Every business owner wants happy customers, right? Actually, Barry Moltz, a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, and author of You Need to Be a Little Crazy: The Truth About Starting and Growing Your Business and Bounce! Failure, Resiliency, and Confidence to Achieve Your Next Great Success, advises us to stop pursuing the impossible dream of trying to make our customers happy. Instead, we need to leave them satisfied.
In his upcoming book, BAM!! Busting the Myths of Customer Service, scheduled for release this fall and written with Mary Jane Grinstead, Moltz explains how to create and solidify relationships with your customers.
Rieva Lesonsky: Entrepreneurs spend a lot of time worrying about keeping their customers happy. Is that a worthy goal?
Barry Moltz: There is a lot of lip service paid to keeping customers happy, but I’m not sure that everyone in business is actually worried about keeping their customers happy. If that were true, we wouldn’t all have so many bad experiences as customers. You want your customers to be happy, but setting the goal of keeping them happy isn’t the right goal because it isn’t achievable. And nothing ever gets accomplished by setting unachievable goals.
Lesonsky: Why is “happy” unachievable?
Moltz: Because every customer is an individual and their interaction with you isn’t the only thing going on in their lives at any given moment in time. Sometimes they are going to be happy or sad because of — or in spite of — what you or employees do. The right goal is to build a mutually beneficial relationship with your customers. In [my upcoming] book, we suggest creating a Customer Manifesto, a public declaration of your intention that every exchange between your business and a customer will be done in a fair and mutually satisfying way.
Lesonsky: So, we want satisfied customers rather than happy ones? And what’s the difference between them?
Moltz: It isn’t an either/or. Not to go all touchy-feely on you, but happy and satisfied are both feelings, and they are feelings that you want your customers to have. However, of the two, creating a relationship that makes customers feel satisfied is more enduring. Happy is an in-the-moment feeling, while satisfaction is built up over time. The appropriate goal of business is to deliver the products and services that continually layer onto that satisfied feeling in customers, so that they return and remain customers for as long as they have a use for what the business sells or provides.
Lesonsky: What are three smart ways business owners can satisfy their customers and clients?
Moltz: Treat customers with respect and dignity at all times. This means listening attentively when they [have a problem] and doing your best to understand their point of view. It means speaking in a calm tone without an expression of frustration, disbelief, or disgust and not saying one thing to a customer’s face and another thing when we hang up the phone. It also means telling customers openly and honestly when we disagree and why.
Do what you say you will. From the performance of your products and services to keeping your word in small details of follow up, keep the commitments you make, whether they are explicit or implicit.
As soon as you realize you have made a mistake, acknowledge it without being defensive. Then ask the customer what they would like you to do to compensate and make them satisfied.
You only asked for three, but a fourth is to train every employee to do the first three until it is like breathing. The first step of that training is to teach by your own example, both in actions and words.
Lesonsky: Why do you think most people don’t make the distinction between happy customers and satisfied ones?
Moltz: It’s easy. When you are dealing with a customer service issue, happiness is a fleeting emotion. It is tactical. It is a lot harder for a company to think strategically about how satisfying customers fits into their long-term economic goals. But, it is easier to set and meet the expectations and standards of quality, service, responsiveness that create an ongoing feeling of satisfaction. Trying to ensure that a customer is happy is like trying to put the feathers back on a bird.
Lesonsky: Can you convert a customer who is “momentarily happy” to “satisfied”?
Moltz: I might turn this [question] around and say that a customer who is unhappy with a particular situation can still feel satisfied with a company overall. I’m not sure that a customer who feels dissatisfied from something you have or haven’t done can ever feel happy with you.
In our new book we teach a process of “Action and Attitude” to make a customer feel more satisfied. Actions are the things you do; for example, listening, giving speedy and appropriate refunds, keeping promises. Attitudes are the approach, mindset, or outlook (thoughtful, respectful, friendly) that you have while you are taking the appropriate action.
Visit Barry Moltz online at his Web site www.barymoltz.com.
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