Building Customer Relationships

Building Customer Relationships

Building Customer Relationships

One thing that I’ve had the ability to do over the last 16 years is to visit a lot of different types of businesses. Some impressed me greatly others not so much.

Some Left Me Wondering, “How Could These People Be This Confused?”.

It’s hard to really list all the problems in all the different places, because they all have small nuances that separate them from each other, however, they all have one common theme.  They just don’t get who pays the bills and who does the work!

In this article, I’m going to walk you through a few of the common problems I see in some of the worst run businesses.  I have one of two hopes.  The first is that you will not identify with anything I’m saying. The second is that if you do identify with anything, you’ll take the necessary steps to correct it.

Lesson 1:  Your employees will rule you if you let them.  I can’t tell you how many businesses I’ve been in, where the owner or manager didn’t know how to do anyone else’s job, and really didn’t care to know.  They felt that they own the company and every job other than just managing was beneath them.  The problem with this approach however is three sided.  The first side is that by not knowing how to do someone else’s job, the manager is unable to assist if there are problems.  The second side is that because they can’t do the different jobs, they are unable to tell if a person is really doing their job correctly or if they need more training.  The Third issue that arrises, and its a much larger problem, is that because the manager or owner doesn’t know what is going on under them, the employees WILL NEVER respect them.  Respect is the single biggest issue I’ve seen in every failing company and its the least tended to.

So lets talk for a moment about respect and just what it means.  

To start with, lets talk about what it does not mean.  Respect does not mean that you’re employees are scared of you or that they don’t speak up because you slap them down.  Respect is actually the employees feeling that you work at least as hard as they do and that you deserve to be in the position you’re in.  Too many people think that because they’ve reached the position of owner or manager that they no longer need to work as hard as they did getting there.

I’m of the opinion that being a manager is when you need to work the hardest.

Take a few days and go to some management classes that teach you to work with people and to manage employees.  It will do wonders for where you end up compared to those that have never had the class. We’re not all born with the ability to lead, and its ok to teach yourself.  Don’t assume that just because you’re the boss that everyone around you will get your back and do what needs to be done for fear of loosing their job.  People want money, but more than that they want to have fun.  This doesn’t mean we install a sliding board, but it does mean that you treat everyone with respect and make the atmosphere as fun as possible.

Just as an example, a typical Lawn Mower, Powersports or Auto dealership sends their mechanics to school every year to stay up to date on working on units.  But just how often have the managers been sent to school to learn how to work with other people and how to properly deal with customers?

Lesson 2: Keeping a Clean Office Leads To Better Customers. Most people that have issues with their employees generally have problems with the entire business.  As an example, I’ll describe how an owner of a dealership I have frequented, operates.  First off, I’ve rarely seen this person personally do much work.  Most of the time they are directing others to do the work while they stand around complaining about how busy they are.  This builds unnecessary friction even if you think it innocent.  The dealership itself is dirty, the units they expect people to come in to purchase have dust on them because no one wants to keep them clean.  The parts counter has so much paper and junk on it that it hasn’t been seen in years.  Inventory is organized but just barely.  When customers come in and need parts, they tell them they will order them but rarely write down what they need, and if they do they never get around to ordering them in a timely mannor.  I know customers of theirs that have waited weeks to get parts, only to find out they never got ordered.  All of this leads to customers never returning and looking for other avenues to get their parts.  Who wants to come into a junk yard to buy new parts?

Lesson 3: Track Everything.  If you have a system like Lizzy that is capable of tracking everything from CRM to Inventory Control and Special Orders, then use it.  There is no more excuse for you purchasing software and not learning to use it than there is purchasing a car and never learning to drive.  Computer software is designed to do all the memory work for you and you should let it do its job.  If a customer needs parts, create an invoice whether they pay for it now or not and let the system place the order and track the parts.

Lesson 4: Whenever a customer comes in upset, put yourself in their shoes first! I can’t stress this enough.  I’ve had customers call me up and curse me up one side and down the other.  I let them talk and never pulled the “Your not going to talk to me like that” card.  This only serves to make them more upset.  I’m not telling you to let your customer walk all over you because they will given half a chance.  What I’m saying it be respectful and ask yourself how you’d fill if the shoe was on the other foot.  It will lead to a better response to the customer and help you to maintain customer loyalty along the way.  An upset customer in no way helps your business.  

Lesson 5: Never expect your vendors to do your job for you.  This is a personal one for me because I can’t tell you how many of our customers expect myself and my employees to handle problems for them that they have in the business.  Make at least one person in the business the resident expert even if it is yourself (and I’d make it yourself).  This helps with turn over and sets a point person to communicate with the vendor.  Your vendors have businesses to run too and trying to get them to handle situations for you will only serve to make them more and more distant for when you really do need them.  Again, learn your tools and don’t expect others to drive you around.

Lesson 6: Always look for better ways to do things because there usually is.  Just because you’ve done something one way for 35 years doesn’t mean its the best way.  There are consultants and other business owners that probably have a better way to handle certain things, so always be alert to changing things up.  Sometimes it won’t work and you’ll have to go back to the old way of doing things, but don’t stop trying.

Lesson 7: Engage your employees and they will become better employees.  Can you imagine going to work everyday and doing the same thing over and over?  Give employees different things to do every now and then and expect them to do a good job.  Don’t fuss at them if they don’t, but work with them to help them to do a better job.

Lesson 8: Sometimes you need to just fire someone.  If you think you have employees that will never go along with a certain change you think needs to take place, sit them down and talk with them about it.  Usually making them part of the change and responsible for helping things along will help motivate them.  If nothing else works though, sometimes you might need to let the sour grapes go in order to motivate the other employees to step up and help, and they will given half a chance.

Lesson 9:  Work in other departments from time to time.  If you think you’re too busy then ask yourself this:  What would happen if you got the flu and couldn’t work for a week?  Then answer whether you like it or not would be that the business would still be there when you return.  No business could go out of business in one weeks time unless it was already done to begin with.  So take a week and become a mechanic, a sales person, a web designer, whatever it may be.  But make the business stronger as a result.  You can’t imagine what this would do to the employees view of you and how much stronger relationship you will have with them.  Plus you might just learn a thing or two from them along the way.

Lesson 10: Never complain about other employees or the business.  If there are problems you can discuss them with a few of your closest friends but don’t go around complaining at work.  Also, don’t allow other employees to moan and groan while at work either.  This is the single most effective way to bring a business to its knees.  If there is a problem, sit people down and collectively decide how to handle it.  If its with a particular employee then sit them down and discuss the issues out loud.  Come up with a solution and if there is no solution then fall back to Lesson 8.  At the end of the day no one really cares about your problems, not even your mother.  People by nature like to hear other peoples problems so that they feel better about themselves, or they want to hear them so they have something to tell other people later on.  At the end of the day, complaining never solved the first problem.

I hope these 10 lessons help you in some way to get better control of your business and your operations.  I know it seems they ventured away from the topic but in reality all of these changes will aid in customer relationships and customer loyalty.  If you don’t believe me, give them a try and let me know how it turns out.