year of the customer

It’s Not Too Late to Make This the Year of the Customer

This is a story about the importance of amazing customer service.

Sometimes, entrepreneurs can get too caught up in the day-to-day problems and trying to make money that they forget there are actual humans purchasing their products and services.

Recently, I bought a small gift for my daughter that ended up deteriorating within a few days of use. It wasn’t expensive, but it certainly should have lasted a lot longer than a few uses. Rather than going back to the store where I bought it to get a refund or replacement, I decided to go straight to the company whose brand name was on the item.

I sent a photo, proof of purchase and a short email explaining the issue and asked them directly for a resolution: either a replacement or refund.

It made sense to me to go straight to the source. As an entrepreneur, I would want to know if there was a problem with the quality of my products or if customers were unhappy and, therefore, if there were any problems within the supply chain that needed addressing.

However, this particular brand did not agree. Instead, they replied with a one sentence email instructing me to take the product back to the store I bought it from. There was no apology about the quality of the product, no further questions and no other options offered for a resolution.

Related: How to Get Out of the Comparison Trap and Move Your Business Forward

This is an example of not just poor customer service, but also an example of the ethos of a company that likely won’t be around 10 years from now.

If a company shows they don’t care about the quality of their products or their customers’ satisfaction, it’s a clear indication that they are not in it for the long term.

Other customers who received a faulty product like mine may just go straight to the internet to leave a negative review rather than contacting the company directly. But because of my background in business, I thought it would be best to bring the issue to the company’s attention directly, so they could try and rectify it.

However, their response (or lack thereof) showed me that they are truly only interested in making money and that their customers don’t really matter.

The moral of the story is, any business that chooses to operate in such a manner will be met with unhappy customers. In 2021, businesses simply must be customer-centric.

Last year was all about navigating new ways of doing business during the pandemic and pivoting when needed. There were new demands placed on nearly all businesses across all sectors as they tried to figure out the best way to serve their customers and keep their businesses afloat. For the most part, customers were very understanding and supportive of businesses navigating their way through this new reality, even when that meant making mistakes.

And thus, a new breed of customer loyalty emerged. Many people didn’t want to see their favorite businesses shut their doors for good. Customers found unique ways to support their beloved businesses, whether that was through gift cards, more frequent purchases or just simply voicing their support through social media.

As with the entirety of 2020, the support for small business was unprecedented. Suddenly, there were real people on both sides of these businesses and the human connection between brand and customer became very real.

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But this has been trending for a while. Over the last few years, customers have been demanding a more human approach from businesses. This demand has been increasing with the rise of the conscious consumer who wants to know all about their favorite brands, including who the people behind the brand are. In return, those customers provide unwavering loyalty.

Businesses that aren’t customer-centric just won’t survive. If you don’t care about your customer, why should they care about you?

If you can’t go above and beyond, providing the absolute best customer service you possibly can, making your customer feel truly valued, while at the same time building long-lasting relationships with them, then your company won’t survive the next phase of business in the new economy.

The new economy values people and the planet, not just profit at all costs.

If we have learned anything from last year, it should be that our customers aren’t just people who spend money with us. They are brand advocates and supporters of our businesses. They want us to succeed. They care about what we do and why we do it.

Let’s make 2021 the year of the customer. The year of going above and beyond.

Originally published Feb. 12, 2021.

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