In a previous blog, I made the statement that “whole communities would be improved if there was a greater appreciation and respect for small business”.
Of course, what goes alongside this statement is the fact that this respect needs to be earned; business owners cannot expect respect from the wider community just because they run their own business.
So, what do business owners need to do to earn this respect?
Well firstly, it’s about how they treat their customers; the respect must be mutual. No-one can expect to be treated with respect if they do not act respectfully towards others. I guess it’s another way of expressing “The Golden Rule”.
Treating customers well is actually, not enough – truly listening to customers’ wants, needs and expectations is the next step along the path towards commanding respect. And listening is not a passive activity – it requires first, asking questions of the customer. (And this must go a long way beyond, “So yer havin’ a noice day so far, are ya?”) It’s asking meaningful questions that show a real interest in solving the problem at hand; developing a relationship; and demonstrating knowledge of how the product or service can provide solutions.
This requires training along with certain attributes such as empathy and sincerity. Staff training should include what questions to pose and how to get comfortable in asking relevant and purposeful questions.
This is part of the expertise that customers respect, often subconsciously. When the customer concludes a transaction (from the business point of view we hope that this is temporary and that the customer will return) the major indicator will be how they feel. If they feel that the interaction (whether it concluded as a business transaction is irrelevant) was one where they felt they were respected and that there was a genuine interest in their requirement, there is every likelihood they will tell others and that they will return. (After all, unfortunately, this will have been an exceptional experience rather that the norm.)
In summary, the requirements of good customer relationships that produce respect include:
- Genuine interest, and
- Product knowledge, and
If business owners were to commence a program that developed these attributes, they would be going a long way towards ensuring their business was respected within its community. And if enough business owners did the same, the whole community would be a better place.