Where all this began for me: Long before I earned a PhD or began working with wholesale distributors, I learned a lot about the power of connecting with customers growing up in a tiny town in rural North Carolina. My father, a country banker in the hamlet of Sunbury (in Gates County, North Carolina), saw business as a mission to serve people well. And he understood clearly that you can’t serve them well if you don’t know them well. That’s why he used “business intelligence,” long before either he or the customers he served had any clue what that term meant. The “business intelligence” that underlay his consistent success proved startlingly simple: Connect with your customers to understand who they are and what they need, then ensure that you give them what they need. And when a problem arises, fix it.
In that simple world, he could connect with his customers and understand their needs just by walking into the bank lobby and shaking hands with the customers he served. And he did that religiously, greeting the struggling farmer and the local physician with equal regard. They knew he cared about them and they knew he brought a true servant’s heart to his role, whether that meant helping a farmer to build a house when no other bank would take a chance on him, providing the loan that would bring indoor plumbing to a struggling family, or helping a family save their farm when things got tough.
I received this message a few years ago from a woman with whom I grew up, describing the impact my father’s decisions had on the family:
I just returned from a very special trip to NC. My sister and I went to Nags Head and finally scattered the last of my Mom’s ashes off Jeanette’s Fishing Pier into the ocean she loved so much. We talked of many things, but one story that continued to pop up repeatedly was one of your father and how he helped my father secure our farm. He played a tremendous role, and I’m quite certain that it would never happen again quite like that. Had it not been for his trust and kindness, my Dad would have lost this farm we love so much and whose productivity continues to flourish.
If you think this means my father exercised freewheeling loan policies that paved the way for the mortgage debacle, think again. He maintained one of the best loan ratios of any bank around. How? Because he knew the people, which meant he knew when it was wise to take a chance on someone and when the risk was simply too high.
The reality is that you can have a dramatic impact on your customers. Every business owner can, if you commit to knowing and serving your customers well. And one of the things we love about wholesale distribution companies is that most of you genuinely strive to serve your customers well. The key to doing so, while still remaining profitable, lies in doing exactly what my father did: Gathering the intelligence you need to understand who your customers are and what they need, then using that intelligence to serve your customers at the highest level. Although most of you can’t gather intelligence with personal handshakes the way my father did, we’re going to show you how you can use modern, scientific methods to gather the same kind of information and use it to serve your customers. This will differentiate your company in the marketplace simply because these fundamentals of business aren’t being executed by your competitors.
header image: Gates County, North Carolina.
image source: Dincher/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0
This blog post is based off material from my book with Randy MacLean, “YOU CAN’T SERVE THEM WELL IF YOU DON’T KNOW THEM WELL: Capturing and Captivating Customers with Concierge Customer Service™”
You can get the first two chapters for FREE here.
If you’d like a full copy of the entire book, you can get it here.
Dr. Jeanne Hurlbert, President of Hurlbert Consulting is an expert in sociology and survey research. After spending more than 25 years in academia, she now uses her extensive behavioral science expertise to help companies like yours distinguish yourselves through customer service. What sets her approach to customer service apart is that she begins by helping companies meld research and marketing to find out exactly
(a) what their customers want and
(b) how well they’re succeeding in giving customers what they want.
You can schedule a consult with her by going to www.ConciergeCustomerService.com; you can call her at 888-590-9677; or send an email here. And, if you’d like to complete her complimentary assessment to see how well you’re doing in knowing and serving your customers well, just go to www.FixYourService.com.