Dwayne J. Clark is the Founder, CEO and Chairman of Aegis Living, a best-selling author and longevity expert.
Ripping off customers or disrespecting them all together is an obvious no-fly zone for most businesses. Yet, these practices seem to be more commonplace than ever as we continue to experience the impacts of the pandemic and resulting inflation. Consumers have had to put up with price gouging, poor quality items and bad customer service just to receive the basic goods and services they need.
But I see all signs pointing to shifting tides, putting customers back in the driver’s seat and bad businesses on their heels. Only brands that have remained centered on their customers will prevail.
Some of the changes should lift certain pains, including ridding the world of commerce that comes with a side of smugness. That used car dealer charging you $20,000 more for the car than when it was new will likely go—as will the agent selling homes 20% more than market value so they can stay up with “future pricing.”
Also gone will be the hotelier charging $400 for a non-desirable room in a supposedly full hotel or the local appliance store insisting that you won’t get your washer and dryer on time but, oh by the way, the price of your washer and dryer is now 15% more than it was when you ordered it and you’ll have to pay the difference when it finally arrives.
As the economy begins to stabilize so will the buyer and seller relationship. When both the seller and the customer agree on the worth of something—including the interaction that leads to a purchase—that agreed value makes for a mutually positive experience. It also signals to our brains that we have had a positive interaction that we may want more of.
As an example, Nordstrom understands this relationship and has what I believe is one of the best customer experiences a department store has ever offered. Certainly, a customer or two has taken advantage of their generous return policy over the years, and the end result is customers who feel valued and remain loyal for generations to come. It’s the nourishing experience they go for along with their thoughtfully curated apparel.
Starbucks has also nailed this philosophy, compelling customers to drive longer distances and pay more than what was the norm for coffee when they first expanded in the ’90s. In a world of great uncertainties, I can be fairly sure that when I go to a Starbucks, however detailed and outlandish my requests, they will continue to look at me kindly, repeat my order back to me (triggering my brain that they are listening and care) and hand my drink swiftly over while using my name (or, as many of us have learned, some version of a name sure to bring a smile). This is excellent customer care and, for many of us, excellent enough to map Starbucks locations across the planet.
Zappos is another company winning at customer service; with no phone tree, no scripts and no call time maximums, customers truly feel the company wants to help and ensure their experience is seamless. In fact, a Zappos customer service rep once made a record 10-plus-hour customer service call that resulted in Zappos sending the item for free with a basket of flowers. In both the Starbucks and Zappos cases, the value offered in stellar customer care is worth any potential extra fees above other options.
Current research also suggests that the experiences we offer others land back on our own doorstep. In other words, our brain doesn’t recognize the difference between giving and receiving, and this compelling truth reminds us that there is great value in a mutual win.
If businesses are driving sales with a smug take it or leave it attitude, they will lose both that one-off sale and any chance of a loyal, lifetime customer. The latter is what businesses need more than ever in this uncertain economy. And leaders must remember that we are in a community with our customers and are hardwired to thrive most from mutual wins. A transaction driven by one who wants shared successes will always offer civility and enduring value.
Be good to your customers and appreciate them. Invite and compel your staff to be good to your customers. If you stay focused on this, you should see returns far greater than the added profit of a few big sales and short-term upcharges. More so, the lingering rewards lift us all collectively.