The Zero Tolerance Market

The Zero Tolerance Market

May 23rd, 2013 // 2:18 pm @

The Zero Tolerance Market

If you haven’t already been introduced, I’d like to welcome you to the Zero Tolerance Market.  Specifically, YOUR market – whatever it may be; is now operating under a zero tolerance policy.  The shift has been occurring for a while and will likely only get worse. 

What is this ‘zero tolerance policy’?  It’s simple, but harsh; you aren’t allowed to make any mistakes.  Customers are less forgiving and more vocal.  Every customer interaction has to be handled with care, with great emphasis applied to the ‘experience’ you provide. 

All it takes is a Facebook rant or negative Yelp review and you’ll notice the impact. 

Before every customer was given these online platforms, you could get away with a few mistakes.  The worst case scenario would be losing the customer.  Now, you’re looking a lingering headache that costs you future sales. 

My wife, Meghan and I recently relocated, so I found myself on Yelp quite a bit.  I’d look up restaurants, grocery stores, banks, and just about any other brick-and-mortar business.  Why try to figure out everything on your own, instead I’ll enlist the entire community.

You could try to manipulate perceived consensus, and there are strategies to garner positive reviews, Facebook likes, and Tweets, but that’s not really what this is all about.  This issue is far more fundamental: you can’t afford to deliver a bad experience to a single customer. 

It’s a democratize market, and for better or worse, everyone gets a vote.  Unfortunately, the bad experiences cast their vote with the loudest voice.  So how do you operate in a zero tolerance market?

1. Rely on Systems to Provide Consistency:  Don’t trust your memory, your employee’s mood, or a string of post-in notes to manage your customers’ experiences.  Create systems that account for human error.  From the first interaction to the last; it should all be mapped out. 

2. Focus on the details:  Think about the small things that your competitors don’t do.  The hand written thank you card in the mail, the courtesy phone call, remembering something about your customers.  It’s often the small things that make the biggest impact.

3. End with a Bang:  Firework shows don’t start with their best stuff, because that’s not what you remember.  You need to think like your customer and understand what the ‘lasting impression’ will be for them.  One of my (perhaps many) pet peeves is leaving a restaurant without a ‘Thank You for Coming’ from someone, anyone.  It’s the very last interaction I’ll have before leaving the building (not to mention the easiest thing a restaurant could do all night). 

4. Create the Path and Let Your Customers Follow:  Never leave it up to the customer to determine ‘what’s next’.  It’s your job to design the experience and make it easy for them.  I hate using websites with 400 links on the homepage and 92 options of what to do next.  Customers want a path to follow, and that’s great news for you.  You should have complete control from beginning to end. 

5. Be the Harshest Judge:  You should be more critical than any of your customers.  Don’t accept less than perfect for your customer interactions.  If it passes your test; than it will surely please your customers. 

In the end, this less tolerant market is a GOOD thing for you.  Most business owners take a lazy approach to customer experience.  This gives you an advantage as long as you’re willing to accept the new rules of your market.

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