Commitment To The Customer
By Bart Allen Berry
‘Commitment To The Customer’ is one of the Ten Values Of Excellence,
according to mountains of our own Customer Satisfaction Research.
The customer expects the excellent supplier to demonstrate that they have the customer’s best interests in mind over the long term.
Commitment is the romance in the customer supplier relationship. The customer wants to feel like they are your most important customer and that they have your full attention. Demonstrating a commitment to the customer means:
continually soliciting their needs,
making sure you understand them in detail
and endeavoring to fill them
The excellent supplier is seen as working hard for the customer.
Maintaining a committed relationship with customers over time may mean staying in touch even when there is no business going on, and having other interactions that show consideration for them, their interests and their ongoing needs and interests.
The Customer wants the Supplier to be honest and up front about all terms and conditions.
As any couple in a relationship will tell you, honesty is important. Suppliers who are caught being dishonest with customers have little hope of maintaining a long term relationship. Providing all information up front provides assurances to the customer that there is trust in the relationship and relieves potential customer anxiety before it happens. Excellence means that customers should never be surprised with expected outcomes that are not delivered or terms and conditions that were not discussed previously.
The customer wants the supplier to take responsibility when things go wrong.
In every customer supplier relationship, mistakes can happen. Customers want the supplier to inform them up front or as soon as possible when disappointments occur. Customers will appreciate the opportunity to change and adjust when they have up to date information, and can minimize negative impacts if they get bad news in as timely a fashion as possible.
Excellent Suppliers Plan For Mistake Recovery
It's one thing to say "I take full responsibility" but it's another to have mistake recovery systems planned ahead of time. A recent story illustrates this point:
Our Thanksgiving dinner group all ordered the traditional turkey meal option except for one person who ordered Prime Rib. The prime rib was overcooked, and our group member sent it back. In the mean time, we all finished our full turkey dinners before the Prime Rib finally came back out. Our lonely beef eater finished their meal uncomfortably, all alone while we all sat there and watched her tediously eat every bite, waiting for her to finish. The restaurant manager was working the restaurant floor, greeting patrons while pouring coffee, asking them about their Thanksgiving experience at the restaurant, and finally came over to our table.
We communicated our disappointment with the quality of the prime rib and the slow timing of the episode. "We're really sorry about that”, he said, but then he said “You know, that was our fault – so all of your desserts are on the house".
Now it could have been that our Thanksgiving experience might have caused us never to go to that restaurant again, but when the manager took responsibility for their mistake and more than made up for it with free desserts for everyone, our whole attitude changed. This mistake recovery system was something the restaurant had prepared for ahead of time, and was probably a standard practice.
For a piece of pie the manager saved relationships with six customers who would, it turned out, return to frequent his restaurant many more times in the future instead of never returning again. The value of the ‘life of the customer’ was potentially thousands of dollars for each customer in our group. This response was already planned ahead of time by an excellent supplier who anticipated that there might be disappointments on one of the busiest dining holidays of the year.
Excellence means demonstrating a commitment to the customer by soliciting their needs, honest up front dealings, taking responsibility when things go wrong and demonstrating a commitment to the relationship over time.
Read more about the Ten Values Of Excellence and the Customer Behavior Research
By Bart Allen Berry in his latest book:
Becoming Excellent- Applying The Ten Values of Excellence To Your Organization