“Treat others as you would like to be treated.” It’s a rule most of us learned early in life, probably from a parent or teacher trying to resolve a playground squabble. Few would disagree that this maxim is a basic tenant for human decency, no matter how old you are or what conflict you’re facing.

So why does it seem like many businesses have forgotten this golden rule?

Think about it. When customers are made to deal with automatic answering services, a menu of selections through phone systems, pages upon pages of online ordering forms – who benefits? The customer or the business? Today’s customer is not that different than those of decades past when it comes to one thing: service. We learn more and more about the mentality of Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials by analyzing each of their needs, but when it comes to expectations for service, it doesn’t matter what generation you’re from. Everyone simply expects to be satisfied. So why not do more than the status quo?

As a member of the leadership team at Starkey Hearing Technologies, a globally recognized premier provider in hearing healthcare, it’s my job to make sure our customers are served better than anyone else. But it doesn’t matter what line of business you’re in, or whether it’s a big box retailer, a corporation or a small business. If you’re a business owner or leader of an organization, I challenge you to rise above your competition with a culture based on your customers’ needs.

How? By focusing on providing a customer experience. “Treat others as you would like to be treated,” is the ultimate golden rule, but I’d like to offer up five more guiding principles in creating a customer experience for your brand.  These are simple reminders, but it never hurts to revisit the basics of treating your customers well.

  1. The customer comes first. If you step back and think, most companies design their service to benefit the company. How many times has this happened to you: You’re on the phone for the umpteenth time with customer service, and you’re at a standstill with the representative? He can’t solve your problem; all he seems to be able to do is forward you to a different department, in which the frustrating process starts all over again. You want to make a business transaction with me, and you’re telling me you can’t solve my problem? That’s a missed opportunity to please a customer. Think about how you can make a customer’s day, even if it means going out of your way or working outside of the “business as usual” mindset. How can you empower your employees to address your customers’ concerns appropriately, in a timely manner? (And to me, “a timely manner” means the first time it comes up.)
  2. People don’t want to be sold to; they want to be helped. This mindset must be instilled in every employee you lead and hire. Providing a customer experience requires a mentality of people being the bottom line. You’re in the relationship business. It’s about making your customers feel at home and feel good about the transaction, providing excellent service and thanking them for their business. They want to feel you have their best interests in mind and help them buy what they are looking for. People want to trust the people they are doing business with; it’s the way business used to be done.
  3. You don’t get a second chance at a first impression. What do you want that first impression to be? At Starkey, we want our customers to feel like our honored guests from first impression to last impression. For example, we host many customer events on our 40-acre campus. Our campus must be spotless as it represents who we are as a company. It’s standard for our campus team to ensure the campus is meticulously free of weeds and trash outside prior to customers arriving. In addition to ensuring that our cafeteria and restrooms are shining, our Customer Experience team puts fresh flowers throughout the facility. These are all small details that add up to something larger: making the customer feel special. How can you do this in your business? What actions can you take to make your customers feel welcomed, even if they only interact with you online or over the phone?
  4. You are on stage 24/7/365. This sentiment is truer now than ever before. With the onset of social media, you, your team and your company are being judged in real time with instant feedback to the market available at the push of a button. Therefore, your staff must be passionate about the company they represent and actively engage with customers. During our customer events, our sales, marketing and service teams greet our customers – hearing healthcare professionals – with a “clap line” in front of our facility as they depart the bus. We line the entrance shoulder to shoulder and welcome our customers by name, with a warm smile and a nice round of applause – thanking them for taking the time to join us today. We ensure our teams make eye contact, have their name badge properly visible and give a good firm handshake. While customers are on campus our team knows that all employees represent Starkey and if someone needs something, you never point them the way, you show them the way with a smile.
  5. The purpose of your business is not revenue. Your business and product should never become a commodity. Personalizing your customer experience should play the key part in separating you from your competition. Whether you call them clients, patients or accounts, they are your customer. They have choices. So forget what you learned in business school. The main purpose of your business is not revenue. Your main purpose is to keep and attain new customers. This will lead to revenue.

As customers have more choices than ever before, and more ways to express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction in an instant, now is the time to decide what your customer experience says about your company. Will your customers feel like honored guests, or will they feel like they’re being sold to? Think about these golden rules as you work toward a customer experience that is not only “good enough” but goes beyond expectations.