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In a hyper-connected world, companies ignore customers at their peril. Hence, the explosion of technologies that promise the clearest path to customers’ hearts and minds. The reasoning goes if we let companies into our world a little more, we’ll get more of the products and services we want, the way we want them.

I was thinking about this the other day as I attempted to pare down my collection of customer loyalty offerings in my bloated wallet and on my cluttered mobile devices. Trying to figure out what to keep and what to toss, I came to one conclusion. Customer focus has nothing to do with loyalty programs and special offers per se. Amazing customer service is about how you make the customer feel.

For example, how many employees actually understand how to show they care about the customer? And, how many companies provide the right technologies so employees can put that caring into action. I’ve been renovating my 100+ year-old house for the past 18 months so have been on the front lines with all manner of companies trying to sell me products and services. I recently began working with a designer for my half bath on the first floor.

As I sat with her in the showroom for about four tedious hours of on-screen design, online and catalog searches, and phone calls, I started imagining an alternate, better universe. What if she had real-time access to a business network?  What if she could instantly connect with a network of suppliers able to bid on the components of the bath? Imagine if she could give me the best quote for the job within minutes of our sitting down to talk. I’m happier because the job starts faster. Her company realizes revenue faster. She gets her commission sooner.

But that’s not what happened. My designer has software from 2005 that does rudimentary dimensional design. It’s not connected to anything but the server in her office. Three days later, I called expecting her to have the bid together. Instead, she returned my call after two days to tell me that she didn’t have the bid ready because she had taken a couple of days off. What’s more, she really couldn’t talk then because she was working on another customer’s project that morning. 

All the special deals in the world cannot make up for an experience that makes the customer feel unimportant. My message to her and every other company out there is this: refocus on what really matters to customers. Give your employees the advanced technologies they need to pay off on the real-time promise. Then train them on how to treat customers so they feel like they’re the most important people in the world. Because they are.

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