More By This Author

Current Issue

Current Issue

Posted: January 30, 2013

Is it time to fire your customers?

Shared values are key

Kathleen Quinn Votaw

Ever wonder what your customers are saying about you in the market? If their values closely align with yours, there’s nothing to worry about, and you’re sure to benefit from what they say. If their values are different, the impact of what they say is just one of the many reasons it could be time to fire them.

Consider this: If one of your company values is to provide exceptional quality, your price will probably reflect it. If your customers don’t value quality and care only about cost, in their minds you’re too high-priced for what you deliver. If another of your stated values is treating people with respect, but you allow customers to abuse your employees because you think you need the business, how can your customer service reps see you as anything but hypocritical? When your sales team is instructed to meet their quotas no matter what, but you say you value relationships, how well will they treat your customers?  As they talk about their experiences, you can be sure that the market is drinking it all in….

Consider the consequences

We’re just beginning to understand how interconnected everything is in this world. In business terms, that means that if you want to realize your full potential, your purpose, goals, strategies and values must be aligned. It means that your employees, partners and suppliers must share your company values. (Who can forget the public relations nightmares companies like GAP and Nike have had with their overseas sweatshop suppliers?)

Although we’re becoming aware of how important alignment is in all of these respects, few companies think about the benefits of shared values with their customers—or the consequences

of having different values. Few companies have the courage to fire their customers—over unaligned values or for any other reason, and they pay the price.

Defining your values is one of two key factors in delivering and sustaining performance and employee satisfaction, according to author Ken Blanchard. (The other is clarity of purpose.) Just saying or posting your values doesn’t make them real. Values are all about behavior, the behavior of everyone associated with your organization, including your customers.

Assess customers like they do you

The first step in ensuring alignment with new customers is to assess them in the same way they are assessing you. Listen to how they describe themselves. Go to the “about” and “careers” sections of their website to see what values are listed and what their culture is like in their eyes. Start a dialogue if possible, in person or by phone or e-mail. See if they seem to walk their talk. Ask about them in the marketplace; what’s their reputation? If you think you find alignment, welcome them into your fold. If you find yourself questioning their values, tell them you don’t think you’re the right company to serve their needs and walk away.

If you’re wondering whether your existing customers share your values, ask your customer service and sales representatives, and your receptionist and admins how they are treated by those customers and whether they see values alignment. And if a customer ever asks you to alter your product or service in a way that violates your values, don’t wait to walk away.

In terms of values, a bad customer shouldn’t be kept on any more than a bad employee. They both undermine your performance and sustainability. Values assessment may mean that you lose some immediate business, but hold on a short while and here’s what you gain:

  • Longer-term customer relationships built on understanding and respect
  • Increased innovation and product/service improvements from synergies and dialogue
  • Enhanced competitive position from greater stability

So why are we afraid to do the right thing?

Kathleen Quinn Votaw is founder and CEO of Golden-based TalenTrust, a Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) firm that helps companies accelerate their growth by hiring exceptional talent. Kathleen is president of the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG), Denver. Reach Kathleen at kvotaw@talentrust.com or 303-838-3334 x5.

 

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

Ms. Quin, Buisness is life and life is business. Material success is of no value if it comes with personal failure. The rubb is that it is hard to determine when to let go and when to hold on because we fear what unpredictable consequences come of our decisions. We also have a hard time reading our custermers actual mindset. Doing what we feel is the right thing has short term effects that make survival prcarious in tough times like these. A difficult custermer may become an ally if you see them trough. You may benifet from them experincing working with someone else. Custermers that we hated when times were good can become more valuable when times qre tough. Respectfully By Kent Stringer on 2013 01 30
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

ColoradoBiz TV

Loading the player ...

Featured Video