judged upon those perceptions daily.
There may be legitimate reasons why things don’t go to plan on any given day, but wasting time trying to explain away the issues is much like someone who is lost is the desert complaining that they’ve misplaced their map. Without decisive action its game over.
So the first step is to wake up and take a hard look at what is going on in your business:
PERCEPTION = REALITY: That’s right, it is all about what your Customers see through their lens. If they perceive your team is rude or that your lines take too long you are stuck with that until you change it. Let’s face it, rarely is someone absolutely right or wrong they they love or hate a brand – but that doesn’t mean there isn’t truth in their perception. The trick here is to dig deeper for the “why”behind what they think and find out what is fueling their feelings. Once you latch onto the driving factors behind the perception you can then take steps to correct.
YOU CAN’T SPEND EXCUSES: When things go wrong, it often becomes the finger pointing Olympics. This is small thinking that just leads to excuses and wasted energy. If you’ve ever watched a Customer lodge a complaint and a well meaning supervisor try to explain away the issue you know what I’m talking about here. So often as I watch these interactions I think “what a waste of energy.” Those who find it important to be right at the exclusion of all else live in this zone of excuses. Better to look for the solution and resolve the Guest issue. There is wisdom in asking questions later to find out what caused the breakdown. This is a great way to be sure you don’t repeat it, but the Customer isn’t interested in being a part of that process.
EFFORT MATTERS: When it comes to winning your Customer’s delight, show them you care about their experience. Often when businesses are busy Customers are judging the effort behind expediting lines and efficiently moving Customers through the service process. Think about the last time you were at your local Mega-Mart on a busy Saturday – wall to wall people, brimming carts, and long lines. I don’t know about you, but I tend to frequent the stores that have enough cashiers on duty, open all their check out lines, and have managers out front directing traffic. This is the same magic I look for at the concession stands when I attend a sporting event – those who wait until the halftime rush starts to cook their hot dogs will have fans waiting until midnight to eat. Businesses must not only give maximum effort to the Customer experience but make sure that Guests SEE that effort. Customers love organizations that will run into fire to serve them quickly and that do everything possible to make the experience friendly, easy, and reliable.
LOOK AT THINGS FROM THE GUEST POINT OF VIEW: Too often we look at things through our own business lenses. It is important to make sure that things are buckled up from our own POV, but to win the perception game we have to see things through our Customer’s eyes. This means walking in from the parking lot, through the front door, and into your space. If you are an online business that means coming in though a search engine or one of your online ads to see the whole experience. Assume a benign ignorance of the inner workings of you business and be inquisitive. Ask questions about processes and really get a feel for what a new Guest might see, feel, or encounter when they visit your location. When you take your ego out of the equation and act like a Customer, you may find some great ways you can improve their experience (or at their perception of their experience).
Remember, perception is no substitute for the actual experience, but it isn’t something you can ignore. You could be providing a great product with great service, but if there is something that is negatively impacting the perception of your organization, then you have to address it. This could be the temperature of your location, the paint color, how your Front Line Associates interact with Customers, or any combination of a thousand things.
Until you get out and walk your space from the Guest POV you may never “feel” the small, intangible items that might be impacting your Customer service.
So take a walk and question everything. What a great way to treat your Guests like cherished friends.
Tony Johnson Customer Service Expert | Author | Trainer | Speaker
ENROLL IN CUSTOMER SERVICE ACADEMY TODAY! http://thetonyjohnson.com/csa-details/
Check out my book: RECIPE FOR SERVICE Now Available on Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Recipe-Service-Inspire-Deliver-Customer/dp/0986391204
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