By Jason B. Montanez
It’s a no brainer that GROWTH is the key to any business. The growth that I’m referring to is true growth not just top-line revenue growth that looks good on a spreadsheet or a power point for a quarterly review. So the question is, “In this ever-changing and competitive environment that we call today’s business climate, how do small businesses achieve this growth?” I’m referring to the businesses with no multimillion dollar marketing campaigns, no multimillion dollar partnership deals, and do not have the brand recognition of Fortune 100 companies.
Small businesses must do something that big businesses struggle to do and that is to focus on the fundamentals. Small businesses must have a laser-like focus on the intricate details of the core of business and that is the customer. The customer has been and will always be the cornerstone of business. Customers are not numbers and must be cared for individually because that is what they are, individuals. Sure, general processes and procedures may be in place to provide a guide on how to care for customers. However, each customer interaction is unique and should be treated as such.
When I refer to the customer, I’m talking about both internal and external customers. The equation is simple. Ensure that there is leadership in place that motivates, inspires, empowers, and develops the internal customers (employees) that have everyday interactions (by phone or face to face) with clients so that the external customers can be properly cared for. The leadership must exemplify the way to properly care for the customer by caring for their employees. It is my contention that the employees that are cared for will naturally know how to care for the customer because they have been cared for so well by their leadership.
So, how does a leader care for his/her subordinates? They associate, adapt, empathize, are there for their employees when they need them, and show concern for the things that matter to their employees as long as they are in line with the code of conduct and do not compromise integrity. In a nutshell, quality leadership listens. They listen more than they speak. I equate this to a nurse taking one’s pulse at a medical visit; listening is critical to getting an accurate assessment. They ask key questions to uncover any ill feelings and make it a priority to ensure that the primary focus is always on the customer.
Unfortunately, it does not take much to exceed customer expectations nowadays. At times, I find myself expecting mediocre service at best where I would just be satisfied and when treated like I am supposed to be treated (as if my time and money are valued), I feel the service was great when in actuality, I was served the way I ought to be served. After all, I did patronize that location, spent my hard earned money, and chose them over their competitors because I could have easily gone elsewhere. That said, I offer a couple of golden nuggets. Consistently Acknowledge and Resolve Efficiently (CARE) is an acronym that I developed to simplify the customer care dilemma that so many organizations face. People want service that is consistent; they want to be acknowledged (feel important); they want any issues resolved; and they want it done in a timely manner which exemplifies that you value their time. It’s just that simple.
Lastly, there are four aspects that have to accompany the CARE philosophy to realize true growth in a disciplined environment:
- Answer the phone when the phone rings (be there when clients need you).
- Do what you said you were going to do (set proper expectations and keep your word).
- Resolve any issues with the same vigor as if it were your problem (have a sense of urgency).
- Treat every interaction as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship.
Focusing on the fundamentals of customer care will catapult small businesses into big business results.