On Sunday at 4.55pm I scooted into the car park at a Harvey Norman store. My son and I raced inside – he was in need of a desk chair for his school studies. Once we made it inside, the shop assistant greeted us with “we are about to close.” I responded, “We will be quick – we just need a desk chair – can you send us in the right direction?”, his response was simply “No.” I understood by that that he was from a different ‘in store franchise’, and as such it was not his responsibility to help me out. The customer relationship diminished. We left promptly, empty-handed.
In Myer yesterday – quickly trying to get a few things for my newly working daughter who needed some ‘office attire’ – I went for assistance. The people in attendance were in fact not employed by Myer, but were hired by a brand specifically to sell that range. As such this merchandiser said “that is not my area”; in fact, outsourced ‘merchandisers’ staffed the whole of the ground floor, and I struggled to find a Myer employee to help me find what I needed. I left with very little of what I came for.
Last week I sat at home for 5 hours (okay so I can work from anywhere – but that is beside the point) waiting for the Energy Australia representative to come to read my gas meter. I called to confirm the time (they could not give me less than a five hour window)… I called again whilst I waited to confirm the booking again. After five and a half hours waiting I called again to be told – “sorry we outsource meter reading to AGL – and we can’t get hold of them – they have knocked off for the day.” My meter remains unread.
The number one thing any business has is the relationship it has with its customers. If they outsource this relationship, there is no connection, no feedback loop, no understanding of the problems they face, nor how they can be assisted to solve that problem. Customers will go online in droves.
I had the fortunate opportunity to meet Fred Kofman last week in a small round table hosted by LinkedIn… And if there was one clear message I took away from the session, it was stay close to your customer and help them solve their problems. He said:
- Business opportunity comes from the difference between the current reality and the desired future – it is the tension or energy that is created that causes action.
- There is no such thing as a ‘problem’ – a problem is an opinion, i.e., it is a subjective view. A hole in your tooth might appear like a problem to you, but for a dentist it is a business opportunity.
- The reason companies exist is to help people… whilst I have always said we are in business to solve a customer problem, Fred argued “the customer solved his problem with our help”… “We only exist to serve”.
The customer relationship is the most important a business has: And the most loyal customers are any businesses future. Please listen, Australian businesses, and stop outsourcing your lifeblood.