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Customers and the Moment of Truth

Turning regular customers into ones that will actively promote your business involves things such as active listening, following a self-check ritual, performing an attitude check and evaluating the company’s work surroundings.

I am not always the most thoughtful person. It is sad, but it is true … just ask Gail, my wife. Yet when I started dating Gail almost 30 years ago, I was on my best behavior. I saw every opportunity we were together as a defining moment, a chance to impress her. It worked! It resulted in this tall, beautiful blonde marrying a short dweeb like me!

I took special care to show Gail how important she was to me. Unwittingly, I was making positive emotional impressions, which the best customer trainers in the world (people like Steve Toburen, Skep Hyken and Jan Carlzon) call, “Moments of Truth.” In his book, “Moments of Truth,” Carlzon, the former president of award-winning Scandinavian Airlines, says the moment of truth in business is this: “Anytime a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business, it is an opportunity to form an impression.”

That moment is a “Moment of Truth” and that impression can be either positive or negative. I ask you, who has a greater number of opportunities to form impressions about your company than the service writers and technicians who see the customers on a daily basis?

At EternaBond, even though we are a manufacturer, we apply these customer service principles to our business. The result has been annual growth in the 50 percent-plus range. At my previous company, a repair service business, these principles were the foundation of how we did business. The result was two “Service Business of the Year” awards and the sale of the company to a national company. Here is my point: These principles work, and they are very profitable.

Let’s talk about “Moments of Truth” and “the first two minutes” of any customer contact, both in relation to developing what are called “Customer Cheerleaders.” There are many moments of truth, but none are more important than those that happen during the first two minutes with a customer.

We all have heard that first impressions are lasting impressions. It is in these first two minutes that the customer will make decisions about you and your company. Toburen says, “Every time the customer sees something they will consciously, or subconsciously, form an opinion about it. These opinions can be positive or negative, and they add up. Consequently, the more positive moments of truth you can give your customer, the more likely they will become a Customer Cheerleader.

Remember the “80 percent rule”: 80 percent of how your customer feels about the job you did will be based on how they feel about the person who did the work, not on the quality of the work itself.

Your customer knows nothing about repairing their RV. However, they do know how they feel about the experience you gave them. Use the 80 percent rule as the foundation for all you do and you will develop Cheerleader Customers.

Cheerleader Customers are the key to running a good business, and even more so if you are offering a service. They will act as unpaid sales people, recommending your company to anyone who will listen.

As RV professionals, we know and understand that RVers are a close-knit community. We also know that word-of-mouth advertising is the best advertising, but Cheerleader Customers go beyond that. Cheerleader Customers are your company’s friend, and friends buy from friends. By now, you get the point, so, below are the procedures we use to make the moments of truth positive. You may be doing some of these tips already, but the key is turning them into a “system” of how you and your employees do business. 

Start Your Attitude Before Your Day

Evaluate yourself: Do I start my day grumpy, or do I see the day as an adventure? Do I have fun doing my job, or do I resent my job? If you look forward to the new friends you will make, the problems you can solve, and the lives you can improve, it will show.

Allow yourself time in the morning so you are not rushing or fighting traffic. This may require things like getting to bed earlier, laying out your clothes the night before; filling up the gas tank on the way home, etc. All are simple examples of ways to change your attitude.

Evaluate Work Surroundings

If you have a waiting room, how does it look? If there are pictures on the wall, are they straight and plumb? Are the chairs in line or out of position? If you offer magazines to read, are they orderly?

If the customer will enter through a retail store front area, are you ready to answer questions? Are the shelves neat and orderly if not well stocked? If you do not have a waiting room or a store front, is the area that your customers will see relatively neat? Is your desk or work area organized?

Is garbage off the counters and in the garbage? Are tools wiped off and put back where they belong? Are unused new parts and materials returned to inventory? Is the work bench organized? All of these things will help you maintain a positive attitude and start off your customer’s experience on the right foot.

Keep Your Promises

This starts when you arrive at “the office” on time. Next, open your doors to the public on time, but not early, if your work surroundings are not up to the standard set above. Time flies, so do not spend too much time getting ready for customers on their time – that is after your posted starting time.

At EternaBond, we make it a point to prepare the customer areas, work areas, desks, etc., the night before so we walk in ready. If you like a second cup of coffee in the morning, like I do, plan for it. Being on time is a positive moment of truth.

Self-Check Ritual

If you work with the public, you are like an actor or athlete in that you “perform” for a different audience every day. Therefore develop a self-check ritual you go through before presenting yourself to a customer.

Cleanliness is a major factor. Although our jobs are tough and the customer understands that, especially as the day progresses, a neat appearance cannot be overstated. Taking a minute to wash our face and hands, comb our hair, tuck in our shirt, brush off our pants and shoes and straighten our belt is time well spent. Keeping an extra, “emergency” shirt, shoes, and for the wearer, an emergency hat available is good insurance. Having a comb or brush in your tool chest makes this an easy standard to follow. Neat is positive.

Other important items for consideration include such basics not using tobacco products around customers and keeping breath mints handy, removing sunglasses when talking with customers so you can make eye contact, and maintaining good posture.

Cleanliness is also vital as it relates to the customers’ RV. Using drop cloths, plastic sheeting, clean throw rugs, etc., across the carpets and floors and in the driver’s foot-well show concern for the customers’ property. Also, be sure to wipe all hand and fingerprints off the RV after finishing the work and remove and dispose of any path protectors described above, leaving the RV cleaner than it was when you started. Concern for their property is positive.

Actively Listen

Making the customers repeat themselves, appearing uninterested in listening, or making them wait while you carry on a non-business conversation is a negative moment of truth. Your company looks like it does not care; like it is indifferent to the customer’s needs – and “perceived indifference” is the No. 1 reason customer’s change companies. On the other hand, having a sense of urgency, knowing the customer’s name, repeating back to the customer what the problem is, is a very powerful positive moment of truth.

Customers do not expect us to look like we just stepped out of a fashion magazine, but personal appearance can influence a customer’s “feelings” about the service they receive and their opinion of us before we do anything.

If you follow these principles, in the short 60 seconds leading up to meeting your customer, you have developed a system that has produced at lease five positive moments of truth. Every one you create is like a deposit in the customer’s emotional bank account. It is capital that can be spent to cover an event that creates a negative moment of truth.

Next time we will talk about how to turn a negative into positive, and finishing strong.