Love Your Customers
Over the years I've had the opportunity to work for a number of very successful service-focused companies. While the reasons for their success are many, I can't help but think that the foundation of their success is directly related to their focus on customer service.
It all starts with recognizing who the customer is. Entrepreneurs often create products and services to satisfy their own need to be an entrepreneur, and will make something, for all intents and purposes, for themselves. They start a brewery because they are passionate about beer, or they open a restaurant because they can't stop thinking about food. These motivations are both honest and good, but at some point one needs to recognize that by signing up to become a business owner, there's a whole part of the equation that determines, almost entirely, the success or failure of a business. Enter the customer.
Okay, so it's an obvious concept. We need customers to survive. They pay our bills and allow us to do what we love, but is it really that simple? Are we off to the races by simply acknowledging that customer service exists? I would argue no.
While every business owner has some concept of customer service, which is often based on their own experiences, the very best and most successful businesses consider the customer every step of the way.
One example of this is something
I learned at Starbucks in Vancouver over 20 years ago. I’m not sure if they still live by this today, but when I was there we were instructed to let customers through the doors as early as 10 minutes before opening. Initially, it used to drive me nuts. We were busting our asses off to get ready and here we were expected to let people in early. To me this was arduous and annoying, but over time I stopped thinking selfishly and began considering the customer. By letting customers in 10 minutes early, I was making them feel welcome. I was no longer the asshole behind the door making them wait just because. I began to care. I began to see them as human, with feelings, expectations and flaws, but always human and always important to me. This changed everything.
This revelation has led to many personal successes, and I have to say that when the table is turned it always feels great to be treated this way. I also notice immediately when someone has not had this revelation, and I can't help but think they'd find better success if they did.