By: Brad Thomas
Great product? Check. Pricing strategy? Check. Expense control? Check. Understanding of codes, laws and regulations? Check. Guaranteed success? Maybe not!!! Even with the best of plans and resources, business success is tough unless the organization has a plan, backed by a sincere desire, to build real and lasting relationships with the customer.
Explore the history of any successful customer-dependent business, and chances are a founder or key contributor has a drive, a passion, a pursuit to provide a quality product/service to the customer. Not only do they want to please the customer; they also have a passion for serving the customer well.
Throughout the Ozarks, such success stories abound. Countless local business people know that caring for the customer is good for their business. In addition, the culture of the Ozarks highlights another important factor: taking good care of the customer because it is the right thing to do!
Are there businesses based solely on entrepreneurial drive or business objectives? Yes, of course. However, the survival rate of any business is directly linked to the level of the organization’s passion, appreciation and respect for their customers. The deeper those roots, the more real and sincere relationship the organization can have with their customers.
Customer-centric principles are now more critical than ever. In the past, retail/service choices within a community may have been few; but, today’s customers have far more choices regarding where they can spend their money. Social media and the internet have allowed local, regional and national businesses to gain access to new customers at a level never before possible. Disappointed customers now aggressively seek out alternatives.
Businesses offering “best in class” customer service typically have the following common principles within their culture:
- THRIVING PASSION to provide the customer with a QUALITY product or service.
- EMPLOYEES who genuinely care about the customer and show appreciation to the customer.
- EMPOWERED CULTURE that quickly works to remedy any quality issues.
- FOCUSED UNDERSTANDING of why customers love the core product/service.
- WILLINGNESS TO ADAPT to the customer’s EVER-CHANGING NEEDS, WANTS and EXPECTATIONS while never forgetting #4 above!!!!
Following are a few examples of customer-focused words:
Chick-fil-A (corporate purpose): “… to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-Fil-A.”
Bass Pro Shops: (mission) “… inspiring people to live, enjoy and conserve the great outdoors”.
Silver Dollar City/Herschend Family Entertainment: “Create memories worth repeating.” (Core values): “We greatly exceed guest’s expectations”, “We serve others”, “We create emotional connections” and “We constantly improve”.
Most important for successful customer-focused organizations, the principles are evident through the behavior of men and women of all organizational levels with customer-focused behavior evident every minute of every day. Businesses can audit their passion for the customer by asking: “Who is the champion for our customer”? “Who REALLY cares if we disappoint a customer?” Customer-driven organizations consistently strive to answer “everyone”.
Now take that passion for the customer and a quality product and a solid business/marketing plan. Even in today’s challenging competitive environment, such a business has a much greater chance to not only succeed but to thrive.
Brad Thomas is general manager and senior vice president of Silver Dollar City. He earned his bachelor’s degree (cum laude) and MBA from Missouri State University. He is a 2005 graduate of Leadership Missouri and currently chairs the Board of Directors of Leadership Missouri Alumni Association. He has earned the Certified Festival and Event Executive designation from the International Festivals and Events Association.
This article appeared in the May 13, 2017 edition of the News-Leader and can be accessed online here.