The question you hear at every industry event, “Where did the customers go?,” has not been answered, yet our industry is infatuated with attracting new ones through social media. Don’t you have to wonder if the new ones you might find won’t stick around either? The first rule of building a customer base is to protect and preserve the ones you have, and this applies to new customers, too.
It’s going to take more to get customers to believe we want them to come back than a friendly Tweet or Facebook post. God and man now know that coupons and loyalty programs haven’t done the trick. And if you’re all excited and pinning your hopes on the ability of Pinterest to attract customers, you might want to see what happens once they’ve experienced being your customer.
Yes, engaging the customer is everything. But I’d have to say that the type of engagement is what we need to address.
Cracking The Culture Code
A culture that nurtures its customers is subject to the weakest link, or the person of greatest exposure. Often, the people who receive the least amount of indoctrination into the company culture are the ones encountering the greatest number of customers. The exposure of your customers to front-line associates is so great, it is almost impossible to conceive that something wrong could not possibly happen.
Every company has an overall culture. When you peel back the layers, you’ll find subcultures you were unaware of.
• The culture without the owner is often markedly different in trust and tone, sometimes laced with cynicism. What’s said in the break room or at Happy Hour is the litmus test.
• The culture without the customer may have a different tone, possibly lacking respect or being suspicious of their ability to buy.
The culture the customer sees in the cracks and in plain daylight as they drive by, walk through or use the bathroom are not just employee tasks. Everything a customer encounters that is affected by the performance of an associate in the company can contribute to or eliminate the feeling of indifference.
Neglecting to align the purpose of your company to the people within the company is a crime of omission, leading directly to feelings of indifference. So how do you guard against that?
Simple, clear communication:
• We expect our customers to be treated with absolute respect.
• We expect associates to treat each other with courtesy, understanding and fairness, and we will not tolerate anything less than mutual respect for each other.
Keep an active eye to detect deviation and then vigilantly deal with this. It is the only way the culture will be consistent.
There is a tendency over time for a group of associates to become so familiar with each other and the status quo of the workplace that new associates and new customers are treated as outsiders. Care must be given to listening for new ideas concerning improvement (not just new ideas) and embracing skills and experience of others. In absence of this expectation, there are invisible and almost impenetrable walls to communication and acceptance.
One of the most overlooked influences on creating cultural improvement is learning. It is not so much a matter of the lack of learning, but of the kind of learning that makes a productive difference. Learning for the sake of learning is an exercise in futility. Learning from failure, otherwise known as “The school of hard knocks,” while respected, should not be the only learning that is done. Focus the learning toward gaining knowledge of both how to and how not to do something in order to advance in specifically identified areas. This will advance the right causes much more quickly. For example, learning the “why” and a little of the “how” to develop positive culture is the focus of reading of this article.
Creating A Captivating Culture
This is where creating culture can become a strategic and tactical advantage for a company. The focus of culture should, at minimum, be to create a positive environment where customers and associates are encountered, embraced, understood and appreciated. Taking this up a few notches is the key to creating a captivating culture where the same customers and associates become loyal and vigilant protectors of the culture. They recognize that it is special and desire not only to participate but to share it with others.