When working with our clients, we find that many don’t have a written business plan. When we ask to see their business plan, the response we usually get is, “It’s in my head.” Or, if they do have one, it’s hidden in a file drawer somewhere.
Now if you don’t see that as a problem, you probably shouldn’t be running a business. And if you’re asking, “What does a business plan have to do with customer service?” Well, here’s the answer:
A small business can actually become big based on its customer service. It can also fail. Brian Head, economist with the SBA Office of Advocacy, states that “as a general rule of thumb, new employer businesses have a 50/50 chance of surviving for five years or more,” and one of the top reasons these new businesses fail is poor planning.
It’s critical for all businesses to have a business plan. So many small businesses fail because of fundamental shortcomings in their business planning or strategizing. It must be realistic and based on accurate, current information and educated projections for the future.
As a small business, you can’t depend solely on the products or services you provide to attract customers. Taking the time to build relationships with your customers and the way you treat customers brings them back and attracts new customers.
So how do you make customer service an integral part of your business? Include it in your business strategy.
It Starts with Values
Probably the most overlooked part of a business strategy is the establishment of values. We all have our own set of values, and as a society, we have values as well. So why shouldn’t your business?
When we meet with our clients, one of the first things we ask is for them to share with us their organizational values, their vision and mission statements. When developing your business’s values, start with your own belief system. What’s important to you? What do you value as desired behaviors? Desired attitudes? How do you want to be perceived by others?
Once you’ve identified your personal values, then you can start on the values for your business. How do you want your business
to be perceived? Is being a green business important to you? Do you value customer relationships? Do you value your community? Are these values reflective of your personal values?
Now that you have identified your business values, take a look at your vision and your mission. Are your business’s values supported by them? Better yet, are they demonstrated by them?
Next is to integrate your service strategy in your business plan. Consider these factors as you do so:
– Identify your key programs, products and services and how they reflect the values of your organization.
– Identify who uses your products or services and what is important to them.
-How will your customers perceive the value of your product or service?
– Identify the type of environment that reflects the values of your organization.
Then there is the matter of building the right team for your business. It is important when you begin recruiting and selecting your team that you consider not only the job functions that need to be filled, but “cultural fit.” Identify the skills, behaviors and attitudes that you need for each position, keeping in mind the values of your organization. From our experience, it’s more desirable to hire someone with the right cultural fit over someone who has the skill sets and not the right behaviors and attitudes.
There’s still another component we haven’t addressed, and that’s rewards and recognition. Build in programs and processes to reward your staff and customers for displaying the desired behaviors and attitudes. It’s as easy as saying “Thank you.” There are plenty of books and resources out there for low and no cost ideas for rewarding and recognizing staff and customers.
Including customer service in your business strategy is a smart thing to do. In these difficult times, taking the time to do so could just be the nudge you need to be on the upside of the statistics. FBN
Trish Rensink and Jamey Hasapis are owner partners of BelleWether Group, an organization development company. They can be reached at 928-853-8206.