Plant a customer tree and watch it grow
By Dick Olenych, Inside Business - Hampton Roads - 4/20/2009
TI’ve just come up with a new barometer for small businesses to gauge their effectiveness. It really wasn’t so much a brainstorm or a flash of quantum insight. I simply tripped over the root of a novel idea.
I guess a mammoth business can use it, but I really don’t think that it will work as well with them. I think big business would struggle with it. It would be like trying to get your arms around a sequoia. I’m not being partial; I just think it will work better for little shrubs like me.
But before I give away the next “Drucker” secret, let me ask this simple question: What attracts customers to a local small business? The fact that you can talk to someone in person? Maybe. Could it be a deep desire to support the community tax base by keeping money local? Possibly, but I don’t think so. Don’t get me wrong; I like it, but I think we’re barking up the wrong tree on that one.
Let me tell you what I think it is. It’s all about customer service. There is nothing more important. And it is something that every – and I mean every – small business must excel at. There is no room for second-best when it comes to customer service. It is the crux of how we survive.
Most of us small businesses don’t have an expensive CRM (customer relationship management program). And that could be a good thing.
When I was at a large corporation, we spent $68 million on our back-office and CRM program. It got real convoluted and real expensive, real fast. I left shortly after that fiasco. Two years later the company’s stock had dropped by 95 percent and they were bleeding customers faster than they could patch their software solution.
I hate to admit it to the world, but my printing company doesn’t have $68 mil just hanging around. Times are a bit tight and I’m a little shy of that number this month, but if someone wants to float me some green for a full-blown Oracle implementation, that would be great. We can talk about the details later.
In the meantime I’m going to worry about my customer tree.
All I’m talking about is a simple tree. It’s a tree just like your family tree, but it’s your customer lineage. It will help track who is responsible for whom. Where have your customers come from? Are they customers from customers? Or maybe they are third-generation customers?
Can that really happen today? That a company’s reputation continues to grow and flourish through layer after layer of satisfied customers? Can a company really have great, great grand customers?
Yes, it can. I know CRM programs can tell you when and what you said to a customer yesterday all the way through yesteryear. That’s fantastic. It’s really good stuff. But it leaves a lot to be desired.
What most customers really want is sincerity and the warmth of a sunny smile. They want you to make them feel special. They want to wear the crown, to be the king or queen, even if it’s just for a minute.
If you don’t have a customer tree, then you might as well prune your ambition for success. We’re in the midst of some pretty fierce storms and only the heartiest species will survive. Plant a customer tree and watch it grow. When it’s in full bloom, it will stun you with its beauty. And it bears fruit that is sweeter than any honey.
Dick Olenych is the president of Spectrum Printing and the author of the business book Joe Sails. He is a member of the Virginia Chapter of the National Speakers Association. He can be reached at email@example.com.