Operations

How To Keep Up With Your Customers & Keep Them

Posted on April 1, 2016 by Sara Eastwood - Also by this author

Last month, I received a call from a distraught operator in the Phoenix market. He was complaining about Uber and in the same breath he said his sales were off by more than 10% year over year. He said the minute Uber came into his market, he began to “feel” an impact within his company.

I responded by asking this gentleman, “How do you know your sales are off because of Uber? Is that what your customers — the ones that dropped you — tell you?” The operator paused, and said he didn’t know exactly why the business was down. He hadn’t asked his clients.

This happens more often than not. People are starting to tell me business is flat or down. The reason inevitably involves the transportation network companies (TNCs). However, if you look at our recent Uber Impact Study, published in the February issue of LCT, you will see most of this industry just doesn’t know what the real effects are. Like the operator from Phoenix who told me, it’s a gut feeling. We need to run our businesses on logic, not emotion and a “gut feeling.”

Losing customers or even a portion of business is an unpleasant experience, but as business owners it’s up to you to take the emotion out and make the logical decision to call each and every account to find out the reason why they ended or downsized the business relationship. And I don’t mean by email or text. Face-to-face is always the best way — especially for substantial accounts. But a phone call will suffice, too. The point is you need to use the human touch when restoring fractured relationships.

As the owner, it’s easy to get caught up in the operations of running the business and then make excuses for a lack of time to focus on the end-user. Change your mindset and look at making client calls as a means of improving your knowledge. Typically, we’re ignorant about our customers — we don’t know them nearly as well as we think we do. When faced with actual customer input or feedback, we are surprised by aspects of customers’ true wants and needs or the lack of value actually delivered.

I had to laugh the other night while watching the Fox News Channel. They were airing a video of a weekend GOP leadership retreat where the established party elite mused over Donald Trump’s rise and what to do about it.

One party leader said, “The only thing Trump has going for him is he’s got all the votes.” Instead of spending time on the front line and listening to the people, this group was holed up in a five-star penthouse somewhere special, scratching their heads! It’s a telling example of how far the leadership in this country is removed from the customer (voter).

The same principle applies in our industry; the takeaway is Uber cannot be a scapegoat for sluggish sales or lost clients. Remember, they operate on a lower level taxi business model. If you’ve been able to compete against Yellow Cab, you can surely compete against Uber.

Know your customer. Get close to them. Encourage them to talk to you. Share their suggestions with your entire team. Instead of allowing your employees to determine their own version of good customer service, take control. Demand consistency in service at every client touch point. Moreover, watch your clients carefully. If you see any reduction in service, call the key decision makers immediately for a candid review of their experience with your company.

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