It’s easy to forget that customers are your greatest promoters of the practice… yet they can also be your most powerful detractors. By assuming all customers are looking for a great retail experience with no negative surprises – and directing your staff to deliver just that – you can ensure your customers’ loyalty and capitalise on their positive word of mouth.
Imagine you received a letter from potential customers in your area, calling themselves the ‘No Risk Buyers Group’ with this urgent message for you:
“To the practice manager,
Our group was formed to fast track our choice and use of businesses, since we often find that promises of ‘good staff’ and ‘excellent service’ are rarely delivered… and so often contradicted. Our joint efforts are aimed at businesses like yours as either a warning or an opportunity… and so here is a simple but critical question we invite you to answer: “what internal processes do you go through to ensure your team is fully and consistently able to meet and exceed our expectations as customers… to the point where there is no risk for us to choose and use your optometry practice as a preferred business?
“If you choose not to participate, you will be blacklisted by the group. Conversely if you respond and we are impressed… we will ensure that all ‘no risk buyers’ group members will be informed of your status. Members of our group will then be encouraged to ‘test’ the quality, effectiveness and value of your customer service… and as pleasure or pain is experienced, we promise to advise you of our experiences, so you can solve the problem. We hope you see the logic and importance of this initiative for all parties.”
Your Management Options
While no such group will be ‘formed’ in an official way, we all know the power of ‘word of mouth’…and the role that social media now plays in openly judging the conduct of businesses. The problem at the moment for many optometry practices that depend on good service behaviour, is that offended customers and prospects will not choose you again. They will also tell their friends… but they won’t tell you! So with all this‘up for grabs’, here are your options:
First Management Option: INACTIVE!
Owners and managers that choose this odious option put little effort into hiring good people; and while they might use ‘targets’ they never set high standards of conduct for staff. To make things worse they do little or no training, they try to move forward with a weak incentive scheme and they never involve customers in management and staff meetings. Inactive management does not provide a ‘pied-piper’ example of how things must be done… and the ‘coup de disgrâce’ is they do not undertake supervision, thus ensuring blindness to problems…. Finally, staff are not treated and equipped to operate as ‘self-managers’ who are complete with plans to create results.
Second Management Option: REACTIVE!
Managers that choose this path might talk about ‘doing more’ and ‘doing better’… but staff know it’s all hot air, and therefore not subject to follow up, checking, improvement, etc. The only time that these managers ‘react’ and take some form of remedial action, is when sales are down more than they usually are, or when customer complaints have been received, or when managers want ‘to be seen to be doing something’ to boost morale and results. Fat chance on such a lean level! For a start, if training is offered it is quickly over and unrelated to standards… because this option also ignores the need to set high standards for people and to delegate accountability for efforts and results.
Staff meetings are indulgent and void of ideas, incentives are basic, supervision is ‘too hard’ and staff rarely, if ever, see managers ‘showing and paving the way forward’. Managers that choose the reactive versus the inactive option resemble an overweight person feeling relieved when they see obese people. The news is that both types have real problems!
Third management option: PROACTIVE!
Here’s the A to Z list of what the best owners/ managers do… and don’t do:
A. They attract the best people, partly
by repelling the worst
B. Managers provide staff with aerial
views of hidden market needs
C. They provide staff with serving and
D. They explain how selling must not
be conducted… ever
E. They design training to ensure adherence to standards
F. Staff are told, ‘you can go above
our standards, but not below’
G. Training is continuous but always different and enjoyable
H. Management can demonstrate
best sales/service conduct
I. Staff must pass practical tests before they can sell and serve
J. To help with new sales ideas, old
‘ways’ are removed from use
K. Staff regularly meet customers
re. feedback, insights and needs
L. Sales meetings happen often and
M. Staff must submit regular sales plans and success reports
N. Management assist staff via careful, regular supervision
O. A comprehensive reward system
invites people to succeed
P. The reward plan negates the need
for personal ‘promotion’
Q. Sales people are encouraged and
shown how to study at home
R. Sales people are treated as achievers
S. Management creates an enjoyable
T. Management builds respect for customers/prospects
U. Management does not allow disrespect (or love) for competitors
V. Petty politics and micro management
W. Managers are always easily accessible and eager to help
X. Staff are kept informed of results…
for customers and the business
Y. Managers promote healthy respect between all team members
Z. Troublemakers and under-performers are weeded out.
These processes would greatly impress
‘no risk buyers’.
John Lees is a speaker, trainer and consultant, specialising in sales and marketing, and he is the author of 11 books on business development. See the range of John Lees services and books, CDs and DVDs at www.johnlees.com.au