“Customers for Life: How to Turn That One-Time Buyer Into a Lifetime Customer” is the name of a 1990 book written by Dallas Cadillac dealer Carl Sewell and Paul B. Brown. It’s an easy, quick read filled with practical examples of what good customer service looks like. If you decide to read it, you’ll be reminded of how much has changed in three decades. In this blog, I’ll list Sewell’s Ten Commandments of Customer Service — and, of course, offer some editorial comments.
- Ask the customers what they want and give it to them again and again. (Editorial comment: This seems obvious, but I continue to be shocked by the lack of focus on the customer, and giving them what they think they want.)
- Saying please and thank you doesn’t ensure you’ll do the job right the first time, every time. Only systems guarantee you that.
- Underpromise and overdeliver. Customers expect you to keep your word. Exceed it.
- When the customer asks, the answer is always yes. Period. (Editorial comment: In the book, Sewell expands on this. Some customers need to go, which I believe is a best practice. Needy customers can drain your team.)
- Fire your inspectors and consumer relations department. Every employee who deals with clients must have the authority to handle complaints. (Editorial comment: Depending on your company and product/service, I strongly believe the customer service team, their leaders, and then top executives need to deal with problems. You’ll receive dividends forever by doing this.)
- No complaints? Something’s wrong. Encourage your customers to tell you what you’re doing wrong.
- Measure everything. Baseball teams do it. Football teams do it. Basketball teams do it. You should do it. (Editorial comment: I’ve quoted Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM, as saying, “People do what you inspect, not what you expect.”)
- Salaries are unfair. Pay people like partners. (Editorial comment: If you read the book, you’ll find out that Sewell is a big fan of commissions, financial rewards, bonuses, etc., that are connected to good behavior.)
- Your mother was right. Show people respect. Be polite. It works.
- Learn how the best really do it, and make their systems your own. Then improve them. (Editorial comment: I learned that from my partner, Yusuke Kuramochi, Plante Moran’s Japanese Business Service Leader and Akio Toyoda, Chairman of Toyota. Both of whom I admire greatly.)
This list may seem trite, but Sewell is successfully selling to some of the wealthiest people in America.