The other day, my worst nightmare came true. I was in the middle of writing an article and my computer crashed. Luckily I know a bit about hardware, so like any go-getter, I took apart my laptop and immediately identified the problem. Since I didn’t have the parts or time to fix it, I logged onto the most popular search engine, looked up “computer repair near me” and went to the first spot on the list.
The experience that follows taught me a couple of valuable lessons for both customers and businesses.
Focus On Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Do your diligence on any companies you find on a search engine. Don’t just assume they are the best because you found them on the first page. I used to work on the road and remember making the remark that, “The best fried chicken is being cooked in the back of a gas station somewhere.” The same goes for all small businesses. Some of the best companies out there are not on the first page of a search engine.
For example, a lot of the most successful, hardest-working CEOs, entrepreneuers and consultants I know work in the background and make millions. You would never know them by name or recognize them in public. They run the show from the background, not the spotlight, and their companies are successful without using social media or search.
This is why word-of-mouth marketing for your business is so important. People love to talk about both good and bad experiences — rarely talk about average ones. Before search engines, people talked and shared experiences. The market regulated itself by way of “kicking out” companies who were not offering any value to their customers. Having a million followers doesn’t necessarily mean a million satisfied customers. So you must make sure the customers you do have will be your core referral base. You accomplish this by treating them right.
So, what did this company do wrong? Was their office in a bad part of town? Did I have to wait in line or on hold for a long time? Not at all. In fact, they got right to me as soon as I walked in the door and their office was in a pretty nice part of town. So, what was the issue?
There were no processes in place to take care of my needs and ensure my satisfaction.
After being told I would be contacted within 24 hours of dropping the laptop off, it took five days before hearing from them — not to mention that I was the first to reach out. It took another day to catch the person in charge of taking payments. It appeared no one else wanted to or was authorized to take my money (they had no way for me to pay online either — another red flag).
After finally picking up my PC without my laptop cord, which they lost, the original issue arose and the laptop crashed again within hours. I noticed the company also charged an additional amount without my authorization to a card they had no business leaving on file. Needless to say, I bought a new laptop after I reached a peaceful resolution and received a refund.
So, what happened? What major failure is consistent throughout my dialogue?
Make Company Procedures Clear To Your Employees And Customers
Plain and simple: The company had no policies, operating manuals or procedures for running their business. They treated me like I was the very first customer to walk through their doors.
As an investor who has seen over 7,000 businesses fail, one of the biggest errors I can attribute to small business failure is by way of not having any standardized models to operate the business and then sufficiently following those models step by step, like clockwork.
How does your business become successful when you have no current expectations of those you employ, no procedures to properly perform on a daily basis, with no company culture or modus operandi (that’s fancy speak for strategy) to ensure the success of your hard work? Sit down, truly figure out how your business makes income and draft an operations manual that every single person who works for the company can follow. Make sure your employees live it and breathe it. This is how a culture is developed. Or else everyone is just doing their own thing, you aren’t growing and your customers only share their bad experiences with others.
Had I walked into any big box chain store, I may have overpaid and I may have even waited in a line, but I would have received help from a trained professional who would have followed the same protocols that allowed said big chain store to become successful to begin with.
Look out your window. You see those restaurants and corner drug stores that seem to be everywhere? They got there because they continuously deliver on the very methodologies that simultaneously earned the company revenue while taking care of the basic needs of their customers from day one. They are successful, they offer value to their customers, make crazy amounts of profit, and never pay a dime to be at the top of a search engine. Why not? Because they are a name brand.
If you want to build a great brand in this day and age, stop acting like a small one. You will never have to pay to be at the top of a search engine if you dominate your industry with value and customer service that exceeds everyone’s expectations. If you want to be the best, stop competing for ad space and instead, treat your customers exceptionally. Just because you are not that world known name brand yet, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t act like one.