Succeed in business by giving love to your customers.
If you were reading this article 20 years ago, it more than likely would have been printed in a newspaper or a magazine. Thanks to technology, I am able to bring my ideas directly to your tablet, smartphone, or desktop computer. Just about any information we want is now only a click or finger swipe away.
In many ways, technology has undercut the need for face-to-face business transactions. And in the always-online culture of today, consumers are savvier and hold companies to higher standards than ever before.
As a result, business leaders need to be able to meet the speed and access expectations of modern consumers. Traditional business models must evolve to a position beyond modern standards to be significant in the marketplace.
So how can businesses differentiate themselves?
By embracing a “pay it forward” business model and putting the needs of customers first.
Putting Others Before Self
Service leadership is the pillar of my business philosophy, and it was a foundational pillar in the life of Zig Ziglar. Ziglar famously said, “You can have everything you want in life if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”
I adopted this mantra at one of the lowest points in my life. When I was in my early 20s, I had no job, no money, no direction, and a child on the way. I found myself at a garage sale, haggling over the price of baby clothes.
When the wheeling and dealing was done, I ended up buying $8 worth of clothes and got him to throw in a free cassette tape with “Zig Ziglar” written on it. I thought Zig Ziglar sounded like a great name for a metal band. While I was not able to headbang to the wisdom of Mr. Ziglar, that cassette forever changed my life. It transformed my personal journey and helped me crawl out of my hole.
It also inspired me to devote my life to helping others get what they want.
I have been incredibly fortunate to achieve success both personally and professionally because I have applied this “pay it forward” mindset to every facet of my life.
3 Ways to Create a Pay-It-Forward Mindset
As Ziglar reassured me many years ago when I first listened to his cassettes, success should break in your favor if you help others get what they want. That is easy to say, but how can business leaders put this wisdom into practice? I recommend three steps to get you started:
1. Disrupt the Status Quo
If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you? This common hypothetical holds merit in business. It is easy to mimic competitors and copy the practices of successful businesses, but you gain a stronger edge by blazing your own path.
The word “no” is fairly ubiquitous in the dry cleaning industry. “We are not responsible for lost items.” “No extra buttons available.” “No same-day orders.” When I opened my own dry cleaning business, we challenged that culture of “no.”
In fact, my business offers to sew buttons on for free. If we ruin a piece of clothing, we replace it free of charge. The word “free” is posted at least 11 times inside the store.
Customers appreciate our commitment to their comfort. And in five years of business, I know of only one client who inappropriately took advantage of our generosity. Look at some of the more prevalent practices in your industry and try to figure out a way to differentiate your business by paying it forward to your users.
2. Flip the Script
If a customer has a problem, address the issue ASAP with as few questions as possible. The most powerful form of advertising is word of mouth, and businesses that maintain a great reputation and reliable product are rewarded with customer loyalty. Considering that 66 percent of U.S. consumers spend more on brands to which they are loyal, resolving customer problems in a timely manner is a no-brainer.
I own another company that provides labor to the automobile auction industry. On the rare occasion that one of my employees has damaged a vehicle, we pay for it. The company pays out about $250,000 in damages annually. That cost might seem high (and far from ideal), but the company has made $6 million in revenue annually over the past 15 years. Our strong performance is directly correlated to our consistent standard of excellent customer service and flipping the script to pay it forward. Do something that makes the competition cringe in your industry, and your business will prosper.
3. Find the Pain Points
When a business offers a product or service that addresses your most pressing need, it is a win-win. Your problem has been solved, and the business has created a lifelong customer. Customers want to do business with companies that address their needs and solve their problems as opposed to a business solely focused on making a profit.
To truly maximize this strategy, pay attention to your timing. Urgency is key — customers are more likely to spend money when a product or service solves an urgent need. Consider opening your sales cycle to accommodate the troubling pain points for your customers. There is a reason HVAC repairmen and plumbers offer 24-hour service.
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Do not overlook your power of paying it forward with the time and the talents of your business as a way to ensure customer loyalty. And do not mistake kindness in business for weakness.
The bigger and more profitable your business becomes, the more risk you assume from customers trying to take advantage of your generosity. Set parameters and implement a clear process to ensure you have defined boundaries.