Rule #1?

by Chip Thomas

We've all heard or read: Rule Number One: "Take care of the customer or someone else will." Is this, in fact, rule number one? I don't think so - Rule Number One should be: TAKE CARE OF YOUR INTERNAL CUSTOMER - YOUR EMPLOYEE - OR SOMEONE ELSE WILL. Then and only then will Rule Number 1A ("Take care of the customer or someone else will") apply. It's quite simple. Human nature dictates that one will treat others the way they are treated. If you are a business owner or manager, stop and consider this: Who has the most contact with your customer? Is it you? OF COURSE NOT - It's your frontline personnel - the salesperson, the service advisor, the counter-person, the cashier, and the switchboard operator. Come on, let's get with the program and focus on these individuals - THEY ARE "THE STRONGEST LINK" in your chain of customer reaction and satisfaction. Sam Walton once said: "If you want people in the stores to take care of the customers, you have to make sure you're taking care of the people in the stores. That's the most important single ingredient of Wal-Mart's success."

It's a known fact that in order to develop a customer that comes back again and again, we must exceed their expectations. We must do things for them that they do not expect. This enacts "loyalty." Likewise, if our goal is to have "loyal" employees, we should constantly look for ways to exceed their expectations. NADA research indicates that it costs an automobile dealer $8,000 to lose one salesperson that's been with them six months to two years and $30,000 to lose one that's been there several years. The average salesperson now lasts only ten months at a particular store - a top performer makes it five years before exiting, probably as a result of burnout. We must be smarter at recruiting, training, and retaining our personnel.

OK, business is good, profits are in line, return on investment is satisfactory - so the tendency is to be content with these results and ignore the analysis that is necessary to improve. You see, things don't stay the same - You're either improving or regressing, moving forward or falling behind. Good product, good location, good facility, good reputation are all for naught without one key ingredient: GOOD PEOPLE - better find 'em, and better yet, keep 'em, because as time goes on, the competition will stiffen and stiffen - ONLY YOUR PEOPLE WILL SEPARATE YOU FROM THE REST as we move further and further into the 21st century.