This episode is about feeling as the customer or to ‘be the customer’. This is apparently very difficult for people, but we all know and have wonderful experiences as a customer. How come we can’t reverse it and feel so well by being the customer that’s in front of us or around us to have them have the feeling that they want to do business with us? At the end, I’m going to give a few examples of some good companies and one person as well. You can’t understand customer perception without actually thinking as if you are the customer, i.e. be the customer.
First, what do we do and how do we learn the technique, or better than a technique, the ability and the inner feeling to know what a customer feels like when they’re in our business or we’re talking to them? Yes, you can learn how to ‘be the customer’ and understand customer perception (listen to Customer Perception, not Yours ). First, practice. Listen intently to what every person you are with says, whether it be a customer, a businessperson, or even your family. Try to go beyond understanding what the person says. You don’t want to just understand them. You imagine that that person is using your product or service. Imagine what they’re feeling like when you’re talking to them or one of your salespeople, or one of your technicians, support people, whoever is talking to them. How do they feel? Can you do it so well that it can be the culture in even a large company, let alone a small one? Most people even as an individual can’t attain this, but there are companies that do it overall and make most everybody feel good. You feel good just belonging or participating at that establishment.
It is important to “Pick up on buying signals.” is a phrase frequently told to people. Forget the buying signals, unless you’re strictly in sales. Even then you don’t need buying signals if you can imagine or picture the customer with the product. How you’re making their experience so that even you would feel good inside if you were on that other side of that transaction. Just focus on over-satisfying your customer, helping them internalize the feelings of the product. At the same time, this has to last so you have to truly maintain absolute integrity. Then you are building true trust. When you attain true trust, you will not lose them either as a customer or referral. Now, this doesn’t come easy. I’m sure of that, I know that. But at the same time, you can do it, if you can practice it. Practice it just by how you interact with other people in the supermarket, in line someplace, whatever you’re doing. Are the people around you positively influenced by how you act and what you do? That actually is great practice for how you treat your own customers and how you build your own company.
Any Size Company Can Develop the Culture to ‘Be the Customer’
Companies often have cultures that are taught, and they hire based on that culture so that the culture is trainable and they hire the people who are trainable. That is right, trainable people with the right heart. One of the examples is Starbucks. Take a look at the way Starbucks’ employees act and their training. They only hire people that have that very strong sense of belonging and that want to make the person on the other side of the counter smile. What do they do? They also treat their employees that way. Every one of their employees has all kinds of benefits, etc.
Alaska Airlines. This is a great example, and I’ve used it before but it’s a great example in this case because you can use the comparison. How and why do the employees at Alaska Airlines, the flight attendants, the pilot, co-pilot, everybody, the ticket agents – why are they so nice? I have to say I’ve only had one person ever that I’ve ever run into that was less than wonderful connected with Alaska Airlines.
At the same time, other airlines you go in there, you’re flying in them and what happens? The flight attendants, you’ll hear them or overhear them or they might even tell you how horribly they’re treated, how they don’t get this or they don’t get that, etc. Quite frankly, I don’t care. I paid a lot of money that’s paying their salary and that’s not my problem. If they have an argument with their company or their airline, go back and complain to them. Don’t complain to the customers. The airlines have to realize they’re probably hiring the wrong people. The people that I meet at Alaska, they don’t have outlandish expectations about their work, but they’re treated extremely well and they always talk about the fact that they’re treated extremely well. Very, very different, but you don’t have to be in a big company to do that; you can do it as an individual.
How many real estate agents have you run into? I have run into many and they’re always looking for how to close the sale, get it over with, get to the next one. You almost feel as a customer as if you truly are being sold. I had one, I’ll mention her name, Carmen Barr, RE/MAX agent she’s in Seattle-Sammamish area, and she was so good. I mean doing things that you would never expect. She helped me with my packing. Should she have had that time? No. There’s no way she should have had all the time she helped me out with, but she knew I was alone there packing a 3500-square foot home and I was also on a tight deadline because the other people wanted to move in fairly quickly. So she went way beyond what you’d ever expect, ran around and did some things, ran errands. Far beyond. She made sure that the house was well taken care of and staged very, very well. But what happened?
She was constantly concerned about me. Now you’d say: “Oh yeah, but I’m so busy.” Wait a minute. This lady in this upscale area got 85% of all the listings. There were a lot of agents that lived in the area. One lived next door and another one down the street, but even though I knew them I picked her. Why? Because I heard of her reputation, and she far exceeded my expectations. I touted her every place I went. That’s where you build your business. Yet, she never knew that I would be doing something like this and mention her, and I moved to the other side of the country so she shouldn’t expect any contact from me or compliments. No, she was thinking of me, not of what she needed to do!
Another one, REI. At REI that outdoor place in Washington and now it’s all over the country pretty much, it’s wonderful the way they treat people when you walk in. No pressure, nothing. “Can I help you?” etc. They walk away if you don’t need anything. Fine, they don’t pressure you, they don’t try to help you buy something. They basically just show you, give you the advantages, and they’ll talk positively or negatively about any product, that is: They’ll be honest.
Costco, as big as it is, this is a warehouse store – incredible service. Take a look at how those different people treat you, whether it be in the main store, at the counter, whatever it is. They’re always trying to be nice, they always seem to be helpful, and there’s no question on returns. Were they taught how to ‘be the customer?’ It is absolutely incredible that when I reluctantly bring something back from Costco that I almost feel guilty sometimes. Regardless, there never is a question. They might ask: “Where’s the manual?” or something like that, but that’s just something you’re supposed to return all the pieces for, and it turns out that sometimes the manual is on a CD or something. But they always make you feel good, even on returns.
Some Companies have an Example Nearby and Can’t Develop the Culture
Big example, two big companies: Apple versus Microsoft. I dare you to go into an Apple Store in a mall and a Microsoft Store in a mall and compare the difference. As soon as you walk into the Apple Store: “Can I help you?” If you don’t need any help, you’re just going over to something: “Let me know if you need something.” It’s very, very cordial. There are lots of people there. I wonder if Microsoft wonders to itself: “How come the Apple Store is so busy and we’re so empty?”
Every mall I go to that seems to be the case. It might be different near them or something, but even in Bellevue Square right in Microsoft’s hometown area, the Apple Store is crowded and the Microsoft Store is pretty well empty. The Microsoft Store could attract people so much more with so many enticing products, but are their employees trained and incentivized. Do they somehow understand what their job is? Why are they there? How should they be treating and making the customer or the potential customer feel comfortable? There’s something missing, but it’s very, very clear. There’s two very, very strong examples of major companies that are competitors with an obvious difference.
It’s not easy, but the Benefits are Great
What is apparent is: Direct your conversation towards the customer or prospect’s goals, not your own. What you do and what you want is unimportant. What is important is the person on the other side. Respond with relevant advice and only relevant advice or counsel. This is an extra bit of bonus, because this will not only create a better reputation for your business and yourself, and it adds a trust factor. As a matter of fact if you’re married it will make your marriage a whole lot better. If you’re not married, you will be much more attractive to someone who would be a great partner.