The Big Idea: True Meaning of Serving the Customer
Idea of the Month
If you had just one really great idea you could share with the alarm industry, what would it be?
This month’s great idea comes from Chet Donati, founder and president of Midlothian, Ill.-based DMC Security Services.
Donati’s great idea:
Give your customers the kind of service they would expect from the really “big guys” coming into the industry. Do that and you’ll never have to worry about losing customers to the competition.
Chet Donati is a big man in the industry. There was a time I could have said that and not exaggerated, but since he’s lost so much weight he’s a big man in the ways that count. Donati is president of the Illinois Electronic Security Association (IESA), as well as active in many industry trade associations and proprietor of DMC Security Systems near Chicago.
Donati’s great idea is spot on! With the industry undergoing so many changes, it’s more important than ever. Five years ago no one ever heard of APX. Nowadays, having since changed its name to Vivint, the Provo, Utah-based company is the third largest security provider in the United States. Five years ago the idea of AT&T coming back into the industry was almost impossible to conceive. Today, the firm is back in it. So is Comcast and a dozen other public utilities, telephone companies and cable operators, all looking at or putting their toes into our industry waters.
What this means to you is in the next few years your major competition will be companies that probably don’t even exist today (at least in the alarm industry). Because of the brand names they bring to the market, they have come to learn that quality service is what keeps customers attracted to those brand names.
How do we service our customers so that we can compete? First off, service requires that every customer’s problem becomes your opportunity to provide a solution. We can no longer justify doing things because we have contracts or because the customer is not necessarily always right. We need to now make it right, each and every time.
If a customer demands a lower price because someone is offering a similar system at $2 less a month, then give it to them. Maybe the customer doesn’t understand how to operate their system and is becoming problematic. Change it out! A customer claims to have paid their bill and you can’t find any record of it? Give him a credit!
Yes, of course, people will take advantage of you. Yes, of course, you’re going to feel used some of the time. But at the end of the day or at the end of the fiscal year, you will have retained far more customers because of that attitude then ever before. And by the way, in case you haven’t thought of it, empower everyone who comes in contact with your customers to make that customer whole. Another way of putting it: Empower your people to give each customer what they want, even if it’s wrong.
An Axiom to Live By
I’ll share an anecdote of my own to bring the point home. Many years ago there was a department store chain headquartered in the Chicago area known as Marshall Fields. There were similar independent chains that were founded on the premise, “The customer is always right.” Indeed, that meant they were always right.
During high school I worked for Marshall Fields selling shoes. One day a little old lady brought back three pairs of shoes that had been purchased 25 years earlier, prior to WWII. The shoes had never been worn and she was returning them for a full credit. Unsure what to do I conferred with my manager who looked me in the eye and said straightaway, “Ron, write up the credit.” I did, and realized why Marshall Fields was the biggest name in retail stores anywhere in the Chicago area.
Develop that mentality in your business, just as Donati has done in the security business he has built, and success will follow. It’s based on customer service. More to the point, it means serving the customers.
Ron Davis is a SSI Hall of Fame inductee and President of Davis Mergers and Acquisitions Group Inc. Also known as The Graybeards, the company is active in acquisitions and mergers exclusively in the alarm business.
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