I recently attended a presentation by Tom Potter, one of Australia’s leading entrepreneurs and the founder of Eagle Boys Pizza, a business with 150 franchises across Australia. It was interesting to note that Mr Potter still takes the time to physically work behind the counter in many of the Eagle Boys Pizza franchises he visits. His reasoning: ‘To make certain I never lose touch with our customers.’ A lot of business people could learn a valuable lesson from his example.
Personally I believe that anyone who sits on the board of a large company should spend a prerequisite amount of time dealing with customers at the coal face of the business. Too often large companies lose touch with their customers simply because the people making the decisions are too sheltered from the frontline.
In small business we often spend a lot of our time trying to get away from directly dealing with customers because it can be tough, demanding, frustrating and time consuming. I am certainly not saying that every business owner should spend forty hours a week behind the cash register but I do believe every one of them should be communicating with the customers on a regular basis. Depending on the type of business this may mean making a few phone calls each week, or it may mean physically standing on the floor.
I think we should take this one step further. CEO’s of every major company should be made to have to experience their business as any normal customer would. Imagine how quickly Jetstar’s service really would change if Jeff Dixon actually had to stand in a line for an hour and see and feel what it’s like to be treated as a Jetstar customer. I think the service would change a lot quicker.
From my experience, those businesses where the final decision maker interacts directly with customers on a regular basis tend to offer far greater levels of customer service than those that do not. Don’t be afraid to talk to your customers and to ask for their opinions—remember without customers your business would be a very lonely place.
If you want to be truly successful in business, never, ever stop communicating with your customers or most importantly of all, put yourself in their shoes and see what their experience with your business is really like.