The skeleton key to success

In my latest book of over 440 tips on ecommerce , I give plenty of advice on looking after customers. One reviewer even thought that I devoted too much space to the topic but I’m happy to plead guilty. And I make no apology for devoting this column to the subject.

Hospital blues
A friend of mine was giving his young and enthusiastic grand-daughter a lift to the hospital just a couple of weeks into her first nursing placement. During the car journey she started on a long tirade about a particular patient and his wife. The problem was that the wife kept complaining.

Here was the scary thing, the wife obviously was worried about her partner. She cared, and was trying to protect her husband, but there was no empathy for this. It had only taken a few weeks for the bad attitudes of the experienced staff to be transmitted to the latest recruit.

In contrast, during one summer holiday my wife got a job as an auxiliary nurse. The ward sister noticed that one patient was upset and my wife was given the job of simply sitting with them, being a friend and comforting them. What a contrast to the previous story.

The recent scandals in the NHS, which appear to have resulted in hundreds if not thousands of unnecessary deaths, have been truly shocking. They are also inexplicable until you realise how corrosive a wrong culture can be. I’m not an expert, but it seems like parts of the NHS have lost sight of the fact that they are there to serve patients. In the same way a business can quickly lose sight of its role with customers.

If you don’t care, why should they?
Do you care about your customer service? If you don’t then you will find it hard to do the right thing, and you will find that most of your staff will follow your example. If you couldn’t care less about your customers, I will guarantee that they won’t care less about you. Except of course when something goes wrong and they start complaining about your company.

It’s to avoid this that you need to go the extra mile and try to ensure your customers are grateful. Gratitude is a good emotion.

The skeleton key
I’m on the board of a FTSE 100 company that prides itself on customer service, recognising it is key to prosperity. It’s the only FTSE 100 company that has got there in the founders’ lifetimes entirely by organic growth. It’s the market leader and still the fastest growing in its space. On top of that, it enjoys the biggest profit margin.

It’s not a coincidence; outstanding customer service is the route to business success in general and online success in particular, where the ability to damage your reputation is just one click away from every unhappy customer.


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Chris Barling

Chris Barling co-founded ecommerce software supplier, SellerDeck (formerly Actinic Software) in 1996. He has over 30 years’ experience at the corporate end of the IT industry. He is a prolific writer for a large range of small business media and has also published three books on ecommerce.
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Chris Barling co-founded ecommerce software supplier, SellerDeck (formerly Actinic Software) in 1996. He has over 30 years’ experience at the corporate end of the IT industry. He is a prolific writer for a large range of small business media and has also published three books on ecommerce.