How important is your customer to you?
Being able to create a customer is great but retaining the customer is more important! Treat your customers right because your customers are important if you view them for their lifetime purchasing power. Stanley Marcus’s father, the founder of Neiman-Marcus, gave Stanley some valuable advice early in his career. It was advice that later helped build Neiman-Marcus into a first-class store. A woman ruined a dress she had worn just once and wanted her money back. His father told him to give the woman her money back, and Stanley argued that they shouldn’t do it since the woman had obviously abused the dress. Stanley continued to press his point since the manufacturer wasn’t going to help pay for it. His father reminded him that the woman wasn’t doing business with the manufacturer; she was doing business with Neiman’s. His father told him that it didn’t matter if it cost $200 to get a customer, and he didn’t want to lose her over a $175 dress. He also told Stanley to refund the money with a smile. During the years, the woman spent over $500,000 at Neiman-Marcus. This is an old story and it works in the context of honest customers. And then of course the department store in this case caters to the very upscale market. The point however is that every effort should be made to not just create customer satisfaction but to create customer loyalty.
A grocery store clerk, tired of his job, quit to become a traffic policeman. After a few days, a friend asked him how he liked his new job. He said, “The pay and hours aren’t too good, but at least the customer is always wrong.” Of course the customer is not always right all the time but it is not our job to prove them wrong, it is your job and mine to serve our customers well. When it comes to investments you listen to the advice of Warren Buffet. When it comes to retail you listen to Walmart founder Sam Walton. The late Sam Walton many years ago said something that still rings strong and true today. He says: “The customer is our employer. There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money some- where else.”
More than 1,200 people attended the seminar I gave entitled “Developing Culture of Personal Excellence held in SMX Convention Center last March 3. I touched briefly on excellent customer service and featured an exceptional person who personifies this. Now let me tell you his story. As I was training a lot of bank executives on customer service, this 46-year-old security guard’s name keeps popping up. I got curious. I probed. Edduardo Boy Fleras has been given so many commendations he has lost count. He’s been interviewed by students, filmed by jocks and his interviews have been posted in You Tube. Eddie Boy Fleras is your friendly neighborhood security guard assigned to McDonald’s El Pueblo and he is the perfect example of someone who knows how to extend excellent customer service. I asked company boss Ken Young for permission, he said yes. I visited the branch but Mr. Fleras was on leave but I got his number and interviewed him. Fleras says he loves his job. His most important duty is to provide safety for the customers as well as for the company’s properties but would not hesitate to get water for weary customers, help clean tables and do anything and everything in order to provide a good service experience everyone who enters the restaurant. I asked him a simple question: “But why are you doing this when you don’t have to?” Fleras thought for a while and then said, “Serving people from the heart makes me happy. I want people to trust me and even though I work 12 hours every day I go home happy.” Talk about job descriptions it is apparent that Fleras do not believe in it. After a couple more questions Fleras said something that really impressed me. “Although I stand by the door of McDonald’s as a security guard, that place where I stand is my stage and I want to give a great performance every time and every day.” Fleras has a family. His wife works too, his eldest daughter is a teacher and his youngest daughter is now working for BDO. Eddie Boy Fleras simply confirmed what I have been claiming all along. “It’s not the position of the job that is important. Its’ the nobility you put into your job that is.” The best way to give good customer service is to hire people who are service-conscious. It follows the Scriptural principle of loving your neighbors as yourself.
Now here’s a beautiful twist to the story. As I was working on this article, Fleras called me. He said, “Sir, I just wanted to let you know that there were so many people who attended your seminar who came just to shake my hands, thank me and tell me how I am doing a great job. This makes me so happy.” You know what? This makes me happy too. That people are more than happy and willing to recognize and acknowledge exceptional customer service. And did I mention that it’s actually good for business too?