By Guest Blogger Michael Harrison
As a business development consultant I get to see a lot of business plans. Plans for start-ups, plans for revenue growth in the next 12 months and plans to take multi-million dollar companies to the next level of corporate expansion.
And all of these business plans have these long, elaborate mission statements – corporate values, definable objectives and predicted outcomes. So, when I meet with company owners about their current business plan, I start by asking a few questions to get a better feel for the corporate culture, either envisioned or in existence (and expanding).
Company management almost always throws out these lofty, lifted-from-the-industry-news goals, noble objectives and more biz-speak than I read in a week – and I read a lot of it. So once we’ve gone through an extensive discovery phase, I ask my most important question…
…why do you come to work in the morning?
I often get blank stares from long-time managers and friends. For one thing, it’s not biz-babble; it’s a straight-up question that gets to the essence of the mission of any business. Oh, indeed I’m interested in the client’s vision of the company mission. And I need to understand company objectives as clearly as the CEO to offer sound counsel. But, amazingly, even top-tier managers have a difficult time articulating why they come to work each morning. Though a few of the smart ones get it right off.
Once you cut through all of those objectives, best practices, rules and regulations – all required for the proper functioning of a well-run business – the bottom line is…well, the bottom line. We get up, slog our way through traffic, do our jobs and run our businesses because we have bills to pay, kids who need a university education and a monthly mortgage payment.
You can cut through the clutter and get straight to the point. We go to work to earn money to pay the bills to live a comfortable, decent life. Period. Everything else is predicated on meeting this one objective for the company owner and all of her managers, directors and employees. Don’t believe it?
Would you go to work everyday and toil away if you didn’t receive a paycheque? First, most of us couldn’t work for nothing. We need that regular income to maintain quality of life and second, even if we had the resources to work for nothing, most of us would find something more fun to do with those eight hours Monday through Friday.
The fundamental mission of any for-profit enterprise is to make a profit. Here’s the mission in a single sentence: your mission is to make a profit if it’s your business or your employer. Simple.
What’s not so simple is growing that bottom line. This is where strategy and tactics come into play. And all of these tactics are designed with a single goal: to meet the needs of your clients or customers. Do that and your bottom line grows.
Client care is essential to business growth. Happy clients or customers keep coming back and a stable client base is a goal of any business. I don’t care if your sell grommets or life insurance, your mission is to keep your clients happy. Here’s how.
1. Pay extra to have a human answer the telephone.
We live in an age of digital answering systems with menu options read in a mechanical monotone. Press 1 for billing. Press 2 for tech support. And so on. These automated devices have become the norm.
So imagine how pleasantly surprised your clients are when a human answers the phone and directs their call. This personal contact distinguishes your business from competitor grommet makers.
2. Design an easy-to-use web site.
Supplement your real-world contact with clients with a utile web site – not a hype heavy digital sales brochure but a site that enables the client to get information or transact business with a few key strokes.
Example? Physicians and medical professionals: create a web site that allows new patients to download in-take forms and test instructions. This’ll save time in the waiting room and help you keep your schedule. More importantly, it allows new patients to complete these forms at their leisure and with all of the required information close at hand.
3. Provide free advice.
Many new buyers have a lot of questions. Whether your company sells goods or services, advice should always be free. It builds good will and frames you as an authority. You become his insurance agent or her accountant. Give of your expertise freely. It’ll come back to you in the form of positive word of mouth (WOM) – the best advertising there is.
Your clients benefit, as well, from your unbiased authority. They rely on you, your industry insider POV and your understanding of their needs, preferences and objectives.
How? Add a chat or voicemail facility to your website.
4. Fix it.
Mistakes happen, especially in a busy office or warehouse. First, employ customer management software or CMS. This software does everything from track orders to notify you that it’s time for a goodwill call.
Make sure you have an easily-accessible complaint system. Empower your employees with the ability to fix it – whatever IT is. If a client or customer is unhappy, the way you handle the problem will determine: (1) whether that client remains a client and, (2) whether that client talks up your business to others, i.e. WOM.
5. Reach out.
Send holiday greetings. Remember birthdays. Deliver a newsletter, either by regular mail or as an email filled with solid, useful advice and light on the sales copy. Over-hype and you’ve placed your objectives ahead of your clients’ objectives – in this case, good advice, the latest update or a notice of a special sale coming up for existing customers only.
Again, by being pro-active, you create good will and keep your company name in front of your client base while clients are well-treated and well-served by your company. It’s this win-win approach to business growth that organically leads to success.
Some companies soar. Others crash and burn. I cannot think of a single instance in my career in which a company that placed client care above all else – companies that made customer satisfaction the core corporate value – crashed and burned.