Do you value your customers?

In keeping with the all important concept of the value of customers that I talked about in my previous blog.

I want to talk just a little about the few truly excellent American companies I carefully observe and respect, and why they are so successful.

First, let's talk a about the lack of excellence.

One place to find that is the hospitality industry.

The hotel and motel industry in the US, must be one of the most screwed up, poorly managed, insensitive, uncaring industries there is.

Almost all of them rate between poor and awful and in terms of valuing the customer most have no understanding of this idea whatsoever. Most of the hotel executives and employees dealing with meetings and conventions think business is based on the facilities, the brass railings, the marble in the bathrooms, the rates, the financial statements, they forget that their business is customers and customer service.

At the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee they give gold guitar shaped lapel pins to the guests who are running meetings. Every hotel employee is taught that a guest wearing one of these pins is a valued, important client with special needs under the pressure of running a meeting. The hotel employees are taught to respond quickly to these pin wearing VIP's. Why don't all hotels copy this idea? It's simple - they don't really understand the business they are in.

Now let's talk briefly about a few truly excellent companies.

Federal Express is #1. Many of my international clients use Federal Express almost daily to deliver time-sensitive materials and to pick up documents. One client even had Federal pick up a check from Continental Airlines because Continental couldn't move the check overnight but Federal would. In my opinion Federal never misses. They really do deliver absolutely, positively overnight.

But even more importantly, Federal places a priority on its relationships with its customers. For example, Federal sends new information, literature, brochures etc. to its customers frequently. Federal's employees - those who pick up and deliver and those in the offices - are simply great.

They are friendly, courteous, helpful, they listen and don't interrupt, they react calmly to even bizarre problems and questions, and they sell Federal. The driver who regularly comes to your office often passes on some new piece of information about Federal's statistics, new services or products or expansion. This kind of service does not happen by accident.

Company #2: Omaha Steaks. What an incredible company this is! Omaha Steaks sells food by mail order including the best corn fed beef you'll ever eat. Frankly, their products are expensive but the product quality warrants the price. However, the steps beyond product quality are what make this company a superior performer.

Here's just one example of the obvious value and importance they place on the customer. A client of mine call Omaha often during the year and send different assortments of their products to their valued clients as thank you gifts. Last year shortly before Christmas they received in the mail from Omaha a list of all the people they had sent gifts to during the year, what they had sent them, when they sent it and what they had spent.

If they wanted to send the same gifts again to the same person it was as easy as checking off a box and returning the form.

This is a prime example of a brilliant marketing strategy that is also a true service to the customer and that's a real key marketing idea - "How can we market our products or services and at the same time provide a meaningful service to the customer?"

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