Focus on building a team that knows the importance of satisfied customers
Q: Of all the customer service initiatives you worked on over the decades, which had the greatest impact on customers?
A: In one sense there wasn't any single customer service initiative that was unique in its own right. It was about a culture of putting the customer first and a combination of dozens of initiatives that made us famous.
When I think back from the moment the customer arrived to collect their trolley and was greeted by the trolley host, to when they cut the stalks off their broccoli with the hand saw provided, to having the butcher sharpen their domestic knifes at the counter, to having their bags packed at the checkouts, with their trolley taken to their car with an umbrella overhead when it rained.
It was all about an overall experience that put the customer at the centre.
None of that could have been delivered without our team of staff and for me that was the most successful part, not necessarily the individual initiatives.
It was the staff who brought things to life and created a real sense of energy and passion, so when a customer entered a shop they could feel the 'ethos' of the business.
For that team of staff, it was natural for them to put the customer at the centre of the business and do the right thing because instinctively it was part of their priorities.
My advice is not to focus on customer initiatives but rather focus on creating a highly motivated team who understand the critical importance of satisfied customers.
Q: Out of the different elements of managing a business and the owner's role, which would you rate as the most important?
A: The characteristics of a successful business owner are numerous but if you analyse those who have made great strides with their business, they usually excel in the area of vision and have strong leadership skills to guide their team and their business towards that vision.
Vision is not necessarily something that is easily defined, nor is it something that can be learned from a textbook.
It is that ability of a business owner to look at the business in a three-dimensional way and identify opportunity areas for the future which will allow the business to stand out from its competitors.
That can only be achieved by an owner who is really close to their business and their customers.
In terms of leadership, you will find that many successful leaders are able to translate that vision into actions and direction which allows their team to guide the business in a particular direction.
These leaders are usually charismatic and have the ability to inspire those around them to become leaders in themselves.
The other common trait you find with entrepreneurs and successful business owners is that they typically don't conform.
While the whole industry might be going in a particular direction, they have the ability to identify radical changes and are not afraid to follow these new directions with enthusiasm.
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