“They Like Me!”

Link: Small Business Trends ? The Rising Tide of Customer Defection.

Do you remember the 1985 Academy Awards when Sally Field won the "Best Actress" award?  She acted surprised when she said "You like me!"  I thought of that when Ii read Laurence Haughton’s article, The Rising Tide of Customer Defection."

When Bill Zollars took the top job at Yellow Freight in 1996, the company was coming off a $30 million loss the previous year.  He asked his top managers, "What do our customers think of us?" 

"They like us" he was told.

Zollars wasn’t so sure.  He asked his top managers to find out:

Did we pick everything up on-time?

Did we deliver everything on-time?

Did we keep everything in-tact?

Did we send the customer an accurate invoice?

It turned out that in 4 out of 10 cases, at least one answer was "no."  If they were failing to fill these basic needs forty percent of the time, how could the customers like them.  If you were in business in the ’90’s, you know the answer.  Chances are you didn’t like them.

It seems like there are two morals to this story.  First, don’t assume that your customers are happy with you.  Find out!  What are their expectations?  Are you delivering them?

Second, whatever your customers’ expectations are, make sure you deliver them each and every time.  Here’s what Zollars did at Yellow Freight:

1. He made sure everyone was crystal clear about “just what was expected.”

2. He took steps to make sure Yellow had the “right people” at every point of contact.

3. Zollars and his top managers got “enough buy-in” from everyone to overcome the law of inertia.

4. And Yellow reorganized their management to generate more “individual initiative” from every driver and at every depot.

They reduced errors from 40% to 4% and "Revenues and profits shot up."

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