At the end of 2012, business owners crunched the numbers: units of product sold, number of jobs and hours billed, gross and net revenues. Another indicator of 2012 business performance is how the business did with people: Was excellent customer service provided? Did the number of customers/clients grow or shrink? Did first-time customers return? Was customer feedback noted and responded to?
Businesses must think of customers and clients as people, not just dollar signs. People may choose to shop at a store because of its location and products, but if customer service is lacking, they may be less likely to return. A client may buy coverage from an insurance company she knows and likes, but if the agent seems untrustworthy and more concerned about his commission than the client’s welfare, that business may soon go elsewhere.
Upon moving to St. Louis in 1988, I joined a fitness club. It was a friendly, comfortable place to work out. In the 90’s the club was sold. The new owners upgraded and updated the facility. But their people skills were horrible. After they increased my monthly membership fee without notice, I spoke to one of the owners and reminded her that a successful fitness club is not just about location, décor, machines and such; it’s also about how you treat members. (I’d like to think my conversation inspired some of the changes in attitude that followed.)
Small retailers such as independent wine shops, hardware stores, clothing boutiques and others cannot compete with Sam’s Club or Costco or chain stores on price. So how do those small retailers prosper? They each realize that theirs is a people business. They talk to their customers one-to-one. They get to know them. They talk about things other than what’s for sale. Customers enjoy the shopping experience and the personal interaction.
In service industries, people skills are vital. Whether you’re a doctor, a plumber, a hair stylist or a PR pro, your ability to interact with customers/clients can go a long way to determining your success. Not only is it important to express yourself in a personable manner, it is also necessary to be a good listener and respond to client/customer/patient needs.
You may think you’re selling widgets or haircuts or nose jobs or social media campaigns or treadmills or radio spots, but decisions to purchase your goods and services frequently stem from your people skills. Is yours a people business?