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Basic Business Cents: With customers, satisfying isn’t good enough

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By Lou Schultz/ For the Enterprise

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Dr. W. Edwards Deming often said, “Satisfying your customers is not good enough; satisfied customers will switch. You have to provide goods and services that are so good that your customers will brag about you to their colleagues and stay true to you.”

You have two other key groups that are equally important, stakeholders and owners. Satisfying isn’t good enough for any of the three groups; all three must be elated with their relationship with you and your organization.

Customers will tell you what they want and need if you will only listen. Sounds simple but listening is hard as we like to talk and may not know the right questions to ask. Listening is an art and must be practiced.

Customers’ objectives can be broken down into three groups-quality, delivery (timeliness), and cost. Of course customers are looking for quality, not just of the product or service but also of the processes that produce the product or service. If the process is of high quality, then they can depend on the product or service to be of high quality. No one sets out to buy an unreliable or poor quality product or service.

Delivery or timeliness can relate to the product/service being available when and where needed. It can involve development time of new products, handling time, ensuring reliability of suppliers to deliver on time, or any element of time consumed from the raw material to the point of use by the end customer.

Cost is larger than the out-of-pocket cost of the purchase. The total cost of ownership should be considered including maintenance, product life, down time, and difficulty of use.

Stakeholders will also tell you what they want and need if you listen. Stakeholders include employees, suppliers, local businesses that benefit from your existence, and lenders. They want to be treated with integrity, fairness, honesty, and respect. They should understand your vision of the future for your organization and want to be a part of achieving that vision. The environment is also a stakeholder. The employees want to see growth opportunities, which involve a growing organization that provides education, training, and tutoring. They should be excited, energized, and comfortable that they made the right decision to join in your quest.

The owners are the third group, which must be elated with your performance. They also will tell you of their needs and wants if you listen. Their key objectives revolve around return of investment of time and money, growth, recognition, prestige, and leaving a legacy. Sounds like the same things you want, right?

What if you are the owner? Same thing applies and must be planned the same as the other two groups. Too often small business owners toil long hours without paying themselves a salary. Good planning and execution takes into consideration fair compensation for the owners as well as stakeholders.

The three groups can be likened to the abc’s of business-customers, stakeholders, and owners. Each is of equal importance and must be elated with their transactions with your organization. Satisfying them is not good enough.

Louis Schultz, managing director of Process Management LLC, has assisted organizations worldwide with performance improvement. He currently works with area business owners as a SCORE counselor. Email him with questions or comments at lou.processmanagement@gmail.com.

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