It’s ironic. Focusing on customers, as vital as they are to business success, can be lost in our quest for growth and high performance. It’s all too easy to focus on how we can get more customers, rather than what needs to be done to completely WOW the customers we have.

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, once said, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts.” Wait a minute. Doesn’t Amazon sell books (and nearly everything else) online? He’s not hosting parties.

We all should be thinking and acting like we’ve invited our customers to a party. And we should figure out how we can make their experience at our party the best they’ve ever had.  How?

Hire the right people. Every employee (not just those in customer service roles) must be passionate about customers and in business to serve the greater good. You can’t train a person who is driven by self-promotion to put customers first.

Think like your customer. Understand their reality – the challenges, opportunities, facts and figures they are dealing with and their mindsets, personalities and aspirations. Make sure all employees know about the customer’s world and how they can make it better.

Give the customer more than they ask for. Unexpected, above-and-beyond service and follow-up will be remembered and talked about with others. A customer recounted her experience when Zappos (an online shoe retailer) didn’t have the boots she wanted. The sales representative searched other online companies to find the boots for her, emailed her the link to the competitor’s site and gave the customer a $25 credit toward a future Zappos purchase. No wonder Zappos has such a loyal following.

Let your people please the customer. Make it easier by eliminating the rules and regulations that can bind an employee to standard procedures. (For example, Ritz Carlton hotels empower employees to spend money to fix customer problems on the spot. Zappos obviously does the same.) Give employees boundaries, but not rigid constraints. Reward them for customer-centric action that exceeds expectations.

Fess up when you make a mistake. Don’t try to hide mistakes or gloss over them. Own them, make amends and fix the problem. You may find that the way you handle errors will actually strengthen your customer’s loyalty to you.

Customer connections are not the result of a series of activities. They are built over time and are dependent upon the mindset and commitment within your organization. For more best practices, check out 1to1 Magazine, one of our favorite resources on managing customer relationships.

Have a question or want some input from Humanergy about this topic? Contact us and we’ll get right back to you!