How many times have you walked into a restaurant with plenty of free tables, only to have wait while a waiter busily cleared the dishes left behind by departed diners from another table? How many times have you gone up to a check-out counter ready to make a purchase and stood unhelped by a salesperson who was engrossed in reshelving inventory that others had not chosen to take home? How many times have you watched someone field a personal phone call instead of reaching out to a customer in her midst? Undoubtedly, the answer is countless. Why? Because many business owners have either never understood or somehow forgotten, the importance of putting the customer first. I have found that keeping this one idea--that of framing everything my company does in terms of the customer's needs--at the heart of my business strategy has netted growth at every stage of my business. Here are some simple ways I do so.
Ask employees to handle customers before inventory. Regardless of how messy your shelves may look, how many tables are left uncleared, or how many items need to be restocked, all of those issues will be there long after your customer is gone. Help your customer first, and put every other task behind him in line. You don't want to let your customer walk out the door empty-handed because you're engaged in something other than seeing to his needs. You have his attention for as long as he is willing to give it to you, and that depends entirely on how important, valuable, and significant you make him feel.
Instruct staff that, when on the clock, their personal lives take a backseat to the customer's experience. People seem to blur the lines of personal and professional more and more every day, and when they get caught up in their own interests, they forget everything else around them. Ask employees to put away their phones, table intra-staff conflicts, and silence any unnecessary chatter when customers are within eyesight and earshot. A customer should never be made to feel like a burden, an interruption, or downright uncomfortable when he is visiting your company and considering buying something.
Prioritize a customer who is ready to purchase over everything else. Deciding to purchase is a very emotional experience. It's when a customer feels most vulnerable because he is about to hand over his money and he wants to know he is giving it to a company that deserves it. Take him in hand quickly, so he feels reassured that he is making the right decision. Whether this means accompanying him to the point of purchase, showing you are ready to take his order immediately, or just asking if he needs help, the important thing is to be alert, attentive, and accommodating.
Customers are precious. They walk through our doors fleetingly, unless we are prepared for their arrival, forthcoming with our help, and devoted to their needs. It is only by peaking their interest, earning their support, and winning their business that we can grow.