Part 1: The customer is always king – or is she?


What great customer service means in the 21st century

It’s that age-old business mantra we’ve been hearing since we can remember  - ‘customer is king’. It highlights the importance of customers (and potential customers) in every business. Traditionally, it’s a rule that means your company promises to provide good customer service to your customers.  But with the current evolution on work and business settings, coupled with ever-increasing technological advancement, ‘customer is king’ means more than just subscribing to good customer service, it means really practising it too.

  1. Give them the best. Customers will still want the same thing - the best value for their money. This is what you have to give them. Even before you think of treating them well when they’re buying your services, you should always keep customers in mind when developing new products or offerings. Ask yourself all the time, ‘what will my king (the customer) need or want?’

  2. Know their power. The major premise of the mantra still holds true, you should never offend your customers because it will mean serious loss for your business. In fact, it is truer in today’s economy where customers hold more power thanks to social media. In the past, what made a customer king was their ability to boycott your products and influence others to do the same through word-of-mouth.  Today, social media upgrades that power. Negative words about your company or your brand can spread a lot faster over the web.

  3. Don’t tell them what to do. A customer doesn’t want to be told what to do. The  ‘buy this’, ‘get this’ or ‘like this’ messages can only go so far. Customers won’t buy your products just because you ask them to. In fact, some studies show that aggressive marketing may actually turn customers off. If you think of your customers as king, you should realise that just like kings, they tend to listen and trust the opinions of their advisers, the wise men of the palace. It’s therefore a great idea to identify who these advisers are for your customers. Who influences their purchasing decisions? Your answer should be the target of your marketing strategy.

  4. Make things easy for them. People want to save as much time, money and energy as possible. That is why you have to make sure you’re accessible to your customers. You should be where your customers are because saving them the hassle will make them more likely to buy from you. If you’re running an online campaign, for instance, the rule is to make sure the mechanics are simple. The easier it is for them to participate, the better. Because just like kings, customers want their lives to be easier.

  5. Let them call the shots. This isn’t to say that you let them run your business. What we mean is that sometimes you could let your customers dictate what they want or how they want it. We’re talking about letting your customers participate in product development – Lego is one company that has had input from ‘co-creators’, Starbucks is another, and both to great success. The ‘I did that’ effect on customers of seeing the results of their input builds a sense of engagement, empowerment and advocacy.

Whatever industry you are in, whatever business you run, your customers and would-be customers will always be one of your most valuable stakeholders. How well you treat them will have a large impact on your business. Never treat your relationship with your customers as transactional but instead as a long-term relationship that needs to be sustained. Only this way can you give them the great customer service they deserve.