Small is the new big, trust is the new competitive advantage

I came across this interesting article written by Peter Bregman on the Harvard Business publishing website.

It suggests that the concept of being big as a source of competitive advantage is on the wane. As more and more large organisations are laying people off, some of the decision making processes are being questioned by middle management. The climate of trust both inside and outside the organisation are impacting negatively on employees and customers alike.

We simply don’t trust companies anymore. We trust people. And in big companies, it’s hard to even find a person to trust as we scream “operator” into our telephones only to get transferred to another menu whose options have changed.

It makes for interesting reading. It raises the questions about leadership and trust at a time when most people are feeling insecure about their futures. If Bergman is right then small and responsive companies who can build strong relationships with their staff and customers could be in for a period of sustained growth despite the current economic situation.

I believe he has a valid point.

Link to the article


The Link Between Sales Growth and Customer Service

Profit and growth are in principle driven by customer loyalty.

It costs around five times more to sell to a new prospect than to sell to an existing customer who previously enjoyed the buying experience. Add to that, the benefit of word of mouth referrals from satisfied customers, it is really quite surprising that some organisations pay little attention to delivering high levels of customer service.

Loyalty is a direct result of delivering customer satisfaction. Satisfaction is largely influenced by the delivery of value to customers. So how do we deliver customer satisfaction?

Value is, aside from the physical product itself, largely delivered by human to human interaction. It is essential that employees demonstrate the right attitude, skills and behaviours in dealing with customers. These attitudes, skills and behaviours are often a reflection of company attitudes, beliefs, policies and procedures. Therefore company policies and procedures should be written with the principle aim to enable employees to deliver outstanding customer services. I have come across so many company policies that inhibit employees from delivering customer satisfaction and the result on sales growth and repeat business is catastrophic.

Let us not forget that without customers there is no business.

Three positive effects of customer loyalty

  1. Revenue increases due to repeat purchases and referrals
  2. Costs decline as less is spent on new customer acquisition
  3. Employee retention increases because job pride and satisfaction increases; resulting in improved customer satisfaction, further loyalty, lower staff recruitment costs and a corresponding increase in sales.

Sales and pride

What clients want from customer facing staff

  1. Ability to deliver service consistently and accurately
  2. Willingness to deliver prompt attention
  3. Expertise and courtesy
  4. Empathy and personal attention – not treated like a commodity
  5. Professional appearance of the facility, equipment and staff

In summary customers simply need help and assistance in a professional and courteous manner.


What can I do to deliver customer satisfaction?

  1. Take a close look at internal procedures. Are they customer driven or efficiency driven? Make sure your customer policies enable staff to satisfy customers.
  2. Have well trained (customer relations) and motivated staff .
  3. Deliver on your promises
  4. Welcome complaints as a way to resolve customer issues and create brand loyalty
  5. Treat customers with respect

Deliver customer satisfaction, gain customer loyalty and watch your sales sky rocket.

It only takes one comment to ruin a good reputation

I recently had the pleasure of staying in a chain hotel. Now it is some time since I stayed at this particular chain and I have to say how pleasantly surprised I was with the cheerful and friendly staff I encountered this time. Nothing was too much trouble.

When I went for breakfast I was greeted by a friendly smiling face. This gave me the courage to ask if I only wanted a bacon sandwich would I have to pay for the full English breakfast buffet. I was politely advised this would be the case so I opted for the lower cost option of continental breakfast which included porridge. I decided to order a small bowl of porridge which promptly arrived. I asked if I could have some milk.  I was advised that the porridge was made with milk however the waitress brought some more to the table.

A few minutes later the waitress came across and said she had spoken with the chef who was in the process of making a bacon sandwich for me. “Fantastic” I thought. First class service. The waitress had listened to what I wanted and delivered.

I had booked for three nights having fully paid in advance for my stay. I needed to check out early as my plans had changed. I asked reception to cancel my booking for the third night.

“No problem leave it with us” came the reply. “We will post your refund under your door in just a few moments”.

Sure enough ten minutes later the cancellation and refund statement came under the door in a nice branded envelope. Another gold star for customer focus.

On the final night I was  in the restaurant with six delegates from the company I was working with in delivering a KAM training course. During the day I had been enthusing how good the customer service was at this establishment! Everything was going well. The food was excellent and the service was efficient. One of the guests who had really enjoyed his three courses was delivered his piping hot freshly made coffee. Dave politely asked if there were any mints or biscuits available. We were all astonished when the waitress exclaimed!

You are joking? This is a Beefeater. If you want a biscuit there is a vending machine in the hallway in the hotel. You will have to get them yourself

There I was about to pencil a letter of congratulations to the customer services manager of the hotel in question. This one comment became the hot topic of discussion around the table rather than the good food and service we had received up to that point. It just goes to show how one comment from one member of staff can change a gold star rating into ‘could do better’.

It aptly demonstrates how important it is to deliver excellent customer service 100% of the time – it only takes one comment to damage a good reputation.