They keep the customer at the front of their mind
I’m sure you’ve heard of Amazon. Even if you aren’t in a country that Amazon currently operates in you possibly own a Kindle, or listen to audiobooks on Audible. Amazon has changed the world in the last twenty years and has no intention of slowing down.*
But how? How do they come up with the solutions that they do? They give the customer a seat at the table. Literally. Jeff Bezos loves to leave an empty chair in meetings to represent the customer. When you have a company as big as Amazon, it can be so simple to forget why the business even exists (aside from serving shareholders and earning more profit). By literally making sure they have a seat at the table it keeps a physical reminder present.
Take action: Now you don’t need to do this in every meeting you have (if you have a small online business you probably don’t have meetings in enormous conference rooms anyway) but you should keep some reminder of your customer somewhere that you can pull out when needed. This could be a folder of customer feedback or a sticky note explaining who you are serving.
*I want to make it clear that Amazon is not a perfect company by any stretch of the imagination, but you can’t deny they’ve achieved a lot.
They don’t take everything seriously
Richard Branson is famous for being a bit of a rogue and not taking things to seriously, which has allowed him to build an incredible brand image over the last forty years. I have two examples to share of how Virgin does this without compromising their professionalism:
Virgin Australia posted on their Instagram a picture of Richard Branson posing with a sleeping flight attendant. Branson pokes fun at the employee in his caption by saying he thinks the employee thought he was dreaming when he woke up and saw Richard Branson standing over him because he went straight back to sleep. It’s something that could have ended so badly with a serious meeting about not sleeping when the founder of your company might show up. Instead, Branson acknowledges this employee was on standby and so needed his sleep.
Virgin Australia also posted an incredible video of an announcement an employee made at Christmas in one of the Virgin lounges. At the end of her announcement, she breaks into an incredible rendition of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”. On one hand it’s a beautiful, impromptu moment but on the other hand, it is a fantastic business move. Who doesn’t want to fly with the company whose employees might break into song?
Take action: Next time something happens where you could have a fun response or a serious business response - pick the fun one. As long as the fun response isn’t hurtful or unhelpful it will be fine.
They take proactive steps to defuse issues
I don’t know about you, but I’m yet to be lucky enough to stay in a Ritz Carlton hotel. Just because they’re slightly (ha - okay a lot) out of my price range doesn’t mean I can’t learn from their customer service.
Every Ritz Carlton employee (yes - EVERY SINGLE ONE) has authority to spend up to $2000 per day, per guest, to resolve an issue without needing to consultant any supervisor. So if they come across ten different issues when they’re cleaning guest rooms - they could spend $2000 on EACH of those problems in ANY way they choose. Possibly before the customer even notices an issue or has time to complain.
Also, imagine how you would feel as a customer if you flagged down a random Ritz Carlton employee to let them know about an issue and they immediately confirmed they could fix it and make a decision about how.
I speak a lot about having best practices and processes to offer consistency, so it might sound contradictory to say that you should just offer any solution that would please the customer. However, if you look at the Ritz Carlton example it is very structured (in the context of their luxury hotel brand). $2000 is a lot for most people to shell out every day - but not the Ritz Carlton.
Take action: Since you (probably) aren’t the Ritz Carlton maybe allocate yourself $50 per customer, per day to resolve an issue. Or $5, or $25, or $500. Whatever makes sense for your business.
They don’t buy into fast service meaning better service
A lot of companies track how long a phone call takes with a customer, and they work to decrease that amount of time. The intention is to ensure that employees are moving through to the next call to prevent people from waiting. It’s pretty easy to get obsessive with the figures though, to the detriment of the customer.
Zappos doesn’t like this - the longest customer service call on record at their company was EIGHT HOURS - a fact that is applauded within the company. For them - it’s much more important to have a real emotional connection with the customer. Whether this is four minutes or eight hours.
Take action: Slow down! You can automate your processes, but never EVER automate your relationship with your customers.
They never ever stop improving
If you’ve ever worked for a big business you would have been told (somewhat constantly) that everything is changing. Sadly most big businesses seem to accompany this statement with something along the lines of “so you better be on board” with the subtext of “or get off the bus”. That’s not what I mean when I say “never stop improving”.
What I mean is never think that what you sell is “done”. It’s never done, and that’s the exciting thing! You can learn from your customers about what they want, solve new problems and give them a better experience all the time. You just need to frame it not as “seeing how you’re currently failing” but “seeing how you can be even better than you already are”
You can set up a simple structure help you focus on continuously improving. First, you need to set aside time weekly, monthly and yearly to consider the improvements you can make. Second, you can use a super simple cycle called the PDCA cycle. PDCA stands for Plan - Do - Check - Act.
Plan - Plan what improvements you want to make
Do - Do the improvements
Check - Check in on the improvements to see if they’ve worked or not
Act - Make adjustments based on the results, and this leads straight back into the Plan stage.
Take action: Put aside some time this week or month to start the PDCA cycle by planning some improvements you want to make.