4 steps to establishing fairness with your customers


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“In my career, I’ve not met many customers who got out of bed in the morning with the thought that ‘today I’m going to take advantage of the retailer.’ Recognizing that customers almost always only want what is fair, a company can economically do just about anything it takes to win customers over and retain them.” – Michael Feuer, President and CEO, OfficeMax, Inc.

What is it that makes something “fair”? A dictionary definition of the word fair yields the following definition: “free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice; legitimately sought, pursued, done, given, etc.; proper under the rules”.

I can tell you, with my wife and I raising four kids at home, this question comes up on a daily basis. “She said she would do this.” “He took my seat.” “Why does she get more than me?” Rules, and more rules, are created to establish some sense of fairness. However, the rules have become so complicated that now we literally need he a “rulebook” to go by.

Is this how it is with your customers? Have you created your own labyrinthine system of rules and regulations just to establish a sense of fairness? Here are some tips for simplifying your thinking and hopefully making the process less excruciating and more pleasing for your customers:

1. First of all, throw out just about everything you’ve learned about the “business” of customer satisfaction. Discard your notions of customer values management (i.e., long-term value and customer equity). Customers are people, plain and simple. Yes, they have a value to the company based on complex economic equations, but if that’s what you’re using to gauge fairness in situations with your customers, your customers will feel used and unfulfilled at best, and offended and outraged at worst.

2. Remember to be human. As difficult as it may be, you need to empathize with your customer and put yourself in their shoes. That’s all they want. They want to know they’ve been heard and that a reasonable response has been crafted to address her concerns. Get good at that and your satisfaction rates will soar.

3. Knowing, and feeling, that a company values you as a customer is a key point of long-term customer relationships (and relationships in general, for that matter). People interact and do business with those whom they feel good about. While you, in your business role, may not be operating from the same principle at all times because you have deadlines and budgets to meet, all your customers care about is how they feel about doing business with you. It may not be rational; heck, it may not even be marginally rational, but your customers will act on how they feel about you.  The more you can identify and narrow down those touch-points that make customers feel good, the better success you’ll have at not only keeping them satisfied, but making loyal customers.

4. It’s the small things that make a difference: calling customers by name; speaking to live person on the phone who can actually help; being on time or delivering your product when you say you will.

To illustrate, I recently had an experience with pizza company that I had asked to prepare our pizzas to be ready a certain time so that I can pick them up on my way home. I happened to show up just a few minutes early and let them know I was there, and that I would be waiting for my pizzas. However, they already had them ready to go, and I was on my way in no time with no waiting at all;  a very satisfied customer.

When you are intentionally doing things similar to the points mentioned here, then you’re finding ways to connect with your customers; connecting with your customers increases the feeling of goodwill they get from your company. These “goodwill” gestures are the types of actions that are instrumental in helping you increase satisfaction and loyalty.

“With my wife I don’t get no respect. I made a toast on her birthday to ‘the best woman a man ever had.’ The waiter joined me.” – Rodney Dangerfield

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve Martorano
Steve has been on the front lines with customers for over 25 years. He is currently Director of Customer Services for Polygon Northwest, a real estate developer in both the Seattle and Portland markets. Steve is also the creator of ThinkCustomerSatisfaction.com, an online resource designed to provide insights and training to customer professionals across many industries.


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