The Golden Rule instructs us to treat other people in the ways we’d like to be treated.
But that assumes everyone else would have to want exactly what we want, doesn’t it?
Personally, I love a good discussion. I enjoy the differences in perception that bring people to different conclusions. I have a friend who considers this arguing, and finds it offensive. She prefers for everyone to “get along” and say only positive, reaffirming statements, or to say nothing.
So, if I treat her as I’d like to be treated, challenging her conclusions, she would likely consider that to be a most unfriendly thing to do.
The Golden Rule has a variant in business called Exceed Customer Expectations.
Unfortunately too many small businesses try to exceed expectations in ways that are easy for the business. Just because its convenient for the business owner, (or better yet, cheap) doesn’t mean your customer will think kindly of your effort.
Exceeding Customer Expectations doesn’t count if its not something your customers want.
When your customer picks up his order, will he really appreciate the laminated wallet sized 2007 calendar with your business name on it? Yes, you got a great price. Yes, people need calendars. No, this doesn’t count as Exceeding Customer Expectations.
How could you treat customers in ways that are easy, meaningful, and convenient for them?
Ask. Then listen to their answers.
That’s why Enterprise Rent A Car brings the car to you. They understand that when you need a car you probably also need a ride to get to the rental place. Avis, Alamo, or Hertz could have just as easily come up with this benefit if they had been talking to their customers.
Why do you suppose Washington Mutual doesn’t charge for WaMu checking accounts? Trust me, they’re more than making up for the loss of those small fees by using the float on all of the cash deposited in all of the new accounts opened by people who like no fee checking.
So here’s my recommendation: ask one simple question to your customers. “What do you hate about (my business category)?” Not “What do you hate about ABC Printing,” but “What do you hate about printers?”
When people tell you they hate that print shops are notoriously late delivering printing, you know exactly how to Exceed Customer Expectations in a way that’s easy, meaningful, and convenient for your customers.
Imagine the reputation you’d create by always delivering your customers’ printing a day or two early.
Listen to your customers.
Anticipate their desires. Provide personal, added value service. And watch them move more business to you as they grow to trust you with all of it.