Good Customers are Made, Not Born

I had an eye-opening meeting a couple weeks ago.  My wife and I, concerned about some recent changes in the wake of a leadership shake-up at our children’s daycare, sat down with the center manager and corporate district manager to clear the air and get some answers.

We got answers, but not the ones we were expecting. Our main complaints dealt with communication: we didn’t feel we were being adequately informed about the curriculum and classroom activities; we were frustrated that we weren’t receiving advance notice of upcoming events that required our planning and participation; we weren’t getting opportunities to sit down with teachers and discuss our children’s behavior and progress.

So we wanted to know: how do we fix this?

They looked pretty surprised. They didn’t realize it was a problem. Because…

Every classroom has an activity wall with all of that information on it! Curriculum, events, sign-up times for teacher meetings. But we never saw the wall because we were too busy juggling our kids and their belongings to notice. And no one ever told us about the wall — the teachers figured management would tell us, and management figured the teachers would tell us.

Whoops.

Like I said, eye-opening. We consider ourselves to be fairly involved parents. We read the daily status updates from teachers, regularly chat (informally) with teachers and staff, leave feedback for the center through online surveys, all that stuff. But this just slipped through the cracks.

It made me realize what was really missing from the center: a set of instructions on how to be a good customer.

Most businesses are leery of giving their customers instructions. After all, the reasoning goes, the customer is always right, so it’s our job to adapt to their needs. But in reality that’s almost impossible, especially if you serve a diverse set of customers with varying needs.

So let your customers know what you need from them. Maybe it’s a simple sign, like this one I saw at a gas station in Huntsville, Alabama during a recent road trip:

customer-instructions

Or maybe it’s more substantial, like this set of patient responsibilities from a local Baptist Hospital patient handbook:

patient-responsibility

Whatever you do, odds are you can do it better if your customers come into the relationship prepared, informed, and ready to meet you halfway.

Are you doing enough to make that happen?

2 Comments

  1. KLZ

    My husband always says the best business model is Starbucks, where the EMPLOYEE is empowered to make the decisions they feel are right. Happy employee = happy customer.

    Which makes the customer FEEL right.

    Reply
    • Tom

      Hard to argue with that! I think most companies understand that concept, but few really take it to heart. Starbucks is a good example of a company that does employee empowerment well.

      Reply

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  1. Customer Education | Guest post at Eli Rose Social Media | The Common Uncommonly - [...] over at Eli Rose Social Media today talking about customer education.  Gas stations and hospitals do it… so should…

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