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Lead Your Team Strategy

Putting Customers First: 5 Companies Reveal How They Do It

Putting Customers First: 5 Companies Reveal How They Do It
Credit: Ivelin Radkov/Shutterstock

If you think your company has control over what customers think and say about you, you'd better head back a few decades. In today's world of instant, constant communication and wide-reaching social networks, every brand's reputation is in the hands of the consumers that engage with that company.

While the best brands have always put customers first, the social age has amplified the visibility of a company's commitment to pleasing its customers — or lack thereof. Some customers are more than happy to tweet about a great brand experience, but a great deal more are willing to wage a very public digital war against any company they believe has failed them. Brands are beginning to recognize this, and increasingly place customers at the core of their business models.

Five companies with self-described customer-centric business models shared the importance of keeping consumers at the forefront, and why their approach truly does and will continue to work. [The New Customer Service Is Here, There & Everywhere]

MARCO'S PIZZA

Bryon Stephens, president and chief operating officer of Marco's Pizza franchise

Business News Daily: Why should companies put customers at the center of their business strategies?
B.S.: As consumers, we tend to stick with a brand unless or until the brand gives us a reason not to. So executing excellent customer service each and every time we interact with a customer is critical to growing a business. Your marketing may be extremely effective in getting consumers in the door, but if their experience does not deliver on the expectation, then you have lost that customer, maybe forever. We know along the way there will be lapses, [but] excellent customer service leads to resolution, and mistakes will be forgiven if they are rectified. What customers will not forgive is rudeness or attitude indicating a lack of concern. Customers keep coming back to your brand because of great customer service, not because you are perfect.   

BND: How does your company achieve this?
B.S.: We routinely measure customer service by paying close attention to continuous customer feedback. Our training programs require a commitment by employees and staff to the Marco's doctrine we call "We Believe," which stresses our promise to delight customers [and] encompasses every aspect of the consumer experience with our brand. We are currently in the process of upgrading our customer feedback platform, which will help us continuously improve our level of customer service and brand loyalty.

BND: What role do company culture and employee satisfaction play in providing great customer service?
B.S.: Happy, engaged employees take care of customers, and the personal touches and relationships keep customers coming back. In addition to investing in the technology to gather and keep track of customer satisfaction trends, we also invest in making Marco's a great place to work. We just finished a round of employee surveys to keep us in touch with what employees need [in order] to remain highly engaged.

BND: How can other businesses become more customer centric?
B.S.: Every decision we make about product, service and image is gauged by its positive impact on customers. Keeping that focus at the forefront must be built organically into the brand's culture. Purchasing dollars are precious, and consumers must trust that your brand will deliver a positive experience, or that you will make it right by them. 

PANATEA

Jessica Mandelbaum, co-founder of matcha tea company Panatea

BND: Why should companies put customers at the center of their business strategies?
J.M.: In order [for a company] to create a sustainable business model, customers not only need to like a product, but they also need to feel some sense of loyalty to the brand behind it. In a society full of competition and sensory overload, building a loyal relationship with your customer is integral.

BND: How does your company achieve this?
J.M.: We are committed to ... building a ​health- and lifestyle-driven ​community where people can not only learn about the​ ​beauty of matcha​, but also ​get ​inspire​d to live healthier​ and more meaningful lives​. We have listened to feedback, and just as importantly, to behavior. Given how many customers are returning for matcha tins after purchasing their initial sets, we have realized that making the re-purchase process easier is crucial to our business strategy. We are therefore excited to soon launch our subscription offering.

BND: What role do company culture and employee satisfaction play in providing great customer service?
J.M.: Company culture and employee satisfaction are at the crux of any business. If employees are not living the brand and feeling positive doing so, an effective relationship cannot be built with customers. We encourage our team to put their health first and spread the matcha movement. ​​We also make sure our team feels genuinely appreciated. If they ​sense our gratitude and appreciation, they will exude positive energy with our customers and partners.

BND: How can other businesses become more customer centric?
J.M.: Stay committed to evolving your business and your brand on a daily basis. There is always room to improve if you just listen, to both words and actions.

SHELFGENIE

Allan Young, CEO of customized shelving franchise ShelfGenie

BND: Why should companies put customers at the center of their business strategies?
A.Y.: Long-term success relies on customer service and is really a core foundation to any successful company. All ShelfGenie team members know and live up to our core essence: "Exceptional people and transformational solutions that create unforgettable experiences." We have embedded that core essence into everything we do, and that vision has driven system-wide results.

BND: How does your company achieve this?
A.Y.: It is our goal to create the ultimate client experience, and that begins with creating a more intimate relationship with our clients. Every ShelfGenie design consultation is free of charge, with designers spending approximately two hours to learn the specific needs of clients. We then design a custom solution based on [clients'] goals, manufacture to their exact specifications and complete the process with a full-service installation.

BND: What role do company culture and employee satisfaction play in providing great customer service?
A.Y.: The foundation of customer service is built on the culture of the company and how employees view their jobs. Your customer-centric focus has to come from a good place that sits well with the culture of your company. A good bottom line is driven by employees and clients who are extremely happy and deeply care out the impact they are having on their clients' lives.

WAYBACK BURGERS

John Eucalitto, president of Wayback Burgers franchise

BND: Why should companies put customers at the center of their business strategies?
J.E.: In order to capture and retain a consumer's allegiance, companies must integrate a long-term customer service strategy into the core of their business. All business decisions must begin and end with the question of, "How is this action or decision going to impact the service we provide our customers?"

BND: How does your company achieve this?
J.E.: At Wayback Burgers, great guest service is comprised of various components, which together create an unforgettable experience. It's the quality of food, speed of service, cleanliness of our restaurants, and the personal touch from our independently owned and operated franchise partners that make our guests feel welcome and appreciated. But it's also the attention to detail and simple gestures that will help make a person a loyal guest. We purposely and strategically weave our guest service strategy throughout every arm of our company and into every decision, while at the same time providing the structure for proper execution of our guest service objectives.

BND: What role does company culture and employee satisfaction play in providing great customer service?
J.E.: A company's culture really shapes the behavior of your employees, so it's critical that your organization spend time carving its own unique personality that empowers its people. We created an environment where people are respected, free to express opinions, given the authority to make decisions on their own and encouraged to explore outside interests. We have a relaxed atmosphere and entrepreneurial spirit that resonates with our employees, which in turn helps motivate our franchise partners to provide exceptional guest service each and every day.

BND: How can other businesses become more customer centric?
J.E.: [Don't] get trapped into believing the service you provide today will be anything special tomorrow. A company must continuously revise and improve their customer service strategy.   People's expectations of impeccable service change, and your organization must change with [those expectations] in order to stay one step ahead of your competition. Wowing your guests every day requires an ongoing commitment for excellence.

WORLD WATERS

Jody Levy, co-founder of World Waters, maker of Wtrmln Wtr

BND: Why should companies put customers at the center of their business strategies?
J.L.: Our customers are our business. Without them, Wtrmln Wtr wouldn't be here. We always think about things through the lens of our customers and ask ourselves, "How can we continue to make clean, healthy, better-for-you products that our customers are going to love?"

BND: How does your company achieve this?
J.L.: We are constantly exploring new and efficient models of food production and distribution that increase yields, eliminate waste and take the stress off our environment, all of which puts our customers and their families front and center.

BND: What role does company culture and employee satisfaction play in providing great customer service?
J.L.: We tend to hire like-minded people who not only believe in the Wtrmln Wtr mission, but who [also] live our mission in their daily lives when they aren't at the office. This makes it easier for us to share our mission with the world.

Originally published on Business News Daily

Nicole Fallon

Nicole Fallon received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the assistant editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.

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